SEO Maintenance Contracts
SEO Maintenance Contracts are an integral part of optimizing a website for search engines and maintaining search engine rankings. Unless you intend to do it all yourself, you will need an SEO maintenance contract to keep someone with advanced SEO expertise involved in contributing to the content and technical strategy for your website.
Who needs SEO maintenance contracts?
Website SEO is not for the faint of heart, which is why an SEO maintenance contract is so important for most website owners. Search engine optimization requires an intimate knowledge of search engine policies and behavior: of what works and what doesn’t. Some website owners are capable of keeping up with changing technologies and SEO techniques, but most are not.
Real estate agents are experts at real estate issues; web developers and SEO professionals are expert in search engine optimization issues. If your core business is not website development and SEO, you probably need an SEO maintenance contract with an experienced professional.
SEO tasks to include in a maintenance contract
There are a number of important SEO tasks that should be included in the average SEO maintenance contract:
- Technical SEO evaluation
- Home page copywriting and editing
- Article copywriting and editing
- External link building
- Internal link building
- Social bookmarking
- Search engine PR
- Technical SEO evaluation
First, no SEO services should be contracted long term without obtaining a technical evaluation of the website itself, including the content management system (if any) and other platform related issues. Based on this evaluation, it may be a waste of resources to invest in SEO services on a website platform if it is not search engine friendly in the first place. That would be like buying ice cream without having a working freezer to put it in when you get home.
A technical SEO evaluation should include a close look at these key issues and more:
- Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URLs
- URLs should look like this:
No Flash navigation
Search engines do not follow Flash links reliably, and do not index them well. If you turn off Flash in your browser preferences, and your website navigation menus disappear, you may have a problem with crawl ability.
No Flash “splash” page
Your home page is the most important page of your website, and should have content on it in order to rank well. If the first page of your site opens up to a fancy slideshow that says “Skip Intro,” you can bet that search engines are devaluing the content on your website because it’s nowhere to be found on your home page. You can also bet that you’re losing human readers who are not interested in looking for the fine print to “Skip Intro.”
If your site is static HTML, did the designer make proper use of H1 tags around the headings of articles? If not, you’re giving away valuable search engine ranking. Similarly, if your content management system does not automatically put your content titles into H1 tags, consider changing content management systems. Unless you intend to become an SEO expert yourself, most website owners should have a content management system that does the routine SEO tasks for them automatically.
Matching Title tags
Similarly, your content management system (CMS) should automatically put the title of articles into the Title tag, matching the content of the H1 tag. This is the ultimate way to make sure Google knows what the content of the page is about. Consider Google’s index to be like one big recipe card file. If you titled all of your recipes “Recipe,” you wouldn’t be able to flip through them and easily distinguish chicken recipe from the brownie recipe. It’s the same with Google. The more clues you give them about what your page is about, the easier it will be for them to accurately index it.
Home page copy writing and editing
A good SEO consultant must be a decent writer. Since your home page is the most important page of your site, and since text content is what search engines are helping users search for, it makes sense that good copy writing is a valuable part of SEO maintenance. Don’t underestimate the value of copy writing for both SEO and marketing effectiveness. The written word has the power to move people into action. A good grasp of the written word along with technical SEO prowess makes a powerful combination for a website.
The services of a good copywriter is something worth investing in, because it will bring in search engine traffic and convert your traffic to leads and sales for years to come.
Article copy writing and editing
In order to succeed in getting ranked well on the search engines, you a regular part of any SEO maintenance contract should be article copy writing and editing. Your content is the most valuable asset on your website. It’s not the graphic design that has longevity and keeps people coming back; it’s the information they find and come back to visit after visit.
Every article you write, or have written for you, is another source of search engine traffic and sales for years to come.
External link building
A dramatic portion of your website’s search engine ranking comes from inbound links; external links pointing to your site. In the early days of search engines, it was not important where the link originated from, or what anchor text the link contained. A link to your site was considered a vote for your site.
Now, more care must be taken to avoid “bad neighborhoods,” but external link building remains an important part of a website’s SEO success. This can be done by link exchanges with other sites, although Google is increasingly devaluing reciprocal links in favor of one-way links. It is also frequently done by paid links, although this is a gray area, since paying for links technically violates Google’s Terms of Service (TOS). There is a fine line between a paid link and an advertisement or sponsorship, therefore there is much discussion among webmasters as to the fairness of Google’s TOS regarding paid links.
Three way links are also a gray area. Three way links are organized by arranging for Site A to link to Site B, Site B to link to Site C, and Site C to link to Site A. In this way, there is no reciprocal link.
In link building, the anchor text is extremely important. Ideally, you want other webmasters to link to your site using the keywords you are targeting for SEO purposes. This is not always possible or practical, but is the ideal situation. If your site is about ecommerce shipping, ideally, you want people to link to your site using the keywords ecommerce shipping. The more websites do this, the more “votes” your site gets for relevance to the keyword “ecommerce shipping.”
Internal link building
Internal link building is often ignored in SEO maintenance contracts, but it is a critical part of SEO. When you link to pages deep within your own site, these are valued by Google as clues as to the value of the deeper content of the site. It is important to provide not only “spider food” from your home page for Google to crawl, but for your articles to link to one another using relevant keywords. Referring back to our example, if you have an ecommerce website with articles about finding the best or free shipping software, you’ll want your articles to have internal links like ship software or shipping software free, linking back to other pages within your site. In this way, search engines add information to their index about what the pages on your site are about.