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  • Joshua Harmening

SEO Series, Part 3: The SEO Blueprint




“By taking a systematic approach to SEO, we can guarantee that nothing slips through the cracks for our clients.”


By now you probably understand that ranking isn’t as easy as it used to be, but there is

still hope! On the following pages, we’ve listed our SEO BLUEPRINT. This is our company’s

internal checklist for SEO that we use for every client that comes through the door. We’re

sharing this with you so you’ll have the insider’s scoop on what Google is looking for and can

build an SEO campaign that generates results. You’ll find that having a checklist will make the process of reviewing your website easier. On the following pages, we’ve included a bulleted checklist for the items we review when working on an optimization project. Yes, it can seem overwhelming at first. But take it one step at a time and you’ll get it.



Phase 1 - The Website Audit:


o Review of design aesthetics, code, and site structure

o Review of page load times

o Review of mobile user experience

o Review and check for duplicate content

o Review of page naming structure

o Review of keyword usage and keyword densities

o Review of keyword themes and opportunities

o Review of internal linking structure

o Review of content use

o Review of onsite SEO and metadata

o Review of robot.txt files

o Review of sitemap.xml files

o Review of browser compatibility

o Review of flash usage

o Review of blog and content marketing usage

o Review of security and monitoring of site

o Review of privacy policy and webmaster compliance

o Review of social media use and social properties

o Review of Penguin penalty and negative link building


The initial audit allows us to see if there are major changes that need to be addressed.

The goal of the audit is to determine the overall health of a website. With most new clients, we find that the website will require some changes to make it more SEO friendly. While the initial phase exposes that there is a problem, it doesn’t resolve the problems immediately. The audit is our initial review and allows us to begin to open up communication with our clients about the severity of the problems and the effort that will be required to fix it. Through this phase one review, we can see if the site needs a lot of work or just a little. Remember, every site is different and needs to be looked at objectively. There is no ONE SIZE FITS all SEO campaign!


That is why this is the foundation for the game plan.



Phase 2 - The User Experience Audit:


o Review or install Google Analytics tracking code

o Review of site and page bounce rates

o Review of pages visited and time on site

o Review of new versus returning visitors

o Review of mobile user experience and bounce rates

o Review of onsite social media conversions

o Review of social media traffic referrals

o Review of other website traffic referrals


In phase two, we dig into what the end user or visitor might be experiencing and thinking

when they visit the site. This is where we really look at the raw data in Google Analytics. When going through Google Analytics, we can quickly see how people are responding to your content and what they might think about it. We can also see referral traffic, direct traffic, and current keyword trends on your website. During this phase of review, we will begin drafting a content game plan on how we can engage your visitors through the use of video, better copywriting, social media, and content marketing. The goal is to allow your website to keep your visitors engaged and spend more time on your website. After completion of Phase Two, we can see how traffic is responding to your website which will further solidify the changes that should be made. During this phase, our project managers compose custom reports, armed with Google Analytic data and screenshots, allowing us to assemble a winning user-experience game plan.



Phase 3 - Webmaster Tools Audit:


o Review of indexed pages versus pages in the sitemap

o Review of structure and formatting of the sitemap

o Review of crawl errors and broken HTML links

o Review of duplicate metadata

o Review of short meta descriptions

o Review of missing title tags

o Review of duplicate title tags

o Review of queries and overall site keyword theme

o Review of CTR trends and queries

o Review of incoming links


In phase three, we dig into the technical side of how Google crawls and sees your

website. By adding the site to webmaster tools , we can determine many different factors about the site and if it is in good standing with Google. Google Webmaster tools are free resources where Google reviews your site for quality and reports the findings in the webmaster tools portal. Obviously, if we’re trying to rank better in Google, then we need to know exactly what Google thinks about the site. The webmaster tools audit data is also compiled into reports which will be shared with our client during our “game plan” meeting. By now, you’re probably wondering when we’ll start optimizing the website, but the truth is that the optimization process requires a significant amount of research before a project begins. It should be a GIANT RED FLAG when any SEO Agency or consultant is quick to make SEO changes without doing a thorough analysis. For example, a few years ago we met a client who had just switched over her website to WordPress on the advice of a consultant. When they moved the site over, they didn’t correctly plan out the 301 redirects, and this client lost 25,000 visitors over the course of two months, effectively crippling her business. This could have been avoided with better research and a more knowledgeable SEO team.



Phase 4 - Keyword and Ranking Audit:


o Review of current ranking positions

o Review of competitor ranking positions

o Review of ranking feasibility for tougher keywords (KEI Review)

o Review of long tail keyword rankings

o Review and suggestion of new content for keywords

o Review of Keyword Themes

o Review of ranking positions versus competitors


In step four, we start reviewing the desired keywords, where they are currently ranked,

and what can be done to improve the rankings. Much of this work requires an SEO tool such as WEBCEO or MajesticSEO. However, it is incredibly helpful to see where you’re measuring up, especially compared to your competition.


Every good SEO campaign requires keywords. Any SEO company or consultant

who ignores this point doesn’t serve their clients well. Yes, some keywords are harder to rank for than others! You might be surprised, but sometimes it is better to COMPLETELY IGNORE extremely difficult keywords and capitalize on a larger amount of long tail keywords.


This is why a Keyword and Ranking Audit is so important to success.


A few years ago we had a prospect who wanted a guarantee that he would rank for the

keyword “iPad” because he sold iPad accessories. Our advice was to target a larger number of long tail keywords, where ranking was very probable. Misled by another SEO company, he told us that he was going to work with someone else that would guarantee him a #1 ranking position.


About a year later he emailed us asking if we could take the project on because he never saw a traffic boost and never ranked higher than position 35 in Google for the keyword “iPad”.


Most websites will require a considerable amount of new content in order to achieve

rankings for a large number of keywords. This is because most web pages can only rank for one or two primary keywords.


We’re often amused by prospects who tell us that another SEO company is

guaranteeing rankings for any 100 keywords of their choice for some small amount of money.

Yes, a few years ago that could work by simply building links. However, in today’s SEO world,

keyword ranking is going to take AMAZING content, links, social media, and a website that

retains its visitors.

The FIRST FOUR PHASES of our company’s SEO process consume dozens

of hours of research, analysis, and strategy-building. The next phase is to

develop and present a game plan to our client and discuss the process for

growth.



Phase 5 - Audit Delivery and Game Plan Meeting:


o Review of all suggested website changes for SEO growth

o Review of all suggested social media practices for SEO growth

o Review of Google Analytic data & suggest changes for better user experiences

o Review of webmaster tools data and suggested changes for SEO

o Review of keyword data and opportunities

o Review of content marketing suggestions

o Review of Google penalties and suggested fixes


You might be wondering why we spend so much time researching a project before we

begin to make changes on a site. Many of our newer clients are actually VERY SURPRISED at how much time and detail we put into this research and the reports we deliver. But remember, all SEO campaigns are unique. There is no “one size fits all” approach to SEO. To see significant success in your SEO campaign, you can’t simply fix a website’s technical flaws, update your meta tags and start a blog. You have to see the big picture and look at your website and SEO STRATEGICALLY. When we deliver Phase 5 to our clients, we provide a detailed STRATEGIC PLAN that describes how we are going to improve search rankings. The plan will include a detailed list of recommended target keywords, a content marketing plan, and the technical fixes to make your site more search-friendly.


Is that everything that we do? No! Not by a long shot. There is still much more that

needs to be done to a client’s website before the project is completed, but the first five phases are all about research and planning. While it may seem trivial to those looking for a quick fix, we realize that charting a course for our clients’ SEO strategy is worth every effort in order to attain the desired results. As we’ve stated before: THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO SEO SUCCESS.


Depending on the size of a website and the SEO goals of a client, the audit phases can

take from two weeks to two months or more. When working with a new client, we always start with the first five phases of research and deliver the SEO Strategic Plan BEFORE we ever lift a finger to optimize your site. In fact, we believe so much in the research and planning that we won’t take on a new client unless they are willing to let us complete the research first! Once we’ve completed the first five phases of research and meetings, we’re then able to start on the SEO effort. The second portion of our SEO blueprint is the steps that we’ll take to actually make the SEO campaign a success.



Phase 6 - Onsite SEO & Content:


o Commence major repairs of website to improve overall SEO

o Implement social media strategy and new social media designs

o Assignment to writers for rewriting of existing duplicate content

o Assignment to writers for new content for SEO keywords

o Building and indexing of new landing pages with new content

o Design & launch of WordPress blog & content scheduling for long tail keywords

o Implementation of social media automation for new content campaign


Content is the cornerstone of good SEO. Phase Six starts with a major content

overhaul. Any duplicate content is removed from the website so that the website passes all

checks in CopyScape. We also begin the writing process for the new content pages which will be required for better rankings for your target keywords. In most cases, these pages are

published pretty quickly once the content is approved by our client.


This phase also includes correcting any major technical issues like broken links, internal

linking structure, de-optimization, and updating any sitemaps and robot.txt files. Once the site is correctly optimized with the new pages added, we will integrate a blogging platform which will host more content for your company, focusing on longer tail keywords. The blog can be a separate site hosted on a subdomain or integrated as part of your main site. Our writers will then begin writing monthly content for your website so that you can take advantage of having a much larger footprint online.


Finally, we look at your offsite optimization and how people link to your website. If there

are major issues with your backlinking structure, then those links would be removed or

disavowed so that you are not penalized by Google for toxic backlinks links.

Phase six is a very crucial part of the project. Onsite SEO fixes can take a few days to a

month or longer depending on the size and scope of the project. The silver lining is that onsite technical fixes are identified by Google rather quickly and clients will typically see improved traffic results promptly after correction.



Phase 7 - Social Media and Training:


o Twitter Integration and Training

o Facebook Fan Page Integration and Training

o LinkedIn Integration and Training

o YouTube Integration and Training

o Vimeo Integration and Training

o Instagram Integration and Training


Social media? What does that have to do with SEO? Everything in today’s world! If you

remember in phase 6, we set up these platforms for our clients. This is the creation of the

accounts and scheduling of content to go onto these properties. However, in Phase 7, we now implement a consistent campaign to add social media posts for our clients.


All new content that we create in the content marketing campaign, will automatically be

shared on most of the social media properties. We also work with our clients to come up with a winning social media marketing campaign which will increase the number of visits to the site from social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.


This phase also fine-tunes the graphic designs for our clients’ social media properties so

that they are appealing and brand-consistent. We then work with several scripts to help them

gain more likes and follows. The goal is that our clients’ social media presence will continue to grow. This is of tremendous value to the content campaign and the overall SEO campaign

because Google ranks sites with social media backlinks higher than other websites.


In Phase 7, our clients typically continue to see growth in traffic and repeat visitors

because of the implementation of social media.


Speaking of social media, we often hear “Nobody is going to click LIKE on my company

page… We’re in the ____________ business.” Yes, we hear this all the time. But Social Media is still important. Just think of it this way, if your industry doesn’t use social media very often and YOU DO, it will be that much easier for you to beat your competitors when it comes to SEO.


Remember, this is a BLUEPRINT for SEO. Social media and SEO now go hand in hand.

Social Media must be a part of a winning SEO campaign and for that reason, we will NOT take on any client who isn’t willing to implement a social media strategy for their business. Social media is that important to SEO!



Phase 8 - Mobile and Local SEO:


o Mobile Website Integration

o Mobile redirect Script Integration

o Mobile Content Testing

o Claim Local Directory Listings including Google Places and Google Plus

o Addition and Verification of Local Directory Citations

o Install KML File for locations


The WORLD HAS GONE MOBILE… and your website must measure up to Google’s

standards if you want to capitalize on this FREE traffic. In 2015, Google began to penalize

websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. Today, that penalty is in full-effect and if your visitors can’t use your website on a smartphone, then your rankings will soon be in trouble.


Fortunately, if your site isn’t mobile-ready, there are some easy ways to fix that. Many of

our clients who have websites built on WordPress are able to move to a responsive theme

which can be viewed perfectly on either a mobile phone or desktop PC. There are also

dedicated mobile websites which are mobile versions or condensed versions of a website.

There are also WordPress plugins that will create a mobile version of your existing site.


In phase 8, we also connect all the local citations from various local directories for our

clients. This includes Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and various other directories. Google gives these directories a higher ranking value and thus it gives our clients’ websites new backlinks and also better rankings in the local listings on the first page of Google.


This is an ongoing service that we do for our clients and we work very hard to keep

these citations up to date with our clients’ contact information. By confirming our client data

often, we receive higher rankings in the local listings categories.



Phase 9 - Content, Monitoring, & Reporting:


o Final review and start of social media automation

o Final review of content marketing campaign

o Final review of onsite SEO and WordPress site

o Final review of Google webmaster tools

o Review Rankings and Fine Tune Onsite SEO


By now, we may have spent as much as six months on an SEO campaign and hundreds of hours with a client. All the work has been steady and has taken our team and our clients’ staff members a considerable amount of time and resources. In almost every case, our

client is thrilled with the growth they have received. But the truth is, the SEO campaign isn’t fully operational just yet. Rather, we’ve really just laid the foundation for success.


In phase nine, we do a final review to make sure that everything is in tip-top shape. The

content marketing campaign is moving along nicely, the social media campaign is driving traffic, and all the metrics look clean in webmaster tools.


We now look at the rankings and traffic again and set up monthly reports so we can

measure the ongoing growth. If you remember correctly, we checked rankings way back in the beginning of the campaign in phase 4. By this point, we should be able to see substantial

growth in the SEO campaign and rankings. Now we’re going to watch the rankings and the

traffic a little closer and check them every two weeks. We’ll be able to see exactly how the traffic is growing and how the content campaign is helping your sales and conversions.


These are set up in reports which are delivered via email every two weeks to our clients.


In Phase Nine, we also set up some monitoring tools to make sure your site doesn’t get

hacked! Hacked sites tend to not only hurt your traffic and reputation, but they can be disastrous to your traffic and rankings if not repaired quickly.


Lastly, we are also steadily distributing content to both social media accounts and to

your blog on a regular basis. You now have a website that is growing in relevant,

keyword-targeted content and is “healthy” in Google’s eyes.


The result: improved rankings, more traffic, and more conversions.



Phase 10 - More Content, Social Media, Links & Updates:


o Ongoing release of new content and social media

o Ongoing health checks, fixes, and HTML improvements

o Ongoing slow one-way backlink building

o Ongoing release of link bait and Infographics

o Ongoing reviews of phases 1-9


It has been a long road, but we’re not done yet. We’ve made great strides and the

website is VERY SEO friendly and nearly perfect in Google’s eyes. Now it is time to ramp up the plan and continue to add new content, link bait, social media follows, and new incoming links.


Even though the website may have doubled in traffic already, the key to a good SEO campaign is to continually make modifications and grow. SEO isn’t a “one-time” project, but an ongoing process to keep the traffic growing.


In this last phase, the maintenance portion of our SEO Blueprint, we are continuing to

add fresh new content to the website. This is critical to success. We are also reviewing all the phases frequently to be sure that the site’s code is SEO Friendly. We’re creating link bait,

building (very few) inbound links and working hard to keep the site as SEO friendly as possible.


Each month, our clients receive summary reports about important SEO metrics like

inbound links, page rank changes, keyword performance, traffic from referral sites, social links and much more.



SEO Blueprint Summary:


As you can see, a complete SEO Program isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. We

provided this ebook as our way of trying to help business owners and the general public with

their search engine optimization. If you follow all of these steps, and put them into the SEO

Cycle, you’ll see great success and you will accomplish more than 90% of businesses who are ignoring SEO best practices. While it might not be easy, it is worth it! Good optimization takes time, money and patience but in the end, it will result in significant growth for your business or organization.

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