I consulted a few years ago before Yahoo and CNET and my clients were all small businesses, even friends' sites. No matter the size of the project, you can still try to get some insight into your target audiences and what they need or want. I mentioned in a previous comment I used Search once to determine sentiment on a site vs. it's competitors by searching for a feature the site and its competitors all had, along with "like", "love", "hate", "wish", etc. I also took note of who the people were who said those things and where they were talking (forums, twitter, etc). It's a hacked manual approach and although not nearly as quality as a good market research report, at least I have a llittle bit of insight before going out to make site recommendations based solely on tags & links. If you're recommending the site build things that people want (and fix or remove things that they dont), you're more likely to gain links and traffic naturally.
You mentioned: "many times clients have already done this work. Ask them for copies of their market research reports when you start a project. It will save you a ton of time and effort!" We do this with most of our clients, like you said we have found that around 75% of the have some kind of Market research done, that saves you a lot of time and helps setting up the right SEO Strategy.
For example, let’s say I have a health site. I have several types of articles on health, drug information, and information on types of diseases and conditions. My angle on the site is that I’m targeting seniors. If I find out seniors are primarily interested in information on prescription drug plans and cheap blood pressure medication, then I know that I want to provide information specifically on those things. This allows me to hone in on that market’s needs and de-prioritize or bypass other content.
Dedicate some time to brainstorm all the different ways you can attract inbound links to your website. Start small –- maybe share your links with other local businesses in exchange for links to their sites. Write a few blog posts and share them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Consider approaching other bloggers for guest blogging opportunities through which you can link back to your website.
If you haven’t used software like BuzzSumo to check out what your competitors are up to, you’re at a huge disadvantage. These services aggregate the social performance of specific sites and content to provide you with an at-a-glance view of what topics are resonating with readers and, most importantly, making the rounds on social media. Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that kind of content to bring traffic to your website.
Another example when the “nofollow" attribute can come handy are widget links. If you are using a third party's widget to enrich the experience of your site and engage users, check if it contains any links that you did not intend to place on your site along with the widget. Some widgets may add links to your site which are not your editorial choice and contain anchor text that you as a webmaster may not control. If removing such unwanted links from the widget is not possible, you can always disable them with “nofollow" attribute. If you create a widget for functionality or content that you provide, make sure to include the nofollow on links in the default code snippet.
I first heard you talk about your techniques in Pat Flynn’s podcast. Must admit, I’ve been lurking a little ever since…not sure if I wanted to jump into these exercises or just dance around the edges. The clever and interesting angles you describe here took me all afternoon to get through and wrap my brain around. It’s a TON of information. I can’t believe this is free for us to devour! Thank you!! Talk about positioning yourself as THE expert! Deep bow.
He started by finding an offer that resonated with and is relevant to his audience. In his case, his blog was dedicated to teaching people how to use a software called “Sublime Text.” He simply offered a license to the software for the giveaway. By doing this, not only did he increase the chances of success of his giveaway since his incentive was relevant, but he also ensured the quality of subscribers since they were actually people interested in his content. It’s easy to give people an iPad or an iPhone, but how relevant will they be to you at the end of the day?
Let me tell you a story. Early in my tenure at Yahoo we tried to get into the site dev process in the early stages in order to work SEO into the Product Recommendations Documents (PRD) before wireframing began. But as a fairly new horizontal group not reporting into any of the products, this was often difficult. Nay, damn near impossible. So usually we made friends with the product teams and got in where we could.
Content gaps – make an inventory of the site’s key content assets, are they lacking any foundational/cornerstone content pieces, non-existent content types, or relevant topic areas that haven’t been covered? What topics or content are missing from your competitors? Can you beat your competitors’ information-rich content assets? Useful guides on Content Gap Analysis:
The strength of your link profile isn’t solely determined by how many sites link back to you – it can also be affected by your internal linking structure. When creating and publishing content, be sure to keep an eye out for opportunities for internal links. This not only helps with SEO, but also results in a better, more useful experience for the user – the cornerstone of increasing traffic to your website.
You can confer some of your site's reputation to another site when your site links to it. Sometimes users can take advantage of this by adding links to their own site in your comment sections or message boards. Or sometimes you might mention a site in a negative way and don't want to confer any of your reputation upon it. For example, imagine that you're writing a blog post on the topic of comment spamming and you want to call out a site that recently comment spammed your blog. You want to warn others of the site, so you include the link to it in your content; however, you certainly don't want to give the site some of your reputation from your link. This would be a good time to use nofollow.
Lastly, it's important to remember that paralysis by over-thinking is a real issue some struggle with. There's no pill for it (yet). Predicting perfection is a fool's errand. Get as close as you can within a reasonable timeframe, and prepare for future iteration. If you're traveling through your plan and determine a soft spot at any time, simply pivot. It's many hours of upfront work to get your strategy built, but it's not too hard to tweak as you go.