The Secret of Professional Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I will call a potential client this afternoon who’s looking for help showing up in Google search results.  I started an outline of the conversation we’ll have,  and I am posting these secrets of the SEO trade so you — or your web designer — can also use them for your business.

First, Everything is Incremental. I am going to suggest a bunch of things you should do.  Each of them has some value.  But, there’s no one thing you can do to show up top in Google.  The good news is that if there is any step which you don’t want to do — or cannot do — don’t sweat it.  There’s no one thing that will keep you out of the top page of Google either.

Second, Search Engine Optimization is about marketing your business on the Internet. This means showing up on Google maps, video listings, and other top-of-the-heap results. Old-style SEO was designed to get your business’ web page on top of web page listings. But, nowadays maps, product prices, and YouTube links can show up above web page results. You want your business high on these new lists, too.

The main focus of most SEO professionals is the optimization of your web site pages to match the rules Google uses for page ranking. This is the most important action you can take to let Google know what your site is about, and we’ll talk about it.  However, tuning individual pages is probably only 50% of the battle.  So keep reading to find out what most amateurs leave out of their hit-and-run approach to SEO.

Tuning Your Web Page(s)

Editing your web pages so that Google knows what you’re selling is the first thing you should do.  It’s the action that will give you the biggest boost in results.

Your initial task is to identify the keyword phrases which people will search for when you want to pop up in Google.  You can effectively tune one web page for one phrase, so choosing the right words is important.  The selection of keywords is an art itself which I will talk about another time.

Once you have identified the keywords you want to compete for in Google, then you tune your home page for the most important phrase and tune other service/product pages for the other phrases you have identified.

What’s tuning? It’s simply placing the keyword phrase in various visible and invisible (HTML code) places on your page.  The keyword should lead the page title, top header, and initial text paragraphs.  The keyword should lead the descriptive tags for photographs. It should also start off the <meta> description that Google uses to describe the page in summary in its results lists.

Many people think that SEO is done when the pages are tuned for the keywords.  In fact, for many keyword phrases, proper tuning is all you need to do to show up high in Google’s results.  But, for competitive phrases — and to stay on top — there’s more work to be done.

What Google Likes

Google doesn’t share its ranking algorithm, but it does publish tips for webmasters.  The guidelines boil down to “have a well-structured and regularly maintained site with original, high-quality content”, in the wording Google uses in one of its tips.

There are some metrics which seem to please Google, resulting in higher placement for your pages and site.  Google likes sites that:

  • have at least 5 pages
    A couple products, “about us”, and “contact” page is the bare minimum
  • frequently update their pages
    Google rewards pages that are refreshed with new content.  They figure that updated pages are more useful to visitors.
  • slowly add content
    Adding a page or two every month shows Google that the site is active and of increasing value to web surfers

So, when planning a SEO campaign, we need to schedule updates and other actions which will show Google over time that your business is a serious player with valuable information for Google’s users.

Incoming Links

Google is impressed when your pages are pointed to by other sites.  The more quality sites point to you, the higher you’ll get in search results.  So, get links:

  • from authoritative sites like professional organizations, alumni associations, government licensing agencies, and other formal places.  Links to your site from sites that end in “.edu” or “.gov” are especially valuable.
  • from business associates
  • family sites, family blog, friends, anyone and everyone

Social Media

Making your site popular also means showing up in Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, and other social media spots.  Not only will people discover your business on these sites, Google will see the links on these sites that go to your main site.  This will tell Google that there’s buzz about you, too.

Blogs

Blogs like this Dangerous Common Sense blog serve two purposes:  they spread your name on the Internet as an expert, and your links from your blog to your main site add to your main site’s perceived popularity in Google.  Regular blogging will boost your visibility and perceived value!

Maps and Other Media

Search Engine result pages for businesses now show maps and information from videos and other non-text media when you search for some phrases. When we searched for “San Francisco CPA” here’s what we got back this afternoon:

Google Results for "San Francisco CPA"
Google Results for "San Francisco CPA"

The lesson is that when you optimize your site for search traffic, also grab your business location listing in Google and Bing. Be sure to enter your telephone number so that it’s clickable on smart phones.

No Voodoo Needed!

I have fielded calls for my clients from a lot of fast-talking Search Engine Optimization marketers who lace their spiels with confusing techo-babble.  I think they’re trying to use shock and awe on traditional business people.  Don’t fall for it.

Follow the steps I’ve listed above, and you’ll do as well as any professional SEO service.  Of course, you may not have the time or energy to do these things yourself, and hiring a professional is a good idea.  I think you should hire me!

Whomever you engage, make sure that they are ready to do all of the actions I’ve talked about. Tuning, in-coming link gathering, on-going page changes, web site additions, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and business center listings are all important, incremental actions you can take to gain business from the Internet.

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