Many people think that SEO is a set-it and forget it endeavor. The theory is that once you optimize the site then there really isn't much more to do after that. This is something that many penny pinchers like to espouse so they can try to "save money". Others just don't like the idea that online marketing is a never ending process. We like to have goals and want to see things through a conclusion.
There are certain SEO strategies that are certainly goal oriented where you can get to a definitive end-point, but SEO as a whole is a constant ongoing process. Just like brushing your teeth, you do it ever day so you can keep yourself out from under the dentist's drill and not walk around with obvious stank breath.
But SEO also isn't about changing things for the sake of change. We don't brush our teeth just for the heck of it. Those who think that you always have to be changing your content, titles, and pages in order to keep it "fresh" for the search engines are pursuing a pot of gold on the other side of a rainbow. The truth about SEO is somewhere in between these two elementary schools of thought.
Do it once but do it right
There are elements of SEO that you really only have to do once, if you do them right the first time. When we take on a new client these are the changes we try to focus on first.
The architecture of a website covers many things, far to much to go into here. The architecture basically boils down the the construction of the site and making sure that the search engines are able to spider and index all your pages properly. This is crucial. If the search engines come to your site and can't get access to the pages that need to be indexed then you simply won't be in a position to get good rankings.
Keyword Friendly site
Making your site keyword friendly really goes along with the site architecture as much of it is performed at the same time. But beyond the construction of the site you have to make sure you go through and strategically focus on keywords when developing your titles, description meta tags and your content. Many sites we review don't have a lot of text on pages and use duplicates titles and descriptions. These need to be customized and keyword focused for each individual page.
Making your site keyword friendly is a one-time process that can go quickly, depending on the size of your site. This is just the primer before you paint. Once you start doing hard-core optimization and keyword focusing a lot of the work you've done in this keyword friendly stage will be re-edited. The goal here is to make your site as keyword friendly as quickly as possible then go back and fine tune it later.
Internal linking of your site goes beyond having a good navigation structure. Here we want to focus on linking contextually from page to page. Look for opportunities in each page to link out to other pages, sections, products or tutorials on your site.
If you mention something found elsewhere on your site, link to it. If you can add a mention to something the readers of one page will find useful, do it and link it. The link text should be keyword rich. Rather than using "click here," use your keywords and calls to action in your link text. Go page by page taking advantage of every opportunity, provided it enhances the visitor's experience rather than detracts from it.
Do it, do it right, revisit it again
Most things that you change while optimizing your site have to be revisited on a regular basis, if for no other reason than to see how they are affecting "performance" of the site.
Title and description meta tags
There is no such thing as a perfect title or description meta tag... unless it puts you in that perfect spot of first page ranking and gets you maximum click throughs. You have to start somewhere so start with strong keyword rich titles and description tags. Keep in mind that there is more to these than just getting search engine rankings.
Anybody can build a "keyword rich" tag but not everybody can do so while making it compelling. The title and description both show up in the search results which means they both have to be compelling enough to entice the visitor to click through to your site. If they don't then you've got some pretty useless top search engine rankings.
Once you've put together some great keyword rich content for each of your pages, you want to revisit that content to see how it's performing. The titles and descriptions may not be enough to get you top rankings so some minor adjustments may have to be made to your content. It never hurts to revisit your content to see if changes can be made to your headings or paragraphs to use more (or fewer) keywords.
Be sure not to stuff your content with keywords, which can tend to happen over time with repeated "tweaks." Sometimes you don't even need to add keywords but other words that are similar or often used in context with the phrase you are targeting. Either way, only do what makes sense when read from a visitor perspective.
Making your site more user friendly is a never ending process of implementing changes, reviewing how those changes affected your conversion rates, then tweaking again in order to improve conversions further. Each change will bring varying degrees of success, and often times you have to make several steps backward to make a big step forward.
When implementing and testing usability changes, focus on one at a time or a few that you can accurately measure in order to know which change had what impact. If you're not measuring then you're not doing it right. Some usability changes seem like a good idea but unless you measure you really don't know if it's working.
Do it right and keep doing it again
Keyword research is often done at the very beginning of the optimization campaign, but it is a never ending process. Keywords change. People's search patterns change. Phrases that were once popular have since fallen out of style. It's important that you refresh your research on a regular basis.
You also need to always be on the lookout for new terms to target that can bring in interested people. These may not be the "money" keywords but you can find phrases that people are using to find information, then provide that information to them. It may not lead to immediate sales, but it can lead to a loyal following that will eventually turn into loyal customers.
Link building / social media
There is never an end to getting new links. Many sites can coast for a while on their own popularity or lack of competition, but sooner or later a concerted effort will have to be made to bring in fresh links to your site in order to remain competitive. Everything from traditional link building to social media marketing or buying links should be on the table, but only move forward with the strategy, or combination of strategies, that will most benefit you and your audience.
And once you get links, you need to go get more. Budget this into your marketing campaign to ensure that you can have a slow, steady and consistent build with links. That's the best way to stay ahead of the competition.
New content development
Keyword research ultimately leads to new content development. As you find new phrases, questions asked, information being sought after, this opens up limitless opportunities to provide the information that people are looking for. New articles, tips, products, and resources can be produced simply by following the keyword trail.
As new pages are developed so do new opportunities to revisit some of the other things you've done such as internal linking. With each new bit of content you can review your site looking for ways to link your visitors to this valuable piece of information. Of course, no new tip or tutorial is complete without links back to your main information, products or services as well!
Set-it-and-forget-it SEO is a recipe for short-term success. Some sites can coast quite a while off the initial SEO but sooner or later you're gonna have to start revisiting what's been done, finding new keywords, building out new content, and getting more links.
After spending the money to invest in SEO, it rarely benefits you to lose the momentum you've built. Unfortunately, SEO is a marketing investment that you always have to feed. But along with that comes new and continued success for a long time to come.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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