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By Greg DiFalco

So you've taken the plunge and hired a search engine optimization firm to optimize your company’s website. Good for you. Here is a general outline of what you can expect to happen next.

Kickoff: Here’s your chance to meet the account manager with whom you will be working. If the SEO company is large, then you’ll have a team of individuals who will be working on your account. It is important that you explain the goals for your website clearly, as the SEO process ultimately hinges on this. If you are a subscription-based site, your goal might be to generate the most traffic possible. If you sell products, you probably want more focused traffic from as many product-related keywords as you can generate. Either way, defining goals as early on as possible will help your SEO account manager target strict milestones for success.

Different types of websites will benefit in different ways from a successfully implemented SEO program. Leads will be generated for insurance, mortgage/real estate, technology services and other service-oriented sites. News and editorial sites and blogs will gain subscribers. Sites that offer products will increase their e-commerce sales totals.

Once the goals are determined, the SEO account manager prepares a detailed project plan which will guide you through the rest of the process. It is important to stick to a strict timeline--not just because “time is money”--but because wasted time in the world of search engine indexing and caching is extremely detrimental to your site’s chances of better search engine rankings.

Here’s why: Google, for example, updates its PageRank (Google’s measure of a site’s relevancy to its subject matter) information very infrequently--maybe four or five times a year. A site that hasn’t made significant changes will be awarded the same PageRank during the process. Subsequent changes would only take effect during the next update, which could be months away. While PageRank isn’t the only factor in determining a site's relevancy, it is still an important ally in the fight for higher rankings.

Preparation: At this point, goals are established, project plans are written and invoices are paid (hopefully!). Now you must provide your login information, including granting FTP access to your site, Pay Per Click account information, as well as any other marketing/advertising accounts you may have. Your SEO account manager must have this information to accurately analyze and prepare for the work ahead.

Site Recommendations: You should receive a Site Suggestions document from your account manager. This document outlines techniques that he believes should be applied to your site. It can be an intimidating document. It might seem like there are a great number of things you should have done--and didn’t. But don’t feel bad. Your account manager will explain each to you. Expect some “ah ha” moments.

Here are some things they likely will tell you:

Internal Links Make sure internal links within the site contain keyword phrases, rather than hyperlinking the phrase "click here."
Home Page Don't redirect your home page. When www.domain.com loads, it should load without anything else happening!
Global footer Provide a global footer that contains links to all important sections of the site.

This would just be the tip of the iceberg. No doubt, your account manager will have a trick or two up his sleeve. But it’s all in the name of good business. Get an explanation for every single thing that is being recommended--but make sure you and your team offer no unnecessary resistance. Unquestionably, client delays are the single biggest roadblock for search engine optimization campaigns.

In my next column, we’ll discuss the heart of the search engine optimization process: Keyword Research and Web Copywriting. The message is simple: Crafting effective SEO copy is wholly dependent on choosing the right keywords.

Greg DiFalco is an Independent Internet Marketing Strategist.
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