Whether you hire an Search Engine Optimization service/specialist or do it yourself, there’s a list of initial tasks to accomplish in order to start moving your site to the top of Google’s result pages. I am going to use the checklist below as an outline for a call later today to a prospective client who wants her site to start showing up on Google. It’s what SEO specialists do, but there’s nothing secret about it!
Go ahead! Try your own hand at being a SEO expert! Here’s what to do:
Determine what keyword phrases you want each of your web pages to be tuned for. Each page can be tuned for one set of keywords (read why), and the selection of appropriate keywords is critical. If possible, you want to identify the keywords relating to your service and products which have a high number of Internet searches and a low number of competing sites. You also need to consider tuning your pages for longer phrases which narrow the search to your geographic area or product specialty.
Tune your home page for the most important keyword phrase. Then in your first pass tune 2 – 4 more pages for other important keywords.
To tune a page:
Lead with keyword phrase in the page <title> tag. “Lead” means that the phrase should come first in the text, not at the end of a title, header, paragraph, etc.
Lead with the keyword phrase in the <h1>header at the top of the page and in the leading <h2> header and top <p>paragraph text.
Lead with the keyword phrase in the ALT and TITLE tags that are part of each <img> image on your page.
Write a <meta name=”description” content=”How…”> description meta tag that leads with the keyword phrase.
Make sure that each page has at least 300 words of relevant text. Google likes wordy pages.
Ensure that any content provided by Flash or video is also present in low-tech text. Search engines don’t do a good job understanding and indexing non-text content.
If you are a business with a bricks and mortar presence, fill out your profile on Google Places, Bing, City Search, and Yelp.
Develop a strategy to acquire quality in-coming links to each tuned page on your site.
Develop a strategy to update each tuned page monthly. Google ranks freshly updated pages higher than stale pages, so we need to find a way to include new content on the pages as often as reasonable.
Some SEO companies say simply, “Trust us and we’ll get you to the top of Google.” Then they take your money and do their “magic”. Of course, there is no magic, and perhaps your site will rise somewhat in Google’s results, but sometimes not much will happen.
I believe in outlining the approach to clients and letting them make key decisions. Deciding how much of their time and money to spend in optimizing the site is an area that I rely on the client’s judgment. By laying out the tasks, the client can decide how much outside support they want from me, and how much time of their own they want to invest.
Of course, SEO optimization isn’t done in a vacuum. While being mindful of Google’s indexing rules, you also have to write compelling copy. Tell people about the problems you’re solving for them! Give them compelling reasons to use your services.
You want to make your site irresistible for all those new visitors Google is going to send you! Go for it… and happy marketing!
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.
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
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 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:
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.
A friend said he was recommending me to one of his contacts for Search Engine Optimization. The contact asked, “How many #1 positions does Ozdachs get in Google?”
I was stumped. I produce reports for clients saying where they show up in various search engines for different phrases. But, I have never thought to aggregate the #1 positions for all clients and come up with a number of #1’s for bragging.
Frankly, I don’t think the gross number of top positions is a good metric. I work with my clients to track:
Referral sources for prospects who contact them.
Hits to their web site, including the search phrases used by the visitors.
Search engine result positions for selected phrases in the major search engines.
Tracking the number of #1 positions in Google for a site may be a good marker for success. Or, it that number could be a useless statistic that can be gamed by a Search Engine Optimization company.
I can get almost anyone the #1 position in Google results for a lot of commercially meaningless searches. The easiest example is your company’s name. Your web site is probably already #1 in Google for your business’ name. Search Google for “Ozdachs Consulting” and my site comes back on the top of the list… and I have not done SEO on my own site. My client “Sterck Kulik O’Neill accounting group” shows us #1 when you search for “Sterck Kulik O’Neill”.
These #1 positions aren’t important. If someone knows your business’ name and searches for it, they are already your clients or at least know about you and are considering buying from you.
Search Engine Optimization is most valuable when marketing your site to people who are looking for what you sell but don’t know that your business exists. Those are the prospects who find you when they search Google for terms such as “San Francisco CPA”. Sterck Kulik O’Neill comes up #1 in Google for this search, and that’s a #1 that means business!
How many of those type of #1’s do I have? Not that many. The reason is simple. It takes time and money to earn number one rankings for terms.
For instance, you can optimize each web page for only one search phrase. So, if you want to score well for several phrases, you need to have separate pages tuned for each phrase. “San Francisco CPA” is not the same as “San Francisco accountant”. To have both phrases show up #1 in Google, you will have one page tuned for each phrase and unique content for each page. Then you have to find authoritative sites to point to each of these keyword pages so that Google knows to take each and every one of them seriously.
Most of my clients decide that it’s cost effective to try for one or two top rankings in Google. We identify the most important money-making phrase and tune the home page for it. Tuning more pages for other phrases isn’t too much work, but to get them to rise to the top of the search results requires promoting them and having other sites link to them. To do it right, we really should set up separate web sites — or at least unique sub-domains — for each money term.
I’m up for the task, if my clients want me to spend the time. But, in my space most clients are very happy with having one page show up near the top of Google. When other tuned pages in the site show up reasonably well, they’re ecstatic.
So, how many number 1 pages do my clients have in Google? Enough to keep them happy with my services!
I am working with a frustrated client who is concerned that her site is not visible on Google’s search engine results.
I asked what search terms she was having problems with, and she said, “All of them. My site isn’t in the top for ‘aaaa’, ‘bbbb’, ‘cccc’, … ‘xxxx’, ‘yyyy’, or ‘zzzz’. Each of those terms are valid synonyms for the service she offers.
To help her site, I’ve asked her to pick the ONE most important search term she wants her site to show up for. “All of them” is not something I can tune a web page for. Even if all the terms mean the same thing.
The reason I cannot tune a single page for all the terms is simple. Google’s method of ranking pages is to read a web page and to then count the placement and frequency of the words on that page. Then, based on its secret algorithm, Google decides what that one page is about and how valuable the content of that page is likely to be to a visitor searching for any particular set of words.
In order to tune a page to make Google think it is a good resource for, say for example, “San Francisco accountants”, I have to put “San Francisco accountants” in the page’s title, headers, photograph descriptions, and paragraph text. I have to emphasize that one phrase, “San Francisco accountants” in order to convince Google of the page’s focus.
To tune for “San Francisco accountants” the words I use are “San Francisco accountants”, not “SF accountants” nor “San Francisco CPAs”. A human reader may know that those three phrases talk about the same professional service, but Google does not.
Similarly, “vacation rental” may mean “vacation lodging” to a human being. You may search for “vacation rental” and be happy finding a page talking about “vacation lodging”. But, to computer-minded Google the terms have only “vacation” in common.
To Google “apartments” and “apt” are also unrelated as are “tennis shoe” and “sneaker”. (At least they are at the time I write this blog entry.) Google deals in words and phrases and is ignorant of topics and meaning.
A thorough optimizing of a site to show up highly on Google requires individual pages for each keyword phrase. Each of these pages will emphasize that particular keyword, and each page must also have unique content on it.
A business that has 10 “money words” for which it wants high Google ranking will have to have at least 10 pages in the site, one for each phrase. This requirement is, of course, one which many small businesses cannot meet. Creating text and graphics for each of these pages can be a burden!
Therefore, for a first step I advise my clients to pick the one phrase they most want to show up for in Google. I then tune their home page for that most important phrase. As time, energy, and money permit we can, over time, create separate pages for each of the desired money phrases.
If you’re not showing up as high as you want on Google results, start with this simple tip. Look at your home page. Edit it to highlight the ONE phrase that you most want to show up for. Your home page should focus on that phrase like a laser and not throw out all your keyword goals like a shotgun.
Next Up: Picking the One Phrase that Will Get Your Site the Most Visitors