Posted by laura
This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
Turn your computer up.
Now go here and play this song. Ready, Creator? We’re going to create the heart and soul of your SEO Strategy masterpiece right here, right now. Large black coffee advised.
If you’ve been following Steps 1-5 you’ve been taking notes on what you’ve found along the way, either in the Excel spreadsheets we’ve created or in a preliminary Strategy document for the customer or in a notebook or on your hand or wherever. These notes are going to be the seeds for Step 6 – the Strategy & Recommendations piece.
Like every other step of this 8-Step SEO Strategy you should do this in whatever style or format that feels best for you. I’m going to show you how I tend to put these documents together, but even my SEO Strategy documents change from client to client. So use your properly caffeinated noggin to create what your customer or your site teams need.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED
We gathered some notes in previous steps, so let’s take a look back at what we might be able to throw into this document.
Step 1: We defined target markets & their needs
- You either used target markets or personas available to you, or you defined them. We’ll revisit these in this in this strategy document.
- You also found some high-level things these people are interested in – their wants, needs, interests, etc. We’ll also note these.
Step 2: We did categorized keyword research.
- If there were any particular insights you’ve found during this research that you want to share with the client, we’ll be adding that.
Step 3: We discovered Gaps & Opportunities
- If you highlighted any specific areas or terms you want to call out in your document – we’ll be using those.
- We’ll be putting your Gaps & Opportunities in the strategy document as well
Step 4: We determined our competitors
- We probably wont use anything from this step
Step 5: We spied on our competitors
- We compared features & content. Learnings will be used.
- We looked for sentiment for our product & competitors’ products. Well use anything we found there.
- We did crawl and inlink comparisons. We’ll bring out any good insights from there.
- Optional: Traffic comparison charts
- Optional: any other competitive diagnosis you’ve done or insights you’ve found. We’ll put it in!
THE DOCUMENT STRUCTURE
Here’s what I usually do. I create either two parts to the deliverable or I create two documents. In the first part/document, let’s call this Insights, I throw in all of the juicy insights I’ve found. I want to give the client a really good sense of what is going on – where the problem areas are, how they stack up against competitors, and maybe even where they’re doing well and have less opportunity to improve. Then I also have a second part or document that has custom, actionable strategy and recommendations based on what I learned from those insights. We’ll call this Strategy.
THE INSIGHTS PIECE
Here’s where we’ll take specific issues, data, etc that we found in all of our previous steps and give the client something that will help them understand where they stand now. The more visuals you can provide, the better. The client will like you much better if you give them nice charts and graphs than if you make them read a book and try to decipher your data.
Let’s look at some of the specific things you can put in this Insights piece.
From Step 1:
- Recap who your target audience is. Be as specific as possible
- List what they need, want, are interested in finding
From Step 2 & 3:
- Particular keywords or groups of keywords that you highlighted. Is there a story there? Is there something that would be of value for your client to know?
- Gaps: Reveal areas/keywords where the client has content but is not performing well. You do not need to give recommendations for how to fix this yet – we’ll do that in the Strategy piece.
- Opportunities: Reveal areas/keywords where the client does not have content and might want to consider it.
From Step 4:
- Reveal the top competitors you found and why. Clients often consider brick and mortar stores or competitors with the most Unique Visitors to be their competitors. Make sure they know who their competitors are in Search, since that is often different.
From Step 5:
You don’t have to use everything from your competitive research. Just pull out nuggets that are worth exposing to the client and that tell a story.
- What features or content did competitors have that your client didn’t, but they might want to consider?
- Were you able to find any negative sentiment about your client site? Make sure they know what people aren’t satisfied with.
- Were you able to find any negative sentiment about your competitors? You can use this to move in on the areas where they are weak or don’t provide what your communities want.
- If you found any major crawl issues that you’d like to expose here, put that into your Insights document too. Remember, in this example we’re putting all of the recommendations/strategy in a separate part or document, (although you could do it differently if you please) so right now you only need to show problem areas. Go as deep or stay as high-level as you want.
- Show inlink comparisons between your client and their competitors
- Optional: Add in traffic comparison charts between your client and their competitors
- Optional: Add in any other competitive diagnosis you’ve done or insights you’ve found
Now that we’ve scared the pants off our client showing how dysfunctional their site is, let’s save the day and give them some solutions.
THE STRATEGY PIECE
I’ve got a template for this that I use each time and just add or delete whatever I need to. This template usually has these sections where I can fill in strategy and recommendations:
- Specific Terminology to use
- Specific Design elements to consider
- Specific URL considerations
- Specific Internal Linking to consider
- Specific External linking to consider
- Specific Partners to go after
- Specific AJAX usage considerations
- Specific Flash usage considerations
- Specific Video considerations
- Specific Blogging considerations
- Potential Original vs. Syndicated content issues
- Site Features and Content
- Global Scope (Are there potential duplicate content issues from this content being shared by other Intls? If so, what specifically needs to be done to avoid these issues? What is the strategy for domains, hosting, and targeting Intl search engines?)
- Your subcategories here
Here’s where you’ll provide solutions. This is probably the most flexible part of the entire strategy. This is your baby to build out as you please. The idea here is to provide specific, custom strategy and recommendations based on all of the stuff you’ve found. To cover other site issues or high-level SEO basics, you can consider either
- Linking to SEO basics for each item listed here on the web or in your intranet. For example, our intranet at Yahoo holds over 200 pages of SEO best practices, so because this isn’t a best practices document, I would just link to URL best practices, linking best practices, etc from each section to provide additional guidance beyond any specific recommendations you’re going to give them here.
- Providing a separate document with a more technical assessment or SEO best practices review. If you’re getting into recommendations for writing titles, meta tags, etc it might be a little overwhelming for this document. It’s ok to provide several deliverables to the client, but try not to overwhelm them with everything in one 200-page document.
You might not have any recommendations for AJAX or Global scope or any sections you have in this template, so then leave it out, or just point to best practices from that section.
Other considerations for your Strategy piece:
- Separate recommendations by who will be implementing them. For example, put all of your content recommendations in one group for the Product Manager, all of your technical recommendations in a group for your web developers, groups for writers, designers, or whoever will be implementing.
- Give each section or even each recommendation a priority. I did one of these where *each recommendation* was put into rows in (you guessed it) an Excel spreadsheet, and the columns had prioritizations and owners (developers, editors, designers, etc) for each one PLUS a scale for difficulty for each one. Make sure you charge appropriately for your time if you’re doing this.
MAKE THIS YOUR OWN
Working with several different SEO/M vendors while at Yahoo, I got to see how each of them presented deliverables. Every one of them couldn’t be more different from each other, and this is OK. If you’re not satisfied with how I’ve put the Insights and Strategy together here, please do feel free to present your information how you see fit (and share with us in the comments if you’d like!).
When you’ve completed this Strategy document you can make a copy of it and take out all of the info and templatize it for use in future projects.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Once you’ve done all of this and you’re happy with your deliverable, don’t close it up and send it just yet. In Steps 7 and 8 we’ll add two more simple things. You’ve done all of the hard work in steps 1-6, so now you can reward yourself with a little Irish coffee if you please. You deserve it.
Have ideas, thoughts, questions, Irish coffee recipes, etc you’d like to get off your chest? Please share with us in the comments!
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