The tools you’ll need for some DIY SEO

I can’t tell you how delighted I was last week when so many readers got in touch after I offered to produce a plan for doing your own search engine optimisation. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with producing personal responses ever since, and you’ve missed the opportunity there, but I will set down the basic plan here this week. To recap, I said that effective search engine optimisation of your website by external experts will cost you several thousand pounds, and there are no real half-measures. If you can find the best SEO consultants out there, I can’t emphasise what a good investment this is. Getting a single good visitor to your website through advertising will probably cost you anything from £5-£10 (AdWords) to £25-£100 (banner or print advertising), so if a search engine optimisation exercise can get you thousands of extra visitors a year, you can work out the return on investment.

When spending that much money, you need to be sure you’re getting someone good. There are many cowboys out there preying on general ignorance, and most of the money you pay them will only go to fund all the people they’ve got cold-calling for even more business. By all means email me to recommend someone, but as I said, only if you have a sensible budget. If you’re only able to spend a few hundred pounds a month – or less – on SEO, I’d keep your cash in your wallet, despite there being many people out there who’d like to take it off you. Why? Just think about it. A decent consultant in any field is going to cost, what, £50, £100, even £200 an hour? It’s going to take them many hours of work just to get to know your company, your technology and your market. That should easily gobble up a small budget on its own, never mind actually doing any work. Do the maths, as they say.

The solution is to skip that expensive step, and do the work yourself. I’ve seen many companies do this successfully; all it needs is for some time to be set aside, and for the project to be taken seriously. If not, it won’t get done. Don’t expect to leapfrog over Wikipedia to be the first result in Google for a search on “blue widgets” by next Friday – or ever – but what you should be able to achieve is a gradual increase in your website’s ranking for “long tail” searches, which should form the bulk of search engine traffic to your site.

Tomorrow I’ll look at a first step you can take, but before then, you’re going to need two things. The first is to have an analytics service in place, like Google Analytics. If you can’t add Google Analytics to your site, please, just give up on web marketing now. I don’t know if this is typical of all industrial and scientific companies, but about 90% of our clients have Google Analytics running. You should too. I’ve heard several reasons why “it can’t be done”, but they’re normally nonsense, like: “our website is run by the German head office, and we can’t have it, because it’s illegal in Germany” (not true – ask our German AdWords clients who are all running it quite happily). Another excuse was: “we looked into it, but our website is an old-fashioned one without a template, so we’d have to add code to every page manually, and that’s too expensive an exercise”. There are ways around that, but to be honest, I’d say you should have had your website rebuilt, properly, a long time ago. Try that first.

The second thing you’ll need, to set up an in-house SEO project, is the ability to modify your website. I know some of you will be choking on your coffee as you read this, but you’d be amazed how many marketing managers can’t do anything to their company website apart from add the occasional news story. Normally it’s because some empire-builder in another country has managed to get worldwide website control and isn’t going to let go in any way. If that’s the case with your company, and you can’t get code-level access to the site (or at least the ability to do things like add titles and description meta tags), then once again, maybe you should give up on serious web marketing. Or look around for a job with a company which can let you perform your role properly.

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