Yesterday, I made a presentation on the topic of SEO (search engine optimisation) and its relevance to online communication. It was a challenging subject as the meeting was hosted by IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) so you could expect people to be familiar with the concepts. My focus was to talk about how this very useful ‘tool’ should fit the communication mix – and not to discuss the details of the concept.
For those who are not familiar with the word, SEO (as well as SEM and SEA – search engine marketing and search engine advertising) covers the science and art of using search engines (such as Google, Bing or Yahoo) to get traffic to your website.
My main points on the subject were the following:
- It’s really easy to get it wrong and most companies do so by default. They treat SEO as an IT/technical project. This means they see as a project that needs to be done (because traffic increase MUST be good).
- They focus only on numbers (how much traffic will get and how many statistics can extract from this exercise)
- They do it as a standalone project – often a company will choose to do an SEO ‘project’ before they have define what they wanted to online (let alone define a clear business and marketing strategy in which this fits)
- They think it is the only way to get traffic to your site (or at least the easiest) – this can be plain wrong
- Finally they feel it simply needs to be done
My suggestions (in a nutshell) to approach and formulate this web strategy (and discussing whether or not to hire an SEO company or do SEO internally) is the following
- Get the basics right first – don’t start on these activities until you have gone through some key steps
- Start from a clear business and communication strategy – make sure you have an online strategy that will deliver some clearly defined business goals and fits with your other marcom activities
- Get the right tools to deliver your stories to your key audiences (is it a website, youtube channel, blog, twitter, event, press release?)
- Create a content plan – define the key messages, products and the information that you need to communicate to your audience
- Create an editorial plan – a plan on how to keep your story going over a period of time. Plan the appropriate team and resources to deliver on this (launching a new site is easy, making it work over the long term is the hard part)
- Create an activation plan – define a plan in which you define how you will get traffic. This is the part of the project you look at SEO and how it fits in your campaign. The first part of this process is to study what is happening online. What are people searching on Google or Bing, and what are the relevant keywords for your audience. The insights you can extract from this can be highly relevant to the kind of messages that might resonate with your target audience.
- Find the right partners (Iprospect and ZN). Tempting as it may be to learn the skills of SEO by yourself, you need professional help to get good results. Although some simple things can be done in house, to get a really effective SEO programme in place you need experts who know the latest changes to search engines and the best way to integrate the right tags at the right place.
- Define KPIs (key performance indicators) and use them as a key business tool. Most people are familiar with KPIs. However, few manage to use these as real business tools, keeping track of them, reviewing them on a regular basis and taking action according to the results found. The key about setting good KPIs is to align them with your business objectives and to not simply focus on traffic indicators, and then ensuring that the data is useful.
- Don’t do it if you don’t need to. Finally and probably most importantly is it vital to ask yourself if you need to undertake such a project. Often web traffic alone will not really bring value to your business, whereas targeted communication to key customers via email, having good content and relevant hyperlinks is what is needed.