By Lorraine Ball
Every client asks, “Will my website be on page one of Google when it launches?” The short answer is no. The longer answer is not right away, but you can get there if you really work at it. What do I mean by work at it? Here’s how to build an SEO foundation to improve the position of your website on Google and other search engines.
Start with a Good SEO Foundation
SEO is an ongoing project, something you need to pay attention to every week. There is no way to optimize a website today and then ignore it for the next few years. It just doesn’t work that way. The moment you step away, one of your competitors will step in to fill the void. And, on a regular basis Google updates and changes their rules so what worked last week may not be as effective today. You have to stay in the game by making small changes on a regular basis, going back and revisiting a popular page, add new content, link to it from a new blog post, or share it on a different social media platform.
So what’s in your SEO foundation? What kind of things should you be doing on a regular basis? It boils down to the following:
• Don’t guess. Good SEO starts with keyword research.
• Earn your way to the top of the page, but be realistic. In a crowded market, do you deserve to be in the first position?
• If your business is primarily local than focus on your local presence on line.
• Make sure there is always something new and interesting for search engines and human visitors. Create a steady stream of rich, recent, and relevant content.
• On line, you will be judged by the company you keep so focus on high quality links.
• Build your reputation with reviews and a responsive social media profile.
• And at the end of the day, remember it is about revenue, not rankings. So make sure as you are chasing keywords and attracting visitors you have something for them to do when they arrive. Focus on conversion not just SEO rank.
Those are the highlights, if you are looking for a few more detailed SEO tips, read on:
DO THE RESEARCH
Your SEO foundation begins with your keywords. What do you think customers search for when they are looking for a business like yours. Some phrases are likely to be used in the research phase while others are used closer to buying intent. While all are important, experts suggest starting with phrases that are closer to the purchase.
Consider the following example: Men’s hair salon near me or best hair color for middle age men. Which phrase would you choose? The location-based phrase (near me) is likely to be used when someone is close to purchasing, while the search for “best hair” might be used by someone doing research and not ready to buy.
Once you have a preliminary list, hop over to Google’s keyword tool. To access this you must have an AdWords account. You can set one up even if you never run an ad. Look for words with moderate to high Google search volumes. If no one ever searches for a particular word or phrase, it does you no good to rank highly for that.
In some industries, the most common terms are very competitive. The page one listings are dominated by one or two large players. For example, it is unlikely a local grocery is going to win a key phrase against Whole Foods. Instead of wasting time hunting a unicorn, it makes sense to narrow the search and select phrases you can win such as neighborhood market, local, family-owned grocery.
Have you heard a realtor explain why a property is more valuable by saying, ” location, location, location?.” A property will have dramatically different value depending on where it is located. If you can’t afford the best neighborhood, you may find a cozy fixer upper just a few miles away. This is similar to trying to rank for popular key words in a very competitive category. Instead of trying to dominate everywhere, narrow your focus and dominate the term for your state, city, or county, adding location based content throughout your website.
And if your business is national, or even international, narrow your focus by selecting specific niches. You will show up only in a few Google searches each month, but when you do, you are more likely to dominate, having less competition for your keyword position. As you focus on more specific keywords you have a higher chance of being considered relevant when a potential customer is ready to make a purchase.
RICH, RECENT, RELEVANT CONTENT
When a person (or a Google search bot) follows a link to your website, the expectation is that there will be high quality content at the end of the link. If they have a question, they want answers, the more detailed the better. These days Google is looking for a minimum of 500 words per page. So find your best blog post. The one that is already attracting lots of organic traffic and add more. Another paragraph of information, a new picture or link to another page.
Just make sure you are adding real value. Stuffing keywords to raise your word count may improve your rank temporarily, but sooner or later it will catch up with you.
Search engines also value “new information.” That’s why your blog is so important. It allows you to create a steady stream of relevant, keyword rich content using primary words and related alternative phrases. A heating and air conditioning company, for example, might alternate between the phrases air conditioner service, AC repair, and cooling system repair. That way no matter what term a prospective customer uses to find them, their site is likely to show up in the search results.
LINKS AND REVIEWS
Backlinks are not as important as they once were, but high quality links to your site still send strong signals to search engines that other sites find your content valuable. Regularly commenting on posts on other sites, sharing information on social media, and posting content to high authority sites like PR Web and YouTube create invaluable links that drive both people and search engines to your site.
Take time to cultivate reviews. As people write positive comments about you on Google Review, Facebook Review, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, and other review sites, search engines notice. Ask customers to write positive reviews, thank them, and share the love with companies you work with.
GOOGLE SEARCH IS ABOUT REVENUE NOT RANKINGS
SEO is a means to an end, not the end itself. A page one ranking by itself is irrelevant. The more important measure is if your overall organic traffic is increasing. As you add content you will begin indexing for multiple long tail key words you had never considered. The ultimate objective is lead generation, so if your SEO is working but you don’t convert visitors once they arrive, what’s the point of your website. Be sure your content answers their questions and then clearly tells them what they are supposed to do next. Link to related information, offer a download, a video, or an opportunity to talk to someone to learn more.
By Lorraine Ball