It’s my pleasure to introduce Tony Stutz, SEO Strategist at the Web Foundry. Tony creates and manages search engine optimization campaigns for businesses across the country. His focus is on creating value for his clients by optimizing their website with on-page and off-page techniques in order to outrank the competition and drive traffic.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most mysterious aspects of launching and maintaining a successful website, but it doesn’t have to be. There are countless agencies and experts that will take on this task for you, but if you’re on a budget – like many startups and small business owners – or just looking to learn a new skill, ranking on the first page of Google is definitely within the reach of most local businesses!
If you’re reading this, you probably already have a good idea of the value that search engine visibility can bring to your business. Done correctly, SEO can drive hundreds or thousands of highly qualified, local customers to your website every month. If you’re not optimizing, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to find you among the millions of other websites online. Think about it, you’ve spent a ton of time, money and energy creating a site that will connect with your ideal audience but nobody’s seeing it! It’s like having a business card that you never hand out.
Over the years, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to getting into search results and I’d like to share some of the basic tools and strategy behind launching a successful SEO campaign for your business.
Get the Right Tools
As a professional SEO strategist, I rely on a few tools and resources to help me keep up with changing trends in the industry as well as monitor progress for the websites I manage. Here are the ones I use nearly daily:
Moz.com – This is the go-to source for everything SEO-related. Google and other search engines are always trying to find new ways to improve their search results and they sometimes make changes to the way websites are ranked. It’s important to keep up with these updates because you may be fine one day and penalized the next. Moz also hosts a great community of interactive bloggers and experts that can answer pretty much any question you can come up with!
Google Analytics (FREE) – This is your one-stop-shop for tracking the effectiveness and reach of your website. From here, you can see how many people are visiting your site as well as their age, gender and location. Analytics also allows you to see how each visitor found your website (ei. search engine, direct referral, social media, etc)
Google Search Console/Web Tools (FREE) – Search Console, sometimes called “Web Tools”, allows you to focus in on the effectiveness of your SEO campaign. I love Search Console because it tells you exactly what keywords people are using to find your website and gives great insight into market trends.
Google Keyword Tool (FREE) – Google’s Keyword Tool allows you to find out which keywords will give you the most potential traffic while minimizing the amount of competition. You can track which searches your site shows up in and how many people are clicking when they see it.
LongTail Pro (Trial Version Available) (aff) – LongTail Pro is my personal go-to tool for keyword research. Data is taken directly from Google’s Keyword Tool but the interface is much more user-friendly. They also include a tool for checking your website’s current ranking for specific keywords.
Don’t Guess at Keywords
I recently consulted with a local home remodeler who was concerned about the low number of visitors his website was receiving. He was already working with an SEO consultant but was seeking an outside opinion. Using the tools I mentioned above, I was able recommend changes that increased his business’s visibility by over 2,000 Google searches per month!
The moral of this story – research your keywords before building a campaign around them! A quality selection will target your ideal customer, receive consistent searches each month and, ideally, have relatively low competition.
Take Care of Your Own Back Yard First
This part of your plan is called “On-Page” SEO. It’s the part where you make sure all your html is written correctly, your images are tagged and it’s easy for Google’s “robots” to index. If search engines can’t read your sloppy coding and broken links, they won’t rank your site very highly.
Make sure to incorporate the keywords you researched earlier into your website’s page titles, metadata and content. When you’re writing each page’s content, try to include your keywords as naturally as possible and only include them where they fit conversationally. Remember, the more relevant your content is to your keywords, the higher you will rank in search results.
Finally, make sure to register your business as a Google Place and submit a sitemap to search engines to make it as easy as possible for your site to be found and ranked.
Go Forth and Backlink
Getting your website to the top of results is all about having “authority” in the eyes of the major search engines. This is a measure of how relevant your site is to the keywords you’ve chosen to focus on. One of the best ways to boost your authority is by getting other high-authority sites to post links back to your pages. These are called “backlinks” and you can get them by blogging and commenting for others as well as including your URL in your social media profiles and posts. Every website owner will have different rules about how and where to place backlinks on their site so it’s important to ask if not otherwise specified.
SEO has a cumulative effect on your website’s ranking among search engines – meaning if you had started your SEO program 3 months ago, you’d be 3 months closer to ranking number one for your favorite keywords! Google and other search engines take time to get to your site, read it, and determine its relevance to a topic and they constantly come back to re-read, re-evaluate and update results. So, it’s important to start now and continue to maintain your SEO efforts if you want to keep your new rankings.
“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kiam