The Secret of the SEO Plan and Kickoff Meeting

Kickoff Call Quote

An important part of being an SEO contractor is setting appropriate expectations with clients. This is especially vital in a field that has the potential to come across as mysterious. It is our job as SEOs to demystify the process as well as what can be expected as the results.

Kickoff Meeting

The kickoff meeting should revolve around a plan for the first several months of SEO.

This plan serves a few purposes:

1. It builds initial trust between you and the client by showing that you have thought several months out and are prepared. 2. It builds extended trust between you and the client as you set and meet deadlines. 3. It lays out a plan for success for you for the first several months so you can send your client deliverables throughout the month. Continuing to plan in advance will deepen this trust as well as give the client advance notice if any industry expertise is needed.

Before the call, write your plan and send the document out to everyone involved. Label it a preliminary plan and note that changes can be made during and after the call.

SEO Plan

A good plan for the first several months of SEO should include the following:


An overview should be about three sentences. This is where you can let the client know that this plan is preliminary.

Here's an example:

"The following is a preliminary plan and timeline for optimizing [website url] for search engines. This plan should be discussed during the kickoff call tentatively scheduled for [insert time]. A final plan will be distributed to team members following the kickoff call."

Team Members

Everyone who will be involved in the SEO process should be listed including:

  • a liaison from the the client company
  • a member of the company's  marketing team, or the owner of the company if there is a small staff
  • other people within your SEO company who will be involved, however it's best to stay a little light on the details here. Stick only with team members who will be talking directly to the client.

If you're at all hesitant to include the client on the team, just remember that in SEO the client has an important role.

Some examples of duties that may fall on the client are:

  • To share industry specific expertise as a part of content creation.
  • To clue you in when marketing efforts are made outside of SEO.
  • To review content within a reasonable time frame and give approval.

It's best to let the client know their importance up front.


Assumptions can be defined as low-level risks. In an SEO kickoff call, the assumptions should be anything you see as being potentially in the way of successfully optimizing the website and material.

A few examples:

  • Preliminary marketing information is collected from CLIENT.
  • Deadlines stated in timeline are met by both SEO COMPANY and CLIENT.
  • Industry specific expertise is provided from CLIENT when needed for content creation.


The timeline should include onsite and offsite SEO.

Consider starting your timeline with onsite SEO. Include dates for:

  • research
  • development tasks
  • reports
  • check in calls

For offsite SEO, you may choose to lay out a general plan from month to month and fill out specifics after you've familiarized yourself with the company's target market.

An example of text that could be included in the timeline to this point is:

"The schedule may repeat similarly from month to month as offsite optimization progresses. Diagnostics and research will be performed each month and content will be created based on its conclusions."

A well written project plan and well managed kickoff call are two best practices that will get your client relationship off to a good start. Keep up with your deadlines and provide plans a couple of months in advance throughout the relationship and you are well on your way to SEO success.

Did I forget anything? Please let me know by commenting below.

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.

How to Influence Your Landing Pages Visitors for Lead Conversions

When making landing pages for Google AdWords, SEO, and other marketing initiatives, there are several factors that are important to consider in order to convert visitors to leads. The following DESIGN ELEMENTS can be used to send visitors' eyes in the desired direction. The PSYCHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS listed second in this blog post can be used to remove doubt and encourage action.


1. Color Be sure to ask these questions: What kind of emotional response do the colors used in the landing page provoke? Are they appropriate for the purpose of the landing page and for your brand?

The emotional impact of color can be seen in this chart of logos arranged by color from the Huffington Post: ColorforLandingPages

2. Contrast Highlight important elements on the page by using contrasting colors. Make the most important page element, the call to action, highly visible by choosing a rich color that will stand in stark contrast against the rest of the colors on the page.

A great example comes from a post about design accessibility for the visually impaired. Making the site more visible to those with partial sight and color deficiencies can coincide with making the text stand out to everyone. So why not follow their guidelines and open the page up for an even wider audience?


3. White Space Since there are specific places on the landing page meant to draw the visitor’s eye, it is necessary to leave some breathing room around important elements in order to separate them. Otherwise the page can look to busy or crowded which is not easy on the eyes and could lose the visitor’s interest.

The following iPhone ad uses white space to make the phone stand out.


4. Directional Cues Directional cues like arrows, color, pathways, and line of site should be used to draw the visitor’s eye to the call to action or other important page elements.

  • Arrows: Arrows are the most obvious directional cue and should be used to point out the call for action. The example below uses (perhaps over-uses) arrows to point out their Instant Access form.


  • Color: Color can be used in repetition or blocking to direct the attention around the page.
  • Pathways: Pathways are lines and paths that replicate natural points of travel that lead somewhere. An example is a road. Pathways should be considered as a way to lead to the call to action.
  • Line of Sight: Consider using an animal or human with their eyes looking toward the call to action.

5. Headline Headlines should be descriptive and concise. Each word should be chosen with purpose.

6. Eye Catching Image The landing page should include an image that captures the visitor’s attention. Two techniques that are attention grabbing are:

  • Encapsulation: Encapsulation is a classic technique which makes it nearly impossible to look away from a certain point on the image, like the example below:


  • Interruption: Interruption is a technique where something in the image or the image itself is so out of place people can’t help but want to investigate closer.


1. Validation For online sales, it is important to show that the product or service is valid. Including any of the following will help achieve this:

  • Press mentions
  • Tweets about the service or product
  • Online ratings
  • Member stats
  • Customer logos
  • Case studies
  • Testimonials

2. Value Propositions

  • Why your product/service? Include a concise statement on why your product/service is the right choice. This section should read like an elevator speech and visitors should be able to understand what is being offered on the landing page from this alone.
  • Why should I care? This may be included in the same text block as the “why us” statement. Provide visitors with a reason why the product or service being sold on the landing page is important to them and why they need it.

3. Removal of Doubt Removal of doubt is a smart element to include and will certainly increase conversions. A few ways to remove doubt are to offer:

  • A no risk, money back guarantee.
  • To allow visitors to try before they buy.
  • An easy return policy.

4. Call to Action Last but far from least, every landing page absolutely needs a clear call to action. The call for action should give a preview of what the next step will be, and there should only be one call for action.

Presenting a form is a popular choice for this element. Just be advised to refrain from using words like “submit” on the button. Instead, use more polite and descriptive wording, like “Preview our collection.”

When designing landing pages it is important to carefully consider the design and psychological elements of the page. Make a careful selection of which will best motivate your visitors to take the next step.

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.

Is Getting Traffic to Your Blog as Difficult as Getting This Dog to Take a Bath?

If yes, then this post is for you.

Whether you're just starting a blog or you have been writing one for years, here are 4 strategies to get more traffic.

1. Reconsider Your Target Audience

Could the audience you have been targeting be saturated? Is it time to think of another group of individuals to start targeting and go a little more easy on your current group?  Or it could be that you have yet to target an audience?

Targeting an audience is important because in order to properly market content, you must first understand who you are marketing to and how to reach their influencers. You will also be able to learn which social platforms they are using and what types of language, videos, and photos are best to engage them.

2. Use Your Social Networks

Once you determine who your target audience is, you can set up accounts on social networks for you blog, or rework accounts you already have to better speak to your audience. Don't be afraid to explore newer platforms like Vine or Wanelo. By the way, staying up to date on the latest trends in social networks isn't a bad idea either. Make sure you're plugged into a few good blogs that will keep you updated.

3. Make Friends Who Are "Link Buddies"

What I call "link buddies" are people who you have connected with online or in person who are willing to promote your content through their networks. Usually these are relationships that take time to build. Just remember the golden rule when working on these relationships: Treat others the way you want to be treated. (I.E. Link to their content!)

4. Use Keywords

Yes, this is SEO 101, but are you overlooking it? Write blog posts using the keywords people are using to search on that topic. Keywords should appear in the blog title and throughout the body of the blog. Need help figuring out what people are typing into Google to search? Set up an AdWords account and use the Keyword Planner.

In closing, if your blog traffic needs a boost, take a second look at your audience and review content marketing strategies like social networks, link buddies, and keywords. Have more to add? Please comment below!

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.

The Pros and Cons of iPassExam for the Google Advertising Fundamentals Exam

passgoogleWhen I went to take my Google Advertising Fundamentals Exam, I wanted to make sure I passed the first time around. Mostly because I just didn't want to pay for it more than once! So I went searching for blogs that could help me understand what to expect. And I found iPassExam.

I ran into blog posts where it was recommended over and over again:

So I decided I had to shell out the $39 for a month long pass to access the Fundamentals Exam study materials.

Here are the pros and cons of using iPassExam per my experience:


Here is a screenshot of a question deliberately marked wrong for demonstration purposes (click to enlarge):


  • PRO #1: Each question answered incorrectly includes an excerpt from the Google AdWords Learning Center so that you can study while you answer the questions.
  • PRO #2: Each question marked incorrectly also shows how your peers answered. This helped me judge how likely I felt I was to pass the real exam. If the only questions I was marking wrong were ones everyone found very difficult, I figured I was on the right track.
  • PRO #3: There are over 300 practice questions and a mock exam.
  • PRO #4: Using iPassExam made me aware of the different question styles that would be given on the exam. I went in prepared to answer the "select multiple" questions.


  • CON #1: I found that the study questions were often worded in a confusing way. By the end of my time spent studying the iPassExam questions, I was terrified that Google was out to trip me up with answers where at times two or more seemed plausible. When I took the actual exam, I found that Google's questions were more clear.
  • CON #2: I would have liked it if the instructions for taking the real exam were shared ahead of time. I found when I took the exam I was allowed to mark answers for review and there was a drop down menu to see which questions I had answered and which were marked.
  • CON #3: iPassExam included a lot of equation based questions in their study materials. As a result I spent extra time memorizing all equations in anticipation of tricky long winded questions and had my calculator beside me on my desk. On the exam that was given to me, there turned out to be no equation based questions.


So did it work? Well, I passed with a 96%. So yes!

I would recommend iPassExam to help prepare for the Google Advertising Fundamentals Exam and plan to use it on several of the other exams they offer study materials for. Next time, I will just know that there is a difference between the way the study exams are written and the actual exam.

Happy studying!

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.

What is SEO and What Can it Do for Your Business?


“I finally have a nice website but nobody comes to it.” “We don’t have time to keep up with a blog on our website, why do we need one?” “When I search for my product or service on Google, why doesn’t my website show up?” These are all questions that SEO companies get on a daily basis and the answer is: SEO, SEO, SEO.

What is SEO? Here’s how SEO is defined by Search Engine Land:

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. All major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have such results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.

Companies compete for the top spots on search results pages through SEO. These sought-after positions are attained by developing a widespread presence on the web and establishing your site as a trusted source for information.

5 Ways SEO Can Increase Revenue

With a well crafted SEO plan, you will be able to:

1. Attract Customers You May Not Otherwise be Able to Reach According to a 2010 Nelson Global Consumer Report, 81% of people research products or services online before making purchases. When people are narrowing down which store to patronize, or which company to use, they are doing it online. More specifically, as we’ll see in a moment, they are searching Google. Do you think you should be there? I do!

Many people in this market are not likely to walk into your store or meet you at a networking event. The best way to reach this population is to show up high on Google search results.

The best part? These people are already shopping for your product or service.

Additionally, you can use keyword research to determine what people are typing to search. For example, if you are a dentist and sell tooth implants, you might discover that people are searching for pricing information rather than where to get their implants. Answering this population’s query with a blog about average pricing can develop instant rapport and give them the feeling that they need not search any further than your dental office.

2. Convert More Site Visitors to Customers With a good SEO plan, you can be in front of potential customers at their point of decision, which is already a great start.

But even better, is that you can monitor their behavior once they get to your site and rework web content that isn’t resulting in sales.

A wealth of data about the behavior of visitors to your site is available merely by adding a snippet of code to your site.

It’s important to note, though, that the amount of data is massive and complex. You’ll likely need the help of a professional or you’ll need to be prepared to spend hours upon hours learning the system on your own to be able to process and make decisions based on the data.

3. Increase Your Brand’s Credibility “Google isn’t a search engine, Google is a reputation management system.” Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine. Google spends a huge amount of resources to ensure that its algorithms provide visitors with search results that best meet their needs. If your site appears as a top result, it provides instant credibility.

4. Increase Traffic to Your Website Managing where and how your company appears in search results will ensure that people looking for your brand will easily find you. Places you may wish to appear in addition to searches for a product or service are: within search results for your competitors’ names, and in response to common misspellings of your company’s name.

Also, as you acquire more web real estate by creating shareable content, your site will appear in more search results, websites, blogs, social networks, and directories. This will not only help in getting and keeping you top of mind with consumers, but should also build your reputation in the eyes of the customer as they see you on multiple reputable platforms.

5. Go Head-to-Head with Your Competition Each month 87.8 billion searches are performed on Google. Your competitors are on those results pages, getting new customers, and in Google, the top results win.

Here are ten facts about how click-through traffic on results pages is distributed, courtesy of The Beginners Guide to SEO on

1) The first ranking position in the search results receives 42.25% of all click-through traffic 2) The first ten results (page one) received 89.71% of all click-through traffic 3) The second position receives 11.94% 4) Third position on the first page obtains 8.47% 5) The fourth placed position on page one receives 6.05% 6) The others on the first page are under 5% of click through traffic 7) The next 10 results (normally listed on the second page of results) received 4.37% 8) Third page receives a total of 2.42 % 9) The fifth page receives a total of only 1.07% 10) All other pages of results received less than 1% of total search traffic clicks.

If you want to increase traffic to your site, grow your brand, and increase online sales leads, SEO could be the right next step for you.

For more information, visit or email

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.