January 30, 2013: With Super Bowl weekend upon us, and my elastic-waist jeans* ready for all the delicious food I’m going to eat, I took a moment to reflect on the football season. From training camp to pre-season and from trades to injuries, each team works all year to reach the Super Bowl (except the Bills. I’m not sure what they’re doing). While it all comes down to one game, considerable effort goes into getting there.
The same thing applies to SEO. Each team (website) is working relentlessly to win a championship (the top position of the search results). It’s not easy and we too have to deal with injuries (look out for penguins & pandas), trades (people leaving), salary-caps (budgets), and other teams (competitors) trying to knock us off.
It can be a tough road and a long season but let’s go through the steps it takes to win the SEO Super Bowl:
The off-season usually falls at the end of the year when you evaluate the past year’s efforts and start thinking about marketing budgets and goals for the next year. As you get your team together, consider the following:
Company Focus & Goals
What are the big company initiatives for the upcoming year and how will they change your current SEO efforts?
- Are there any new keyword targets?
- Are you current keyword targets still relevant?
- Do you have new conversion goals?
- What are your big PR campaigns for the year?
Your SEO efforts should align with your overall company goals. By thinking about your company initiatives ahead of time, your SEO team can plan ahead, focus on the right strategy, and give you a leg up on the competition.
With budgets opening up and goals being set, the off-season is a great time to make personnel adjustments and bring on new talent. A few things to consider:
- Did your current SEO team hit their goals? If not, what were the roadblocks and how can you fix them? If they didn’t succeed and you can’t identify the reasons why, maybe it’s time to bring in a new offensive coordinator.
- Are you going to need additional staff to hit your upcoming goals? For example, if you’re trying to increase whitepaper downloads and you only have two whitepapers, you’ll probably need to create additional whitepapers. That may mean hiring a copywriter.
Next Season’s Strategy
Once you know your goals and have your personnel in place, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming season. A few things to think about:
- Research any new keyword topics.
- Start creating your editorial calendar.
- Establish an outreach strategy.
- Make sure your site is technically sound.
With your goals established, personnel in place, and strategy down, it’s on to pre-season.
The pre-season is a short but important part of the year. It’s the time when you have your initial goals set, ideas for next year in place, and can start trying out some new offenses.
Set up a meeting that includes the entire marketing team: PR, SEO, content, paid, etc. With everyone in the same room (or more likely, on the same call), it’s much easier to coordinate efforts and figure out how each team can collaborate to reach your overall goals.
- PR & SEO teams should coordinate outreach efforts.
- SEO & PPC teams should evaluate analytics & campaign performance to drive down costs and identify new keywords/phrases.
- Content teams should work to create blog posts for search, articles for the PR team, landing pages for the PPC team, etc.
Pre-season also gives you a first glance at your competition. What new things are they doing this year? Take a look at the following:
- Announcements (Partnerships, product launches, funding, etc.)
- Marketing efforts (Where are they spending their money?)
- Search results (Are they out-ranking you? Why? How can you get ahead?)
With your teams working together and your competitors scouted, you’re ready to kick off the regular season.
During the regular season, strategies are in place and everyone’s working at full capacity to reach goals identified in the off- and pre-seasons. The content team is busy writing, campaigns are being launched, landing pages are being tested, and you’re starting to generate buzz in various social networks.
The regular season is long though so you need to constantly be re-evaluating and adjusting.
Throughout the regular season it’s important you have regular status meetings to keep everyone on track, discuss successes and failures, plan for upcoming campaigns, and make necessary changes to current strategies.
Look at your goals. Are you heading in the right direction? If not, what needs to change?
As new content is created, take a look to see what’s working and what’s not. Which pieces work best on each social network? Which pieces are driving traffic for your top keywords? Create more of those!
Ensure that all content going up has optimized URLs, proper title tags, and meta descriptions, and that you’re including calls to action on your pages.
Analytics & WMT
Analytics and Webmaster Tools (WMT) give you an inside look at how your site is performing. In other words, they can tell you where you’re performing well and where you’re lacking.
Be sure to check WMT for errors or any major changes. Dig into analytics to generate new content ideas, identify guest post locations, see campaign performance metrics, and locate any areas where you can improve conversions.
Always remember to update your strategies based on what you find.
If you don’t keep working, improving, and adjusting to the ever-changing landscape, you won’t be make it to the post season.
Congratulations! You’re all over the first page search results and on your way to the championship. It’s now just you and a few competitors. Time to put forth that extra effort and make a big splash.
Here are a few ideas:
Go beyond blogging. You’ve been working hard on building your blog and you’re seeing the results. For that extra push, you need to go beyond a standard blog post. Try an infographic, a dynamic infographic, or a video tailored to your audience.
Create new partnerships. They’re essential for reaching new customers, they’re exciting for everyone involved, and they also make for great links.
Get customers talking. Your customers are your best assets. Do something that gets them talking about you, and, more importantly, gets them sharing your content and site across the web. Check out some cool ideas over at the WOM blog.
You’re finally here! It’s been a hard road with a lot of work from your team, but it was worth it.
Now, I’m going to assume that with all of the work, analysis, evaluation, and adjustments, you not only made it to the Super Bowl but are in fact the champion. Go ahead, do the discount double check. Landing in that top spot will result in a ton of traffic and, more importantly, more conversions.
Don’t get complacent. You may be the champion now, but your place in that top spot can be taken away in a matter of minutes. While you’ve been getting through the post-season, many of your competitors have been reworking strategies that may leave them right on your heels.
Always be evaluating, adjusting, and thinking ahead.
Getting to the SEO Super Bowl isn’t easy, winning is hard (as the 90’s Bills can tell you) and repeating as champions is even harder. But if you put in the hard work, you can get there.
Follow the steps above. Get your SEO strategy in place, get your teams together, and work your way through the season. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to a championship.
*Note: If you can’t tell, I’m a jaded Bills fan. I also feel it’s important for you to know I don’t really own elastic-waist jeans.