HighlyStructured.com is a blog website run by Mike D'Agostino about search engine positioning, online marketing, php/MySQL, tae kwon do, and various other topics.

Search Engine Optimization Plans

December 21, 2005

Search engine optimization is a very broad term. The term encompasses everything from keyword research to site comparisons and goal assessment. As a provider of these services, it’s important not to make the explanation of such services too overly-complicated. From a purely “sales perspective”, the average website owner depends on you, the prospective search engine optimization provider, to: get results, and provide a simple, to-the-point explanation of those services. Therefore, an organized approach must be used when explaining search engine optimization to prospective clients to make sure you offer a comprehensible set of services and explanations to any type of buyer/business.

I thought that it would make sense to break down the different search engine optimization services into different plans and assign corresponding price amounts to each set of services. While this might provide a current snapshot of late 2005 search engine optimization services, I do not think it would provide relevant information about this time period for the foreseeable future. Instead I will offer an outline of the services that are included in typical search engine optimization packages, and allude to the overall value those services have on the success of the plan/campaign.

Keyword Research

Why optimize your website or bother with any online marketing unless you wisely target the best keywords? Research includes using such tools as WordTracker to get a definitive count on keyword popularity, and also manual searches at Google and the top search engines to research the most sensible keywords. The more websites returned for a specific keyword search, the more competition and more difficult it will be to rank higher for that particular term, however there is a wider audience searching for that term. That term, in combination with other “same-subject” terms, could produce decent rankings for many combinations of keywords. But it also important to find keywords that are very specific with less competition as you will have a better chance to rank ahead of the competition with fewer websites registering for that term. Keyword research should be performed periodically and should be billed by the hour, along with any “fees” to run specific services (such as WordTracker).

Competition Research

Once you have the correct keywords to target it makes sense to analyze the competition. Zeroing in on the reason why your competitors and industry leaders rank higher than you for certain keywords is very useful in determining a strategy to achieve higher rankings. Analyzing the keyword/link structure of competitive landing pages along with referring web pages with that industry that link to a competitor’s website can all be useful information. While not necessarily included in every round of search engine optimization, this service is definitely important.

Website Optimization

Perhaps the most important phase of any search engine optimization plan, the actual optimization phase is the “meat-and-potatoes” of the plan. Things to consider:

- Use of META tags
- Use of TITLE tag
- Use of keywords in site
- Use of heading and bold tags
- Keyword relationship to surrounding words
- Use of link text
- Use of link title tags

Other strategies may be involved such as creating static HTML pages for database driven websites, or incorporating RSS feeds of site content. All of these areas must be defined within a certain scope of time. It would make sense to first focus on existing content of the current site, and then to start incorporating new features and content. Optimization value is based on time and should be billed accordingly.

Keyword Reporting

I know Google downplays it, but I like WebPosition’s reporting features. It takes all of the keywords from your keyword META tag on specified pages and finds out if they point to any of your website’s pages within the first 20 pages of major search engine’s results. It will even keep track of changes over time and provides direct links to the search engines and their results for particular keywords. Minimally some kind of keyword reporting needs to be done. Even if it has to be manually checking keywords at different search engines, some kind of record of performance must be kept to warrant further optimization. The best packages are dedicated website statistic analytic services. These offer volumes of data on visitor behavior and traffic flow and are vital to the metrics of larger websites. Keyword reporting will tell you where you are ranking for the keywords you’re targeting.

Goal Assessment

Goal assessment or performance review should be considered in every cycle of search engine optimization. By analyzing how well your optimization efforts have been performed, you can determine which areas to focus on in future rounds of optimization and make assessments about which strategies seem to be working.

Actual Plans

Again, it is difficult to produce search engine optimization plans that hold true for every type of website in any circumstance, but some guidelines generally follow when starting from scratch. By following the cycle of research > implementation > assessment, steady improvements should be made and logical strategies should start to stand out.

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