MasterClass: Search Engine Optimisation, 10 Steps To Success

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Due to the mystique of SEO and tons of articles written on small elements of search engine optimisation and marketing, I decided it was time someone wrote an article that dealt with the big picture. Companies that cannot afford to outsource their SEO to an expert need an overview to all the stages involved, not just snippets that have limited value on their own.

SEO is complex, but it does not need to be. As with any strategic activity if you develop a methodology or process you can give yourself a pre-defined set of stages which drastically simplifies the process. Without a process, where do you start? Due to the mystique of SEO and tons of articles written on elements of search engine optimisation and marketing, I decided it was time someone wrote an article that dealt with the big picture. Companies that cannot afford to outsource their SEO to an expert need an overview to all the stages involved, not just snippets that have limited value on their own.

Best practice SEO involves 10 stages:-

Step 1 - Site Performance Audit

Before beginning work, you should measure how your site is performing with SEO currently. It’s a mistake to start work unless you have a clear picture of where you are now because if you change something it could make things worse without you ever knowing. Ideally, you should measure the following:-

Search Engine Inclusion – this will tell you how many pages of your site is included on each major search engine index.

Link Popularity Check – this will tell you how many incoming links you have to your site. Having incoming links from ‘relevant’ sites is crucial for improving rankings.

Search Engine Rankings – an obvious one.

Traffic Statistics – get a free trial of a web analytics package that shows your sites Unique Visitors and Referring Search Phrases. Crucially, you will be able to calculate your sites conversion rate (info request, free trial etc.) which is the ratio of Unique Visitors to Conversions. Referring search phrases is also crucial, as you could be getting good rankings, but no resulting traffic!

Step 2 - Objectives Setting

You must set clear goals for your campaign. Without ‘SMART’ objectives you will lack focus and feedback measurables. Typical objectives could be:-

*Increase unique visitors to 5,000 per month by March 2005

*Increase number of information requests to 25 per month by March 2005

*Achieve Top 10 positions for 15 selected search phrases by March 2005

Step 3 - Project Plan & Timescales

This might seem dull, but it is crucial. Without it, you will have no structure to what you are doing and when you are going to do it by. Even the most disciplined person would find this useful, as it breaks down all stages into manageable chunks.

Step 4 - Search Phrase Analysis & Selection

Don’t skim read this section if you think it’s good enough to get your keywords from your Google Adwords account or Overture’s Suggestion Tool. Although useful, the information is far too basic to provide intelligent information to guide you. Always remember that this stage is ‘THE’ most important stage of your SEO campaign, so it’s vital to get it right.

Here are some golden rules:

*Do not simply choose Keywords that generate the most impressions or relevant searches

*Take into consideration the competitiveness of each keyword. Trying to achieve rankings for phrases that have 10 million competing sites will be difficult, if not impossible

*Look for niche keywords that generate good impressions that have relatively low numbers of competing sites

It might help you to see a sample of the research we provide to some of the UK and Europe’s largest marketing agencies.

Step 5 - Content Development

Once you have identified the best phrases to target for your SEO campaign, you need to provide content that will appeal to people searching for these phrases. Do not simply provide content that you think will appeal to search engines, as this is classed as spamming and may result in your site being dropped by the engine.

It is critical that you only adopt safe strategies that are consistent with the guidelines provided by the search engines and SEM industry. As an agency, we have no tolerance of any person or agency that advocates the use of non-ethical techniques and spamming. Remember that best practices will bring long terms lasting results without the risks and short term nature of spamming methods.

Step 6 - Structure Optimisation

The objective here is to make sure your site is search engine friendly. Your inclusion analysis in step 1 will have told you whether the search engines are spidering your site successfully.

If you have submitted your site to all the engines, but all your pages are still not indexed properly, this tells you that your site does not have the right technical characteristics and structure to be indexed or spidered successfully.

Each site has hugely varied number of problems which is impossible to cover in this article. Typical problems can include web server issues, incorrect use of content management systems, poor site linking structure, incorrect use of frames and tables and lack of site maps. Solutions to site problems may involve:

*Improving the HTML code structure of pages to ensure the most efficient spidering of your site

*Improving the sites internal linking structure using keywords and site maps

*Removing off-page factors that may hinder search engine spiders, and detecting spam techniques that may be in use.

Step 7 - Link Building

Maximizing the number of relevant sites that link to your site is very important as it establishes your site in the online marketplace that already exists for your industry.

A successful linking strategy involves:

Content Strategy - Building content of value on your web site that will attract other sites to link to you. Ask yourself, why would people link to me?

Outbound Strategy - Publishing outbound links that your surfers will find valuable

Inbound Strategy – you should research and create of list of other sites that you can request a link from

Always remember:-

*DO NOT use link farms as they will do more harm than good

*DO NOT link to sites that provide no value

*DO NOT request links from low-traffic sites that are not relevant

The key benefits of link building are higher rankings, driving relevant traffic, brand building and integration with your relevant online community or target market.

Step 8 - Search Engine Submission

Just remember to avoid automated submission tools that might save you time, but can result in delays, being ignored or even banned

If your site is not coded or structured correctly, then it’s a waste of time bothering to submit your site to the engines because it will have little or no effect.

You need to submit your site to the crawler-based engines as well as the human edited directories such as yahoo, dmoz and The good news is that contrary to popular belief, once a site is properly indexed by the crawler-based engines you should not need to re-submit your site ever again.

Step 9 - Reporting & Analysis

It’s important to measure where you are in relation to your objectives set at the start. At least, any serious SEO campaign must be backed up with the following reporting information:

Search Engine Positions – for all relevant phrases across all the search engines

Web Analytics Tool – referring traffic, unique visitors, source of traffic

There are many ranking reporting tools on the market. Many of them are difficult to use and provide unreliable reporting. The best one we have come across is called Advanced Web Ranking. Go to

As for web analytics tools, we have tested many and they vary in price, quality and ease of use. We would recommend getting an analytics tool that does not involve installing software and maintaining yourself as this can be a real pain. You can get excellent analytics services on low monthly rental schemes, where you access your live reports via a web login password.

The best analytics tool we found is called ClickMetrix. To view live reports go to

Step 10 - Maintenance & Improvement

SEO is not a one-off activity and requires ongoing improvement. Remember that search engine algorithms are constantly changing their Relevancy criteria - therefore a website that is number 1 today may number 13 tomorrow.

The golden rules are:

*Link building – make link building one of your ongoing activities

*Reporting – continue to report all measurables at least monthly

*New Content – continue to update and create new relevant content

*Monitor Ranking Algorithms – this requires lots of time. You can use the many forums available

*Optimisation Reviews

*Search phrase analysis – continue to monitor new phrases and re-visit original keyword research as a reference point


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About The Author

Phil Robinson is the Founder and Director of ClickThrough Marketing, an ethical search engine marketing agency that delivers long term traffic and web site ROI. He provides training and presents at seminars such as for the Chartered Institute of Marketing, speaking on a range of internet marketing topics such as search engine marketing and advanced web analytics.

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Contact Phil Robinson on 0845 057 3349

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About ClickThrough Marketing

ClickThrough Marketing are a search engine marketing (SEM) consultancy focused on helping you reach new customers within the online market place and search engines. We offer a managed SEM service that increases your online exposure, search engine rankings and web sites ROI.

We use only safe strategies that are consistent with the guidelines provided by the search engines and SEM industry. Our credibility is a result of our deep commitment to providing ethical search engine optimisation services that deliver traffic and ROI in the long term.

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