Too often site owners jump the gun when it comes to SEO. While I appreciate an enthusiastic site owner, it’s important to make sure that the rest of your marketing basics are in order BEFORE you start worrying about rank, visitor growth, bounce rate, conversion rate and so forth. If you don’t fully understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish for your business and brand, SEO isn’t going to be able to tell you.
SEO is not a band aid to “fix” your brand. Before developing an SEO campaign, make sure you do these three things:
Identify online competition
It’s important to be realistic when identifying your online competition. While the Internet has the capabilities of leveling the playing field, giving both big and small companies the chance for success, you have to understand your own assets and limitations before you start worrying about SEO.
For instance, let’s say you own a small pet store and are trying to beef up your online presence. PetSmart is a pet store, so that means they are your direct competition, right? Yes and no. PetSmart isn’t just another pet store, it’s the big mac daddy of pet stores with hundreds of locations, millions of dollars in advertising and a team of online marketing specialists working around the clock to keep them ranking number one in Google. PetSmart is competing with PETCO, not your local store.
Just because another company has the same target audience as you, that doesn’t mean they are automatically an online competitor. You might never be able to unseat a giant in your industry like PetSmart, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to carve out your own niche. If you don’t take the time to really identify who is really your online competition (which in turn helps you identify your opportunities for online success), you will just end up fighting a losing battle with your SEO.
Identify online target audience
You’d be amazed at how many companies and site owners can’t answer this simple question thoroughly, “describe the typical visitor to your site.” Most can spout off the basic demographics (gender, age range, income level, etc), and while those are important they are not the only things you need to know about your online audience.
The end goal of SEO is to drive more traffic to your site, but if you don’t know where your target audience is online how are you supposed to get their attention and push them over to your site? How do they use the Internet? What websites do they visit often? What blogs are they reading? How comfortable are they with social networking? How do they prefer to connect with a company online? You need to understand the online behaviors of your target audience in order to create an SEO campaign that effectively reaches them and pushes them to convert.
A huge component of SEO is content marketing. In order to make your content marketing successful, you have to know what kind of information your target audience is looking for. What do they want to know about your industry, company or products? What problems are they looking for solutions to? What questions do they need answered? In order to write great content that resonates with your target audience you have to understand them completely.
Determine conversion metric
It may sound like a silly question, but how are you going to measure your SEO and online marketing success? Are you looking for someone to purchase a product directly from your site? Do you want them to fill out a lead form or call your office? It’s important to outline these conversion metrics BEFORE you start your SEO campaign so you know what goals you are working towards. That way, all your actions can be directed towards achieving those goals and you will be able to ensure a consistent online presence and campaign.
It’s important to mention that you can do everything “right” in terms of offsite SEO (link building, social media marketing, online PR, etc) and your site can still fail to convert. If your site doesn’t live up to the promise created by the rest of your offsite SEO, than your SEO campaign will always look like it’s failing.
It’s important to make sure your marketing 101 is in order before you start building an SEO campaign. Just like any other tactic, SEO relies on a planned strategy created from real research and knowledge. You have to know your business, brand, target audience, competition and more inside and out if you want to create an effective SEO campaign.
About the Author – Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing a Boston based SEO agency that offers social SEO solutions. With over 12 years of Internet marketing experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal.