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by James Challis on 22nd November 2013
A new client can provide a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your full expertise in Search and lead to the exciting prospect of transforming a website into a commercial success. To make this happen it is vital to get your SEO strategy right from the start.
To do this you’ll need to funnel your thoughts and answer the important questions:
We’ll look at these in more details below.
Good quality future-proof SEO can only be achieved by understanding the target market of your client, what they are looking for and how your client’s website can provide it. You must consider if your client is aiming for a good Return on Investment, to build a brand or communicate a message. Each goal requires a different strategy and you shouldn’t assume that any increase in search traffic will be seen a success by your client.
If your new client is a business, recognise the corporate objectives. A strategy heavily based on building local rankings is going to have a natural limit on potential returns and may not suit a company looking to grow nationally or internationally. Likewise a small local business can benefit quicker from a local strategy than a larger scale one.
Beware of any major changes to the business that may affect the website and make sure you know your client’s plans for it in the coming year.
Do they have existing agreements with PR agencies or creative writers? Can these agreements be used to create content for the website or will they clash with your plans? Also work out the access your client has to their website; do they need to go through a separate Web developer to make any changes and to what extent can their CMS allow changes?
Evaluate the competition; review their SEO, social networks and their linking structure. You need to be aware of how active the competition is and incorporate that information into future campaigns. Consider both their competitors offline and online.
One of the biggest causes of legitimate content duplication is through a client having multiple domains for a website or domains with separate TLD’s for separate locations, for example koozai.com, koozai.co.uk and koozai.eu. All domains with the same content should either be redirected to one main site using 301 redirects or use href=lang mark-up to specify which site is for each region if they are international variations. Lookout for sitewide links from other domains, this is seen as a negative by Google and should be removed or include a “no follow” tag.
How often do they want to talk? How involved do they want to be? Do they want to review and authorise everything before it is carried out? Try to pick up the tone of your client’s previous publicity campaigns to help form your SEO strategy.
Keep a close eye on everything that’s happening with the brand. Set-up Google Alerts on their brand name, use it to monitor news stories and build relationships and links with relevant websites. Compare the mentions to the competition for further ongoing research into a strategy.
Are they running any offline advertising campaigns that will impact the website Analytics?
Do they have any written content or articles that haven’t previously appeared online?
Can these offline campaigns help persuade users to follow them on social profiles or view specific web pages?
The figures may look impressive but are they actually telling you what you need to know? Analytics reporting is crucial to any SEO campaign and established websites will have some form of Analytics in place. With a new client it is imperative to check this has been set-up properly and whether it can be improved with Universal Analytics and Event Tracking. Conversion tracking needs to be set up to deliver reporting that is actually useful so agree with your client on two or three K.P.I’s to target and report on.
The answer is almost always a yes with a list of questionable backlinks to prove the point.
If somebody has optimised the site previously, the short term strategy often becomes about damage control and working with Google to understand and overcome any problems with back linking, keyword heavy content and exact match Anchor Text.
Get stuck into the website, the initial review should involve both a complete visual examination and analysis using tools such as ScreamingFrog and Link Risk to help you to understand the structure of the website as well as carry out a Technical and On-Page Review.
The very friendly named updates to Google’s Algorithms have caused a considerable headache for everybody in Search Marketing. These changes have definitely improved the future of search rankings for some although it can mean a new client may arrive with unintentional backlinks and duplicated content through no fault of their own. Always check that the site hasn’t received a penalty by Google as a priority.
Agree the right keywords to achieve what your client wants within the available time and budget. Appropriate keyword targeting delivers cost effective results in a shorter time frame than targeting broader keywords. Examine in detail the search volumes and competition for your keywords to understand what is a realistic objective.
It seems fairly obvious, but when faced with formulating a strategy you need to base it on the research you have spent time and money on. There are countless examples in both offline and online marketing where market research is disregarded in the pursuit of an ambitious hunch. Use the information you’ve gained from your client, the site investigation and competitive analysis to really deliver results.
Also make sure you are fully loaded with detailed figures so that you can be ready to explain to your client why you shouldn’t target keywords like ‘furniture’, ‘bank’ or ‘clothes’.
Aim to incorporate a long and short term objective when planning your keywords and really focus your campaign, remember you’re essentially competing in an open marketplace with at least 6 billion other people.
Content has become such a great way to gain a competitive advantage that is all too often ignored by small businesses looking to grow. With a new client, ask yourself if the current content on the website is A) Enough B) Relevant C) Useful? Good content is never free, but if it’s well written and actively promoted across the web, the returns are almost always worthwhile.
Google+, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest…the list of social platforms is probably endless. The social signals that these profiles and subsequent followers give off to search engines are now vital in getting content seen and shared. You should check your new client has complete profiles, full of juicy updated content. Google+ is still overlooked by most businesses but it shouldn’t be because it’s owned by Google, ranks high on searches and includes the ability to assign Authorship to content. It is fast becoming the most important social network for search marketing.
Do you have any other tips for starting with a new client? Would you prioritise differently? Please let me know.
Diagram via BigStock