5 Traits of Efficient SEO
Despite recent proclamations that the recession has hit bottom and we're now in recovery mode, the reality is that we should always be looking for ways to improve our efficiency. This is especially true in SEO, where a number of traps too often cause marketers to stumble into wasting time, money, or both.
Avoiding these traps, and making the most of your resources, means becoming a smarter marketer. But becoming a smarter marketer doesn't require expensive tools or intricate solutions; instead, there are simple, easily implementable changes you can make to improve both your strategy and execution.
So, "Do This, Not That" — smarter SEO is only a few steps away!
Do: Create a comprehensive plan with input from all stakeholders.
Don't: Waste time on unnecessary meetings.
Before beginning your SEO effort, identify all of your online assets and consider all of your options. Put together a comprehensive plan that stakeholders can agree on (be sure to also include items that will not be worked on) — unless you spell these out from the start, these items can become the target of constant questions).
With a plan in place — and everyone aware of it — you'll reduce the need for future discussions, since stakeholders will be in a much better position to make decisions quickly and independently. Why spend time on meetings if you don't have to?
Do: Break down initiatives into workable sections.
Don't: Lose track of big-win opportunities.
SEO is often executed piecemeal when dealing with large or multi-website campaigns. For example, it can seem like a good idea to look at just a sub-folder due to perceived resource or time constraints. But in reality, such a tactic can severely limit the SEO effort because it restricts you from looking at big-win opportunities that may exist outside of the sub-folder. As a result, you could end up pouring precious marketing dollars into efforts that may not return the best results.
Similarly, not knowing what opportunities exist across a family of websites could mean spending more time than is necessary. SEO should take into consideration the benefits a website receives from being part of the online ecosystem; failure to do so is a formula for wasted time and misallocated resources.
Do: Think big!
Don't: Take on more than you can handle.
SEO is an exciting business. That excitement often manifests itself in monster lists of things to work on. For brainstorming, these lists are great, but they can also create a scope that is well beyond what your team is able to execute. For instance, if you can't handle on-page SEO, cross-domain link optimization and viral marketing all at once, don't try to. Half-hearted efforts across many areas are less likely to have as positive of an impact as a more thorough, but focused, approach. The last thing you want to do is spend your budget and time on projects that can potentially detract from your bottom line.
Also, avoid constantly changing the scope of the SEO effort. You certainly want to review your strategy regularly and adjust as necessary, but if every new month brings with it a new scope, you run the risk of cutting efforts "at the knees" before enough work is done for there to be an impact.
Do: Be aware of SEO efforts that need to be executed in sequence.
Don't: Miss out on efficiencies from activities that can be done in parallel.
Look out for activities that need to be done in sequence. This is particularly important when there are multiple teams — such as technology, marketing and editorial groups — working on a website. Lack of communication is all too common with infrastructure changes, and it can be an expensive oversight. For example, depending on the timing of a CMS change, you may want to hold back on optimizing on-page elements. Doing otherwise may mean paying twice for the effort, since you'll have to repeat it for the new, and hopefully, search-friendly CMS.
However, many activities can actually be done in parallel. The funny thing is that parallel efforts often take less time to do than serialized ones. This comes in part from improvements in communication: different parties are already in the same frame of mind from working on related tasks, so when something "comes up," one group doesn't have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining it to another. You also save time when changes to a site are batched, since neither the QA nor deployment efforts need to be repeated.
Do: Automate where possible.
Don't: Get tricked into excessive manual data-gathering and reporting.
There are few things better than automation for improving efficiencies and reducing costs. Automation does have upfront costs, but the sooner you automate, the more time you have to amortize the costs across the life of the SEO effort. Automation can be as simple as setting up bookmarks to key analytics reports so that they don't have to be created every month, or as elaborate as a data-gathering machine that collects data about links, traffic and indexation levels. The key is to look at every repeating task and ask yourself if it's possible to automate it.
And lastly, something that I'm sure will resonate with many of you: Don't waste money on excessive manual data gathering and reporting. There's no question that reports make people feel good, especially the people not in trenches doing the actual work. The problem is that these "feel good" reports are very rarely acted upon. And every day you spend putting such a report together is another day of lost opportunity for improving the performance of your site. A good question to ask of every report is, "What will I do if I see X or Y?" If you can't come up with an answer, don't do the report.
Efficient SEO doesn't have to be overly complex or intricate; instead, it starts with smarter decisions. Whether your goal is cutting costs or achieving greater impact for your site without increasing your investment, taking action to avoid common resource-draining SEO traps will help ensure your efforts deliver the return you're looking for. Smarter SEO isn't just a quick fix — it's a wholesale shift in how you approach and carry out SEO overall — but the changes you make now will continue to yield results long into the future.