This is a guest post by Chris Garrett
Many search engine folks like the "seat of the pants" approach to SEM but I am so disorganised when I try to remember everything that I find myself turning to Microsoft Excel.
Yes, there are far sexier subjects in the search world than using Microsoft Excel, but stay with me, Excel can be useful even if it is not cool!
How can Excel help you with your search engine marketing efforts?
1) Keyword Research - Make a list of all your most sought after keywords, where you currently rank, and the level of competition. Prioritise your most important phrases using a mixture of competition and potential traffic.
2) Link campaigns - First make a list of all the target sites that you would like to get links from. If you find a lot then use a scoring system to determine the priority sites and those that you care less about. Maybe one column will have things like Alexa, or maybe where they rank for key phrases? At the very least you need to label the site and find their contact details. When it comes to launching your link campaign note who links, who doesn't, and the URL they link from. This allows you judge progress, remember those you have contacted, check later if the link still works, and which efforts paid off.
3) Competitor research - For each of your most important keyphrases develop a list of the sites who are ranking, where they rank, how many backlinks they have. You might get even more detailed and look how many exact keyword match links they have etc. These are your hit list and you will have an idea what it will take to overtake them.
4) Competitor Links - Take the above list and mine their backlinks to find where they are getting links from so you can either do the same or avoid some of their dodgy tactics!
5) Networking Opportunities - People in the search results ahead of you are not necessarily competitors. They might be appropriate places to get links from, buy advertising, or guest post. Could you partner up in some way? Get information like site owner name, contact information, and where they hang out online. What kind of information do they link to? I wrote a full tutorial on using Microsoft Excel for networking productivity - check it out.
Call me a geek, but I think if you look, Excel can really help your SEM efforts, even if it will not win any awards for drama and adventure!