Search Engine Optimization is still the best way to drive potential customers to your website. Despite the mystique, it’s just another form of advertising. And as with other mediums, you’re making an investment of time, money, or both and should expect a return.
With this said, many emerge from the SEO wars with battle scars and claim it doesn’t work.
The truth? SEO does work. It can be the most powerful driver of web traffic for any business. But if your strategy is off, your investment in SEO can be for naught. Here’s how to make sure you’re being smart with your SEO budget:
Understand the Basics
Have you ever thought about the purpose of search engines? From the user’s perspective, they help you find what you’re looking for on the internet. But what does the owner of the search engine want to accomplish?
Their search tools are free to use, but that doesn’t mean that the owners of Google, Yahoo, and others are altruistic. No, their business model depends upon users coming back for more, day after day. So it stands to reason that search engine operators want happy users. If you search for something and the results you receive aren’t relevant, you’ll soon be looking for another search engine.
Search engines have developed algorithms to sort through all of the information on the internet and deliver the highest quality, most relevant results to users.
This means that if you have high-quality articles on your website that are related to a user’s search question, they will come up in the search, right?
Well, almost. You must also optimize your web pages to facilitate their discovery by search engines. Effective SEO is a three-part strategy. It’s partly technical, partly content, and partly promotion. Think of it as a three-legged stool. All the legs have to be connected, or the stool topples over, taking you along with it.
Lofty Dreams are Great—But Will Kill Your SEO
Keyword strategy is a big part of SEO. But you’re wasting your time just stuffing a bunch of keywords into an article, its headline, and meta-description. The search engine masters are onto those tired, old techniques because they don’t produce suitable results.
It’s more important to focus on specific keywords that are relevant to what you offer and the related articles you publish on your website. Remember, relevance is what the search engines are after.
Don’t bother trying to target keywords that are very general, because you’re competing with millions of pages with those same general keywords. Instead, get real and set achievable goals for your SEO and find relevant, specific keywords for that purpose.
Compared to some old strategies rendered ineffective with algorithm changes, think of this new approach as “keyword lite.” Combine with quality content and promotion, and your keywords will help you hone in on your market.
You Need to Stay on Top of Content Creation
If you’re spending any money at all on SEO, but not creating content regularly, your results will be mediocre at best.
Content might be text; it also might be photos, charts, infographics or video or a multi-media combination of all of these. It must be interesting with a headline that draws the reader in and a lead that hooks them. Simple, direct, active writing is best. Be sure words are spelled correctly and watch out for problems with grammar or sentence structure.
Many people will never read beyond headlines, so make sure they’re compelling. With a good visual and a couple of headlines, you can reach many people who either don’t enjoy reading or don’t have the time for a long article.
Be sure information is accurate. Part of the purpose of your website is to build your trust factor, so don’t diminish it by publishing sloppy, inaccurate information.
Don’t overwhelm readers. Break long articles into shorter pieces and publish over several days. Be sure to update links so readers can jump from one part to the next (or to an earlier article).
How often should you update your blog or site? The more, the better—but you are the best judge of your time and resources. Keep posts relevant and timely. Post on a regular schedule—the same days of the week or month and same time of day. People who visit your site and find nothing new will leave and may not return. You want to keep them engaged, and the only way to do that is by offering fresh, relevant content regularly.
If you allow comment on your site and your content is controversial or thought-provoking and generates a lot of activity, it will help your search engine rankings. A caveat here: Readers who see comments they don’t agree with may get mad at you, not the commenter. So if they read posts that raise their ire, it might be directed against you. Before allowing comments on your page, give thought to whether you’re going to moderate or allow a no-holds-bar exchange.
Promote, Promote, Promote!
Even with the right keywords, and irresistible content, your search engine rankings won’t rise if people don’t share it or link to it. Those actions send signals that trigger the algorithm to pay attention to your page or article. The more activity, the higher your ranking.
There are many ways to promote your content. Here are some ideas:
- Link from your social media posts, including paid links.
- Links from emails to your opt-in list (this might be a newsletter).
- Guest posts on blogs.
- Relevant print media referring to the URL of your article or web page.
Whatever you do to promote your content, don’t expect instant gratification. You need to kick off promotion at the same time you publish your content. Then you need to post more content and repeat promotion. Yes, it’s an endless cycle. And that’s why SEO doesn’t work for some people—because they give up, wasting all of their efforts.
Don’t give up on SEO!
Effective tactics require you to respect the reader and the purpose of search engines.
Efforts to manipulate the rankings with sub-par content are a waste of time. Instead, master the technical aspects, hone in on the right keywords, invest in compelling content, and promote-promote-promote your articles and pages.
It’s a long-term path to success, but it does work!
Author: Claudia Elliott is an experienced web consultant working with clients all across the country. When not working directly with clients, she enjoys blogging about all topics related to internet marketing—usability best practices, content creation and social media marketing.