Search Engine Optimization seems to have a bad reputation with bloggers and business owners all over the place. This is most likely because the only exposure they’ve had to SEO is either: 1) The ‘snake oil salesman,’ who sells them on the dream of the 1/2 hr work week; Or 2) When someone spammed their blog with comments that sound like someone chewed up the English language and spit it out back into the comment. Just like every industry, there are people who give the rest of us a bad name. The good news is that SEO done right can drive a significant amount of qualified traffic to your site. Whether your site is brand new or has been around for 15 years, this quick guide will help you earn more traffic to your site. There are hundreds or thousands of ways to help a website rank. This guide is by no means comprehensive, and is just one method I know works. Remember that there will always be a different way to get things done.
1. Research Your Keywords
This is one of the most effective things you can do for your company, product, or service. Find the words people are searching when they are in need of a product or service like yours. The trick is to find keywords that will send the most qualified traffic (longtail keywords). Once you have found a list of keywords, move on to the next step.
Keyword research tools to help:
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Yoast Google Suggest Output Expander
- Übersuggest Keyword Suggestion Tool
2. Create Valuable, Share-able Content
It may be worth looking into what kind of content your audience wants to see before doing your keyword research. Find the keywords people search to find the content your audience wants to read, watch, and share. Whether you choose to create blogs, white papers, videos, infographics, or any other type of content, make sure it is easily share-able on the networks your audience uses most.
Create persona models for each potential customer/client demographic, and create content designed to convert each persona in each step of the sales funnel.
3. Make Your Content Find-able
Whether you blog once a month or post hundreds of news stories every day, your content doesn’t do anyone any good if it can’t be found. Rather than letting all of that hard work go to waste, organize your content in the way that makes the most sense, whether that be by date, subject, author, or whatever makes the most sense for your site. Making your content find-able will not only help your audience navigate your site better, it will also be easier for search engines to find and index your content.
Use a sitemap.xml file to guide search engines to every page you want them to index.
4. Optimize Your Site
Unless you are a bit more web/dev savvy, this step might require you to hire out some help. Check your URL structure, post names, page titles, and meta descriptions. Also take a look at the way you link to content internally, the way you use canonical URLs, and check for dead links (404 Errors). Use the keyword research you have already done to dictate what changes need to be made by adding your keywords to the places that are most relevant if they haven’t already been placed there.
With large sites that have dynamically created content, as well as ecommerce sites, be sure to check for duplicate content and the proper use of canonical URLs. Also be sure to have a plan in place to archive old content or redirect products that no longer exist or have been removed from the site. These can create major headaches down the road if you aren’t able to fix the problems early on.
Site audit tools to help:
5. Find Link Opportunities
I won’t go into too much depth here, but links pointing to your site from other people’s sites are the biggest factor search engines look at when deciding what to rank for specific key terms. Not all links are created equal, and there are some serious consequences for acquiring links to your site in a way that doesn’t fall in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines.
First and foremost, if you haven’t already reached out to your family and friends about your business or website, now is a great time to do so. You might be surprised how many people have a blog of their own and would be happy to link to your site if you just ask.
If you’ve already told everyone and their dog about your site, then now is a good time to expand your search for opportunities to get links. If your competitors are ranking ahead of you for the keywords you care about, take a look at what they’re doing to rank so highly. If you can, try to get links from the same kinds of places, assuming they aren’t spammy or from a ‘bad link neighborhood.’
If your competitors aren’t giving you much to work with, there’s a whole world of opportunity out there. Finding places to get links is as much an art as it is a science. It takes a bit of skill that can’t really be taught, but I believe deep down that everyone can make the connections they need to be successful.
Link opportunity tools:
Act! My grandpa always used to tell me “You know, in basketball, over 98% of shots never taken don’t go in the basket.” The same is true with each of the steps I’ve outlined above. Reading about changing your site isn’t going to help you get any further down the road without action.