Ready to open up your business to the possibilities of SEO?
Congratulations on taking the first step. Making the decision to start (or ramp up) an SEO campaign can forever change the way you attract customers/clients, for the better. It can effectively complement your existing marketing strategy while providing one of the most cost effective and sustainable solutions for acquiring new business. Of course, all of this depends upon your website’s ability to land itself on primetime real estate – the first page of Google.
For the uninitiated, the Holy Grail of page-one can seem like a pipe dream. You’ve got dozens if not hundreds of direct competitors all clamoring for the same spot. And what’s the deal with these Google algorithm updates you’ve been hearing about? Is it true that you can be on page-one one day, only to fall from grace a day later because some shift in a search engine algorithm made it so? You’re justified in your uncertainty. It’s a fact that SEO is an ever-changing, always adapting, and at-times fickle form of marketing. But wow is it effective when it works in your favor.
In order to set you on a path to search engine success, while mitigating your risk of being at the mercy of their pesky algorithms, Strategis Consulting has laid out an updated (for 2018) list of SEO “Best Practices” for your business.
7 Steps to Starting a Successful SEO Campaign to Get Your Business Website on the First Page of Google
1. Make Sure Your Website Architecture Can Accept SEO
This is the most important yet often most neglected step. Year in and out, search engine ranking factors award on-page optimization as being the top ranking factor for websites. What is on-page? Essentially, it’s the architecture and content on your website.
For starters, some web design platforms make it hard for search engine bots to access content. For example, if your website uses an i-frame (common to some older e-commerce implementations), Google may have great difficulty crawling the content, leaving the site with little to no opportunity to rank. But there are many more common examples of how site architecture can fail you.
If your website’s page speed is poor, people and search engine bots alike may be having trouble accessing your content. Run this Google provided page-speed test on your website. If it fails in either Mobile or Desktop (or both!) you know it’s time to update your website as per the suggestions provided by the test.
It’s important to stay on top of all modern web development requirements, and not just for aesthetic reasons. For instance, Google has stated that as of July 2018, they will give ranking preference to websites that provide a better mobile experience. Those that don’t, may drop further down into the abyss of Google page-two, or worse. If you happen to find this article beforehand, you have time to act. If you’re coming across it after the fact, then you will need to act right away, before your competition responds in kind (if they haven’t already).
But the concern around on-page optimization doesn’t stop there. There is more to it than providing people (and ultimately search engine bots) with a phenomenal user-experience (UX). Your website’s platform must allow integration of structured data, and allow you to insert customized meta-data into each URL and uploadable element, which includes the following:
- Title tags
- H1 (and h2, h3, etc.) tags
- Image titles and ALT descriptions
The above meta-data requirements may seem like a hodgepodge of technical jargon, but together they are what allow you to insert the keywords (on appropriate pages) that you want your website to rank for. Keep reading.
2. Choosing Realistic Keywords (that Convert)
With your website architecture in check, you can map out your SEO strategy. This begins with keyword selection. Any SEO worth their weight in coffee beans will tell you to use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool to find out if there is enough search volume (number of people near you who are searching for a given keyword) to justify going after a certain keyword phrase. And you should. But there’s more to it.
Chasing high-volume (1000+ local searches per month) keyword targets can be a waste of effort if you don’t have the resources to do so. In addition, these high-volume keyword targets may be too general to convert a visitor into a customer. For example, even if a Realtor was able to rank well for “Vancouver real estate“, there are a lot of tire kickers in that lot of searchers. The visitor to conversion rate may be abysmal. However, if the same Realtor targets (and ranks for) “Burnaby condominium for sale” you know that the people searching for the expression are much further along the purchase decision making process. So, while there are fewer people searching for “Burnaby condominium for sale”, they are much more likely to buy a home, and thus it makes sense to dedicate your resources (time/budget) to targeting this keyword (as applicable).
Start your SEO campaign by selecting longtail keyword targets . Even if the Keyword Planner tells you that there is little to no search volume for a local keyword target, there may be value in adding it to your list of targets. Let Google autocomplete be your guide. If you start typing in a keyword expression, and Google autocompletes it, there are enough people searching for it to justify adding it to your campaign. Let’s return to an example that is similar to the above. If you add the expression “houses for sale near brentwood station” (Burnaby) into Keyword Planner, it tells you there is no search volume. However, as soon as you start typing that expression into the search bar on Google, it autocompletes. That tells you there is enough search to make it worth your while.
3. Develop a Content Delivery Plan to Feed Search Engines What They Need
You’ve got a well built website and a solid keyword target plan in place. You’ve added keywords to your meta-data and into the content of each page on your website. Are you all set?
Well, you’re off to a good start, but you can’t just set the table and walk away. You need to keep adding new content to your website. The only way to do so logically, is to set up a blog on your website, and begin adding original, useful (to your prospective clients/customers), and search-engine-optimized content on a monthly (if not weekly) basis. This will come in the form of “how to” or “top 10” types of articles, in addition to photos, infographics, and even video. This content must be backed by keyword research, as someone needs to be looking for it, for it to be worth creating. It must also be sharable, which means that it will need to be interesting enough to be posted on social media (more on this in item #6 below) and through email outreach (item #5 below).
4. Claim (and Optimize) Your Google My Business Profile
Heading into 2018, the biggest search engine ranking factor for a local business is having a properly optimized Google My Business page. This is what can get you in that lucrative 3-pack on the page-one Google Map, and is also important when it comes to getting your website to rank in overall localized search (map aside).
Having and managing a Google My Business profile also allows you to receive and respond to Google Reviews, which have a very direct and positive (when reviews are positive) impact on your search engine rank.
If you have’t yet set up a Google My Business profile for your business, you can do so here.
5. Build a Natural Backlink Profile
Backlinks (links to your website) from high-authority websites account for about 29% of local search engine rank. All links must be secured naturally, and not through some “pay for x amount of links per month” scheme, which is a black hat tactic that can get you in hot water with those aforementioned algorithms.
How do you get natural backlinks? By updating your website with useful, interesting, and optimized content. When this content ranks well, it gets found by interested parties who may use this content within their own articles, while proving you with linked attribution. Your content can also get picked up when shared on social (below) and through a public relations outreach program, where you email helpful articles and infographics to local media contacts, bloggers, and webmasters who may want to reference it when delivering content to their own audience.
Backlinks don’t roll in overnight. It takes time to rank, gain favor with the media, and figure out what sort of content attracts webmasters, but all it can take is one or two high-authority links to give your site the boost it needs.
6. Connecting to Social
The discussion of whether or not you’ll gain customers/clients directly from social media is outside of the scope of this article. However, it does have an indirect impact because social media signals account for about 4% of your website’s ability to rank well on Google. In addition, garnering a good Facebook Review score that is consistent with your Google Review score provides a cross reference that prospective customers (and possibly algorithms) need to verify consumer feedback about a business.
At the very least, set up a brand profile for the following “big four” networks:
Once you have your profiles set, simply share your website content updates on each, as they occur, and be sure to follow these social media engagement best practices.
7. Accepting That You Need Help
The only way to truly realize the full potential of SEO, is to let an expert manage it for you. Without a doubt, SEO management for a brand is at minimum a part-time job (at least 10 hours per month) but the bigger your business (and/or goals) the more it edges closer to being a full-time gig.
How can you be expected to manage your business if you have your head buried into weekly content updates and analytics/keyword reporting? In addition, you probably don’t want to allocate full resources to hiring someone to work within your company as an SEO, complete with salary, benefits, and office space, much less human resource management.
All of the above can be solved via a much more cost effective and efficient solution – securing the services of an online marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization. Whether you’re located in Burnaby, Greater Vancouver, across Canada, or even south of the border, Strategis Group can create, maintain, and update your SEO strategy to bring you qualified traffic that converts into paying customers/clients. It all starts by contacting us, right here.