Your 7 Point Check List When Starting A New SEO Campaign
Taking over the SEO for a new site is exciting, it’s the start of the campaign and you’re just imagining all the things you can do with that site and the great places you can go hunting for links. Before you know it you’ll have top positions for all your key terms and you’ll be increasing the organic traffic year on year by a couple of hundred percent each month. Before you get too carried away there are a few things you might want to think through first.
Whether you’re an agency SEO, freelancer or in house, starting a new project might be exciting but if you don’t get the campaign started off on the right foot you’re always going to be falling behind.
So what are the main starting points when taking over a new website?
The first thing you need to do is get a bench mark of what the site is doing and how it’s performing at the moment. You need to know:
- How many pages are indexed in all the major search engines?
- Current site metrics like PageRank, MozRank, MozTrust, number and power of existing back links
- Key terms it’s already ranking for and positions
Now you know what you’ve got to beat right form day one before you started doing any work on the site.
The client has probably given you a list of keywords they want to rank for or a list of keywords the previous SEO was targeting but you need to start from scratch by getting the following information:
- Clients requested keywords
- PPC keywords being bid on
- What the competitors are ranking for
- Google adwords keyword tool
This data will allow you to get a fresh view of what you’re aiming for over the next couple of months. It’s always a good idea to refresh the keyword research every few months anyway. Search tends can change, new products or companies enter the market and searchers become more tech savvy with their searches. If you’re taking over a new campaign it’s possible the keywords haven’t been looked at in years and there’s no point killing yourself to get top position if no one searches for that keyword any more.
Collate Your Diet
It’s vital you have access to all their onsite tools and measurements. The most important is Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and ideally they should be granting you administrator access. If you’re working on a brand new site one of the first things you need to do once the contract is signed is get these two accounts set up so you can analyse your data.
If any PPC data is being run for this site you ideally need access to their Adwords account too. If this is being managed by a third party and it’s not possible, or if the client is just reluctant to give you access you need to ask for a complete keyword report for the past 30 days. If you can it’s also interesting to get a full keyword report for the same time span from the previous year. They might have keywords they’d forgotten about that they’ve had to stop bidding on because they go too expensive. Whilst they’re giving you any PPC data, make sure you get a complete list of all URL’s of any PPC landing pages. You’re not going to want those crawled or indexed as they could give you some serious duplicate content issues.
Analytics health check
Once you’ve got hold of their Analytics account you need to give it a good health check and make sure it’s tracking everything accurately.
- Set up goals and conversions and make sure they’re tracking accurately
- Check all relevant IP addresses are excluded
- Set up any filters that are going to be needed
- Make sure your Adwords isn’t being tracked as organic
- Make sure any referring sources are reporting accurately
- Make sure only the people who need access have access
These are just a few of the main points you need to make sure you’re tracking properly. You’re going to need accurate Analytics data to prove your work. You might be able to see you’re at position one for your chosen keywords but there’s no point if you’re not getting any traffic and ultimately any conversions from those positions.
Techie To Do List
Next you need to come up with your onsite check list of the techie things. This is all the basics that every website should have in place.
- Up to date XML & HTML sitemap
- 404 page (returning a 404 status code)
- Robots.txt file
- Canonical tags and duplicate content
These are usually the types of things that only have to be done once if they’re done properly. If there are any pages already in the robots.txt file that are already being excluded it’s important you know why and make sure any other pages you don’t want indexed are included here too.
A good SEO will know the industry of their website better than the client. You need to know who else is ranking for the keywords you want to rank for. You also need to make sure you know their site inside out and back to front; do these competitors have anything you could take ‘inspiration’ from? You need to know what back links their competitors have got, are they participating in paid links? Have they found some good quality links you might be able to copy?
The clients idea of competitors aren’t necessarily going to be the same as your idea of their competitors especially if they’re new to online marketing or they don’t rely on the internet for all their revenue. Their idea of competition might be the hairdressers down the road but you know their real competition is the brand chain or the hairdresser across town that has a really well optimised website.
Titles and descriptions
This is usually the one that takes the most time. By now you’ve already done your keyword research so you know what you’re targeting and you need to tie these keywords to URL’s so you know what page is targeting what.
Ideally every page should have its own unique title and description, obviously if you’ve got an ecom site with thousands of page it’s going to be unreasonable to expect you to write these for every page right off the bat but you can come up with a dynamic rule that should be quite simple to implement in most CMS’s.
You need to keep your titles around the 65 character mark, try to not to use stop words and avoid using the website name in the title too, you should rank for this anyway and any potential traffic can see the site title in the URL. The descriptions should be about 150 characters and ideally include a call to action to encourage click through.