I consulted a few years ago before Yahoo and CNET and my clients were all small businesses, even friends' sites.  No matter the size of the project, you can still try to get some insight into your target audiences and what they need or want.  I mentioned in a previous comment I used Search once to determine sentiment on a site vs. it's competitors by searching for a feature the site and its competitors all had, along with "like", "love", "hate", "wish", etc.  I also took note of who the people were who said those things and where they were talking (forums, twitter, etc).  It's a hacked manual approach and although not nearly as quality as a good market research report, at least I have a llittle bit of insight before going out to make site recommendations based solely on tags & links.  If you're recommending the site build things that people want (and fix or remove things that they dont), you're more likely to gain links and traffic naturally.
On the other hand, I'd like to know how many people constitutes your new experience as an indipedent consultant? Infact, as others noted in the comments here, what you suggest is perfect especially for an in-house SEO situation or in for an Web Marketing Agency with at least 5/8 people working in. Even if all you say is correct and hopefully what everybodies should do, I honestly find quite difficult to dedicate all the amount of time and dedication in order to check all the steps described in your post. Or, at least, I cannot imagine myself doing it for all the clients.
I second Rand's comment!  Congrats on moving from the corporate world to the independent consultant.  This is my goal for the near future.  I too have been testing the waters of independent consulting, but it doesn't quite pay the bills yet!  Sometimes I feel like I should find a mentor who has been where I am now and is where I want to go.  Perhaps i'll find a few in this community over time!

Internet Marketing Ninjas is a full-service SEO company that offers everything you need to succeed online, all in one place. We provide a comprehensive collection of tools to help elevate your website to unprecedented success in all areas of Internet marketing. Check out some of our publicly available tools here, then find out more about our wide variety of Internet marketing services and how we can produce results that can make your business stronger and more profitable.


What it does: Every marketer needs to understand SEO. Ahrefs makes this job simple and straightforward. You can track keyword performance, measure your social metrics, perform backlink analysis, analyze your content, explore trending content, measure your keyword positions and do keyword research. It’s a robust all-in-one SEO tool that will put you on the path to outrank your competitors.

This plugin will let you easily link to your old articles, pages, or other sites to improve their rankings in search engines and generate more clicks. The internal link building plugin lets you assign keywords to given destination URLs. This way, your website will link within itself like it's done in Wikipedia - every time a keyword occurs, it links to the page you specified in the plugin dashboard.
Although this is a step-by-step series, everyone's methods will (and should) vary, so it really depends on how much time you think it will take (if you're billing hourly).  What tools do you have at your disposal vs. how much researching for information will you have to do on your own? Will you have to pay for research reports or companies? Do you pay a monthly service for data or research?
Really its just a matter of getting creative - grab a cup of caffeine and think for a minute about what resources you have to try to get some insight on your visitors (or target markets) and their needs before you dive in.  Think about how much time it might take you (or what the cost of the reports would be if you are going to buy some market research reports), and tack that onto your billing as an optional service.
Typically, the number of keywords targeted depends on the size and scope of the SEO project. Once an SEO strategy plan has been mapped out, the analyst will have a better idea of the number of keywords, a plan can be developed for how those keywords fit in with optimized pages and link submissions necessary to make progress in the SERPs. Analysts start by researching keywords and coming up with a shortlist both the agency and client are happy with. This may include several research methods including keyword recommendations from the client, customers and suppliers, surveys, using keyword research tools and so forth.
Why not? When you skimp on tools, you hinder your marketing from getting better. So, regardless of whether you choose these specific tools or not, make it your goal to find tools that you use regularly. Better tools are equivalent to better marketing. Whatever the tool you choose, make sure that you understand it well and that it makes a measurable improvement on your marketing efforts.
External Link Crawler and Title Tag Extractor Tool Smart URL List Cleaner Tool Link / Header Response Bulk Checker Page Comparison Google Keyword Suggest Tool Internal Page Crawl Last Modifed Date Title Tag and Meta Description Data for Multiple URLs (free tool) Suggestion Keyword Finder Keyword Combination Tool Page Keyword Density Analysis Keyword Cloud Tool Internal/External Link Analyzer C Class IP Checker Search Engine Spider Simulator Page Speed Meta Tag Analyzer Web Page SEO Analysis Tool
SEO plans need to be somewhat flexible and require regular reviews to ensure that optimisations are proving effective and targets are being met. If you are operating in an industry that is very competitive, it’s important to consider the efforts of competing websites and what may be required to outrank them in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). An SEO specialist should monitor changes and trends in the industry to ensure your SEO strategy can continually be innovated.
He is the co-founder of NP Digital and Subscribers. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
Over the next few posts, and starting with this one, I’m going to share with you a detailed 8-step process for creating your own SEO strategy (what I often refer to as an SRD (SEO Research Document)), beginning with defining target audiences and taking it all the way through some fairly comprehensive competitive research, search traffic projections, content strategies, and specific goals and prioritizations.
Thanks so much for this entry, Laura! I loved the way your post is so practical, straightforward, newbie-friendly - and most importantly, how it emphasizes the bottom line at all times. It's easy to get "lost in the fog" of SEO with so many looming tasks and forget the main purpose, so it's wonderful to have a straightforward outline of what to do and why certain tasks need to be done. I look forward to reading your future insights!
During your campaign, you should be given progress reports by the SEO expert you have hired. Bear in mind that Search Engine Optimization is a long term strategy, and you will not be able to see results straight away. As a rule of thumb, agencies will provide clients with monthly reports. Communication is recommended throughout the process, but this is your opportunity to ask any questions about the campaign or tweak it slightly. Typically, the results of an SEO campaign can take anywhere from 3 months to a year before showing up in reporting.
This is excellent and should be intuitive for marketers (and SEO pros are marketers!) but we often take the short cut and neglect critical details. What would also reinforce the strategy is way of providing solid projections for SEO (these could be based on industry trends and statistics). Clients now ask for ways to calculate ROI and they need numbers to get budget approvals. Increase in traffic by X,  increase in qualified traffic and leads, conversions etc, some way of quatifying the expected return.
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