We work with a lot of different clients here at SEO.com. Some are more prepared to engage in an SEO campaign while some are not prepared at all. It is definitely night and day when you compare the two clients side by side in terms of readiness and results at the end of a campaign. Because of this, I wanted to put together a guide to help businesses of any size begin to prepare themselves to get started with SEO.
1. Be Ready Accept Your Agency As Part of Your Marketing Department
If you are going to hire an agency to do your SEO, then you need to be ready to accept them as part of your marketing department. Be ready to share with them insight into your other marketing initiatives so that your agency can help integrate themselves into your team and be working toward fulfilling your department initiatives. When this happens, you will be able to create synergies and accomplish much more as a whole than if you leave your SEO team to fend for themselves.
2. Be Ready To Establish / Work Towards Real Online Marketing Goals
It's 2012… almost 2013. If you still think that ranking #1 for a trophy keyword is an online marketing goal, then you probably aren't ready to engage in SEO. Yes, rankings can be a leading indicator of good things to come, but at the end of the day, if you aren't growing your business from that number one position, then you probably spent a lot of money and really didn't get anywhere.
Real online marketing goals should be established before your your hire an in-house SEO or SEO agency. In most cases, I believe that real online marketing goals should be revenue driven. For example, I need to increase online leads by 15%. If I can do that, it will be worth $100,000 in new revenue for me this year. Okay, now we are talking.
3. Be Ready To Give Up Full Analytics Access
Once your have some real goals established, you need to be ready to give up full analytics access. I don't really care what analytics package you are using (Google, Adobe, Webtrends, Etc), your SEO needs daily insight into what's happening on your website in order to set a proper SEO strategy and be able to make tweaks throughout the campaign.
If you aren't willing to give up full access to your analytics data, there is no way your SEO can help you accomplish your goals. At the end of the day, your SEO can take your money and perform work for you, but you aren't going to get anything out of it… so don't even bother.
4. Be Ready To Share Sales Data
Sharing sales data pretty much goes hand in hand with the point above about giving up full analytics access. Some businesses are really nervous about sharing sales data. I've even had clients tell me, "I'm not going to tell you that, I don't want you to know how much money I'm making from your efforts." Really? When all is said and done, I don't care how much money you make as a company or even from my efforts. All I care about is that your SEO efforts are growing your revenue and that you are seeing an ROI… PERIOD!
You don't have to share your yearly revenue data, but be ready to share how much your products/services cost, what your margins are, and so forth, so that your SEO can put a dollar amount to sales from their efforts.
Your SEO just needs to establish a baseline of where they started and start tracking that each month. So please freely give them the information they need to help you grow your business.
5. Be Ready To Put Your Ego Aside
I, along with probably every SEO out there, have worked with a number of clients who are either miseducated about SEO or aren't up-to-date when it comes to SEO best practices. Nothing can kill an SEO campaign faster than when the client takes everything they've read about SEO (even material published five+ years ago) as gospel truth and won't let their agency apply current best practices because they have a big ego and they "know how to do it."
To prepare yourself to engage in SEO, you will oftentimes have to check your ego at the door and understand that your agency lives and breathes this stuff all day, every day. They stay current with best practices and will build you a campaign based on your needs.
6. Be Ready To Change Your Website
This point probably ties into the point above about putting your ego aside. When you prepare your business for SEO, you need to be ready to change your website. Your SEO will perform multiple audits including a site optimization audit in which they will provide you a list of improvements that need to be made to your website. Please make these changes and be happy about it.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh, you can't change our website, it's perfect the way it is." Um, ego check… I also can't tell you how many times I've passed a site optimization recommendations document over to a client and have them not implement it. There's only so much an SEO can do through off-page efforts. Those efforts have to be married with on-page efforts, so be ready to make those changes!
7. Be Ready To Prioritize I.T.
This point goes along with being ready to change your website. There are a lot of complicated CMS platforms out there that many clients use to run their businesses on. There are also a lot of clients who will only let their I.T. department touch their website code. So when engaging with SEO, you need to be ready to prioritize your I.T. initiatives and be ready to place site structure changes high on the list.
8. Be Ready To Blog Your Heart Out
As the search engines continue to put emphasis on fresh, quality, relevant content and the sharing of that content socially, it is more important now than ever before to be ready to blog regularly as an organization. This doesn't mean just you as the business owner or the marketing manager, this means everyone! Plan on producing at least one piece of content per day that can be published to a blog on your site. Your SEO can help produce some of the content, but should be spending most of their time helping you build a content strategy and editorial calendar instead of doing the actual blogging on your site.
9. Be Ready To Give Up An Email Address
This is a sticking point with a lot of businesses. In most cases, they feel as though they cannot trust their SEO with a company issued email address. This goes all the way back to being part of your marketing department. If you want to be uber successful, you will need to integrate your SEO into your team, that includes giving them an email address.
This email address will mostly be used for link development and content placement outreach. Your SEO can only be somewhat successful using an email address like email@example.com vs firstname.lastname@example.org. Imagine if you were a blogger and received an email from email@example.com. The blogger is much more likely to engage with the SEO than getting an email from a Gmail address from someone claiming to represent that brand.
10. Be Ready To Leverage Business Development / Partner Relationships
Outside of attracting natural backlinks to your amazing content, it is pretty difficult to go out and secure GREAT links for clients. One of the ways to do this is by leveraging current business development efforts and tapping partnership relationships to acquire links. This is something that your SEO cannot do alone.
It requires ample effort between your SEO and your biz dev guy, and possibly, the leader of your sales team. Your SEO will have to get with them to identify opportunity and then work with the individual to do outreach to these contacts. Once acquired, these are the types of links that are very difficult to replicate and also the types of links that drive results FAST!
In closing, in order to prepare your business for SEO, it will require a lot of team work between the client and the SEO. This isn't a "pass the baton" effort when you can hire an SEO or agency and say, "here you go… good luck!" If you want to grow your business through online efforts, then you've got some work to do as well.
If I have left anything out, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.