Every time I come home from a conference, I'm reminded of just how many new people are streaming into the industry every day. While many of us have been optimizing web sites for a decade or longer, the greatest majority of site owners are just now finding their way into the world of organic optimization.
To that end, it seems like a good time to write one of those posts reminding us all where our focus should lie when it comes to building up a search presence for our sites. While there are a million and one details you can focus on to improve your site, it really all boils down to six key componants.
Tactic #1: Keywords
Targeting the right keywords may be the single most important thing you do when it comes to optimizing your web site. All the time and effort you put into writing focused content, building links with relevant anchor text, and carefully crafting engaging and keyword rich tags will mean little if you optimize for the wrong phrases.
Taking the time to brainstorm the different topics and areas of your web site before beginning your keyword research gets you off to a great start. Once you've done that, gain an understanding of the keyword buying cycle and the level of competition for the keyword phrases you wish to target.
Then compile a list, match it up with the content for your site and move on to tactic number two.
Tactic #2: Content
Once you've decided which keywords and phrases you plan to target, you can break your list down into areas of existing content to optimize and new content you'll need to create. (In fact, keyword research can be one of the best ways to get ideas for new content for your site.)
Write your content with your keywords and phrases in mind, but remember to focus first and foremost on your readers and how likely the content is to keep them engaged and lead them down the path to conversion.
Once you've created or edited your content to place emphasis on the phrases you'll be targeting, you're ready to move on to tactic number three.
Tactic #3: Code
The way your web site is built and coded can be the single biggest stumbling block to your organic search success. Run into canonical issues, fail to make your dynamic content accessible, let your designers unleash a flashturbation nightmare on your site and the engines will run screaming at the door.
Thankfully, good search engine friendly design isn't difficult. It just takes a web designer or developer with an understanding of how engines move through a site. Good navigational structure, a proper site map, good use of heading tags, anchor text and an understanding of how to properly use redirects goes a long way toward helping the engines work their way through your site.
Work your way through Stoney deGeyter's Best Damn Marketing Checklist and then move on to tactic number four.
Tactic #4: Optimization
While search engine optimization still strikes many as being a complicated mix of voodoo and funky code called HTML, the truth is it's quite simple. Learn about title tags and how to write good ones, realize the meta keyword tag is pretty much useless, write good meta description tags that will generate clicks in the search results, and learn about the proper use of keywords in the ALT attribute, URLs and headings.
One of the most overlooked areas of onsite optimization among those new to the industry is internal linkage. Don't forget you can link to page within your site in places other than the navigation. If your content refers to an idea, product or service you offer on your site, link to it using descriptive anchor text and reap the benefits.
Once you've worked your way through those key areas of your code, you're ready to leave your own site and start working on tactic number five.
Tactic #5: Links
Once you've made sure the search engines can read your site and you create content designed to let them know what your site is about, you need to start working on gathering links from other web sites. These links will serve as validation for your site's credibility in the eyes of the engines.
Seeking links from quality realated sites that point to pages within your site using relevant anchor text will let your site know that other people find your site valuable. Gather links by offering unique valuable content, special deals and promotions, and by building relationships with respected bloggers and members of social media networks.
Keep in mind link building is a tactic without end. In an ideal world, you will continually work on adding the type of content and creating the types of contacts that will lead to more and more links as time passes. Which brings us straight to tactic number six.
Tactic #6: Patience
For as much work as search engine optimization can be, it's the one thing you DON'T really have to DO that is most difficult for site owners to manage. That's being patient. We live in a world where everything, including marketing, has immediate and measurable results. We can quickly see the impact of an ad on the radio, tv or a billboard. The phone starts ringing and sales often start rising as soon as the exposure beings.
The problem with search engine optimization is that it takes time. It takes time for the search engines to find your site, time for them to index it and time for you to build up enough credibility to convince them to rank you as well (or better) than the site they've known and trusted for years.
While some sites show up almost instantly in search results, the reality is most sites will takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to really begin to see the fruit of their efforts. Practice patience, it may be the most imporatant thing you can do on your way to organic success.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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