Your resolution list might look different than this one, but that’s not the point. The point here is that you actually have an SEO resolution list. Either get cracking on those projects that stalled in 2009 and find your success by managing the work smartly, or use some of these ideas to jumpstart your 2010 projects.
1) Hold an internal SEO summit
The size of your company will dictate how large this event becomes. The goal is to provide broad exposure to the topic of SEO and get the chatter going about your program. Ideally, you’d treat this the same as an actual conference, just one help internal to your organization. You’ll want to start by drafting an agenda for topics. Then, estimate how many people might attend based on those topics. From there, start looking at expanding the speaking roster. This step becomes optional, though, as the size of the event dictates, so don’t feel you need to have 5 people speaking with an audience of 20 attendees.
Next up, do you have any budget for things like coffee and snacks? While this is not mandatory, it certainly helps give you event the feel of a “summit” and will attract folks, too. It’s not the coffee and donuts that attract them, but rather it’s the appearance that the event is “more than a meeting” that will draw them in.
Your goal should be to inform a broad range of people across the main topics of SEO, so make sure your invitations include the key people who will get the work done you’ll be asking for in the New Year. Let everyone know they can forward along the invite, but explain there is a maximum number of possible due to your space limitations.
Treat this like an actual SEO Conference and you’ll have people lining up to come learn more.
2) Get Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml docs in place
If you still don’t have these two important docs in place on the root of your domain, get it done now. If you don’t already know this information, I’ll provide a quick recap. The robots.txt document informs the search engine crawlers about how to interact with your site. Do you have content you don’t want indexed? No problem. One line in the robots.txt doc and it remains un-indexed by the engines. Need to ensure your freshest content is found quickly? Again, one line in the robots.txt informs the crawlers where to find your sitemap document.
3) Open and use Webmaster accounts
By now, everyone should be aware that opening and using a webmaster account at the three main engines is a smart move. These accounts provide a wide range of services from alerting the engines to updates on your site to feedback directly from the engines themselves around how they are interacting with your website. Set aside your tin-foil hat and stop worrying that the engines know too much about you already. Get cracking with these accounts, uncover the hidden guidance that can help you optimize your site and be a hero in your office for solving big issues that are blocking your SEO success.
The bottom line with these accounts is that the engines are reaching out to help you. Take advantage of this and use the information they share to help improve your site. I personally think opening these accounts should be mandatory for any SEO program. If you’re not using these services, you’re missing a big opportunity.
4) Establish the ROI on SEO investment
This one is painful, I know, but it needs to be done. When you show up at the table to ask for resources to get SEO work done, you’d better have some kind of ROI to hand over. Successful companies make decisions with information, not guesswork. While establishing an accurate ROI on SEO work is difficult, you can come up with something.
The point is not to determine that installing and using <H1> tags on a page gets you 3% more traffic. While this level of detail would be nice, SEO simply doesn’t break down so cleanly as this. Opposite this, we have the approach around telling people that by doing everything you prescribe, they’ll see a 97% lift in traffic. This too, while easier to consume, doesn’t paint the entire picture.
I like to translate all efforts in support of SEO into the key metrics my company tracks. So, for most people, that would be revenue, unique visits, page views and conversions. The point here is to map all SEO investment back to those metrics. Again, we’re not talking about taking this to a granular level, but we want to inform decision makers that by doing X% of what is prescribed, they will increase their metrics by Y%. In many cases, you’ll be looking at estimates to make these claims, but by digging through your historical data, and mapping that beside past SEO work, you can begin to see a picture.
You’ll need to get creative around this one, gang, as there’s no hard and fast math that’s established the baseline for us to date. Sure, we know a higher click-through-rate is better, but actual numbers vary between websites, and even between sections within a website. No matter. Focus on your site, your past SEO work and your past results. Use this information to help you determine a trend for your site and build your projections from that.
5) Integrate SEO and Social Media efforts
Social builds links. SEO needs links. Simple. There is a lot more to this conversation point, but that’s the meat of it right here. And you’re not after links from Twitter. You’re after the downstream link building that happens when you expose content through mass social media spaces. Most users, when reading an article they enjoy, don’t skip back to Twitter to grab the shortened URL. They simply grab the URL from the address bar already open above the article. Fast and easy for the user means downstream link building for you, so take advantage of this by making sure the Social Media program running at your business is aware of your needs. Help them plan their own posting efforts with an eye towards exposing content you want links for.
Your keyword research efforts will pay big dividends for them as well, so don’t be afraid to share. The goal here not being a one-to-one mapping between a keyword and a direct post on that topic (social responds much faster that keyword research data can supply updates on topics for) but rather the goal is to ensure both programs understand how they help each other.
If your social program is slow, meaning you only post a couple times each week, use the ability to build valuable SEO-supporting links as an incentive to post more frequently.
6) Schedule and hold a senior executive-level SEO review
If your Executives are not actively backing the work you are bringing forward, you’re dead in the water. Be sure to set up a mandatory meeting for the Executive to review key points in your program. Outline the work done to date. Note the successes and call out the road blocks. Inform them of the balance between investment in SEO work to date, and the increase in results. Then show them how investing more nets even greater returns.
Think macro here, too. These folks want to see the 30,000 foot view of the world, so speak to them in those terms. Avoid talking about the details of SEO work, and classify things like managing H1 tags, ALT tags, meta tags, etc as “On Page Technical SEO”.
Make sure they leave the room understanding that SEO happens when all facets of the company mobilize to create a better optimized product. If your CMS is poorly designed, you’ll never see the lift from clean, keyword rich URLs no matter how much else you get done. Be certain they get the message that success from SEO comes from doing all the work, not some of the work.
At the end of this meeting, ask them to actively take messages back to their own groups around how they will support SEO work moving forward. Don’t fear your executive. Give them a path to success and they will champion your cause. Finally, don’t worry when they tell you they have other things to consider. They do, as no online business is solely about SEO. In the end, your goal here is to inform them of progress and ask for support to move more work forward. Do this clearly, and your program will get more support next year than it did this year.
Thanks to everyone who read our In-House column throughout 2009. Looking forward to bringing more informative articles to you in 2010!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.