A few days ago I received a call from a local divorce attorney that wanted more information on my SEO services. After a few preliminary questions, I realized I was speaking with a receptionist who had been tasked to 'find out more' about SEO. This is definitely not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
So if you've been tasked by management to research SEO for your business, here's the full scoop.
SEO isn't a one-time thing. It's an ever growing and changing landscape that involves a lot of factors. If you are looking for a quick fix to get to the top of google, you might as well stop reading here because you won’t find it. There's no such thing, and if any marketing company tells you different, it is lying (and stealing your money).
In short, there are two main parts to SEO.
There are a lot of things you can do to your website that can influence the search engines to like you more. These include heading tags, page titles and a variety of other factors. Each one of these items needs to be addressed and fixed when necessary. A high level SEO audit can help you find many of these and, depending on your coding skill level, can be fixed without hiring an SEO guru.
While not a direct SEO factor, your websites usability should be taken into consideration at an early stage. If you can’t easily update your website, or it looks like it was built in the late 80s, it is probably time for a redesign. This can be costly, but if you are serious about SEO, it's not something you should dismiss quickly. I have turned down many good clients because they thought their website (usually one they built themselves) was the best thing since sliced bread. It's not.
Redesigning your website at an early stage in the SEO process is not only a smart investment, it makes your job a lot easier down the road when your SEO starts giving you tasks that need to be completed through the website. Using a user-friendly content management system (CMS) such as WordPress is a good way to go. You'll be glad you did.
A good onsite SEO evaluation should also include a conversation around calls to action. Since the ultimate goal of your SEO campaign is usually more leads (NOT more traffic), you should consider what sort of target audience you are hoping to attract and what sort of actions you want them to take once they visit your website. These are crucial to having a successful online marketing strategy.
Here's where SEO gets interesting. Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you can do on other people’s websites that affects your overall rankings. While it would be impossible for me to list them all, I'll try to hit the main ones.
In short, the overall amount of positive links you have leading back to your website influences your overall rankings. I say positive, because there are a lot of easy ways to get links, but they aren't necessarily good links. Heck, I could get you a thousand links tomorrow if you'd like (and some SEO agencies still offer this service) but they'd be useless, if not hurtful for your overall goals.
So what is a good link?
A good link is a link from a similar industry website, blog or social profile. This means if you sell goggles, a link from a site like sears.com would be more desirable than a link from a site like wesellgogglespleasebuyonline.net. The authority and reputation Sears has far outweighs that of the latter.
Unfortunately, getting links from high authority sites isn't always easy. It takes time, it takes a process, and sometimes it just takes cash.
What then is a bad link?
A bad link is a link from a non-related website, a link directory or a site in a 'bad neighborhood' (porn, pharmaceuticals, etc).
Bad links are easy to get. You can use an automated submission tool, or just hire some company in India to do it for you. I wouldn't recommend it, though.
A Natural Link Profile
Up until recently, building links was always a process focused around keywords. Links based on words you use in your industry were worth more than links indicating 'click here' or 'check out this site'. However, a recent update from google called Penguin changed this line of thinking. Search engines are now looking for a good mix of both keyword, brand-related and generic links. When considering hiring an SEO person, make sure they understand the value of this mixture.
For businesses with real physical addresses, citations can play an important role in your overall search engine rankings. A citation is a mention of your business name, address and phone number on another website. It may or may not contain a link to your website, and that's ok.
Search engines use these mentions as indicators your business is real, so it is important every citation around the Internet has the exact same phone number, address, etc.
If you are serious about getting started with SEO, please read my post on different options you have, what steps you need to take, and how to determine a good SEO from a bad one.