Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization

Our Approach

SEO is often the least enjoyable digital marketing activity undertaken by agencies and clients. The digital world is overpopulated with self-described SEO experts. It’s easy to claim expertise in an activity that is completely controlled by a 3rd party (i.e. Google, Yahoo or Bing) and which will take many months to prove out one way or another. Since the birth of digital marketing, the agency landscape has been crowded with “players” content with the “3 month assignment,” which is about how long it takes for the client to expect results.

Unfortunately, SEO is also the most important activity most web businesses must succeed at since there is no substitute for large volumes of free visits. Our approach is to do what we know works - remove and barriers and obstacles to the search bot getting a clear understanding of the site’s content - and then work over time with our client’s business partners, friends, and fans to improve the overall external backlink profile. We also apply the same kind of rigorous ROI metrics that we would use for a paid digital campaign.

In order to allow our potential clients and careful look at how we approach SEO assignments, we have outlined below in some detail a typical assignment, beginning with the discover phase.

Discovery Phase

The “discovery” team typically includes a project manager and two senior SEO analysts. Prior to the kickoff meeting, the team makes a thorough review Google Analytics Accounts and the Google and Bing Webmaster accounts.

Website Deep Dive

Resolute “scrapes” the Client’s website to capture the urls, status codes (200, 301, 404, etc.), the html page titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and h1 for all pages on the website.

Using the URL page outputs, Resolute was able to determine the website’s taxonomy and structure – the subdirectory structure.

Using a combination of Excel tools and functions (text to column, and countifs), Resolute is able to determine the number of pages contained in each subdirectory.

These statistics were crucial to understanding how a search engine bot would encounter content on the websites.

Analytics and Webmaster Tools

Examines historical Google Analytics account data, creating custom segments for “branded” and “non-branded” keyword reports.

Review website health in Webmaster Tools, reviewing any messaging, crawl errors, mobile readiness, server errors, and crawl status.

Downloaded search query reports into Resolute’s proprietary Excel reporting files which tracks and analyzes changes in the search query reports. Resolute’s search query reports all changes in impressions, click throughs, click through rates, and rankings to be monitored biweekly. Using Excel’s “sumifs” function, Resolute tracks changes in these statistics for 100+ keywords.

Preliminary Website Audit

Typically we’ll find that the overwhelming amount of organic search traffic arrives on branded keywords. Using Webmaster Tools search query reports (since Google Analytics and Site Catalyst reveal most of the organic keywords as “not provided,” we will begin to track and report on branded vs unbranded traffic. Resolute believes that growth in organic non-branded keyword is the principal KPI for SEO.

Often large, .NET websites contains tens of thousands of pages with duplicate content due to the website developer’s careless use of “uppercase,” “lowercase” and “all caps.” We advise the web developers eliminate the duplicate pages by using a robots.txt file (quick) or redoing the website code (longer term).

We also find that many website use naming conventions for urls that contain words only meaningful to the developers and which provided search engine bots few clues as to the content in the subdirectories. Resolute has seen extensive evidence of the importance of the keywords used in url structure contributing to higher rankings in search engines.

Html page titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords are often missing or duplicated. The html page title is critical to receiving good rankings.

Often, no attention is paid to focusing on a target SEO keyword list in the titles, meta, and h1.

Many pages contained too many external links (200+) and were not planned to transfer page rank from the home page to lower level pages.

In many cases, important links to the top-level subdirectory pages are executed in javascript code, making it difficult for search engine bots to index the pages.

Keyword Planning

Prior to the kickoff meeting, we use Google Analytics to determine which keywords will be most valuable to the site in terms of Goal and Event actions and engagement metrics. We use Google AdWords Keyword Planning tool to determine the monthly, exact match search volume for the highest converting keywords (and phrases) as well as their synonyms.

As part of the discovery meeting, we presented our preliminary list of target SEO keywords we would focus on, soliciting feedback from the Client in terms their understanding of the importance of the keywords to their business.

We also look at Moz.com’s Keyword Page Grader reports on a dozen important keywords and their landing pages. It is not unusal to discover many failing grades, particular at sites who have never though about optimizing their title tags, which is large component of the Moz.com grading system.

We run keyword density reports for those same landing pages, suggesting that on-page content should approach 5% for the target keywords

We also use Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer reports to compare our client’s key webpages with that of their competitors to get a sense of the importance of external links, domain, and page authority.

Next Steps

With the completion of the Discovery Phase, we agree to a series of next steps including:

Set up a schedule of regular meetings to review program, usually weekly or biweekly.

Meet with the web development team to discuss the importance of url structure, eliminating duplicate content, and an SEO oriented CMS that would allow the SEO team to modify page titles, meta descriptions and keywords, and h1s.

Finalize a list of target SEO keywords with Client approval

Load keyword into a ranking tool for weekly progress reviews.

Bring in the content team to manually create SEO optimized page titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords for the 2,000 most important pages in terms of keyword potential and existing traffic. The draft copy is shared with the Client. Once the copy was approved by the Client, the Content team is often given access to the Client’s CMS to enter the approved content.

Reporting

Present an executive summary of the most important developments from an SEO perspective since the prior meeting (typically growth in non-branded traffic, improved rankings, and website flaws that were affecting SEO).

Follow-up on the previous meeting’s “Next Steps.” Usually these were reports on how many titles and meta had been published in the CMS.

Review Google Analytics reports showing growth in organic (branded and non-branded) traffic, goals, and ecommerce.

Build automated reports from the Google Analytics API showing pro forma growth (on a day to day basis) for pro forma brand and non-branded keywords. [Note: pro forma reports take into account the large percentage of traffic derived from the “not provided” keyword.]

Update the Resolute Proprietary Search Query Report as powered by Webmaster tools data.

Review of crawl stats, mobile readiness, messaging, server errors and XML sitemap errors.

Outcomes

Over time, we expect to see a significant growth in non-branded organic traffic, the most important KPI for SEO activity

Work with us.

Connect with a service category expert to determine if we’re the right fit for one another.

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Service Specialist

Dan Savage
Managing Partner

Daniel Savage has been an expert in SEM, SEO and digital marketing analytics since they were first introduced to the marketplace. As CEO of Thomas B2b, Dan managed the first pay per click advertising service focused on the B2B market. Today he has a comprehensive knowledge of every search marketing tool and trick on the marketplace, but prefers to develop his own proprietary algorithms, bid management software and custom code.

Contact Dan