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July 12, 2010

8 Steps to Keeping Your Search Engine Optimization Plan on Track

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One of the things that makes search engine optimization so tough, from a client’s point of view, is that it’s more about willpower than it is about expertise. The greatest consultant in the world can come in and lay out a plan that will help you reach the top of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but unless they’re generating all of the content, you’re still going to have to devote some time or money to making it a reality.

There’s no way around it: search engine spiders love words, and so you’re going to have to find a lot of fresh ones if you’re going to make it to the top. As easy as it is to say we’re going to come up with a new blog post every few days, the reality is that the task leaves most of us just the way we were in high school – putting off our writing assignments until later, or even skipping them altogether.

Without fresh content, however, your online business is bound to get a failing grade. Here are a few steps you can take to keep your search engine efforts moving forward:

1. Make SEO a priority.

If adding material to your site becomes just another in a long list of “to-do’s,” it’s very unlikely to ever actually get done.  Finding your way to the top of the search engine rankings for a profitable keyword is akin to trying to move your business onto one of the busiest streets in the world, and achieving that goal takes time and effort.  Try to keep that perspective and let it motivate you to post more.  Unless SEO is a major goal for your business, it’s probably not going to get the attention it deserves.

2. Set realistic goals.

By trying to write too much material, or gather too many pieces of information in a short amount of time, you aren’t being ambitious, you’re setting yourself up for failure.  Like the dieter who vows to never taste chocolate again, the marketer who sets a goal of writing three articles a day is only kidding themselves.  Setting achievable goals isn’t just less stressful; it’s more productive.

3. Stick to schedule.

Once you’ve established a plan you can live with, you have to stick to it.  Pencil in your SEO time the same way you would an important meeting.  Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day to spend writing or finding resources, it’s critical that you do it and keep moving forward.  It’s easy to get so swept away with day-to-day business issues that you forget, but it only takes a little lost momentum to throw your plan off track.

4. Get organized.

You should have some sort of log or spreadsheet that shows what topics and keywords you’ve worked with, as well as which ones you plan to add to in the future.  Filling it in can provide you with valuable focus and motivation during those times when you’d rather not bother with writing or posting material, as well as making sure you don’t duplicate your efforts.

5. Pay attention.

Sometimes the market changes – people begin searching for new answers, leading to an entirely different set of core keywords for your SEO plan.  That doesn’t have to mean you abandon your efforts, but it might indicate that you should alter your approach.  You can’t make that determination, however, if you’re not paying attention to what your customers are thinking and talking about.

6. Track your results.

Some business owners get so caught up in the doing part of SEO that they neglect to check and see if it’s actually working.  Keep tabs on how many visitors your pages are tracking, how long people are staying to read or shop, which keywords are drawing the most sales, and so on.  You can’t build an effective campaign without feedback, so keep your ear to the ground, virtually speaking.

7. Keep an idea file.

It’s very hard to just sit down and add content to your website out of nothing. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a notebook or computer file where you can record thoughts for upcoming topics. Then, when you need one, you’ll have inspiration at your fingertips.

8. Practice patience.

SEO, like most marketing practices, is a slow science.  It can take weeks or months to work, not days.  Realize that from the outset and plan your business accordingly.  The orders might not start flying in overnight, but if you follow the right steps and add lots of fresh new content to your site, it will pay off in a big way.

Sticking to your search engine optimization plan might feel like a chore, but if you can follow these tips and keep your site constantly updated, you’ll eventually learn why so many companies love it.  Coming up with content isn’t always easy, but writing on your site is like writing a check to yourself in the future.

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