In planning your SEO strategy, the first thing you want to do is to take a good look at your social-media assets (website, blog, etc.), and ensure they can work seamlessly together. Next, spend 30-45 minutes thinking about the goals and objectives for your SEO efforts. Write them down and rank them in order of priority. In order to be meaningful, these goals must be concrete, measurable and have a clear ROI (such as dollar value or brand exposure).

Here are some sample goals:

  • Increase website traffic by 10 percent or by 100 unique visitors a month. (Start small and adjust accordingly)
  • Increase leads by shooting for a website conversion rate of 1 percent. (Let’s say that your website receives 500 visits a month and that your “free consultation” web form sends two prospects your way each month. That would be a conversion rate of 0.4 percent. Taking your conversion rate up to 1 percent would result in a monthly increase of three prospects.)
  • Increase blog readerships by 10 percent. (Writing articles that resonate with your target audience will help increase the “shareability” of your content, which will allow you to reach broader audiences and grow your blog readership.)

Tip: Always go for the low-hanging fruit first by implementing quick wins (i.e., linking all your social networks to your blog and website). Then see if the most difficult and time-consuming tasks can be performed in house or if they will require third party involvement.

Here are five “must-haves” for your SEO strategy:

1. Start a blog. It’s a great way to build a community and increase your brand exposure. Blogging is a great way to increase your website ranking in the search engines and increase your brand exposure. It will also generate real customers in the long run; numerous surveys show how blog frequency and customer acquisition are related. Start by brainstorming topics of interest, then write down blog-post ideas and titles and come up with a release schedule that you can commit to. Commitment and persistence are two key components.

2. Go local. Consider optimizing your site for local search. Local-search marketing is the way to go if you are looking to increase your web exposure as a “brick and mortar” business. Remember to leverage your blog and post geo-specific articles such as upcoming events, local breaking news, etc.

3. Be social. Publish your content on social media. Leading search engines highly value sites with social media involvement. Making your website and blog content easy to share (i.e., by using buttons such as “add this”) will empower your visitors to spread the word about your website, which will ultimately increase your web traffic over time. Note that results will not happen overnight, especially if your content is off target or you forget to monitor and interact with your followers or fans.

4. Use specific keywords. The more specific you get with your keywords, the better your chances of ranking high in search engine result pages (SERP), because you will most likely have less competition. You can tie this in with local terms (discussed above) in your page title, url, tags, pages and blog posts. Make sure you use your keywords in a natural and strategic way throughout your pages. For example, if you target the key phrase “rrsp contribution,” then include content about rrsp itself as well as ideas and steps to increase your contribution, how to build a balanced plan with mutual funds or bonds, etc.

Important: Do not place keywords randomly all over the place, especially on pages of unrelated content, as this is considered “black hat SEO” and could result in your website being temporarily banned or—even worse—permanently removed from search engine databases.

5. Set up Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a web marketer’s best friend. At the very least, you should be tracking the following metrics:

  • Visits from search engines vs. referring sites. (Learn where to focus your efforts.)
  • Which keywords send traffic to your site. (Optimize and discover new trends.)
  • What pages are receiving the most visits. (Build on your success and work on your failures.)

These ideas will help ensure your company is easily found online.

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Loic Jeanjean is the Online Marketing Manager at Advisor Websites where he helps financial services professionals grow their market share by leveraging online marketing and social media. Go to www.advisorwebsites.com/blog for more information.