Before you dive headfirst into your SEO campaign (and I applaud your enthusiasm!) there are a few pre-SEO questions that need to be answered so you make sure aren’t diving into the shallow end!
1. Who is your real online competition?
Sometimes the online market and the offline one don’t line up exactly. Small, offline competitors that you wouldn’t normally consider a threat can have a huge online presence, especially if they’ve been at it for longer than your brand, making them serious competition for non-branded visitors. If someone isn’t looking for your company directly, your brand name won’t have as much of an impact on the SERPs as you’d think. Contrarily, big brands that you normally can’t hope to beat out in traditional advertising outlets offline might not dominate the online world as much as you’d think, meaning your company has a real opportunity to get ahead if you get your SEO going on the right foot.
However, before you can start worrying about your SEO you need to know exactly who your online competition is. Their actions shouldn’t shape yours 100%, but they will influence the direction your SEO takes. What keywords are they targeting? How long have they been investing in link building? What kind of social presence do they have? What are their strengths and weaknesses? You need to know what the competition is doing so you can pinpoint the holes in their campaigns that you can take advantage of and exploit for your own SEO gain.
2. What is in store for your brand?
This is one of the most important pre-SEO questions a business owner needs to ask themselves. Before you can really start pushing your SEO campaign through, you need to know where your business is going. What exactly is your brand? What are you really selling? What niche are you concentrating on? How is your real target audience? While the answers don’t have to be set in stone, it pays to have a clear direction before you start worrying about SEO. Since SEO is so long term, if your messaging strategy changes every six months you’ll never get enough momentum in any one direction to see real value from your efforts. Stop and go SEO is never going to work!
3. Where does your target audience hang out online?
SEO is really just one third of an inbound marketing campaign, which is about making your website more visible when someone is actually looking for it, not interrupting their daily lives and hoping to catch their attention (traditional advertising). In order to make your site more appealing to your online audience, you need to know where your audience hangs out online. What blogs do they read? What social sites are they the most active on? Are there any forums or communities they are a part of? What kind of information are they looking for and where do they go to get it? This pre-SEO question is important to answer because it helps guide your content marketing, social media marketing and link building actions.