The More Homework We Do, The More Successful We'll Both Be

A performance-structured search engine marketing/search engine optimization effort requires analysis, planning and correct implementation. If these are not done well (or in many cases, at all), the program simply will not work. From our experience, the following approach, provides a reasonable foundation on which to build a low-risk, high reward performance-based search engine marketing program.

Each phase is set up as a "Go" or "No-Go" gate, which means both we and the client decide whether it is useful to proceed.

Please click on the "plus" sign to explain the phase.

We use a variety of easy-to-access data sources and create a credible return on investment scenario. This is based on both your past efforts and projections of areas that would likely be included in any expansion effort, including:

  • Traffic projections (based on average per page yield to the target site, typically based on Google Analytics data)
  • Projected per visit costs (essentially an equivalence to pay per click rates, which may use actual PPC costs for comparison)
  • Average sale size
  • Average gross profit per sale
  • Past average conversion rates
  • Time period for traffic production per added page of content
  • Sales price comparison (optional, based on market conditions)
The result is a reasonable expectation of the return on investment if all goes well in the succeeding phases. Here's a more detailed explanation of this type of report. [Place link here]
Determining whether a websites sales performance has the potential to be improved by the addition of more targeted traffic, rather than internal issues is an ongoing process. This is because the quality of the traffic sent to the site and the ability to convert that traffic into sales ideally requires measuring both elements independently, but in truth one does affect the other. To provide a baseline for measuring improvement, however, there are a number of parameters that should be established. Many of these correspond with the factors that search engines are thought to use to rank a website including:

  • Website size
  • Recency of updates and additions (more content added and more frequency is better of course)
  • Target keyword prominence, correct placement and balance (not over or underused)
  • Number and quality of outbound links
  • Download speed/page response times
  • Length of page content
  • Broken links
  • Number of domains (and pages within domains) linking to the site
  • Authority of sites/domains linking to the website (or lack thereof in the case of the recent Penguin update by Google
While no single factor can determine how much a website can benefit by expanding its content base, a higher score on our report does indicate more chance of success. In addition, this phase will check for proper measurement tools such as analytics and conversion tracking that can be used to determine success of the effort.
Because keyword target selection drives not only traffic levels but also the quality of that traffic, we use a series of tools and approaches to determine what keywords will be included in content added to the site. In addition to determining keyword priorities, there are are supportive tasks and approaches that also are used in this phase including:

  • Basic keyword research using tools from search engines and other sources which provide traffic data
  • Expanded keyword research to discover long-tail and other related variants (like keyword suggest tools) to satisfy keyword diversity requirements such as LSI (latent semantic indexing)
  • Keyword ranking/traffic patterns on the current website (essentially expanding on keyword determination from previous phase to influence traffic is not "taken" from existing successful pages, but rather expanded into other search terms
  • Competitive analysis of keywords both in terms of ranking and also "difficulty" in displacing a competitor who is already ranking highly for that term
  • Review of commercial viability of those keywords, based on past conversion patterns and relevance to product/services, including the buying phase they attract
  • Creation of keyword priority report with keywords clustered for creation of ISL-based pages
This is a proper setup for the next phase which involves both isolating the highest potential traffic content topics, and then placing the chosen keywords into the generated content in the places most likely to increase both ranking and click through.
Topic planning is the most important aspect of "content marketing." Some added website pages always outperform others, but it's difficult to determine ahead of time which those may be. By following our process, we are able to increase the interest in and traffic generated from each added page by:

  • Researching trends and issues that are associated with a given industry through reviewing news search indexes, trending topics, keyword ranking clusters (combining like keyword traffic results), social and reference (i.e. Twitter and Wikipedia) article interest, industry blogs/journals, conference/seminar topics listings and of course talking to the client
  • Using a similar ranking process that is used for keywords to determine competitive difficulty and also traffic potential
  • Using tools such as "sentiment analysis" to determine attitudes toward a particular topic (high interest isn't always of commercial value, especially where there are negative views on the topic) where applicable.
  • Determining packaging approach and strategies such as the use/creation of research through surveys, interviews with industry notables/experts (who may have their own following), infographics, whitepapers, ebooks, on-site tools (calculators, reference databases, decision-support tools), creation of expanded reviews, instructional/educational materials, news adjacencies (finding a "news peg" or "news jacking") and beyond
  • Opportunities and methods for re purposing the information to increase authority and referral traffic such as guest blogs, email list "trading" with other groups, traditional media placements, among others - with the mandate not to create duplicate content issues
These topic profiles are then reviewed with the client for their approval and priority and placed into an "editorial calendar" with the various targets for placement, due dates and any support or aid needed outside our own resources (such as introductions to contacts, internal interviews, etc.).
This phase is the core research, organization and drafting of content. It may include, however, the actual creation of tools and other packaging methods mentioned above. The typical process includes:

  • Initial research using traditional search engines, research indexes (like Google Scholar), trade journals/blogs, conference notes, and other sources to generate an initial outline and question list.
  • This outline is shared with the client and includes preliminary points to be made, their order and priority, references from the research phase and additional research and resources needed (such as interviews with industry experts)
  • Creation/collection of additional assets and tools such as creation of infographics, tools/calculators/decision-support reference items for the website, expert interviews, data for supporting graphics and the graphics themselves
  • Initial draft of article or other placement form such as blog post, whitepaper, etc. in unposted form (typically an MS Word document)
  • Posting of article and graphics to development website or pre-publication status on client website for client review/approval and changes/updates
  • Publication or transfer of page to active site, inclusion in site map for indexing and submission to search engine indexes and checks for proper indexing occurring
  • External authority/traffic referral support such as guest blogging, media releases, social placement, forum posts, etc.
This is where the results will come if the program is effective with a typical monthly review to determine the success of the effort which is executed in detail the next phase.
The key in this phase is to evaluate the potential for continuing the effort and, if so, what can be learned to improve the results going forward. This process presumes accuracy in measurement tools (as evaluated in the first step) and includes:

  • Evaluation of gross traffic to only the pages added by the effort (pages will be segregated or identified for later group reporting) including strength and trends
  • Analysis of any referring keyword data that can be gleaned directly through analytics or through page content analysis including ranking of those keywords by the search engines
  • Pre-conversion traffic quality factors such as bounce-rate, length of time spent, pages viewed and entrance/exit rates
  • Conversion rates and related factors such as sales size, frequency and specific product/service sales
  • Cost per conversion based on agreed upon compensation
This is the bottom line phase where the ultimate "Go" or "No Go" decision is mutually made. Having enough data to make this decision is a factor, but also how the process above went and if both sides perceive mutual benefit in proceeding is a key factor. It is rare to be able to make these decisions within a 30 day window and typically 2-3 months is required for a reasonable decision to be made.