In the past few years, search engine optimization (or SEO) has really grown up. In the past, SEO was marked by shady “black-hat” methods and overly technical keyword optimization techniques. Those techniques are now obsolete and today’s methods focus much more on the user experience. In both instances, SEO has proven itself to be an effective strategy for many types of business owners.
In spite of all these changes, this optimization process still manages to have an intimidating reputation mainly due to it’s perceived difficulty. While SEO work can be time intensive, and does require regular attention, it’s not nearly as complex as it used to be. Now any business owner with the right approach and commitment can begin employing SEO and start seeing quick results.
Why SEO has been misunderstood
Now to anyone unfamiliar with web development, Google’s search algorithm might seem complicated and intimidating. It’s true that it is complex, but that doesn’t mean that doing search engine optimization work has to be just as complicated. Just because the math behind it is involved, doesn’t mean you have to be a mathematician to do SEO on your own.
The misunderstanding is that if the algorithm is complex, then harnessing it will have to be just as complex and that is just not true. At it’s core, Google’s algorithm is designed to look at a number of basics. In order to succeed you really only need to focus on developing strategies for these basics. Google’s mission is to provide people the best results. This mean they have a user experience driven algorithm. For you, all this means is that you must work to provide relevant and valuable content suitable to your target audience.
The SEO Basics
The algorithm that Google has developed and perfected over time, while complicated, is designed to determine two things about you: Are you perceived as an authority by your target audience and do you publish content that provides value to them? If you succeed in these two areas, Google’s algorithm will rank you higher.
The good news is that there are a number of basic strategies that can help you carry out these tasks—onsite content, inbound links, and social and local integrations. The better you get at executing them, the greater your authority and reputation will grow.
Onsite content has two basic elements. The first is optimizing the body text of your website so Google can recognize the authority of your site and your businesses industry niche. To do that, organize your website’s pages. Feature the most important pages with bold headlines and several paragraphs of strong writing. Use keywords that accurately describe your business, but don’t get too carried away that it becomes unnatural. Only include as many keywords as you can fit organically. From there you can optimize your title and meta tags so you have a strong foundation at the forefront of your SEO project.
After that, the next strategy you’ll want to employ is blogging. Try to write about one 1,000 word blog post per week, and grow from there as you see more engagement. Focus on topics that you audience wants to learn about and consider focusing on common questions that your audience is likely to ask. This will help you become the authority that people turn to for those common questions. The more people that turn to you for answers the higher you will rank and the more you blog the more people will turn to you.
In addition to onsite content, it also takes having a strong collection of inbound links which point to that content. This can be done in a variety of ways; You can link to your site from a forum, on a guest blog post, or on a blog comment. The more important thing in this instance is that you mix it up and that your comments and links are truly valuable in the settings where you are leaving them. If you cross the line and behave more like a spammer, this will actually negatively impact your ranking.
Social and local integrations
Finally, its very important to have a social-media presence. Make sure you have claimed your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and any other social channels that are relevant. You will need to post at a regular interval, interact with your followers, and the longer you do it the more your reputation with your audience will grow. In addition, if you have a local business, it’s important to claim your business on online directory and review sites like Foursquare, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and more. Its especially important that your information matches across all these channels so that search engines recognize those listings as the same company.
While SEO can be fairly straightforward in many respects, its does have some complexities. As you begin to work on the basics, you may run into the following speed bumps.
1) What to write. It’s not always easy to figure out what question you can blog answers for or what keywords you need to bake into your website. One way to resolve this is to use social media to just ask your customers what they’d like to read about.
2)Not enough time. This is not only a complexity that is unique to SEO, but rather to all business work. It can be difficult to set aside the time for writing that 1000 word post each weak. It’s definitely a commitment. If you need to, there are outside experts you can lean on like Contently or Scripted. It’s important to measure your investment as well so you can calculate your return on investment and determine what is working and what isn’t.
Keeping Current with SEO
What are some ways to make sure that you don’t fall behind in SEO best practices?
1) Find the SEO Authorities
In the same way that you are working to become an authority on your subject, there are a number of strong authorities in the SEO industry. Subscribe to these blogs and forums, find a mastermind group, search for ebooks. The best way to keep current is always be reading and learning. Get started with Moz, Search Engine Watch, and Higher Visibility.
2) Observe the Competition
There are a few tools out there that can help you see what your competition is writing about and what sort of links they’re building. This can help you measure how you are performing or show you how you can catch up. Check out SEMRush or Open Site Explorer to get started.
Study Your Analytics
On a monthly or quarterly basis, study your analytics. There are a number of valuable tools that can help you see what posts are performing best, where your best traffic is coming from, and other stats. One key principle to keep in mind is that you should always notice what is working and seek to do more of that. You can experiment beyond that, but if you know something is effective, it’s essential to invest more resources where you know you are getting a return. Check out Google Analytics, Hotjar, Peek (User Testing) to get started.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line in all of this is that SEO is probably simpler than you imagined, but it does take time and energy. You will get out of it what you put into it. Just start small and slowly scale your SEO work by experimenting, measuring, and repeating. After you’ve done this for a little bit, you’ll find your flow. And as you develop these habits, you’ll begin to see your visibility grow.