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SEO War Room

August 24th, 2010 | | Basic SEO Tips, Conversion Optimization, Link Building, Local SEO, SEO Keyword Research, Social Media & SEO, Usability

RISK is my favorite board game. I love the antique map, the miniature pieces, the sweat on my opponent’s brow as I mount a marching campaign across southern Asia to hole-up in Siam. All that’s missing for me is little pushing sticks to move the pieces and a war room dedicated to just playing the game.  Jessica’s post yesterday inspired me to share my usual flow of what I do in my “war room” for SEO.

The war room is the room where strategic decisions are analyzed, discussed, proposed and made. The war room exists for every company because your company is in competition with another company – it just depends on its quality.  Everyone needs a strategy. I always prefer to do a rundown list on competition. It starts this way…

Someone wants to start a small business – something they love to do – and they want to see if they can make a little money of off it. They ask me, “what could I do to increase website visits.” After I give a punch list, they start backing away. More often than not, they have a fear of getting in over their heads and want to keep it small. Two months later, they come back “ok, let’s do it.” At this point, I wish I could pull down maps out of nowhere and get an expandable pointer. Why? Because there’s no time to waste.

Here’s my initial punch list to develop a war room strategy:

1. SERPs
Search Engine Results Pages. Your keywords. What are they? What are people typing to find you if they don’t know your name? The top results in your keywords and key phrases are your competition. Search less popular terms and take note of any opportunities.

2. Competitor Websites
Visit each website and take note of the following of how their information flows and the direction it takes you.  Does the information make sense? Are you guided to make a decision? Does it prompt you to make a decision now or some nebulous time in the future?

3. Links
Are other sites linking them? Which ones are they? Are they quality sites?

4. Social Media
Are they on Twitter? Facebook? Are they actively using them?

5. Local Results
Google Place Pages, Yahoo and Bing Local. Did they claim their listings? What info are they sharing?
What are they NOT doing?

6. Blog & Forum Chatter
Search on their name and URL – see what people are saying about them. Do they have a blog? How often do they update it?

That’s the short list right there. Once you profile your top competitors, you then look for holes in each instance to “do one better.”

Place your keywords and keyphrases in places where they matter most.  Optimize for the “not as competitive” keywords to circumvent a bloodbath of fighting.
Example: Three Competitors fighting for “Home Windows.”  Instead of joining in the fray, I optimized for “replacement vinyl.”  It worked, but then the other sites caught on so I changed it again.

B. Websites
Arrange your web pages to flow to increase conversions by giving strong call to actions and empathizing with prospective clients.  Example: After researching a year on the top problems a potential client would face to bring them into my “store.”  I changed the flow of the homepage to those problems with quick solution paths.  Conversion percentages were staggering.  Company information was moved way out of the way to the “About Us” tab.   I have never seen a commercial starting off with the history of the company, why should your website?

C. Links
Seek out better places to link to you. Example: A competitor had 3 times as many backlinks as one client.  They were going for quantity rather than quality.  By getting links from the local TV station, Better Business Bureau and the local university and a government website. It made a difference and it didn’t matter if the “no-follow” link attribute was used because of number 1.

D. Social Media
Do it better.  Example: We started a client with both a Twitter and Facebook account.  Facebook was a lot more popular.  We were able to acquire fans with an offer, a contest and other promotion.  However, it started becoming problematic to retain and engage the “Fans” without annoying them but serving a purpose.  The direction was changed quietly as competitors started to blast their fans needlessly … and still do.

E. Local Results
Fill out your local profiles and use them to the fullest.  Example: Using coupons and mimicking the working language from your website that works, a lot of lead sources and phone calls were tied to the local SEO.

F. Blog & Forum Chatter
If there’s anything you can capitalize on – a mood within the industry, a PR flub, take note and move wisely. Example: Google Alerts were set up for competitor names as well as the client’s name.  This was able to bring in alerts where people were talking about us positively and negatively.  Seeing the negative aspects of a competitor’s customer service allowed us to enhance the client’s.

Hoowah! Don’t get intimidated. Size up your competition and know their weaknesses. Remember, knowing is have the battle.  Scouring this site is a place to build your war room for the above steps.  What tactics are in your “war room?”

Facebook   IN   Stumble Upon   Twitter   Sphinndo some of that social network stuff.
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