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August 31, 2007

7 Secrets to Maximizing Return on Your SEO Budget

It can be hard for many companies to justify the cost of a monthly SEO contract. This is especially the case when your SEO tells you not to expect increased traffic right away (sometimes not for 3-6 months). Some companies choose to handle SEO in-house – an idea that sounds great but yields mixed results. What you’re paying for when you’re hiring an SEO is their experience and specialized knowledge – things that don’t come cheap. Think you can have an administrative assistant optimize your site and build links for a few hours a day and launch your site to the top of search rankings? If it were that easy SEO’s would have been out of work a long time go.

Bottom line: it makes sense to hire a solid SEO with proven knowledge. That’s why good SEO’s stay working – they get results and justify their cost. Their clients are happy to refer their friends and colleagues. There are, however, some tasks that it makes sense for you to handle in-house, and the mark of a good SEO will be one who points these out to you from the beginning.

1) Provide as much information as possible. This is particularly important. One thing SEO relies on is solid content. A great deal of what an SEO does to help optimize your pages will have to do with writing/rewriting them. Since user conversions are the endgame of any marketing effort new content needs to reflect your brand and your message.

2) Give ample room for keyword research. Some clients have a list of keywords chosen before an SEO gets started. While this helps get the ball rolling there is enormous value in extensive keyword research. It helps you identify viable targets for all other SEO efforts – places where your company can make inroads into gaining search visibility. You may have done your research and chosen keywords, but give your SEO some time to do his or her own research. If they’re good at what they do (and you shouldn’t hire them unless you’re confident that they are) it’ll pay dividends.

3) Demand reporting (at least monthly). Most SEO’s will offer this anyway, but it’s important to stay on top of what’s going on with your website traffic, search engine referrals and the resulting conversions. Any good SEO will set up web analytics (if you don’t have it) right away. For monthly SEO services monitoring the traffic is crucial – it gives your SEO the right information to improve your visibility, and it allows you to keep tabs on the situation and results.

4) Review all site changes. While SEO’s who do their homework will know as much about your business as possible it’s still important for you to review the changes they make to your site. In going after a competitive search phrase your SEO might add that phrase in prominent places on a page. This might drive you up in rankings for the phrase, but remember: the goal is conversions, not just traffic. You might get to #1 on Google, but if your page looks spammy to a user your conversion rate will suffer. Make sure your SEO doesn’t let on-page optimization overtake good marketing.

5) Ensure the separation of paid and organic referrals in analytics data. One great way to muddy analytics data is to run paid search advertisements like AdWords during an ongoing SEO campaign. While this is fine when the proper precautionary steps are taken, the result can be inaccurate and misleading data. If you’re planning on running paid search advertisements yourself let your SEO know ahead of time. They should be able to help isolate the paid search data in your analytics so organic referral numbers won’t be convoluted.

6) Get involved with link building. One of the tasks your SEO will probably be performing for you is gaining links pointing to your site from others. Links are an important factor in search engine ranking algorithms. Having your SEO build links for you is fine, but you may want to consider approaching certain link partners yourself. Remember that there is a human being on the other end – in the case of link building it’ll be someone running a website relevant to your own. Use your networking skills to initiate a friendly email exchange. Explain how you can help each other out by trading links. You might make new business contacts while you’re at it, and they might be more receptive to an email from you than one from an SEO or marketer.

7) Do some of your own copywriting. The bottom line is that nobody knows your business better than you do. If someone asked you to explain why your product or service offerings are better than the competition you could probably talk their ear off. Crack your knuckles and churn out some content – with your SEO’s guidance, of course. Let your SEO give you a theme (usually a keyword phrase), and generate at least a rough draft for them. They may need to tweak it here or there, but it’ll save on their time and your budget significantly.

Author:  Mike Tekula is the founder and Lead Strategist at Tek Web Solutions, a New York SEO Company that specializes in driving increased web site traffic.