There are many methodologies for business planning. One of the more well-known ones is the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis. There are also methodologies for ensuring that the plan objectives are the right type of objectives, such as the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-lined) Plan. Next we will take a look at both of these in the context of SEO.


Sometimes you need to get back to the basics and carry out a simple overview strategy of where you are in the marketplace, and where you would like to be. A simple SWOT analysis is a great starting point. It creates a grid from which to work and is very simple to execute.

As you can see from the SWOT chart in below, Strengths and Weaknesses usually stem from internal (on-site, business operational, business resource) sources, whereas Opportunities and Threats are from external sources.


Where does SEO fit in here? To explore this, it is helpful to use an example. Take Business X. It has a website that was built on WordPress, makes use of category tagging, adds at least one page of content every two days, and has excellent knowledge of its industry. Its domain name isn’t ideal — Businessnameandkeyword.com — but it is decent.

Business X does not get much traffic from search engines, but its rival, Business Y, does because Business Y has had its website up for a long period of time and received some great links along the way. Business Y doesn’t have any SEO plan and relies on its main page to bring in all traffic.

This is because Business Y has a keyword-rich domain name and people have linked to the site using the domain name (giving it keyword-rich anchor text), and because of its longevity on the Web.

There aren’t a lot of target search queries; in fact, there are fewer than 50,000 for the core set of keywords. Business X’s site ranks on the second page of Google results, whereas Business Y is ranked #3, with Wikipedia and About.com taking up the top two positions.

Neither of the businesses is spending money on PPC (paid search) traffic, and the niche doesn’t have much room for other entrants (there may be 10 to 15 competitors). Both sites have similar link authority in terms of strengths and numbers. The businesses deal in impulse purchases — the products evoke strong emotions.

SMART chart data for Business X

The preceding analysis suggests quick wins for the Business X site, as well as where the priorities are. It also forms a great starting point for a long-term strategy and tactical maneuvers. This example is simplistic, but it illustrates how instructive a fleshed out SWOT can be. It does require you to have analyzed your site, the main competitor(s), the keywords, and the search engine results pages (SERPs).


Every company is unique, so naturally their challenges are unique. Even a second SEO initiative within the same company is not the same as the first initiative. Your initial SEO efforts have changed things, creating new benchmarks, new expectations, and different objectives. These all make each SEO project a new endeavor.

One way to start a new project is to set SMART objectives. Let’s look at how to go about doing that in the world of SEO.

  • Specific objectives are important. It is easy to get caught up in details of the plan and lose sight of the broader site objectives. You may think you want to rank #1 for this phrase or that, but in reality you want more customers. Perhaps you don’t even need more customers, but you want higher sales volume, so in fact having the same number of orders but with a higher average order value would meet your objectives better.
  • Measurable objectives are essential if one is to manage the performance in meeting them — you can’t manage what you can’t measure. SEO practitioners have to help their clients or
    organizations come to grips with analytics, and not just the analytics software, but the actual processes of how to gather the data, how to sort it, and most important, how to use it to make informed decisions.
  • Achievable objectives are ones which can be accomplished with the available resources. You could decide to put a man on Mars next year, for example, but it is just too big an undertaking to be feasible. You can be ambitious, but it is important to pick goals that can be met. You cannot possibly sell to more people than exist in your market. There are limits to markets, and at a certain point the only growth can come from opening new markets, or developing new products for the existing market.Aside from basic business achievability, there are also limits to what can rank at #1 for a given search query. The search engines want the #1 result to be the one that offers the most value for users, and unless you are close to having the website that offers the most value to users, it may be unreasonable to expect to get to that position, or to maintain it if you succeed in getting there.
  • Realistic objectives are about context and resources. It may be perfectly achievable to meet a certain objective, but only with greater resources than may be presently available. Even a top ranking on the most competitive terms around is achievable for a relevant product, but it is realistic only if the resources required for such an effort are available.
  • Time-bound is the final part of a SMART objective. If there is no timeline, no project can ever fail, since it can’t run out of time. SEO generally tends to take longer to implement and gather momentum than paid advertising. It is important that milestones and deadlines be set so that expectations can be managed and course corrections made.

“We want to rank at #1 for Bunk Beds” is not a SMART objective. It doesn’t identify the specific reason why the company thinks a #1 ranking will help it. It doesn’t have a timeline, so there is no way to fail. It doesn’t state an engine on which to be #1, so there’s a guaranteed argument if it means to rank on GOOGLE and you get the job done on Yahoo!.

“To increase Term Bunk Beds generated by natural search by 30% over six months” is a far better objective. There is a deadline, and the company can certainly gauge progress toward the specific objective. The company can look at its current market share and the resources committed to see whether this is achievable and realistic.

Source: Art of SEO


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