Creating Your SEO Plan

The SEO plan is the document that you’ll use to stay on track as you try to implement SEO strategies on your site.For many people, the thought of implementing SEO on a web site that includes dozens or even hundreds of pages is overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be, though.

Prioritizing pages

Look at SEO in small, bite-size pieces. For example, instead of looking at your site as a whole, look at each page on the site. Prioritize those pages, and then plan your SEO around each page’s priority. Taking a single page into consideration helps to eliminate the “everything has to happen right now” issue and makes it possible for you to create an SEO plan that will maximize your web site’s potential in the minimum amount of time.

Top priority pages should be the ones that your visitors will most naturally gravitate to, such as your home page, or pages that will generate the most in terms of traffic or revenue. When prioritizing pages, you’re also creating a road map for your marketing efforts. If three of the pages on your site are your top priority, those three will have the lion’s share of time, capital, and effort when it comes to SEO and marketing.

Site assessment

After you have prioritized your site, you should assess where you stand and where you need to be with your current SEO efforts. Again, assess each page individually, rather than the site as a whole. In SEO, individual pages are equally important (if not more so) than the entire site. All of your efforts are designed to rank one page above all others in search results. Which page is the most important should be determined by your business needs.

Your SEO assessment should be a document that outlines the current standing of the main SEO elements of each page. It should contain columns for the element of the site you’re assessing, the current status of that element, what needs to be improved in that element, and the deadline for improvement. It’s also helpful if you have a check box next to each item that can be marked when improvements are completed and a column for follow-up, because SEO is a never-ending process. The elements that should be considered during an assessment include:

  • Site/page tagging: The meta tags that are included in the coding of your web site are essential to having that site listed properly in a search engine. Tags to which you should pay specific attention are the title tags and description tags, because these are the most
    important to a search engine.
  • Page content: How fresh is your content? How relevant is it? How often is it updated? And how much content is there? Content is still important when it comes to search results. After all, most people are looking for a specific piece of content, whether it’s  information or a product. If your content is stale, search engines could eventually begin to ignore your site in favor of a site that has fresher content. There are exceptions to this generalization, however. And one exception is if your content is, by nature, very rich but not very dynamic. Because of the usefulness of the content, your site will probably continue to rank well. But it’s a difficult case to determine. In most cases, fresh content is better.
  • Site links: Site links are essential in SEO. Crawlers and spiders look for the links into and out of your site in order to traverse your site and collect data on each URL. However, they also look for those links to be in-context, meaning the link must come from or lead
    to a site that is relevant to the page that is being indexed. Broken links tend to be a large problem when it comes to search engine ranking, so be sure to check that links are still working during the assessment process.
  • Site map: Believe it or not, a site map will help your web site be more accurately linked. But this is not the ordinary site map that you include to help users quickly navigate through your site. This site map is an XML-based document, at the root of your HTML, that contains information (URL, last updated, relevance to surrounding pages, and so on) about each of the pages within a site. Using this XML site map will help to ensure that even the deep pages within your site are indexed by search engines. If you don’t have a site map, you should create one. If you do have one, make sure it’s accurate and up to date.

Finishing the plan

With the site assessment out of the way, you should have a good idea of what areas need work and what areas are in good shape. Don’t assume the areas that don’t currently need work will always be perfect, however. That’s not how it works. At the least, changes to the pages will require changes to the SEO efforts that you’re putting forth; at most they may require that you begin SEO efforts for that page all over again.

You can now take the time to put together all of the information that you’ve gathered into a cohe-sive picture of the SEO efforts you should be making. Your SEO plan is more than just a picture of what’s there and what’s not, however. This is the document that you use to tie everything together: current standing, marketing efforts, capital expenditures, time frames — all of it.

The document should look much like any other plan that you’ll create, for instance your business plan. In this plan, you should have an area for background information, marketing information, plans for growing the business, and plans for managing problems that may arise.

An SEO plan is very similar. You’ll have your current standings, the goals that you plan to hit, and the marketing efforts that you plan to make for each page (or for the site as a whole). You’ll even have the capital expenditures that you plan to encounter as you implement your SEO plan.

You’ll also want to include the strategies you plan to use. Those strategies can be efforts such as submitting your site or pages from your site to directories manually and planning the content you’ll use to draw search crawlers, or they can be keyword marketing plans or pay-per-click programs you plan to use. Also be sure to include a time line for the testing and implementation of those efforts as well as for regular follow-ups.

Follow-up

Follow-up is also an essential part of your SEO plan. Many people believe they can develop and implement an SEO plan and then just walk away from it. The truth is, however, that SEO is not just a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires testing, monitoring, and often re-building. A good plan for conducting follow-ups is to plan for them quarterly. Some companies will choose to follow up and reassess their SEO bi-annually, but to be truly effective quarterly is much better. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that following up on your SEO efforts too soon is non-productive. In many cases, it takes at least three months to get a clear picture of how successful your efforts are.
Conducting an evaluation before that three-month mark could have you chasing after an elusive SEO goal that doesn’t really exist. Or worse, it could lead you away from a successful strategy.

Give your plan at least three months but no more than six between checkups. Once you create the habit of re-evaluating your SEO efforts on that time schedule, it will be much less time consuming than you assume.

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