What do good SEO and charity have in common? They both begin at home.
It always amazes me how many companies are willing to budget for extensive (and expensive) PPC campaigns and/or spend countless hours building external links, without paying sufficient attention to the most easily accessible element in their marketing mix - their website itself.
With so many webmasters nowadays relying on content management systems to generate large-scale websites, I am seeing more and more cases where even the most basic elements of SEO are ignored. Uniform meta-tagging across the site, automatically generated pages with little unique content, etc. - these are all recipes for disaster. While most reasonably experienced webmasters are aware of the fact that such a situation is not ideal and could be improved, many don't realise just how important these elements are to the overall ranking of their site. In fact, if your site is being held back by self-generated duplicate content issues then getting your house in order could well make more of an impact on its ranking than a whole load of authoritative inbound links - and with much less effort!
But even beyond the basics, there is often a lot of work to be done. An important area that is often neglected the internal linking structure. A common misconception among those new to search engine optimisation is that links on your own site do not count towards your ranking. While it's true these links don't count nearly as much as external ones, they do still have value, especially on large-scale sites with thousands of internal links.
Above all else, your internal linking structure will tell the search engines what parts of your site you view as significant and, more importantly, which parts you see as less significant - which could have a detrimental effect if done incorrectly. One of my recent clients fell into the trap of allowing prominent, keyword-rich news articles to gradually fall further and further away from the home page, eventually becoming completely orphaned. Thousands of pages ended up in Google's supplemental index because the site's linking structure itself had told Google these pages are no longer important. Implementing the correct archive structure could allow these pages to be used for maximum benefit to the site's ranking.
Another neglected area is the landing page. Whether you are concentrating your effort on PPC, organic SEO or both, taking the time to test and improve your landing pages could make all the difference to your overall sales. Increased traffic levels may not always mean increased sales. Why? Because so many webmasters and search professionals spend a lot more time and money getting traffic to the site than figuring out what to do with it once it's there. The smallest change could make all the difference and yet landing pages are often at the bottom of webmasters' priority lists.
The good news is that once a company decides to take a good strong look at its website and spend some time making it more appealing to both people and search engines, the results can often be felt relatively quickly.