Guest post by Pia Briscoe
In Part One of this blog series, Carina walked you through the different ways of getting your website to page one on Google. I’m now going to zero in on one of those methods: SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
To be clear: Google Ads is not SEO because it’s paid. SEO is organic (and therefore not paid). When I talk about SEO, I’m not talking about Google Ads.
The specific outcomes you’d be looking for when pursuing SEO tactics from a marketing perspective is to increase organic traffic to your website, increase your site’s authority and also increase keyword rankings (when your website shows up for different searches on Google).
When people say they want their website on the first page of Google (hey, get in line!) there are a number of problems with this statement, such as why do you want to get it on the first page of Google? Your website could rank for any number of search terms (called keywords or key phrases) so you don’t want it on the first page of Google for something random. You want it on the first page for keywords that are relevant to what you’re offering and who you’re offering it to.
It’s super important that the strategies you use for your SEO have been researched and are specific to your business. Which is why the common idea of reading a few blogs to find out what to do isn’t the best tactic, as it’s not customized to your business.
There’s no tricking the Google algorithm anymore and the tactics I’m going to outline in this blog really are the best practices for telling Google what your website is about, and then producing content, based on research, to help your audience answer their search queries.
But first, I’m going to level with you:
SEO isn’t going to give you results overnight. But guess what? Neither is any other marketing activity. The truth is that there’s no such thing as overnight success. Those Google Ads that are raking in the leads? There’s likely 3 months of ad budget (not to mention the cost of the ads specialist – because you DO NEED a specialist) behind those successful ads.
Here are some main areas that are important for successful SEO. These are categorized into on-site and off-site SEO. You guessed it – on-site SEO happens on your website and off-site SEO happens outside of your website.
Let’s dive in…
Your Website: On-Site SEO
I can’t stress this enough – a healthy, user friendly website is the foundation for all other SEO activities. It certainly doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated (in fact, it’s better if it’s not) but this is also not the time to try and save your pennies. A terrible website now will bring you a world of hassle later on, so make sure you use a web developer who knows what they are doing.
Easy to navigate – ensure good site architecture and user experience. This basically means that a website is intuitive and well-organized– based on the principles of human user behaviour. It also means that there aren’t any broken links (when you click on a link and it goes nowhere [likely a 404 page]). These act as dead ends that halt the flow of traffic through your website.
Fast – load time on your site should be less than 5 seconds. Imagine you get to page one on Google but when your potential client clicks on your website, your homepage takes 10 seconds to load? Ain’t nobody got time for that! That’s a lost customer right there (AND Google will downgrade your ranking if your bounce rate is high). Things that can affect site speed? Images and videos that are too large and too much code, so be careful when using a template/theme when building your site. (This is also a downside of sites like Squarespace and Wix as they are very code heavy, meaning you won’t be able to get them running like a lean, mean Google ranking machine).
Keyword optimization – Google needs to understand what your website is about in order to show it to someone searching for your services. So, if you’re going to use words that describe what you do, why not do some research and find out which keywords have the highest search volume and lowest competitiveness? If you can figure out what your specific target market is searching for when they look for your services and then optimize your website for those keywords, getting you to page one on Google, then that’s a load of FREE traffic. Good keyword research is important and I recommend you use a specialist, with accurate research tools, for this part.
On-Site Strategy – now that you know how important keywords are, did you know that you should, ideally, plan the keywords for your website before it’s built? If you do this you can then plan which keywords you want your website to rank for, and then you need to optimize your website for these before it goes live on the internet (if that’s possible). It’s much easier to rank this way. You see, you need to add the keywords to different parts of your site structure (called meta-data) because these places are the biggest indicators to Google about what the site is about. These places include the url structure, page title, H1-tag, meta-description and alt-tags (of your images). Some of these aren’t so easy to change once the website is live. For example if you need to change the url name then you need to create a redirect from the old url to the new one, and redirects have their own consequences for your website, essentially increasing the depth that bots need to crawl (taking away from your crawl budget). So my advice? Get it right the first time.
Once the website is built and it’s healthy and error-free, then you need to build on the foundation you’ve created. Blogging and Link Building should happen at the same time, as it’s important to increase the opportunities of your website to rank (keyword blogging) while also increasing the domain authority (link building) because this increases the chances of your website ranking.
Blogging: On-Site SEO
While doing keyword research you would have come up with some great options for blog topics. Your blogs should first and foremost provide value and information to your target audience – this is a way to draw them onto your site and position you as an expert in this topic.
Ask yourself, what questions do they have that you can answer? Now’s your time to give your secrets away (yes, you heard it right). Positioning yourself as an expert in your field is a great way to build confidence and trust in your expertise. This way, someone will use keywords to do a search in Google, looking for an answer to their question. They will find your blog, click on it, and voila you have organic traffic to your website.
Once you’ve come up with blog topics, make sure all the blogs you write are optimized for SEO writing best practices, like using the keyword in the page title, H1, body copy, alt tags and meta-description. SEO plugins like Yoast and Smart Crawl offer easy-to-use functionality that allow you to optimize meta-data in this way. And don’t forget to share your blogs on social media to extend their reach!
Link Building: Off-Site SEO
While you’re writing blog content for your website, you’ll also want to build your website’s site authority. You can measure this out of 100 using a free Chrome extension like MozBar.
When another website has a link to your website, this is called a backlink. This backlink acts as a vote of confidence in your website and is a signal to search engines, like Google, that your website is authoritative and trust worthy.
There are a number of different strategies to get backlinks to your site. Some of them are easier than others, and of course, the best backlinks take a bit more work to get. The more backlinks you get, the higher your site’s authority will climb, Google is more likely to see your website as valuable, and the more likely it is to serve your awesome blog to someone searching for an answer to their question.
Last, but certainly not least: TRACK EVERYTHING
You know your destination (page one of Google), but would you drive there blindfolded? Hell no! So why wouldn’t you track your progress? This applies to all marketing activity. You may think because you haven’t made it to page one that you aren’t getting anywhere. There are a ton of very fancy (but very expensive) tools that help you do this, but there are also some GREAT free tools. Be organized – track your results at least every month in a spreadsheet so you can compare your progress.
You’ll want to track where your website’s traffic comes from, where your website is ranking for its keywords, the website health (errors and speed) and your backlinks.
As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, SEO is playing the long game. But with consistent, organized efforts following a customized strategy you can absolutely get your website to page one… and have a load of fun in the process.
Pia Briscoe helps consultants and small business owners to consistently bring in new clients while saving them time and money. As an affordable SEO and Digital Marketing expert, Pia offers Done for You and Do It Yourself services, customized to your specific marketing needs. You’ll find her online here.