How does SEO work?

How do you “do” SEO?

What is your SEO process?

At Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, we’re often asked these questions.

In our last blog, we discussed the website design process at our online agency. We talked about how we’re different and how we start building SEO into your website from the start. In this article, we discuss how we “do” search engine optimization (SEO) and our process—particularly for those who already have a website.

As you may know, there are 200+ algorithm factors that can affect how and where your site ranks on search engine return pages (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo) for SEO.

Other companies will give you a “free” audit and a flat rate of $550 to $1000 a month for SEO. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Instead, we always start with a customized strategy.

 Step 1: Develop your website’s customized SEO strategy.

To know where we can achieve improvements on your site, we’ll conduct an SEO review, also called an SEO audit.
Don’t be afraid of the word audit!
It’s simply a checkup, just as your doctor might look at your bloodwork and vital signs—or your mechanic looks under the hood of your car. An audit is simply a series of diagnostics.
We need to determine what’s working well and what is not. To do this, we’ll:

Step 1A: Meet (by phone or in-person) to discuss your business and website.

We’ll learn more about your target audience and personas. Additionally, we’ll discover what you’re trying to achieve with your website. We’ll also explore how your current marketing efforts are working for you.
What’s more, to conduct a comprehensive audit, we’ll ask for the following:

  • Access to your Google Analytics –if you have it. If you don’t, we’ll set it up.
  • Access to Google Search Console–if you have it. If you don’t, we’ll set it up.
  • Names of 3-4 local competitors, or If you don’t know, we’ll help you find them.
  • 5+ keyword phrases or topic ideas that you believe might drive website users to your website. These are called “seed” keywords.
  • Your logo (.jpg) format. If you don’t have a logo, we can help you develop one (separate scope).
  • Your name, address, and phone number (NAP)—as you want them to appear across the internet.

Step 1B: Advance the SEO audit process.

We’ll access or set up your free Google tools: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. We’ll gather the information you provide and also:

  • Conduct keyword research based on the information and seed keywords. We’ll generate up to 100 keyword phrases.
  • Compete our proprietary NAP document with you. This includes not only your name, address, and phone number but also much more. For example, we’ll write your business description in various lengths (200 characters, 500 characters, 750 characters) that differentiate your brand and include keyword phrases. You’ll have the opportunity to review and approve these descriptions.

Step 2: Run the SEO audit.

Once we’re aligned on the NAP document, isolated four competitors, and identified 100 keyword phrases, we’ll run the audit. This is akin to your doctor’s office collecting all the diagnostic tests you’ve had. We’ll collect these data to see how your site is actually performing.
Among many other factors, we’ll discover:

  • Keyword research
  • How you’re ranking for Google, Bing, and Yahoo for 100 keyword phrases
  • Other keyword phrases that Google might be using to send people to your site
  • Number of links you have to your website
  • Your most heavily trafficked pages
  • Amount of total traffic you’re getting to your website and how it’s been trending
  • Quality of your content
  • Breakdown of your traffic in terms of how much is from SEO, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc), and other sources
  • Broken links
  • Whether your site is mobile friendly
  • Whether your site has an SSL certificate
  • How your meta data is stacking up for SEO
  • Content of your meta data (title tags, descriptions, image alt tags, etc)
  • Speed of page load


  • Directory listings and your local SEO presence
  • Internal linking between your pages
  • Content length per page
  • Use of heads and subheads
  • Crawling and indexing errors
  • URL structure
  • Structured data markup
  • Alt tags on your images
  • How you compare to local competitors

This includes a minimum of four separate reports: Directory Listings, Overall SEO, Ranking Report, and Google Keyword Phrases report.

Step 3: Write the SEO report and strategic plan.

At this phase, we gather up all the diagnostic data, and write a summary report. This report will bring the relevant data points together. We also apply our expert knowledge of SEO to customize a plan for you.
There are also a lot of SEO mistakes, optimization myths,  SEO lies, and outdated practices. To stay relevant with today’s best SEO tips, we participate in Google Webmaster Tools office hours. There, we hear straight from John Mueller at Google to know where we should focus our attention.
We assess the next steps and develop a plan.

 Step 4: Present the SEO strategic plan and take next steps.

We’ll meet with you via videoconferencing to review your report and next steps. From there, you can determine how you want to proceed.
If there are SEO changes that you or your staff would like to implement internally? Great! Do you simply not have the bandwidth? Not a problem. 

 Step 5: Execute the plan.

Typically, we implement the plan for you.
Sometimes people know up front that they will not have the time, talent, or resources to make changes. Other times, clients realize this over time. Whether we execute the plan or you do, the plan should be implemented.

FAQs about the SEO Process

Why do we make a customized SEO plan?

If you don’t assess where you are, you don’t know how to get where you’re going. For instance, if you want to go to Disney World, you need to know if you’re coming from Tampa or Anchorage. Your route is different. That’s why we don’t provide a one-size-fits-all plan.
Furthermore, we want to make the greatest impact quickly. If you wait for 3-4 hours of SEO services each month, you won’t get that boost up front that you need to make an impact on the business.

Is SEO a good investment?

Yes. Althought we never guarantee success, it does make a positive impact for the vast majority of companies. 

Google calculates that paid advertising results in $2 for every $1 spent. The search engine behemoth also estimate that you will get 5 clicks for every $1 you spend on SEO. Therefore, the company surmises that combining ads and SEO results in an ROI of $8 for every $1 spent.

What does the initial SEO audit, summary report, and strategic plan cost?

At the time of publication, the meeting, NAP completion, audit, summary report, and SEO strategic plan are $275 up front and $275 at completion for websites of most sizes. We believe this is an excellent value that will save you time and money in the long run. It is likely to drive “free” traffic to your site for months and years to come.

Why isn’t the SEO audit and strategy plan free?

The audit and plan are not free, because it takes time and resources to make it uniquely effective. You will receive a customized report and strategic plan, not simply a computer printout. You are paying for the SEO expertise and overall understanding of digital marketing. If you want a free audit, we do license software to offer a much less comprehensive audit tool. Feel free to use it to see where you stand.

Once my customized SEO plan is developed, what can I expect to pay for SEO implementation?

It depends what we need to do. If we simply need to tweak a few items, costs will be less than if the website requires an overhaul. These are typical costs:

  • Increase local presence: $360
  • Monthly analytics, reporting, recommendations, and 2 hours of SEO updates: $350 per month
  • Implementation alone: $125 per hour

If you do not have enough content or the wrong type of content on your pages, we will rewrite or write your content to be web and SEO friendly:

  • Rewrite short-form content: $300 per page/blog
  • Write short-form content: $500 per page/blog
  • Write  long-form (eBook, blog >1000 words): $900 each

If you prefer to pay as a monthly fee, we can do that.

Is SEO a "one-and-done" process?

No. First, we recommend monthly monitoring of your analytics to see how you’re progressing and if additional implementation needs to take place. Second, the algorithm changes daily with larger changes occurring at irregular intervals (usually monthly or so). For that reason, it’s important to stay abreast of changes.