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Here’s a sure-fire way to get ranked high in Google.

Piss people off.

Reportedly, DecorMyEyes founder Vitaly Borker was arrested and charged with defrauding customers, and making repeated and violent threats to customers who attempted to return defective goods.

Not a fan of “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, then :) This bit will interest SEO fans:

Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven

If you look at the backlinks for DecorMyEyes.com, you’ll find a significant volume of inbound linking, some of which is junk, but also includes links from the likes of the New York Times. The high-profile links are a direct result of bad publicity.

Of course, this has always been the fly in Google’s ointment. Google’s link-oriented approach to ranking reflects the attention a site receives. This doesn’t necessarily mean the site is endorsed, and in this case, the opposite is true.

Facing a PR disaster, in all senses of the word, Google were quick to act:

We were horrified to read about Ms. Rodriguez’s dreadful experience. Even though our initial analysis pointed to this being an edge case and not a widespread problem in our search results, we immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live

Hmmm….was the algorithmic solution “if domain = DecorMyEyes.com, then PR=0″ :)

Jokes aside, Google outlined the options they could have taken to prevent such a problem, but chose not to, then cryptically hint at the step they did eventually take:

Instead, in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result

Reading between the lines, it is clear that…….erm…….hmmmm………I don’t know about you, but I’m none the wiser! That could mean anything! Assembling a team of hand editors to baby sit the results of an algo, or the beginnings of some frightfully clever semantic analysis.

Hard to tell.

Google make out the case is an outlier, although that would only be true on the surface. The fundamental problem, for Google, is link context, and that is a far more difficult problem to solve.

Link As A Vote

When Google started, they used a clever backlink check as a form of voting. The more backlinks a site had, from sites deemed to be authoritative, the higher the rank.

But the web has changed.

These days, we have Facebook and social media. Most people on the web aren’t web publishers in the traditional sense. Most people participate on the web, but don’t have their own websites. They post on other people’s sites, over which they have little control. Google has to make sense of all this, because Google still wants to know what information people pay the most attention to.

The beating heart of a link is a mark of attention.

Google collects markers of attention.

As the PR – as in public relations – problem with DecorMyEyes reveals, popularity and authority calculations are not enough. Google’s black box also has to figure out context. Most SEOs would guess Google is putting a lot of work into semantic analysis.

This is why it is becoming increasingly important to treat SEO as a public relations exercise. Links can come from anywhere, and whether they are no-followed, scripted or otherwise, they are all markers of attention. Google’s job will always be to collect them, and make sense of them. To the webmaster, all markers of attention are valuable.

Well, almost all.

DecorMyEyes turned it into a marketing strategy, but in terms of SEO, it was never going to last. First rule of SEOClub is that you don’t publicly embarrass Google.

The Lesson

Be interesting.

In a useful way.

Oscar Wilde said “the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about”. Malcolm Mclaren said something similar: “bad publicity isn’t as good as good publicity, it is ten times better”. Brendan Behan “All publicity is good, except an obituary notice”.

Get positive ratings. “Encourage” reviews. Go to where your customers are, and get the conversation started. Do you have a story? Be controversial, if it suits. Find an angle and work it. Link out.

When you think PR, think Public Relations.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Few people understand the constant pressure that the corporate social strategist is faced with. On any given day, the pressure can include internal challenges such as culture change, demands on proving the worth of programs, program development and execution, vague understanding of the role by some colleagues, the necessity of integrating the function throughout the enterprise, as well as external demands such as interview requests and a constant barrage of questions via email, Facebook and Twitter.

The role is clearly evolving and is one that many companies, small and large, are currently filling. I was lucky enough to be selected to fill the role of global digital & multimedia communications manager (aka head of social media) for Ford Motor Company in July of 2008, and I’ve witnessed much of the above – and more – in my role. We’re definitely at a crossroads in terms of the maturity and evolution of the function, particularly in integrating this nascent field into more business processes and making it live beyond the realm of just a handful of people within the organization.

Now, Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) of Altimeter, along with Charlene Li (@charleneli), Christine Tran (@christineptran) and Andrew Jones (@andrewjns), has undertaken what I consider to be the definitive report on the challenges, opportunities and future of the corporate social media strategist. After surveying some 140 social strategists, interviewing 50 corporate practitioners of social media and looking through some online resources, they outlined some major findings, including:

  • Corporations have anointed an Open Leader, the Social Strategist.
  • They are overwhelmed with six major challenges – with little relief in sight.
  • Be proactive – or be relegated to being a Social Media Help Desk.
  • Senior management must be selective in hiring this role – then give full support as they evolved the corporation.

Take a look at the report to see what the six challenges of the corporate social strategist are. In addition, Altimeter has 10 executive recommendations for hiring and managing a corporate social strategist that make up a solid checklist for both those new to or seasoned in social media.

Are there other challenges that you’ve seen that should also be noted? What’s your view on the future of this role and the industry?

Also, if you’re interested, I regularly bookmark some of Jeremiah’s writings. You can find those at http://delicious.com/scottmonty/jeremiahowyang.

Disclosure: I was among those interviewed for this report

The Social Media Marketing Blog

Posted by richardbaxterseo

If you think about it, search engines are more or less constantly driving us SEO people to keep our technical SEO strategy in a state of constant refinement. This “evolution” of the marketing environment we thrive in is a great thing, it challenges us to come up with new ways to improve our traffic generating capabilities, user experience and the overall agility of our websites.

Here are a few ideas (6, to be exact) based on issues I’ve encountered in QA or on our recent client work that I hope will provide a little food for thought the next time you’re planning SEO enhancements to your site.

1)      Leverage UGC (review content) beyond the product page

UGC is brilliant, particularly on product, content thin or affiliate sites. Making it easy for users to leave a review is powerful stuff, but are you making the most of your precious user generated comments? Consider this scenario. So many users leave product reviews on your pages that you decide to limit the number of reviews visible for that product. You could cherry pick some UGC for category listings pages, adding to the uniqueness of those otherwise content-thin pages too.

the power of UGC

2)      Use “other users found this document for”

I know Tom loves this trick, and rightly so. You can turn insightful recent searches data into valuable on-page uniqueness. Internal search and external referrals are great, but how about extending the process to make it easy for users to evaluate, extend, tag or remove terms they feel are irrelevant to the page?

This simple example shows how users of a forum site may have found that thread. I think there’s a whole lot more you can do with this trick, but it’s a start:

users found this page for these keywords

3)      Consider delivering search engine friendly URLs in your internal site search results

I know how “out there” this might initially sound, but why settle for search engine unfriendly URLs on your internal site search pages? I have seen lots of examples of links being awarded to unfriendly, internal site search URLS. Why do we spend so much time carefully crafting our external URLs, only to completely forget our internal search URLs? A little extra development work to apply a meaningful pattern to your search result page URLs today could lead to the construction of an entirely new content type down the line.

Look at how folks are linking to these search query pages, and note the first example (where instead of a URL rewrite, this site is using breadcrumbs to make their ranking page URL appear more friendly):

interesting search results pages with links

4)      Microformats are really gaining traction – be creative with them

What we’ve found with Microformats is that webmasters tend to apply the markup to web pages hosting the content, but  that’s where they stop. Imagine you have a website that sells tickets. Do you add hCalendar to your event page and walk away? No! You can nest other Microformats such as hProduct and hReview, and syndicate your formatted data to other internal pages, snippets on your homepage and category pages. Any mention of an event, a link to a product or a review snippet should use the appropriate mark-up, consistently across your website.

5)      Work hard to resolve errors and improve site speed

Think about how Google have placed site performance at the top of their agenda. I genuinely believe that a site riddled with performance issues and errors is tolerated less today by search engines than ever before. Websites with platform issues can raise serious problems for SEO, users, conversion and repeat visits. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools (including SEOmoz Pro, IIS Toolkit, Pingdom Tools and Webmaster Tools from Bing and Google) to help you identify and tackle these issues head on. Go and set aside some performance maintenance time, if you haven’t done for a while.

6)      Watch your homepage title in Google’s SERPs

Google can be pretty aggressive when it comes to choosing the most appropriate text to appear in your title snippets. Sometimes, you might disagree with Google’s choice! Our tests so far indicate that the NOODP meta tag (used to prevent Google using the DMOZ description from displaying in your SERPS) can prevent Google from doing this, even if you have no DMOZ listing.

From this;

Without ODP

To this:

better title display in serps

That “penny drop” moment when a new technical SEO strategy idea presents itself has to be my favourite part of SEO work. I’m glad that technical strategy has to evolve as search engines develop. I really can’t see a time in the near future when that will change.

If you’d like to hear more tips, I’ll be speaking at next week’s A4Uexpo in London on exactly this topic. If you’re there, be sure to drop by and say hello. My buddy Dave Naylor will be introducing me (I have no idea what he’s going to say) and hopefully there’s going to be some time to do a preview of the session over on his blog soon.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by Kate Morris

As a consultant, I work with many In-House SEO teams with strategy and other issues that arise throughout the course of the year. One trend we are seeing is that these In-House teams are having a hard time coming up with accurate traffic-centered goals. Traffic is the base for many metrics measurements, so being able to semi-accurately predict that number in the coming year is important for every business. 

I can hear you all now, "Well there is the Google Keyword Tool … use that." Typically, that is my answer too, but there have been major questions about the accuracy of Google’s keyword tools and others available to webmasters, marketers, and search engine optimization teams.

(If you will comment with your favorite keyword tool other than those I mention, I’ll happily test and add it here!)

The Google Keyword Tools (yes, plural)

There was a shift recently with the Google Keyword Tool. The Legacy/API version is showing different numbers than the newest Beta interface. David Whitehouse and Richard Baxter both noticed this shift as well and did a few tests on accuracy. The jury is still out as to which version is more accurate, the legacy or the new keyword tool. But I believe like Mr. Whitehouse that the newer tool is the updated one, but that does not make it more accurate. 

To be clear, when I speak of the Legacy, API, and Beta tools, I do mean different versions of the Google Keyword Tool. First, from what I can see using the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty tool, the Google API pulls from the Legacy tool, so they are one and the same. The Legacy tool is the prior interface for the current Beta version of the Keyword Tool. We had previously assumed that these pulled the same numbers, but my research and that of others proves otherwise.

But wait! *infomercial voice* There is more!

There is also the Search-based Keyword Tool that aids AdWords advertiser’s in choosing relevant keywords based on search behavior and a specified website. This tool is explained by Google here and gives more in depth information on account organization and cost.  

But even this tool is not on par with the other two when it comes to impressions. A random query in the Search-based tool returned a suggestion for the keyword "maragogi." The Search-Based tool says there should be 12,000 monthly searches. The Legacy tool returns 110 Local Exact match searches, 33,100 Global Exact match, and 201,000 Global Broad match. The new tool returns information only for a global setting (all countries, all languages). That returns 74,000 searches broad and phrase match, and 12,100 for exact match. It seems like the Search-based tool is more like the exact global match in this one instance. But what is a business supposed to do with all of these numbers?!?!?

(hint: always use exact match)

Back to Strategy

If these tools are possibly inaccurate, how do our clients go about setting their yearly strategy goals?

Put simply, in search, you never want to rely on one set of results or one ranking report. Data over time and from many sources is best. But with the lack of tools out there and Google bringing in at least 65% of traffic organically for most sites, how do you get the best numbers? 


First, you need to start out by figuring out how many impressions a keyword or set of keywords can bring in on average for a specific month. If you are in a cyclical industry, this will have to be done per month of the calendar year. 

1. Pull from both Google Tools and other Keyword Tools

Below is a look at some information I pulled using the tools mentioned for the key phrase "curtain fabric."

The idea here is that if you take into account all of the numbers out there, you might see a trend that you can use for estimating future traffic. If there is no trend, then a median of the numbers can be used as your metric. A few other tools that you might look into include Word Tracker and Keyword Spy. You can see that the numbers are all over the place, but looking at these figures, I’d guess that the keyword might bring in around 6,500 impressions a month in the UK. 

The downside is that WordTracker and KeywordSpy don’t allow you to look at exact match information versus broad match. When performing keyword research, you always want to look at the local (target to your country) exact match information. Too many people pull keyword information use broad match and get inflated numbers for all phrases related to that key phrase. 

2. Run a PPC campaign if possible.

The absolute best way to get accurate numbers about traffic over time is to run a PPC campaign. I pulled some numbers from a few campaigns (for our client’s sake we have masked a number of the actual key phrases) in attempts to see if the new keyword tool is accurate to actual trafffic in August. The keywords pulled were all exact match in the campaign and the information pulled from the keyword tool was Local Exact and set to the country that the campaign was targeting. 

As you can see, some of these are higher and some lower. What I found that there really is no definitive answer of if the Google Keyword Tool is accurate. Take a look at the results for the example I used before, curtain fabric. The campaign saw 11,389 impressions, much higher than the new keyword tool, and lower than some other keyword tools. This is why a well run PPC campaign is important if you want to get a more accurate look at impression numbers. 

Please note that I didn’t get a chance to ensure that these accounts were all showing at all times during the month, but they were all accurately geo-targeted and all showed on the top of the first page on average. 

Finding Traffic Based on Rank

After getting a good idea of the number of impressions, you then need to take into account where you are showing for that keyword on average organically (aka your rank). While we cannot know specific click through numbers for every search done on the web, there have been some studies done on how much of those impressions the top organic result gets, the second and so on. The one I used the most often is from Chitika. Using the percent of the traffic below and the impression numbers, you should be able to get a good idea of the visitors you can expect per month organically for a specific key phrase.


So using the "curtain fabric" example, assuming that the site I am working on has maintained an average ranking over the last few months of #3 organically, I could expect about 1300 visits from Google for the keyword in a month (11.42% of 11,389 impressions).

Past Metrics

Once you
get everything figured out, keep in mind that your past metrics are another good way of seeing how close you are to getting the traffic about right. Assuming that no major changes have occurred (like lack of metrics data in the last year), a look back is the most accurate way to understand traffic flow and trending on your site. Pull the unique visitors for every month of the last year and do some analysis on percent increase month over month. This can be done on any level in most analytics programs – overall traffic trends all the way down to the keyword level. 

A look at overall traffic per month in Google Analytics for organic searches from Google:

A look at traffic for a specific keyword over the last year per month from Google organic:

Educated Guesses

In the end though, making predictions are just that, educated guesses. Pulling data from all available sources and using your own historical data can assist in making an educated prediction for the next year. Keep in mind though that things never stay the same. Google Instant just proved that with one of the biggest changes we have seen in a while. 

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Perhaps part of the “interesting data” Richard Rosenblatt was talking about was link anchor text on expired domains & cybersquatting efforts that he could redirect in bulk at high earning eHow pages.

Not to fear, Demand Media is a trusted Google partner, so the algorithm and engineers are prohibited to take action against the same activity which would get your website removed from the search results.

Google’s blind eye and double standards toward the large MFA spam sites are becoming such a big issue that it looks to be at the core of the marketing strategy for new search engines!

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by laura

My friends, you’ve made it. You’ve sat through over 10,000 words I’ve shoveled into these  SEO Strategy posts (so far), and for that you deserve a serenade.  This serenade calls for a nice glass of wine (preferably a good Tokaji to go with the music) and a comfortable seat while we wrap up our journey together. Got your wine? Ok, now let the exceptionally gifted Sandor Lakatos send some beautiful Hungarian gypsy music through your speakers and let’s begin the end. (PS – If you really like this music I suggest this album)

There are two things you can potentially do here to wrap this up.  The first, prioritization, is optional. The second, summarizing the document in an overview, is pretty important. If you’re not into prioritizing all this stuff you’ve put together then just go right to the Overview section and skip the Prioritize one. Here we go.



Well, hello go-getter. Glad to see you’re ready to do some prioritizations. There are two ways I’ve done this before, and at this point I don’t need to tell you again that however you want to go about this is up to you.  Create this document in the manner that seems best for you.

a) Prioritization Summary

After you’ve created your magnum opus of specific recommendations in Step 6 that will make the next big internet sensation out of your client’s product, you may want to take all of those recommendations and wrap them up in a nice (short) summary that says, “this is the most important thing you can do, and these things are very important also”.  Let them know where they can start and what they cannot ignore if they want to see results.  This is different than the overview which we’ll look at later, that will summarize the entire document in a much more broad manner.  This is specific to the recommendations that you’ve listed. You and I know that the more of the recommendations they follow (especially the high-impact ones) the better off they’ll be, but you and I also know that the chances of the client implementing 100% are usually not so great, so make sure you let them know what’s the most important. 

b) Prioritize by Item

This is more time- and labor-intensive, but I’ve found it has really helped for teams who have a lot on their plate. Prioritizing each task that you’ve given your client in Step 6 can help them place your recommendations in their queue along with the 1,000 other things they’re working on, without having a doubt as to what will potentially make the most impact. Without specific prioritizations they might just implement whatever is easiest, and then call you in 4 months when there hasn’t been any change in results.

For example, the template I’ve built has prioritizations to choose from built in, so that I can stick these in wherever necessary. If I have several recommendations under a category (like Specific Content to Build), then each recommendation within that section will get a prioritization. 

SEO Strategy Prioritizations 

Feeling even more ambitious? (Might be the sugar in the Tokaji – go with it!)  Note which team each recommendation should be owned by.  For example, recommendations for external linking might be relevant to Design, Web Dev, and/or Biz Dev.  Specific terminology recommendations might be relevant to Writers/Editorial. I’ve learned the more you give them the more they’ll get done, and the better it will look for you – both in presentation and when they start seeing results.



This is it. This is the big shiny bow on this custom handmade contribution of your unmatched talent and innate inner wisdom that you’re lovingly bestowing upon your client. The crescendo, if you will.

The overview is for the beginning of the document.  Rather than just jumping right into demographics and recommendations, give the client a short summary of the purpose of this document and what they’ll find in it. Here are some of the things you might consider putting in this one or two paragraph overview (I don’t suggest it be much longer than that):

  • Summarize why this document has been commissioned – what is the goal they are trying to attain
  • Recap the issue(s) the client is having now (the reason they’re seeking your help)
  • Explain the potential outcome the client can attain after implementing
  • Explain the originality of this document – that it is a custom set of recommendations created specifically to meet the clients individual visibility needs (or something like that). And that it is not a best practices document.

This, by the way, follows the typical steps to persuasion (shown here in my words):

  1. Show how awesome life would be if everything was perfect and nothing needed help
  2. Show the reality – here is a problem & here’s how its hurting you
  3. Let them know you have the solution for them
  4. Let them know the solution is attainable if they take action
  5. Give them the tools to take that action (this is really the rest of the document)

By the time they’re done reading your overview they’ll be salivating for what’s in this SEO Strategy document. 

And with that we come to a close of the 8-Step SEO Strategy. Thanks for taking this journey with me and I hope some of the info in these 8 steps has given you insights and ideas to make you worth gobs of money.  :)

So go forth and conquer dearest SEOs, and don’t forget who led you on the path to multi-million-dollar SEO fame when you get rich off of this stuff.  You can find me here (very soon). 

Xo, Laura


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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by laura

You know the client.  The one that really needs your help.  The one that gets pumped when you explain how keywords work.  The one that has an image file for a site.  Or maybe the one that insists that if they copy their competitor’s title tags word-for-word, they’ll do better in search results (I had a product manager make his team do that once. Needless to say (I was thrilled when) it didn’t work). 

In Step 6 of the SEO Strategy document I noted that this strategy document we’ve been building isn’t a best practices document, and it’s more than a typical SEO audit.  It is a custom set of specific, often product-focused recommendations and strategies for gaining search traffic.  For that reason I recommended linking out to SEO basics and best practices elsewhere (in an intranet or a separate set of documents).

But most of the time you’ll still need to call out some horizontal things that this client must have put in front of their faces, or else it will be missed completely.  SEO/M is your area of expertise, not theirs, so help them make sure they’ve got their bases covered. You can create an additional section for these call-outs, wherever you feel it is appropriate in your document.


Here are some examples of things you could include if you felt your client needed this brought to their attention:

  1. Press Release optimization and strategy
  2. SEO resources for specific groups in the company:
    1. SEO for business development (linking strategies in partner deals)
    2. SEO for writers/editorial
    3. SEO for designers
  3. SEO for long term results rather than short term fixes
  4. International rollout recommendations
  5. Content management system – how it is impairing their SEO
  6. Risks and avoidances
  7. Anything that you feel should be covered in more detail for this particular client, that wasn’t covered in your strategy in the last step. This is a catchall – a place to make sure you cover all bases.
  8. Nothing – if you dont feel it’s needed.

If the client really needs a lot of help, you’d want to provide training and best practices, either as separate deliverables along with the strategy document, or better yet – work on training and best practices with them first, then dive into more specific strategy. You don’t want to end up with a 15 page (or even 4 page for that matter) best practices document in your strategy doc. Remember, we’re beyond best practices here, unless, in this case there’s something specific that needs to be called out.  

If the client needs more than one thing called out, do it.  If it’s several things, consider either adding an appendix, or as I mentioned, creating a separate best practices document.

The reason I recommend best practices as a separate document is because it is really a different project, often for an earlier phase.


Let’s say for example, my client has the type of content the press loves to pick up. They don’t do press releases, mostly because they don’t know how exactly to write them and where to publish them, but they want to.  I‘ll add a Press Releases section after the strategy and I might give them these simple tidbits:

  • High level benefit of doing press releases
  • What person or group in the company might be best utilized to manage press releases
  • Examples of what to write press releases about
  • Channels they can publish press releases to
  • Optimization tips
  • References they can go to for more detailed information


My client gets it. They’re pretty good at taking on most SEO on their own. This strategy document I’m doing for them is to really dig in and make sure all gaps are closed, and that they’re taking advantage of every opportunity they should.  Additionally, in a few months they are going to roll out the site to several international regions. 

My dig into the site and its competitors (and search engines) for this strategy have all been for the current site in this country. Because the Intl rollout hasn’t started yet, I will add a section to my document with specific things they need to keep in mind when doing this rollout.

  • Localized keyword research (rather than using translate tools)
  • ccTLD  (country code top level domain) considerations
  • Tagging considerations (like “lang”)
  • Proper use of Google Webmaster Tools for specifying region
  • Potential duplication issues
  • Maybe even a lit of popular search engines in those countries
  • Point to more resources or list as a potential future contract project

Make sense?  Use your judgment here. Like we’ve seen in the rest of the steps, this strategy document is your work of art, so paint it how your own creative noggin sees it, Picasso.

Other suggestions for what you might include here? Love it? Hate it? Think this step stinks or mad I didn’t include music to listen to for this one? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by laura

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. 


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!


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. 


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

Forrester Consumer Profile Tool

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.

SEO Gaps

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.

SEOmoz keyword difficulty tools comparing competitors

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

Feature & content comparison grid

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.


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:

  1. Specific Terminology to use
  2. Specific Design elements to consider
  3. Specific URL considerations
  4. Specific Internal Linking to consider
  5. Specific External linking to consider
  6. Specific Partners to go after
  7. Specific AJAX usage considerations
  8. Specific Flash usage considerations
  9. Specific Video considerations
  10. Specific Blogging considerations
  11. Potential Original vs. Syndicated content issues
  12. Site Features and Content
  13. 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?)
  14. Your subcategories here

Example of strategy sections

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.  ;) 


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. 


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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