You’ve no doubt heard about SEO (search engine optimization). Spend five minutes among digital marketers, and you’ll likely hear the word tossed about at least once a minute. That’s because it’s important. You may be considering implementing an SEO strategy of your own but are at a loss for where to start, or even wondering if it’s worth pursuing for your company. The results of an effective SEO campaign are undeniably impressive. Just check out these stats:
- Search Engine Journal® found that SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to a 1.7% close rate for outbound leads (things like direct mail and print advertising).
- Seventy-five percent of users never scroll past the first page of search results.
- A study from Slingshot SEO reveals that 18% of Google’s organic clicks go to the number-one position, 10% of organic clicks go to the number-two position, and 7% of organic clicks go to the number-three position.
An effective SEO strategy is something that can benefit any business, whether you’re a solopreneur just getting started or a Fortune 500 company that’s been around for decades. SEO is all about getting your business found. Here’s what you need to know before starting your SEO campaign.
1. First Things First: What is SEO?
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding SEO, so it’s important to understand what it is. In simple terms, SEO boils down to improving your search engine rankings. By using SEO tactics, you can get your pages to rank near the top of an organic search, so you can grow traffic to your site. While not a magic bullet, it should be a component of your overall marketing strategy. The methods that search engines use to decide which page pops to the top of the search page are complicated and constantly being tweaked. Search engines employ intricate algorithms that most of us have no hopes of understanding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a few tactics to improve your company’s SEO. Any effective SEO needs to apply a few basics:awesome content, the right keywords, and getting reputable pages to link to your site.
2. You’ll Have to Get Creative
The first thing you need to understand when embarking on your SEO journey is that you’re going to have to get creative. For starters, you’ll need to come up with some imaginative keywords in an already crowded field. No matter what your business, you’ll have some competition on the web. An already established company will most likely have snagged all of the “easy” keywords, like women’s shoes, sports equipment, or plumber. Even a more obscure search like macramé artist returns over two million hits on Bing’s search engine. Use your creativity to carve out a niche set of keywords to get your site to the top of search engine results. Get as specific as you can with your target keywords. Use things like your location, exactly what type of product you’re selling, or something else that makes you unique. You’re going to use your targeted keywords a lot. Your homepage title should contain your targeted keyword, and you should use your keywords naturally in your content.
3. You’ll Spend a Lot of Time Developing Content
SEO is deeper than coming up with a few well-placed keywords. You will not be successful in your SEO campaign if you don’t put significant effort into developing meaningful content. The old days of using a keyword to lure a potential customer to your website, only to have them find it filled with irrelevant garbage, are gone. You need to understand what kind of content your potential customer is looking for, and you need to show Google or other search engines that your pages are interesting and offer something of value. By providing interesting, well-thought out content, your SEO efforts will be rewarded. Also, the length of your content matters. According to QuickSprout, the average content length for a web page that ranks on the first page of Google, for any keyword, has at least 2,000 words. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should fill your pages with a bunch of useless, uninspired gibberish just to pump your word count up. Every word should matter because you still need to make your content worth reading.
4. You Need More Than One Strategy in Place
In addition to keywords and content, you should have an active social media presence. Google may have come out and flatly denied that Facebook’s and Twitter’s social signals are part of its search ranking algorithms, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore social media channels as part of your overall SEO strategy. Although social media doesn’t affect your search engine rankings directly, it can drive more visitors and traffic to your site. This will give you more visibility, and if you provide content that your visitors like, you’ll get those coveted inbound links, which are key to boosting your SEO. Make sure you remember to make your content easy to share and link to.
5. There Are Tools to Help
Most of us understand the basic concept of keywords and content, but there’s another more technical side of SEO that’s geared toward the search engines themselves. For instance, it’s important to have appropriate titles and descriptions for your pages, and your pages should be fast-loading and secure. There are all kinds of SEO tools out there (many of them free) that will check to make sure that you have the behind-the-scenes stuff in order. Here are a few online tools that are worth looking into:
- Google PageSpeed Insights will let you know if your page is loading slowly and will make suggestions on how to optimize it.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool will check your pages’ title, meta description, heading tags, image and link info, and a lot more.
- SEO-browser.com™ claims to see your website as a search engine sees it.
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner will help you generate useful
6. Monitor Your Progress
You need to continually monitor your SEO strategy to see what’s working and what’s not. Don’t stick with ineffective keywords or a limp content strategy that’s not attracting your ideal customers. If something’s not working, change it. You’ll want to study your analytics to monitor and hopefully improve your website rankings. There are countless programs out there, but why not start at the source with a couple of free options that you can use to improve your site. Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools will let you know if you’re on the right track or if you should overhaul your strategy. As with most things having to do with marketing, it’s important to stay adaptable.
7. Don’t Expect Results Overnight
Even if you’ve found the ultimate keyword and your site is stuffed with awesome content, the search engines aren’t going to immediately put you in the number-one position. Like anything, it takes some time to build a strong reputation. Keep plugging away, and tweak your SEO strategy when needed. Use your keywords and produce quality content, and you’ll see your site creeping up in the search results.