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How quickly are you able to define your SEO strategy? Can you articulate your strategy over the course of the next year? Do you often find it difficult to get new technology approved even when you know it will help drive increases in non-paid traffic and revenue?

Most SEO’s I know deal with questions like these daily. The biggest problem with SEO today is there are still a lot of misconceptions about what it is (the strategies involved) and what still works (the tactics). Most general online marketers still don’t understand the concept well enough to speak intelligently on it, and yet within a matter of seconds most SEO’s could rattle off five reasons why they need to be involved in every decision-making process.

So how do we bridge this gap? How do we help the enterprise understand the role of SEO more clearly and apply it to a plan to grow business holistically? It’s not that SEO is really that hard to sell. Usually the problem is one of clarity. My advice is to identify the end goals and move upstream to literally map out your strategy. This is what that process looks like:

Establishing an SEO road map

  1. Start by identifying your current primary challenges. Typically these are goal-related. It’s not important to put in actual numbers here. Just be honest with what you’re really trying to accomplish and put them in an active voice. Something like increasing total non-paid contribution is usually high on just about every business’s list of goals.

Now the key component to the aforementioned challenge is SEO, but notice I’ve worded this intentionally to take into account additional inbound marketing channels – basically anything that contributes to non-paid growth. If you are doing this exercise as an SEO, make sure to include the challenges of complimentary marketing channels and those of the entire marketing department. If these challenges speak clearly to the concerns of other stakeholders, it’s more likely they’ll adopt your roadmap. It’s important to speak to them about their pain-points.

Additional broad-stroke challenges for many online businesses may include:

    • enhancing customer engagement and user experience
    • improving and scaling content creation and distribution efficiencies

 It’s obviously advantageous for any business to research and define its primary challenges for its own sake, but these three will do for the sake of this exercise.

  1. Define the primary opportunities for the business – in your opinion and that of your fellow marketers – to the challenges you’ve identified.

For an eCommerce business, this could look something like this:

    • Challenges:
      • increasing total non-paid contributions
      • enhancing customer engagement and user experience
      • improving and scaling content creation and distribution efficiencies
    • Opportunities:
      • complete on-page optimization strategy across the catalog
      • establish a content marketing and campaign management strategy
      • establish a scalable blog merchandising strategy
      • develop an ambassador community of loyal customers

Notice that each opportunity above requires additional strategies and tactics to be defined as well. This is meant to become more complex as you work your way upstream. It’s important because eventually you will identify the purpose behind your day-to-day. The level of detail to include here is proportional to how well the stakeholders and executives understand your purpose. In other words, you may need to include specific details behind the strategies depending on the knowledge/involvement of your audience.

  1. Use your opportunities to build your road map. If we’re looking one year ahead from today, this is what the road map may look like:

Q3 2014                         Q4 2014                         Q1 2015                         Q2 2015

eCommerce SEO Roadmap

This simple, important visualization makes it easier for the business to understand compound effects and why it’s important to complete one thing before moving on to another. You’ll want to also include high-level outcomes at this point for each of your opportunities. Think of this as your chance to create and sell the vision of where you want the company to be a year from now. Again, this sell becomes easier if it speaks clearly to the concerns of stakeholders and executives.  Inject your purpose as an SEO here:

Looking ahead one year, these are the primary opportunities to address current challenges from an SEO perspective. These items should foster dramatic non-paid growth and help keep Brand XYZ competitive as the market evolves.

  1. Align your technology and resource needs with your opportunities. Now is the time to be more specific about what you are asking for as it relates to you being able to accomplish your goals. Start at the end of your road map and once again work your way upstream. This is important because the business wants to understand how present technology decisions will be applicable/maximized in the future.

In this case you are proposing the development of an ambassador community in Q2, 2015. In your proposal you’ll want to highlight the advantages of user-generated content as part of a scalable long-tail SEO strategy. As you investigate technology options you’ll notice many solutions today offer social, mobile, blogging, video capabilities, and more. These are all things you want to take advantage of as they relate to your other opportunities along the road map. Determine today how certain technologies will work together.

As you align your technology recommendations to current and future projects, the vision should become even more complete and your total SEO strategy much more compelling. Craft your final proposal and share it with your team. In my experience, you’ll likely go through several rounds of iterations but the ultimate outcome will be a well-defined SEO strategy and buy-in from the enterprise.

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Nathan Joynt

About Nathan Joynt

Nathan Joynt specializes in eCommerce SEO and content marketing. He is the in-house SEO Manager with Volusion.com and Mozu.com, two leading SaaS eCommerce providers. He has nearly 10 years of B2C and B2B marketing experience in hyper-competitive markets. Follow him on Twitter @nathanjoynt.

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