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Developing an SEO campaign

What is it? How do we get one?

Alright, first let's work out what a campaign is.

What's a campaign?

The dictionary definition that comes up on Google is, as a noun: "a series of military operations intending to achieve a goal, confined to a particular area or involving a specified type of fighting".

As a verb, it means to "work in an organised and active way towards a goal".

Alright, so what's a goal?

Aha, well I've been on Michael Hyatt's course so .. are you ready to develop an SEO goal together?

The seven attributes of a smarter SEO goal

1. Specific

Let's get this over with. I forgive you. I forgive you, the manager who doesn't really know SEO but you have "get an SEO campaign sorted" on your to do list and you "just want to be at the top of Google".

Getting to the top of Google is a rubbish goal because the next question is "for which search phrase?" If you don't know SEO, you don't know there are probably hundreds if not thousands of possible search phrases, and anyway Google's search results are increasingly personalised, by geography, by the opinions of people you are connected to and by your previous search behaviour.

In other words, when you search yourself on Google, you are not seeing the same search results as everyone else.

So here's a better SEO goal: increase search traffic by x% and increase conversions from SEO traffic by y%.

SEO traffic is the quantity of people who arrive at your website from some form of search.

Conversions are related to the question "what do you want people to do when they arrive at your website?". That's clearly different for each company but within a company it can (perhaps should) be different depending on the search term. Obviously it's usually good if website visitors buy something or sign up or enquire, but if people are new to you the first step in your sales funnel can be getting them to follow you on social media or sign up for your newsletter or download your free report or watch your video or just read your page to the end or go to your 'about us' page.

2. Measurable

Let's get a grip. You need Google's Webmaster Tools set up (that involves claiming your website and uploading a code).

Webmaster Tools shows you the true picture, for which search terms Google is displaying you, how many times, in what position and how many people clicked.

Take a look at the search results over at least a quarter, sort by impressions (appearances in Google's search results), ignore the search terms where they are searching for you by name .. you probably need to download the report to a spreadsheet to do this, but then apply the 80:20 rule to what's left .. 80% of your website traffic will be coming from 20% of the search terms, you just need to know which ones.

Of the important search terms remaining, there may be some for which you'd rather not rank. You only want to appear in search results for search terms where you have an answer for people, otherwise people won't click or they'll click and leave, coming back to Google unsatisfied and Google will, in the end, not send you any more traffic on that search term.

Make a note of the search terms you would like to improve your performance in and go back to Webmaster Tools, get a report by say a month, note the stats, remember how to run the report you are looking at and resolve to check, say, monthly or quarterly.

All of that is about the quality of your SEO traffic. Sales people only ever ask for hot leads, this is the same.

Having achieved a free flow of people intent on buying (or joining or whatever), you also need to check what's happening on your website and for that we need Google Analytics.

I sometimes reduce it to .. I mean I don't know what everyone else calls it but I call it eyeball minutes. If last month you got 100 people who arrived on your most important search phrase, and they spent 20s looking at your content, you got 2,000s or (2000/60) 33.33 eyeball minutes. If this month you got a few more links inbound and you tweaked your page meta description so your search listing was more persuasive and your click-through rate increased so your search position rose a little so you got 150 people, and you sorted out some mobile display issues on the page so people spent more like 29s on your page on average, then you got 4,350s or 72.5 eyeball minutes: you more than doubled your eyeball minutes and that probably correlates with sales.

So you can just calculate one number, total eyeball minutes, from search, if you like.

Remember though, what is measured gets done, and you don't really want eyeball minutes, you want what you want .. sales, signups, likes, whatever it is. So be careful about this.

So now I'm going to get search results for people searching "eyeball minutes". Hi guys, I don't know if this is what you want but hello.

If you're done with numbers at this point, just identify how much search traffic you are presently getting and scan forward to point 3.

However if you're still game you could, for each of the important search phrases you just identified, determine what action you would like your website visitors to take. You can then set up Goals in Analytics. Ideally, because those actions are part of a sales funnel, you will know what that action is worth to you and you can attribute that value to the goal.

It's kinda exciting, because you can watch the money grow as people move along your sales funnel (you do have a sales funnel even if you haven't consciously developed one), but it's also terribly pernickety, so .. it's up to you how detailed you want to get and how much you want to involve your web developer.

3. Actionable

So far we have a goal that is specific and measurable. For this website 'seo scarborough' is important, and as at 21 September 2018 I'm in position 34.4 for that and I've had no clicks. That's what I've decided to fix with this SEO silo of articles (content). Specifically for the search phrase that this page is targeting, SEO campaign, I'm not appearing at all .. which is why I'm writing this page.

Maybe I want to get to page 1 of Google (position 10 or lower) for the phrase "seo scarborough".

As a goal, that's not really 'actionable' by you, unless you are simply going to buy an SEO service; bought ✓ (if so, get in touch).

Basically, to make a goal like this actionable you'll have to split it up into sub actions you can actually complete. As detailed on another page, SEO tends to split into hygiene issues where you check for technical problems on your website (for instance duplicate content and red herring content that is fooling Google into sending you traffic you are not geared up to satisfy), on-site SEO work such as developing content and useful capabilities, and off-site SEO or link building.

For the hygiene issues, I would suggest make an actionable goal of running an annual audit during a quiet business period.

For on-site SEO you need to develop an SEO-led content programme where basically you analyse search phrases you want to rank for and develop content specifically to attract those searchers and satisfy them, and turn the essential content into various formats for social media, your blog, your mailing list, relevant press, video, songs, posters, whatever.

The temptation is to say "I'll write a piece of content every week". If you've a mailing list or a blog where you've committed to people and they expect it, regular content is hugely important. Imagine if the BBC News didn't come on one day because, you know, people were ill and "to be honest, other things just took over".

But at the same time I'm a big believer in quality over quantity. To stand out, to be worth people's attention, to be worth someone bookmarking you, you've gotta be good. Really good. So for me, if we take that to an extreme and spend a year researching and developing something that blows people's socks off, I'd rather that than spend a year mumbling a lot about nothing important and saying nothing new or interesting.

So I think an actionable on-site SEO goal would be to increase natural search traffic to specific content areas, not just your home page, your blog or your content silo, and perhaps keep an eye on engagement measures like how long people stayed and whether people returned for the next thing you published, and goal actions, are people signing up for more. So your goal is to produce content that increases those measures as seen in Analytics.

Your actionable goal is to produce content in sufficient quantity and quality to take your measures where you want them.

For off-site SEO you either need your content programme to be so good that people link to you anyway .. Baumgartner's free fall for Red Bull for instance .. a bit unlikely if you're a cake shop or garage door repairer .. or you need a programme of engagement with people who control websites prepared to link to you. Rather than just selfishly asking, I prefer to major on the psychology of reciprocation that says you should deserve to be linked to. To my mind this is a niceness campaign.

Just in case you are really new to SEO, it benefits your page if other pages link to you. It's not just the link that matters but also the text they use within (and perhaps around) the link.

Let's imagine you've identified a search phrase and you want to be on page 1 of Google but currently you're on, like, page 7 or so. You can get SEO browser extensions that help you work out how many links point to your competitors' pages on page 1.

Maybe you have 2 inbound links, and those on page 1 have 30. So you calculate you have to get 28 links. Not all links are equal, of course, but for now let's imagine they are.

I'll talk about SEO techniques for getting inbound links in another article, but those SEO browser extensions can tell you where your competitors are getting external links from and you can develop your own thoughts about actionable goals that will get you to match that. I built The Twitter Growbot to help generate SEO ideas among other things.

The really important point that no-one enjoys apart from SEO agency billing departments is that your competitor on page one with 30 links would seem to have a better routine for getting links than you do. So if you decide to get 28 inbound links in the coming year and you're successful, you get your champagne, cake and party poppers ready, gather everyone around and .. oh .. your competitor now has 50 links and you're still not on page 1 of Google. Your SEO campaign for getting external links has to be substantially more effective than all your competitors', and you have to keep up the pace even while they are enjoying the success and income from their SEO success.

Even worse, in a competitive industry, they'll see you coming and step up their efforts.

So your SEO goal should be to get ahead of your competitor, mindful that they are probably improving their own SEO campaign.

4. A bit risky

"Hey everyone, let's make sure tomorrow is more or less the same as today, yeah? OK, everyone knuckle down" said no Mr Motivator ever.

Your SEO goal has to be a bit risky, otherwise you're saying nothing's going to change. And in that case, no-one's going to get excited and everyone will spend the week talking about the weekend.

Besides 'getting to number one', consider that everything is changing. Your business and you. Your environment (political, economic, cultural). Your business should be aware of its place and perhaps is developing new products and services to get a good market position in the future. There's risk and excitement and frisson there. Harness it.

Equally, your search phrase analysis may have thrown up some ideas for new products and services you could provide or new markets you could tackle.

Assuming you are the one in control here and you are trying to improve things, this should feel a little uncomfortable. If not, you may be just coasting. (If your boss is overstretching you that's outside the remit of this article but perhaps part of the answer is to outsource your SEO to me).

5. Timed

Everything's a process and your mission is to develop an SEO campaign that will deliver more of your measurable SEO outcomes more quickly than your competitors so you can catch up with them and get to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

So it's fair to set a deadline to reach a target, but what follows from that are the actions that aim to get you there. They fall into two types, regular, repeatable actions and one-off projects with waypoints and team-agreed, stage deadlines. Clearly the regular actions don't really have a deadline, they need a time budget, like "every Friday morning I'll spend an hour scheduling Tweets". It's the latter that you can tick off your list by a deadline date.

6. Exciting

Are you willing to work at this? Are you willing to pay me to work at this? How much do you want this? What's it worth to you?

This stuff has to get you out of bed in the morning.

7. Relevant

SEO is part of your marketing plan which is part of your business plan and business is just a way of getting funding so you can do what you want to do.

Alongside your SEO efforts, you may well have a PPC campaign to try to achieve the same business goals. Customer care, sales, finance, everyone should be moving in the same direction to the same goals, so you are part of a movement.

Use that as inspiration. What are you or your customer-facing people being asked every day? Could that make great SEO content? What's new?

And I come back to that common "I want to be on page 1 of Google" request. Of course you do, but why, and for what, and what do you want people to do when they see you there and how does that fit your business goals? What's the change you want to see in the world?

Sorry to get detailed, but for me this isn't complicated, it's inspiring, these are all places to look for SEO campaign ideas. And if you're just a one-person business, that's cool, just check it's what you want.

OK, so that's goals all sorted and tickety-boo, what's next?

SEO strategy

Now we have a few specific, measurable, actionable, risky, timed, exciting and relevant goals, we need a strategy. How are we going to achieve those SEO goals?

Strategy, according to Rumelt's Good Strategy Bad Strategy (I commend it to you) is

  1. a diagnosis of the situation
  2. a guiding policy for dealing with the critical difficulties
  3. a set of coherent actions

1. Where are you with SEO?

It's probably worth having an audit of the current situation. You and others probably post social media updates. How often do you update your blog? Who is a member of what online forum? Who writes the website content? Have you a photographer? A videographer?

Map out your current process and you may find all sorts of ways to improve things. Just try to avoid the trap of saying "oh, Brian posts 50 times a year to this trade forum, if we could get him to post 100 times that's double the links back from his signature". Quality not quantity every time .. Brian will post 100 times if you get him excited about his part in a shared vision.

2. What's your policy?

So, a policy is (from Wikipedia) a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies are generally adopted by a governance body within an organization.

Your policy should turn what you know about your strengths and weaknesses into a coherent approach to achieving your goal that guides and gives permissions to those who have to make it real.

My policy for this website, then, is to build out this SEO content silo and see where that gets me. Obviously if it was mission critical to me I would do more but I'm curious how far I'll get just building out an SEO silo and doing nothing else.

(As at 21 September 2018 something appears to be happening (I started on 24 May))

My impressions are rising purely as a result of this SEO Silo

3. What's your action plan?

I've a few cordoned-off times in the week for working towards goals rather than doing client work, and developing this SEO content is one of a few options for those periods. For now, that's good enough. These SEO-driven content pages take a while to create and as things stand I'm creating maybe a couple of pages a month and I'm happy with that.

Obviously your SEO plan will be different and will probably involve not just developing content for SEO but also building inbound links.

There's clearly a difference between establishing routines, running routines and managing those routines.

If you decide to work on SEO content every Friday afternoon, once you've set that up, you can tick that setup as achieved.

You then need to monitor results to check those processes will get you to your SEO goal, and depending on what you see and how you judge the effectiveness and reliability of your content generation time, you can increase, decrease or change that routine accordingly.

Back to our SEO campaign

So, we've set a goal, we know how the content process is currently working, we've a set of permissions and guidance about how we're going to approach achieving the goal, and we've an SEO action plan.

You may think I'm wierd, but the part that inspires me the most about that definition of a campaign at the top of this article is the word 'series'. A series is a set of sequential steps .. we do this, then this, then this then we arrive. I like that, but there is that difference between establishing routines, which would make a series of steps, and running those routines which isn't really a series any more it's just how you do things now.

I haven't gone into detail here about SEO techniques, that's for later articles, I just wanted to nail down what we mean by an SEO campaign, and it turns out to be: establish effective goals, work out your overall rules of engagement, then tweak your existing process to run at a new level and monitor and adjust as you race your competitors to page one of Google.

There's more here on wider aspects of SEO.