Immediate SEO Priorities: Where Should a Company Start First?

Are you Overwhelmed?

When you first hear about SEO, you hear about a bunch of things, right? It all comes falling down on you at once: on page, content creation, link building, meta data…. No matter who’s writing about what, almost every article gives the impression that this SEO step (whatever that step is) is crucial to a campaign and must be done.

Every optimizer has a favorite area, and that area is the one they tend to evangelize the most. Yet, of all the things that need to be done for a complete campaign, one has to wonder what the most important really is. Is there a part of SEO that can be considered the immediate priority?

Obviously, the answer is “yes”, or this wouldn’t be much of a post. So what is it? What should a company, especially one on a tight budget, focus on most?

On Page Optimization

If your company has never been involved in the optimization process, the very first, immediate priority is on page optimization. Your website is the backbone of any outreach effort and needs to be as tightly focused as possible.

However, you can’t just write a few meta tags, throw in some key terms and call it a day. Under the “on page SEO” section are many subsections, and each deserves focus and attention:

#1: Keywords, Research and Analysis

Just as your website is the backbone of outreach efforts, your chosen keywords are the foundation of your SEO campaign. This is, quite simply, the most fundamental part of optimization. Targeting the wrong key terms might bring you traffic, but it won’t bring you quality traffic – and really, quality traffic (i.e. interested, converting traffic) is what you want, right?

When you bring in a professional SEO specialist or company, you don’t want to assume you know what terms you should be targeting. We’re professionals for a reason; if you don’t let your SEO provider at least look over your key terms and make recommendations, you’re cutting off the campaign before it even starts.

Further reading on this topic:

Finding Keywords for SEO: How Long Does This Take?
Are Keyword Density Percentages Killing Your Content?

#2: Competitive, Research and Analysis

Things you can do

Researching the competition is important, because you may find yourself choosing other key terms based on how much of a heavy weight the competition is. For example, Overstock is a heavy weight (yes, even after being punished by Google) for several generic terms. Therefore, in general, if you plan to sell furniture you might want to be a little more specific than just targeting the term “furniture”.

Competitive research tells you what you’re up against to reach the top 10 results (your real competitors), and how much work will be involved. Work transfers into man-hours, which transfer in to money, so you can get a gist of how expensive a campaign might cost based on competition, as well.

Further reading on this topic:

Who Are Your REAL Competitors?
Competitive Intelligence: Getting the Skinny On Your Competition

#3: On Page Content

Once you know what keywords you’re targeting, and who the competition is, it’s time to put it to work. “On page content” refers to anything on the site, from meta tags to titles, headings and the body of text itself. Knowing how to merge keywords into your content without making them stand out to the reader can be difficult. It takes practice, but it can be done!

Further reading on this topic:

Semantics and Relevance: Even Keywords Need Support Sometimes
Writing Organic SEO Content: How To, Definition and Terms
The #1 Traffic Builder – Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Think

#4: Technical SEO

What does the lifeline of your site look like? How well do the pages work on your server? Do you have 404 (page not found) errors? Are you using too many redirects? Does it take forever to load your site?

Technical SEO covers things that don’t deal with content, such as those listed above. Before you ever go off site for any optimization campaign, you have to make sure it’s ready for visits. Don’t ignore the recommendations your professional SEO provider passes along. Every little bit counts, and this includes the technical bits.

Further reading on this topic:

Technical SEO: Tools and Approach

At the end of these “steps”, you’ll have a tightly focused, optimized, clean, fast site. Then, you can start looking at the actual outreach programs, such as link building, guest blogging and so on.

Read from here:

Building Campaigns Around Key Words and Phrases: SEO, Marketing, Social Media

Conclusion

There is no single part of optimization more important than keyword research and analysis, and there’s no one section of optimization more important than the on page. Not only will on page optimization give you strong relevance but, done right, it will also give you a site that people want to visit.

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Comments

  1. Great points, but before on-page content, I would add Web Usability / Navigation / Conversion Strategy plus Sitemap Construction. These elements (site-wide SEO) will take into account the recent Google Panda update AND ensure that not only does a website rank top, but it converts visitors too ;-)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tony. It strengthens the point about everyone having a part they evangelize the most ;) Having said that, you have a valid argument there.

    When you’re talking about SEO, you have to define what areas of marketing you consider the responsibility of the optimizer and what the writer considers SEO responsibilities. For example, we’ve known several SEOs who didn’t consider “conversion” as part of their job, from the standpoint of “Our job is to get your site visible and bring relevant, viable traffic. It’s your job – or the copywriter, marketer, etc. – to convert them.” In other words, the main goal for optimization isn’t conversion, it’s visibility – unless the contracted company is a full service agency.

    Granted, this viewpoint is changing as more agencies incorporate the whole shebang of internet marketing, but for the most part, SEO itself, at the core (in our opinion), is still all about visibility. Whether the conversion process falls under that depends on whether the client already hired someone for that ;)

  3. Agree with the tips but would add Step #0, before anything else: Audience Personas. IMHO all efforts should begin with understanding one’s customers and target audiences, their demographics, where they hang out, what types of content they consume and share, etc. Then as keywords are finalized and mapped and content developed, it’s all done based around what buyer persona Joe or Mary would like.

    Nice list and provides a good baseline for prioritizing.

  4. Superb Gib! This is a good guide especially to those who think SEO is just link building… I agree with ‘Dana’ too… niche and research about audience nature should be the very 1st step!

    I would call this post a very good guide to those who are planning to get SEO services but have a small budget… instead of looking for the link building to build links for your website you need to consider the steps given above as in my experience I have seen clients of different industries who implement the powerful on-page optimization and ranked for good keywords with little or no link building efforts.

    Great stuff!

  5. I agree with on page over off page first. Although I wouldn’t call myself an SEO professional, I have learned quite a bit in the last 2 or 3 years while building my own blog to promote my financial consulting business.

    In fact, I have had several companies in the niche ask me to do some optimization for them this year and I have started to do that on a regular basis.

    Regarding the client telling me which keywords they want, that basically happens every time. They will say I want to rank for these specific keywords. Since I know the niche very well, and I can see the authority and other metrics of their site, with a little research I can explain that it will take forever to rank those because they are way behind the 8 ball in an established and competitive niche.

    So far I haven’t had any problems convincing them that the words they want are not the words they can get right now, but we can work on others for the short term, while we are building the authority to rank the more competitive ones.

  6. i think its all about balance – you cant have a super over optimized site with no backlinks, and if you have lots of backlinks do follow high PR – then it looks unatural. the only way to get good rankings these days is ALL of the above and then some…
    Google rewards the authority sites that have all of the above and look like natural authority having links from all over the place do and no follows, and a nicely optimized site with outbounds to relevent content.

  7. Marta Vallejo says:

    It is very interesting to learn about SEO techniques. I am trying to understand what priorities are and I am getting quite useful information. But it is true, patience is the first condition to understand.

  8. Reading this write up made me realized that i still have a lot of things to learn with regard to SEO. I know that it can’t be learned overnight but i never expected that there are tons of things you need to consider such as choosing the right keywords, analyzing your competition, creating content and on and off page optimization. Maybe hiring a SEO company wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

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