Instead, in this instance, we started at wireframe stage, plopping in keywords and meta tags. Of course, the site really needed those things, and although it launched technically “optimized”, it wasn’t enough to provide a better product than our top competitor(s). A product that people want to visit, revisit, email to friends, share on social networks, and link to more than our competitors. It wasn’t even enough to move up in the rankings.

If you havent see it already, check out the links in shor's comment below - there are some great resources in there. In some cases you can also consider surveying your current audience or customers through email, on-site surveys or SurveyMonkey.  Be sure to ask for some profiling information that you can use for determining specific persona needs like age, sex, location, etc. (Probably best not to make it sound like a creepy text chat like I just did though...)  :)
Based on the initial analysis, an SEO consultant identifies specific deficiencies on the site, as well as opportunities for targeting new search traffic, and prepares a report for a search engine optimization campaign. This report will include recommendations for both on-site and off-site tactics that will support the overarching SEO strategy. The SEO will provide these recommendations to your so that you can begin optimizing your website, or the SEO can implement recommendations herself (often with the assistance of a qualified web developer). A professional company ideally will offer SEO solutions tailored for your individual circumstance. This will depend on factors such as the size of the site, if it is operating in a competitive or saturated market, whether it is a new website, is focusing on growth or ongoing maintenance and so on.
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!
For example, if a swimming pool business is trying to rank for "fiberglass pools" -- which is receiving 110,000 searches per month -- this short-tail keyword can be the one that represents the overarching topic on which they want to create content. The business would then identify a series of long-tail keywords that relate to this short-tail keyword, have reasonable monthly search volume, and help to elaborate on the topic of fiberglass pools. We'll talk more about these long-tails in the next step of this process.
Thanks for bringing up this point - I agree Eric - competitive positioning can help you determine value that you bring to the table that your competitors dont.  I'm all for it.  Neilsen does some reports that provide awareness, likelihood to recommend, sentiment and other insightsfor your site/brand and your competitors. You can also pull some of that type of insight out of social listening platforms like NetBase, SM2, Radian6, Dow Jones, Nielsen, and so many others.  I've even done some hacked compeitove sentiment comprisons before using Search: searching for [brand or feature] + "like", "love", hate", "wish" etc. 
Think of it this way: The more specific your content, the more specific the needs of your audience are -- and the more likely you'll convert this traffic into leads. This is how Google finds value in the websites it crawls; the pages that dig into the interworkings of a general topic are seen as the best answer to a person's query, and will rank higher.
Let me tell you a story. Early in my tenure at Yahoo we tried to get into the site dev process in the early stages in order to work SEO into the Product Recommendations Documents (PRD) before wireframing began. But as a fairly new horizontal group not reporting into any of the products, this was often difficult. Nay, damn near impossible. So usually we made friends with the product teams and got in where we could.
Good stuff Brian! One thing I like to do for Step #9 is use Search Console as a guide to improving my content. If I write an article about “green widgets” but Search Console says it’s getting a lot of impressions and clicks for “blue-green widgets” then I’ll try to use that info to make my article more relevant and useful for those readers. That alone is a great way to continually update your content to reflect your “momentum” in Google. Thanks for the updated guide!
We’re in a whole new era. Gone are the days when you could afford to ignore the internet. If you want to achieve success, regardless of your industry, it’s imperative to have a sound online marketing plan in place from day one – a strategy that leverages the power of social media, uses search engine optimization to drive traffic, and makes good use of the media marketing advancements that are out there.
One thing we hear time and again about our own tools is how valuable the benchmark performance data is, and that’s one area where AdGooroo shines. As well as the usual ad spend estimate modeling and other tools, AdGooroo also lets you look at snapshots of specific brands in your vertical – very interesting if you’re looking to adjust your PPC strategy.

Great and impressive article! Sounds good, but looks good for blogs where you are giving usefull information to readers, like strategies, advices etc. But unfortunately I can now hardly imagine how I will apply it in the gambling industry, where people are just looking for bonuses, but not for useful content. But I will try, will try to improve firstly user intent.

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