Search Engine Optimization (SEO), most of us would agree, is vital in ensuring the success of many clients’ WordPress websites.
If nobody finds your client’s site, that client isn’t going to get business from it and they’re not going to be able to justify spending any more on it (i.e. on you) in the future. A bit of SEO can make a big difference to your client’s feelings about the Web, and can bring a lot of money your way from projects as a result of recommendations, or anything else that clients needs.
The problem? SEO takes time: lots of it.
Nevertheless, your clients cannot be expected to know how to optimize their sites alone – not least because effective SEO practice changes with such frequency; mostly at the whim of Google’s algorithmic variance. And it won’t do to allow their sites to become neglected – that wastes their money and won’t bring anything new to you in future.
There are ways to get the best of both worlds, though, by making sure your clients have excellent search engine rankings without the necessary steps being too much of a drain on your time – and what time you do invest will be paid upfront and well worth it in terms of overall client satisfaction and future work coming your way. This article will guide you through a few of the most effective ways to make this compromise work for both you and your clients.
Include SEO From the Beginning
First things first: You need to explain what SEO is and why it’s important for your client.
Another point is that keeping things simple to start off with for clients is probably a good idea. Many will not have heard of SEO before, much less thought about how to use it effectively to improve their business; to this end, using Google as the reference point for what you’re aiming at might be worthwhile – and anything else you can do to avoid confusion or information overload for the client. Make things as simple as possible to begin with and you can introduce more at a later date.
One nice easy task to get the client started with is setting up a business presence on Google if they haven’t already – they can even do this while their site is still being developed. Although not pure SEO, it will improve their Web presence and make their pages look better on Google results.
Take Advantage of Existing Software
As a WordPress developer, you’ve got the power of plugins at your disposal, which can make lots of things easier. SEO is no exception.
Having explained the importance of SEO, you can offer your client an SEO plugin install and configuration on their project for a small extra cost. There are some very good SEO plugins available free in the repository, such as WordPress SEO by Yoast, which includes a helpful traffic-light-style visual representation of how good SEO is on any given post or page.
You should also use a keyword monitoring tool by adding Google Analytics code or activating the Site Stats module of the Jetpack plugin. These will show the user which keywords are getting them the most success and on which content, enabling them to tailor their future content to cater to these successful areas in a more focused way.
Since you want to give your client a fighting chance with SEO when they first start out, you can offer – again, for a reasonable fee – to have a few of their site’s first pages (e.g. the About page if they will have one) written in an SEO-friendly manner before the site is handed over to them. If you don’t want to be doing this, you can still offer the service but find a freelance writer who’s good at following instructions and has a good grasp of SEO concepts; take a small cut of the fee the client’s paying for the writing.
Offer SEO Training
So far, nothing I’ve suggested will actually be a huge drain on your time – the biggest would be configuring the settings of an SEO plugin, but they’re generally quite good to start with and require only a few minor tweaks. Now, however, let’s consider something that does require more time – but can absolutely be worth it for you and your client if you do it well.
SEO training is something you can have as a separate service, sold independently of your Web projects – although you should advise it for any SEO-conscious client alongside a new website. Using quite a bit of your time as it would do, you can charge a premium rate for it; the justification for clients is that it should overall improve their business’s prospects for the Web if they make the most of their session and go away with knowledge on how to boost their online impact.
What exactly needs to be included in such a training session will depend on a number of factors. Primarily, the client’s current understanding – do they have a vague idea of why keywords might be useful already, or are you going to have to explain that “Google” and “the Internet” are not synonymous? The amount of time available (roughly one hour per session is advisable) and changing SEO trends will also play a part, but the basics probably include:
- Reiterating why SEO is so crucial for their business – getting found by the right people equals more sales.
- The importance of writing content for their site’s blog regularly. Having a blog will give their rankings a boost in some search engines anyway (an advantage of blog-centric WordPress as a CMS platform) and writing regularly allows them to build a following of people who see them as an authority; post regular, interesting social media updates if they have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other websites; over time, create a large amount of SEO-friendly content for people to find in search engines.
- How to write SEO-friendly content, including:
- Using the SEO plugin, if you’ve installed one, to create good browser titles, descriptions and perform useful analysis.
- Coming up with eye-catching titles.
- Writing content of an appropriate length – less than 400 words will generally be considered “thin” content, whereas Google is looking for high-quality, helpful content.
- Weaving in keywords to their content, including linking them and making them bold to improve SEO. In saying this, content should still flow well and be interesting for humans to read it or they’ll just leave and it’ll be pointless.
- Never, ever, ever plagiarizing content – duplicating another site’s content will lead to penalties, not a quick boost.
- Noting again how crucial blogging will be: they need to stick at it, creating a bank of good content, and results will start appearing over time.
Generally, you should try to keep at least the initial sessions as simple as possible – once the client is confused, it’s hard to get back on track without wasting a lot of the session.
Given the ever-changing nature of SEO, you can offer your clients refresher sessions in the future. This way, you keep your clients’ techniques up-to-date, their sites fresh and bringing in business (reflecting well on you as the developer) and keep earning on the sales of the sessions.
You could also consider compiling a booklet for those who have taken the session to refer to (again, this could be sold as an extra if you wish), updating it with new trends. This might also help you keep up if you spend a lot of time doing things other than SEO because you’ll have to dedicate a little time to finding out anything new.
Build a Network of Affiliates
Development isn’t everything in the Web business, but if you’d rather it were, you can make that happen – just make sure your clients don’t miss out on anything important as a result by building a network of affiliates to whom you can outsource various other tasks for them. This does have the advantage of allowing you to have a greater client base as you spend your time only in the one area (development), not in several (SEO, copywriting, and anything else).
If you’re not hot on the idea of giving SEO tutorials then find someone to whom you can refer clients for that training. They’ll still receive the benefits, as will you (active, fresh, successful site to your names) and in fact you could work payment through the agency so you take a small cut.
The same can be the case with freelance writers and SEO copywriters if the client feels that despite SEO training they might not be up to the task, or won’t have enough time. You can negotiate good deals and get the best people for your clients, making your service more valuable and hopefully ensuring your clients stick with you for a long time.
Once you’ve established these ties, you hardly need to invest any more time in them – although you could continue to take a small cut of the fee for setting up the affiliates with the clients. Your clients get good service, your affiliates employment and whilst reaping the benefits of an improved site for your client, you also make a little extra.
The core message here is that you should be making SEO part of your Web development services because it’s important for the client, and for you to retain the client. Making websites more successful is only going to be a good thing for the client and will keep them enthusiastic about the new opportunities you can offer them on the Web. Yet it needn’t be a loss leader: you can make money out of providing and/or recommending SEO services.
Whether you set up the services in-house or do build relationships with affiliates, it will benefit everybody not to ignore SEO and getting business’ websites found in favour of simply pursuing new development jobs (tempting as that can seem). To do the best for your clients, you need these services available in some form – and you can be paid for it, so what could be better?