7 Things to Do Before You Start SEO
By Jill Kocher Brown
Congratulations, you’re starting a new search engine optimization (SEO) program. Now is the time to plan ahead and make sure that all of the pieces are in place to make that program successful. Follow these seven steps to get started on the right foot.
1. Assign a Point Person
If multiple people on your team are interested in or have a stake in organic search results, assign one of them to be the point person for the SEO program. It’s best if that person is either your webmaster or has relationships with both your marketing and IT departments.
Your point person will make sure that all of the people on your team follow through with the recommendations your SEO consultant makes. When multiple people co-manage SEO, things fall between the cracks, and accountability decreases. When optimizations fail to be implemented, the SEO program won’t improve.
2. Ensure Access to Your Site
While pay-per-click advertising is managed in the ad platform’s interface, SEO involves making changes directly to your site. You’ll at least need access to the content management system (CMS) to modify the text and images on the page.
Content optimization is the backbone of SEO. It makes the words and messaging on your pages more relevant to the phrases for which real customers actually search. Your consultant will be delivering content for you to review and upload in Word or Excel format, so you’ll need someone on your team with access to the site and time to manage the review process and then copy and paste the final content into the CMS.
3. Alert Your Developer
Some changes will be technical and will require a developer’s assistance. For example, your SEO consultant might request that a series of pages be 301 redirected to different locations. That’s a relatively straightforward task for a developer but not something most marketing folks should be messing around with.
4. Set SEO Goals
Consider what you’d like to get from your SEO program. Your SEO consultant will help you finalize those goals and determine what’s realistic, but you need to have a level of performance in mind that will justify the cost and effort of an SEO program.
Do you want to increase visibility for key industry phrases that your competitors are winning in organic search? Do you need more traffic, leads, or revenue? Make sure your goals have actual value to your bottom line. Rankings are easy metrics to fall back on, but they don’t pay your salary.
5. Measure Your Goals
Use the goal tracking features in Google Analytics and other web analytics programs to measure the success of your goals. Traffic is measured by default, of course, but orders, sales, leads, newsletter sign-ups, and other conversion actions need to be set up as goals so that they can be tracked. Without goal tracking, you won’t know whether the increase in organic search traffic coming to your site actually did anything valuable for your business besides increase brand awareness.
6. Give Access to Data
In order to help you reach your goals, your SEO consultant needs access to the data you’re using to monitor success — especially Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Whether or not SEO actions have been successful is a key piece of knowledge that enables your consultant to do more of what works.
If you haven’t already verified Google Search Console, make it a priority. Search Console is Google’s way of communicating your performance in the metrics that it finds valuable as it ranks the pages on your site. When there’s a problem, Google Search Console is a valuable tool to diagnose and resolve that issue.
7. Be Patient
I know it’s hard to wait. You’re excited to get things done right now. But the first thing any SEO consultant needs to do is become intimately familiar with the keywords, content, and code that make up your site. Asking them to take shortcuts means half-baked recommendations that could miss key elements needed to make them effective. Research and analysis take time, but the results are worth the wait.
Set your SEO consultant up for success by following these seven steps. Your results will be better, and your consultant will be able to get to work faster.