Setting SEO Strategy can be a foggy process, unless we follow these five best practices from author/expert Matt Bailey. Matt explains how to include stakeholders, conduct market analysis, apply market and keyword research, perform gap analysis, and implement and measure your SEO strategy.
The OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast is where top authors and industry leaders share authoritative best practices in online marketing which are covered by the OMCP standard, competencies, and exams. This is an OMCP pilot program that may continue based on member interest and support. Stay subscribed to the OMCP newsletter to get new episodes.
Episode #1 covers SEO Strategy Best Practices with Matt Bailey in 34 minutes. Recorded October 26,2016.
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SEO Strategy Best Practices
Michael: Aaaaall right. Welcome back to the OMCP studio and with us today is Matt Bailey, author, educator, and CEO of SiteLogic. Matt is at the forefront of digital marketing best practices training for some of the largest brands in the world. I’m your host, Michael Stebbins, and today we’ll be discussing, “Best practices in establishing SEO strategy.” Matt, welcome to the OMCP Best Practices Podcast, and thank you so much for being here.
Matt: Hey, Mike. Thank you. It is a privilege to be here, and always enjoy talking business with you, among other things. So, thank you so much for the invitation.
Michael: Absolutely. I know this is gonna be really fun, and you and I have definitely worked together for a long time, but I’m personally excited to get into the details of SEO strategy. I know you’ve got the experience here. But before we get started, for those who haven’t read your books, or haven’t heard you speak, tell our audience who you are and what it is that you do.
Matt: Well. Okay. I’ve been in digital marketing now for 20 years. I started honestly, even back before that. In 1984, my father brought home a Commodore 64 computer, and in the same year, the movie “WarGames” came out. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s a Matthew Broderick movie. Well, he uses a computer to go change his grades in the school computer, and I had visions of doing that. And I attempted to get into my school’s computer and change my grades, and this is where I learned the magic of Hollywood because neither did my school maintain digital records, nor were they online. So, that dashed my dreams right away, but it opened up a love of going online and doing things, learning things, and so I can say I’ve been online since ’84. I’ve been marketing online since ’94, and having a whole lot of fun since then.
Michael: And Matt, I know you’ve helped out countless companies. Just before we started live recording, I’ve got to,… I’ve got to bring this up. You told me that you are an, hang on, an accidental beekeeper, I just got to ask…
Michael: Give me the story. What happened?
Matt: Okay. Well, we have a tree next to our deck and there’s a hollow in the tree. And one year we had squirrels and little squirrel babies running around. The next year we had bees. And when we walked out one day, it was kind of like the middle of May, early spring, and there were about 50,000 bees on the side of this tree. So, I call a friend of mine who’s a beekeeper, he lives down the street, and he’s like, “I will be there in an hour.” And so he got his whole outfit on, and he got ’em off the tree and into a box, and then asked me, you know, “Are you interested in keeping bees?” and I said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about doing this for years.” So, he says, “Well, congratulations. You have a beehive.” So, he sold me some extra stuff that he had, and so now, I have three hives in the backyard. And we got a little bit of honey out of it this fall, but really, they’re still in the process of establishing themselves, and next year I think we’ll have a pretty good year.
Michael: Well, I hear the local stuff is best for you, so good luck with that.
Matt: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Thank you. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it.
Michael: Little things you find out about our famous authors. So, listen, Matt, you know, in the time that I’ve known you, I cannot even begin to count the businesses that you’ve helped set up an SEO strategy, and you’re considered an authority on the process. I know you wouldn’t say that, but I know it and so does our market. So, today I’d like to go over your outline of the best practices and steps for us in terms of setting up an SEO strategy. And then we’ll walk through ’em one by one. So, lay it on us. What are the steps?
Matt: All right.
- Meet with Stakeholders to establish business objectives and resources available: Well, obviously the first step is I want to meet with the people who want this done. I want to talk to them about, “What are your expectations? What are you trying to accomplish? What is your definition of success?”
Market analysis to evaluate current site and performance, competitors, establish current KPI’s for goal comparison: The next thing is once I have their goals for the campaign or the project laid out, then I do the research. [we establish] “Does the research support the vision? What are we seeing? What’s the current site performance? What do they say it’s doing?” And then, “What do the numbers tell me?”And then also looking at, “What’s the competition that they’re up against? And what goals do we want to try to accomplish? What are things that they might be missing? What are things that are there?” And so it’s a complete market analysis both of the business, the site, and then going into multiple areas such as design, programming, social, that type of thing.
Keyword research, trend research, customer research. Establish personas and current visitor journey.The next thing is, once I have their goals for the campaign or the project laid out, then I do the research. Does the research support the vision? What are we seeing? What’s the current site performance? What do they say it’s doing? And then what do the numbers tell me? And then also [establishing], what’s the competition that they’re up against? And what goals do we want to try to accomplish? What are things that they might be missing? What are things that are there? And so it’s a complete market analysis both of the business, the site, and then going into multiple areas such as design, programming, social, that type of thing.
Gap Analysis and presentation of findings. Where is the company currently, what does success look like? How will we get there? Priorities, performance and issues. Designation of assets: design, programming, copywriting, SEO, testing. And then we put it all together in a gap analysis such as, here’s where you’re at right now, here’s how you’re performing. Here’s where you wanna be, and here’s everything it will take to get there. And what does that look like? How are you gonna get there? What are the priorities? What are the performance issues that we need to look at? And really, what assets do you have? What assets do you need in terms of design, programming, copyrighting, the actual search engine optimization, you know, any technical issues? Do you have a testing plan? And so really, that gap analysis of here’s where you are, here’s where you need to be, here’s everything that’s gonna take to get there.
Implementation, measurement. And then step five is actually start doing it. You know, putting pen to paper, making it happen, and implementing some of those changes that have been then really decided upon in the gap analysis, in order to meet the overall goals. [Note: This is also called ” roadmap, schedule, and allocation of assets” in many OMCP-approved courses.]
Michael: It makes sense, and Matt, this lines up with the best practices we at OMCP have seen in the marketplace. So, you’ve listed out the five steps:
- meeting with the stakeholders
- the market analysis
- some keyword research, and establishing personas, which I know Bryan Eisenberg would like,
- gap analysis, and presentation of the findings, and then where the rubber hits the road,
- implementation and measurement and testing.
So, let’s go back through these and just expand on them a little bit. When you meet with stakeholders and establish the business campaigns, who are you meeting with, the people who called and said, “We need to set up SEO?” Let’s say, let’s take it from the position of, I know that you are a consultant and you go in and help companies do this. If I am an employee inside of a company, and I’ve been given the task of establishing an SEO strategy, who am I most likely to meet with?
Matt: That’s a good question, because typically depending upon the size of the organization, you know, you’re going to meet with the person who’s been tasked with, you know, “We need to do the SEO strategy, go find an agency or go find a company to help us.” Honestly, my goal is to try and get as high up the ladder as I can, in order to get those people in, because the person that was tasked with getting the…getting the project going, they’re not always the best person to know what the ultimate goals are. For example, I met with a company that they were looking at a full marketing spread. Here’s everything we need. We need a big push. We wanna make an impact in the market. We wanna make a name for ourselves. And then finally, I got a chance to speak to the CEO, and he came in to one of the meetings, and we kind of had a heart to heart. “What do you want to do?”
And then he let me know that, “Well, honestly we’re looking to get acquired within two years.” Well, that changes everything because now, if you wanna do SEO, that is a significant investment and you may not see results for 18 to 24 months, which is when you wanna be selling. So, is that an investment that you’re willing to make to get these kind of results in that short amount of a time? And that changed everything dramatically when you figured out, here’s their ultimate goal. Here’s what they’re working towards. It wasn’t working towards, “You know what? We wanna double our visits. We wanna increase sales by this percentage.” It was, “We wanna get bought in 24 months.” So, those are the types of things you really need to know.
Is there a financial target? Is there a sales goal or a revenue goal that has been set in this organization? Maybe this person knows about it, maybe they don’t, but I wanna know, what is the revenue goal that you’re trying to achieve, and if you’re trying to achieve it with SEO, how do you see that happening? I want them to define that, because where things fall apart is where there’s mismatched expectations. I’m sure you’ve seen that happen as well. It happens in any business format.
Michael: It does, and your story is key, because the people who can derail an effort or who have the power to derail an effort, sometimes in the best interest of the business, need to be present and bought in to the whole SEO strategy scenario. Otherwise, it gets derailed at some point.
Matt: Absolutely. And I can’t tell you the amount of meetings I’ve been in, where they called us for SEO, and then I’m asking about, “Well, what are your objectives? What are your goals?” And they will say, “Higher rankings.” “Okay, well, what will higher rankings produce that satisfies your business goal?” “Well, it will get us more visitors,” is what they say. Okay. Okay, we’re moving, we’re moving, we’re going… So, you’re going to measure me then on the amount of visitors that I get, and then I ask them, “Are you willing to spend X amount to increase your visitors by X percentage?” ‘Well, no that doesn’t… We wanna make more money.” “Okay. Now, we’re getting somewhere, you know, because the…”
And here’s the thing. You look at what an average a SEO campaign may cost for that type of business or in that, that realm, and if all I’m doing is moving the needle on your revenue, maybe 2%, but what you’re going to have to invest for an initial optimization, for a full campaign, it may outweigh that, especially if you’ve got a razor thin margin. And, you know, I can move the needle on visitors, that will move it on sales, but is it going to be worth it in the long run to invest that much? And that’s where I believe a lot of businesses, they say they want SEO, but what they really want is more revenue. And that’s where you’ve got to get to that position in that conversation of, “Okay, how much revenue do you want and how much are you willing to spend to get that revenue?”
Michael: So, you need the people who own the numbers, and….if you get them in consensus and are part of the plan, it’s less likely that it will be taken off the rails by somebody being uninformed or coming with an unexpected plan. And so, some of the campaign objectives, I know that you’ve mentioned rankings, visits, sometimes revenue. You mentioned margins. Are there any other business and campaign objectives that you most commonly see out there and would be a good starting point?
Matt: Oh, absolutely. Lead generation is one. Software service, or any membership type of site, or a publishing site where you’re publishing a specific type of information, and it’s the only place you can get it. So, it’s a membership type site. Things like that are a lot of what I love to work in because you’re generating leads, you’re generating subscriptions, and…
Michael: Yes, and something tangible, something measurable.
Matt: Yeah, and it doesn’t stop there. You have to keep selling because you have to get the renewal. So, it’s that type of thing that you’re looking at.
Michael: And one of the ways that you can move to the number two step which is your analysis, is to look at what’s being measured, ensure that that’s what should be measured, and then start setting up some of the current performance base lines that the customer, or in your case your company, might be experiencing. So, walk us through a market analysis and what that looks like when you evaluate the current site.
Matt: The first thing I wanna look at is what are you measuring? And show me your reports that you have made for the past few months, and that’s where I like to start. Because that tells me, right away, if they’re telling me… And this is the first disconnect. The first disconnect is they all say, “We want better rankings.” I’ll challenge them and they’ll say, “No, we want more visitors,” and then ultimately we get to, “No, we want X revenue.” Once I start the market analysis and I see what they’re measuring, ultimately what they’re measuring is visitors, and that’s it. And you know, this is, I would say 8 out of 10, 80 out of 100, they’re measuring visits to the site, and that’s about the level of what they’re looking for.
And so right away, there’s a disconnect in between, “Hey, this is the objective for the campaign, is to make money, but right now, all we’re measuring is visitors. We’re not measuring revenue. We’re not measuring profit. We’re not…” And so, that’s the first thing in the gap analysis that will go in there, is you say you want this, but you’re only measuring this. Then we get into the analytics and we look to see what can be measured. What type of revenue can be measured? What objectives can be measured? Part of the… What we’ve done with the meeting with the stakeholders too, is listed out all of the objectives. What are all the things that people can accomplish? Downloads, registrations, video views, you know, really anything where someone is going to have success on their website. And so, it could be as simple as looking for a phone number on a certain page.
What defines a successful visit? We’ve defined all those things, so in the market analysis, are those things being tracked? Are all of these objectives, where someone had a successful visit and got what they wanted, is that being tracked? And so that goes down. Then looking at, well, all of the areas where let’s say, we’ve got a download, that’s a call to action. Is it being tracked? Is it visible, and could it be improved? So, we’re looking also at the design, and the call to action to make sure that it’s visible things are working, and then looking also at the current words that are being used throughout the site. A lot of times, people will use internal company jargon, or, and we’ll see this many, many times, the home page and the page title will say, “Home” or “Home Page,” because that’s the way it was designed.
So, we’re looking at all those key spots, those key text areas on the page. Are they clear with a descriptive, concise description or content of what should be there? So, what else are they taken advantage of? What are they not? And then looking broadly at competition: competition business wise, and competition for the words that are relevant to their industry.
Michael: And then mapping these back, it sounds like you’re connecting dots between what is measurable, and what some of the campaign objectives are in the first place, and ensuring that the campaign objectives could be measured by what’s happening.
Matt: Right. Right. Absolutely. I wanna look at, you know, goal values. I wanna look at, okay, you say you wanna increase revenue, here are all the things that increase your revenue. And then here are all the things that, you know, it contributes to the increase of revenue. And then we wanna put some dollar signs on that. So, you know for example, for every download of this white paper, I’m getting an e-mail address. What’s that worth to the company getting that e-mail address? Then also if I see that, you know, if I’m doing some lead tracking from a business to business, I saw this happen with one company where if someone watched at least two videos on the site, then their value as a customer was 15% higher than the average. And it was because they spent more time teaching themselves about the company, learning about them, and so their value as a customer was higher. They bought more if they watched more than two videos. So, right there it wasn’t a direct…if they watched two videos it makes money, it was a contributing factor that made them a better customer because they bought more. And so, those types of things of really outlining what is value on the site? What value are you providing, and how do you measure that?
Michael: It’s a primary way to connect the dots back to one of the business goals by saying, “Well, we may not be able to measure lifetime value of this customer because it’s too abstract, but we can know that if they watch two videos, we’ve achieved a milestone that maps to this value. Now, we can measure our SEO efforts.
Matt: Absolutely. You know, we’re getting a little in the weeds on this, you know, we’re coming at it from strategy. This is just how excited I am about this, …
Michael: Right on. I think the listeners can pick up on that and well, sometimes these tangible examples are great. So, you’re right though. Let’s move on. So, once market analysis is established, you’ve connected the dots, we’ve mapped possible measurements back to the campaign objectives. I know that your next step has to do with keyword research, trend research, customer research. Tell me about what that looks like.
Matt: All right. Mike, this is…this is probably my favorite part of the whole process. This is where we learn things, and so starting with keyword research. Like I said, I wanna know what words do people use when they have that first moment of inspiration, or as Google used to call it, “The Zero Moment of Truth.” What is it that at the earliest part of the buying cycle, what words are they using? Then how do they then, when they get that question answered, what are the next successive phrases or words that they’re using? What are they looking for? I often use an example of, you know, if you’re going to Disneyland, you’re gonna start searching on, you know, you’re gonna search “Disneyland,” you know, number one. But then once you decide you’re gonna go, you’re gonna then investigate what you should do while you’re there, and maybe plan out your trip, then you’re gonna look at, “Well, where should I stay?” and then, “How do I get there?” so then you start looking at flights. And then once you get to the airport, are you gonna take the shuttle, or are you gonna rent a car?
You know, so one search leads to potentially 100 more searches, and this is what I love about the keyword research. And the only way you can really do that is when you start by establishing that persona. Who is it that’s doing this search? Let’s use our Disneyland example. Do they have a family? What’s the size of the family? Is it gonna make sense for them to drive or fly? Are they gonna rent? Are they going to use shuttle services? And then you just create that customer journey, that at this stage, this is what they’re concerned about. At this stage, this is what they’re searching for. Then we map that, all those keywords, to the site. Is that content there? These are the questions being answered by the search or being asked by the searcher, where is the answer on the website? And what types of words are being used on the website? And is it too dense? Does it need to be broken up? Do they need to create new content? So, that’s the first level of keyword research.
Michael: Matt, I’m gonna interrupt. It sounds like your step three of keyword and trend research should be done independently of your evaluation of the current site, in the sense that you don’t want to skew your research to kind of fit what’s already there. You want it to be open and honest, and then map it back to your step two, which included an evaluation of the current site. Is that right?
Matt: Yeah. Well, I mean, when I had my agency, we were doing these simultaneously. But I had one team working on keyword at the same time as another team was working on the market analysis. And then we would come together and map it together, and then everyone would go back and then do the final 15% to 20% based on, “Okay, what is all this telling us?” And then based on the shared information, you would go back and go in a couple different directions, or answer some questions, or things like that.
Michael: Fair enough. Okay. Now, keyword research is going to be another podcast. What else do we need to know about that step three, and custom research and establishing personas? Have we covered that enough to move on to gap analysis?
Matt: I’ll tell you what, trend research is…this is where I go to Google Trends, and it has become one of my most invaluable tools, because one of the things I wanna know about this company is they need to tell me, what are your seasonal trends? What happens in your industry that moves the needle when it comes to visitors, or when it comes to news or anything like that? I also am going to do this on primary keywords that I find in the keyword research. One example is, I was working with a company and we found out that when they gave us their marketing calendar, their first marketing push for the year started in about April. Okay? This is when they started doing some direct mail, and really pushing their products. When we did the keyword research and we did the trend research, we found out that their searches, their customers or potential customers doing searches for their products started in February.
And so, we were able to present them that look, “Your market is starting the buying process in February, but you’re not responding until middle April.” And they saw this and we showed them the data. The next year, they moved up their marketing calendar to start their direct mail to coincide with the search trend that we saw, and it was repetitive over a number of years, and that year they saw their sales go up over 250%, and they attribute it to knowing when to move their marketing because of what they found and what we found in the search trends. So, it’s things like that that I’m looking for.
Michael: So, you’ve met with the stakeholders. You’ve done the market analysis, evaluated the current site. You’ve done step three, keyword, trend, and customer research. You’ve got your personas. What is step four?
Matt: Step four. Here’s where you are, and here’s where you wanna be. And here’s everything that it’s gonna take to get you from point A to point Z. And that may entail some programming fixes. It may entail some real technical changes, if you’ve got major technical problems. It may require some design assets. We may need to change in order to make the site more readable, understandable, or highlight your calls to action. We may need better copywriting especially if you don’t have the right words on the page, or if they are just not clear, or it’s not being presented well. Then of course, there is the SEO of getting in and doing that, and initial work of SEO and here’s what needs to take place in order to do that.
And then also we would want to look at some testing is… You know, and this is where SEO, I feel like SEO is the salt in the recipe. It’s one of those things that it flavors everything else. It flavors all the other ingredients. So, you know, when I’m talking about design that’s… we’re looking at conversion and improving conversions, not just increasing rankings because the ultimate goal is revenue, most likely and I hope so, for a lot of people. So, we’ve gotta look at the big picture, but the gap analysis is where we meet together and I find out what resources do you have, and how much can you commit to this project right away, and over time. And if you don’t have those resources, do I need to bring them? Do we need to bring in a third party? How will this take place and what’s the timeline to make it happen?
Michael: So, Matt, you’re calling this the gap analysis, and then you come up with the idea of setting the priorities, performance, and issues. And then, by the way, on the exam and the way that OMCP refers to this, we often refer to it as a roadmap and a schedule and allocation of assets. Now, I know that you designate assets. What are some of those best practices that you’ve seen mapping into a roadmap?
Matt: The timeline. One of the things, you know, especially… And I think, you know, most SEO will probably fall into what we would call “an Initial optimization.” And that’s really, sort of the, “Okay, you’re not using the right words. We’re gonna put the right words in, and we’re gonna take care of what I would say, just the easy stuff.” It’s the right away, it’s gonna take a week or two depending upon the size of the site. This is the initial optimization. Now, there may be some technical issues where if the site was built by somebody else, or maybe, you know, we have to get a programmer to fix some technical issues and that may take a month in order to do. So, we’re timelining what can be done when, and what should result from each stage in the process? So, from an initial optimization, you know, that’s usually something I’m trying to finish within the first 30 to 60 days. And then it’s, what are we expecting to happen after that? What other issues need to be taken care? Will that be taken care of in the first 30 days, for 60 days, or you know, week 8? When should those things take place?
Things like copywriting might take a little longer. Things like doing some design or even doing some testing of some calls to action. They may be a little later as such as in the 60 to 90 day period. Those are the kind of things that we’re looking to implement, and timeline in that gap analysis and presentation.
Michael: Excellent, and for those of you who are preparing for your OMCP exam, what Matt’s referring to as a gap analysis is referred to in the competencies as a roadmap and a schedule. Same thing, we’re basically mapping resources, what needs to be done in a timeline, and any dependencies. And of course, some of the timelines that Matt’s giving here are great examples and common, but they’re different for every company. Larger companies we know that we have to get a lot of stakeholders involved, things take more time and that’s natural. Smaller companies can move much more quickly and are much more responsive, just depending on how much work needs to be done. So, Matt, take us into the final step, where you said pencil to paper, rubber hits the road, implementation. We’re now executing to the roadmap and schedule. What are some of the best practices you’ve seen about getting a team through implementation and measurement?
Matt: That’s where, you know, like I said, that’s usually the initial optimization, is the first level of implementation, where someone’s going in and where we’re rewriting title tags, we’re rewriting meta descriptions, you know, we’re doing all of the primary on-page elements that are the easiest to accomplish right away. Now, sometimes, depending upon the size of the project, that will be already mapped out in a spreadsheet of here are the pages, here are the pages within a certain section, and here’s how we’re gonna write the title tags. Here’s how we’re gonna write them, you know…
So, this is stuff that’s already been prepared in a spreadsheet, and then it’s really kind of a copy and paste into the page once you have access and everything’s running. So, these are things where you’ve mapped it out, you know that I’m gonna go for this theme of keywords in this section, and here’s how we’re going to present it on this page, and here is the theme for this page and the theme for this section. And so, in that initial optimization period, that first couple of weeks, that’s really the focus, is the on-page stuff. Then we’re looking at, hopefully simultaneously, fixing some of the technical issues that may be a part of it. And you know, depending upon the type of site or how it’s programmed, there can be some major technical stuff or it’s just minor technical things that just need to be shorn up, taken care of, the things that make the indexing go a little better, creating some site maps, those types of things. Go ahead, Mike.
Michael: Yeah. In a smaller company too, we’ve seen typically the person implementing and driving this is an SEO expert themselves, and then when we’re in a larger institution, I know Jessica Bowman, our friend, points out that it becomes largely an influencer, a manager skill set, that can drive these projects through. Have you experienced that same thing?
Matt: Yes, I have, and that’s why we do it on a spreadsheet.
Michael: Fair enough.
Matt: Because when you can send a spreadsheet to somebody and let them know here’s how it maps out. I want you to change this, you know, this heading to this. I want you to change this page title to this, and it’s all mapped out in a spreadsheet, at that point then it becomes a checklist. And yes, that is one thing from a larger organization. You’ve got to have a hero. You’ve got to have a driver that is your direct point of contact, and also is the direct point of access to the website. Otherwise, it just won’t get done.
And so that’s one of the things when we talk about big companies, that’s one thing I ask for, you know, give me your web hero. Give me the one person who is a single point of contact to everything that’s going to happen on this website, and hopefully, and priority wise, I want that person to be the primary person who’s dealing with the site, who’s making changes, who knows how to make things happen, so that when, hey, when we’ve got a problem, we know who to call, we know who to talk to when we see that something’s wrong. We’ve got someone that we can work with to fix that. That’s what we’re looking at when we, you know, in a large company, we wanna be sure that things are happening and that there is some accountability on both sides that things are getting done.
Michael: OK that’s all the time we have today, a BIG thank you to Matt Bailey. I want you to check out http://sitelogic.com and be sure to pick up Matt’s Books, “Digital Marketing an Hour a Day” and “Wired to be Wowed” on Amazon.com, register for early access to Matt’s latest book “Teach New Dogs Old Tricks” on http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com/ and of course reach out to Matt to have him visit your team for training and best practices in Digital marketing at the same site Sitelogic.com.
I’m your host, Michael Stebbins and You’ve been listening to the OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices Podcast. OMCP maintains the certification standards for the online marketing industry in cooperation with industry leaders, just like Matt. Join us inside of OMCP to maintain your certification, get special offers, and other certified professionals, or universities and training programs that value the OMCP standards. Network with other certified professionals or trainers while helping OMCP maintain an excellent standard. Membership is only $40 each year, so we’ll see you inside of OMCP as a certified professional where we’ll be learning and improving our professional careers and teams, together.