Why you need a search strategy

By Warren Cowan | 02 Feb 2007

With so mch information flying around about how to make search engines rank you higher, its not surprising that people have started to absorb that information, and are starting to produce very techncial RFP's.

But there's a probelm there in that alot of what you read about how to do SEO is dictated in a startegic vacuum.

What you think you need to do, might not neccessarily achive the goal you have in the back of your mind.

Let me give you example. I had a great chat with a very nice woman from a large healthcare company, who after having heard all about SEO from many soucres over the last 6 months, was adamant that her sites (all 35 of them around the world) needed to be better indexed, as currently search engines couldn't get in to them, and consequently they weren't visible anywhere. SO he needed a lengthy proposla form me on how to make get them spidered.

And she wasnt't wrong either, it sounded like the sites were in a pretty horrendous state of un-indexability. However on chatting with her for longer, it became evident, that the real business objectives weren't going to be served by simply indexing the sites. The real (Non Search) goal at the bottom of it all, was creating awareness of the company as a provider of a number of drugs and treatments for a variety of conditions, ailments and symptoms.

From a startegic search perspective, this would require a search strategy that led with these 'condition' like terms, as a way of reaching the unawares user at a critical point.

This kind of goal woudl require content, and a significant amount of link popularity to be achieved, and a few quick and cursory glances over the site siggested that there wasn't much content available, and the site had not made the best use of link popularity and page rank available to it.

So even if we were able to make the sites indexable, there would still be a lack content and credibiltiy to achieve a ranking on these terms, and thus the real bottom line business goal would still fail to be achieved, and so consequently, if we're banking on solving indexation, as the saviour of our woes, then we might be quite dissapointed.

The bottom line is this. In a strategic vacuum, you make assumptions that fixing 'A' (Indexation) will lead to 'B' (Better rankings), and fulfil 'C' (Business goals of creating awareness), when in actual fact it is not neccessarily the case.

Thinking about the business goals, shoud lead to a traffic creation and harnessing strategy, that we can achieve through better positioning on certain key terms. Once we have this then we can ascertain what really lies in our way of achieving it, and what the best fixes are.

So what's the lesson here? Well its not that anyone's made a mistake. Certainly my client knew what she was talking about. But it does need to be uderscored, knowledge of search is a great thing, but you need to use it a strategic context, not a hygeine one, so before you issue an RFP to a group of search agencies to fix a list of your identified problems, it pays to know what the real problems actually are.

If you do this first, you'll enter in to the process with mcuh clearer visions and expectations, and you'll begin developing a search startegy that is far more likely to achieve the realĀ  goals that you are trying to achieve at a business or depratmental level.

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