I get a lot of questions from people in regards to SEO, or more specifically, how to SEO. I am not sure when SEO became a verb, but it is trending, so I am going with it. But to get down to it, there are so many aspects of SEO that need to be considered, so it’s pretty much impossible to write one post that explains exactly what to do. A lot of people think it’s that easy too – a simple search will reveal every secret to earning first page results. However, this is not the case. In my opinion, there are 3 things that anyone attempting SEO needs to be proficient in to acquire their desired rankings. These three things are keyword research, on-site optimization, and quality content.
This is the most crucial step when beginning any SEO campaign. The reason being is that there is no reason to target a keyword that no one searches for. For instance, if you are chiropractor in Smyrna, GA, your first thought would be to target the keyword “Smyrna chiropractor.” While it still may be a good idea to target this keyword, it may not be very beneficial. There are plenty of SEO tools out there that you can use to figure out how often a keyword is getting searched, along with its competition percentage. Such tools include Google’s Keyword Tool, Raven Tools and SEOmoz Pro. You may find out that “Smyrna chiropractor” is getting searched only 50 times per month and has a 98% competition. With more competition, it is going to take longer to rank and require more of your time. Is it really worth your time to target this keyword if only 50 people are searching it per month? It might be a better idea to target a keyword like “Atlanta chiropractor” that gets, let’s say, 1000 searches per month. It may have the same amount of competition, but if you achieve #1 rankings for that keyword, you will receive a lot more traffic to your website. The website that has the #1 position for a certain keyword receives, on average, 56% of the clicks. Therefore, if we refer back to our little example, you would receive 560 hits to your website for “Atlanta chiropractor”, as opposed to 28 for “Smyrna chiropractor.” The whole idea is to give your sales team more at-bats, so it is imperative that you select keywords that will be most beneficial to your business.
For a better understanding, watch this video by Rand Fishkin on learning SEO:
In this step, we take what we found out during our initial keyword research and then implement it on the website. I have come across so many people who say “I want to rank for this keyword, but it’s not happening!” My first question is “Have you included that keyword on the page you want to rank?” The response is usually a blank stare… But it really is that obvious. When Google indexes your website, the spiders crawl each page and analyze the content on it. It determines what your content is about based on the keywords in the text, meta descriptions, bold/italic emphasis, keyword placement, and so many other things. You can’t expect Google to read your mind (although highly possible) and conclude “Oh, he wants us to rank him for this keyword that isn’t even included on the page! DUH!” Ya… not happening…
Check out this Beginner’s Guide to SEO provided by SEOmoz. It has some great tips and will get any beginner in the SEO world on the right track.
Aside from including keywords in the content, there are a lot of things to keep in mind when it comes to on-site optimization, and a lot of it is learned through trial and error. You should create test sites and try out different techniques.. Place keywords at different positions on the page, use bold and italics, title tags, h2 tags – try them all, analyze the ranking results, and you will see first hand which tactics are more useful, and which ones to use in certain situations.
There are so many little things that need to be addressed when doing on-site optimization, such as including the keywords in the URL, page titles, etc… but there are also things that I include with my on-site optimization, such as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, and Bing Webmaster Central – just to name a few. Things like submitting a sitemap lets the search engines know that you have pages on the internet, this is the hierarchy, and they need to be crawled. These tools also give you insight on certain things you can do to make your site more search engine friendly, like eliminating duplicate titles and descriptions. These things may not seem important, but if Momma ain’t happy – ain’t nobody happy. And in this case, Momma is Google. Keep up with their standards and guidelines and you are already putting yourself ahead of the competition.
The overall goal while doing on-site optimization is to make everything look natural, and that is when quality content comes into play. Quality content isn’t always just putting out new and useful information, but also how it is displayed and structured. Sometimes the keywords we want to target aren’t really reader-friendly and is hard to input into the content. There are ways to avoid the awkward sentences, and one of my favorite methods is to use a long-tailed version of your keyword that actually makes sense. There is no fixed equation that determines exactly how many times you should include a keyword in your content. The best way to determine what is acceptable is to simply proofread. If your article sounds repetitive with keywords – take some out. If your content doesn’t make sense – clean it up. KEEP IT NATURAL. Natural, value-adding content is the content that goes viral and builds links upon themselves. You are just shooting yourself in the foot if you continually put out crappy content. Instead, spend some extra time doing quality research, putting it into your own words (instead of scraping like 95% of SEOs do), and display it in a fashion that will attract readers. Don’t take my word for it thought – try it out yourself.. Spend 3 weeks putting out a bunch of crappy content that takes your 10 minutes to put together and see how much traffic you get for it and how far it reaches in the social networks. Then spend 3 weeks putting together just a few quality articles with different forms of multimedia, sit back, and watch the traffic rise. I cannot express the importance of quality content, because you write it once, and then it continues to work for you until you take it down.
You want to engage your readers and leave them wanting more. Back in the day, SEO was more about figuring out how to manipulate the algorithms, but as they evolve, our understanding of what we have to do as SEOs has evolved – and that is creating content for the end-user rather than the search engines.