As our clients mature and become more web savvy, increasingly we are asked “Do you do SEO?”. SEO is the next level of website ownership when you’ve established your presence and now you are looking to perfect it, much like a golfer upgrading their driver to improve their game just that little bit (though SEO upgrades can be dramatic).
I admit we haven’t overly advertised whether or not we do SEO. We haven’t educated our clients (i.e. screamed from the rooftops) about SEO the way we’ve covered other topics like digital marketing (website + social media + email marketing)… so why not start right now?! SPOILER ALERT: If we created your site, you’ve already been an SEO client!
For us, there are two types of SEO: SEO established while creating a website as part of “Best Practices”, and SEO applied to an existing site in a more involved, months long project tackling serious problems or competition for target keywords. If you asked for help on your existing website I would call it “SEO as a Project”. Lets pick apart the two types, and by no means are these descriptions the be all, end all of SEO!
SEO as “Best Practices”
Since we exclusively use WordPress as a starting point to create websites, we already have a great start on SEO. The platform provides all the basic tools a designer needs to create a website where SEO counts, giving search engines the best indicators of where to place you in results. WordPress isn’t required for good SEO – the same details apply to any website – but a good platform doesn’t hurt!
There are best practices for everything that goes into a website, and SEO is no different. It’s easy to assume SEO work starts once a site is complete, and some firms will start there, but QUALITY SEO starts BEFORE coding – BEFORE colours and graphics are conceived. SEO starts in the early stages as we sketch out the content and calls to action on the homepage. A concept of the final content is in mind even before the initial design is settled. From the beginning we are thinking of the importance of keywords on the homepage, their placement, how links lead to content, and how it all interacts with meta tags to create a solid SEO package. While organizing content to appeal to visitors beats all, organizing content to appeal to search engines is a close second.
Best practices also means taking a best shot at appealing to search engines. Search engines provide tips for search engine rank, but they don’t give away the secret sauce. A great percentage of SEO is an educated guess. We take the content we have, make it as good as we can using knowledge and experience, frame it in the best context, and release it into the wild with the launch of your website. Then we wait.
This isn’t a complete “how to” of SEO, but here are some basics of “best practices”:
- Being aware of target keywords and including them in homepage text. This would be in titles and paragraphs of text.
- Reinforcing keywords in meta tags. Meta tags also build what users see as the link and description in search engine results.
- Supplying enough real text to search engines to allow them to determine what is important.
- Not concealing text from search engines in code that exclude “web crawlers”
- Don’t embedding text in images. Think of search engines as blind, and text and code are brail. Anything not real text is wasted.
- Linking to important content from the homepage to give search engines a path to discover your most important content.
As far as the base cost of SEO for a new site, thankfully (with us) it’s included in the price. While we haven’t advertised SEO services to date, the irony is we’ve done SEO HUNDREDS of times, applying these “best practices” to each new site.
Businesses in our trade area are very lucky (spoiled?). Our population is not on the scale of other large city centres, so simple SEO completed by launch is often adequate to immediately rank well against other local businesses.
SEO as a Project
“SEO as a Project” is my term. It separates the new SEO work from done during site creation. The term “project” also prepares you for the scale of what might be involved: time & budget.
This SEO can be simple tweaks or a “no holds barred” project to tackle serious ranking goals, like challenging competition province wide vs your local town, or for a high demand local search term (real estate is a big one!).
These projects can be open ended based on results. Remember – search engines don’t give us a blueprint to success! If additional SEO is required to remedy a local ranking problem, it might be completed in a month to two. But trying to rank against a larger population like Winnipeg or across Canada will likely take a minimum of three months or longer to ensure success and involve a monthly work contract. The client has to be secure with the fact the first few months (they are paying for) may turn up poor results as we find the SEO bullseye. Like any project, everyone has to trust the process. This is the same approach to tuning Google Adword campaigns to a target audience – but more on that in the future!
So what are the components of a “No Holds Barred” approach? It means nothing is off the table to get you ranking! We look at:
- Analyzing your competition online
- What state is your current content? Is it there but poorly available to search engines? Is content sparse?
- Investment in content might be required. It can start in-house but may require outsourcing depending on what you need. For some, and SEO project may feel like a digital content creation project.
- Does the site layout, primarily homepage, encourage good SEO? E.g. Is it all images and no text?
- A redesign of the homepage, or other pages, may be required. The homepage layout you know might change!
- A content publishing strategy may be required, especially if it’s apparent a blog-style section is a fit. This means your site may be less “set it and forget it” than initially hoped!
- Site traffic statistics from before new SEO work to judge success
What might make some businesses pause is the fact THIS IS A PROJECT and more complex than the original site SEO. Yes, a project to fix SEO can be very small, maybe a few tweaks can save the day, but businesses need to go in eyes wide open to the fact large SEO projects can cost up to half (or equal) to the original cost of your site. But it must also be realized the goal of SEO is not a money pit – its a component of digital marketing with a goal to generate a 2x, 3x, or more return on investment as long as you are ready to turn increased traffic into $$! Increasing traffic with no goal to monetize that traffic IS the money pit, so a concrete marketing plan needs to run parallel to new SEO work. This includes traditional advertising, social media, email marketing, etc.
So does Reaxion Graphics do SEO? Yes! As big or small as you need!