Approaching SEO for the First Time in 2013: Where Do You Even Start?
I was recently emailed by a family friend asking for some help with his website optimisation. These were his words:
“We really need to be coming up at the top of the rankings on the first page (obviously) when certain basic searches are entered into Google for our products.
I’m not too shabby when it comes to tags, meta-tags, keywords etc – it’s just the implementation of it that leads to results which confuses me!”
It struck me that, while we as an industry hurtle along down a rapidly evolving motorway, we might be leaving those without a savvy SEO agency struggling to even start, let alone keep up.
So where would a small company from Leeds begin with SEO in 2013? This post will plough through the confusion we’re in to outline a simple strategy that almost any business can do.
If We Can’t Agree, What Hope Do You Have?
Things change so quickly in SEO. Two years ago barely anyone had heard of content marketing – now you can hardly move for the amount of infographics cluttering up the web. Because this happens so fast, there is real debate as to where we are actually heading.
Influential characters like Rand Fishkin argue that keyword anchor text is dead, while others likeJoshua Giardino say it’s very much alive and helping sites rank for phrases that aren’t even on the page.
Hundreds of posts declare the ‘death of SEO’, while others like AJ Kohn argue that the fundamentals are very much alive.
Many SEO practitioners also disagree on the value of links. Some argue that they will eventually depreciate in value, while others declare that they will always be important.
So if our industry can’t even agree on best practise, where can you start?
Get Your Basics Right
Regardless of what the future holds, the basics will always still hold true. Master these and you’ll rank over countless sites that have yet to get them right.
1. Optimise for Your Audience
While you want the search engines to find your content, you want people to find it more. It’s people who will buy your stuff and fill in your contact forms. So optimise with them in mind. Use the keyword tool to research phrases that actually have search volume. There’s no point having a page with the title tag “Wooden Garden House for Tools” if what you’re selling is “Garden Sheds”.
“It’s people who will buy your stuff and fill in your contact forms. So optimise with them in mind.”
Make sure every page is optimised with a title tag, description and H1, which describes exactly what is on the page.
2. Keep Things Simple
This leads right on from point one. Many sites make the mistake of trying to do too much on each page. You’ll see pages that try to optimise for showers, bathrooms, toilets and tiling all in one huge piece of content. It’s too much. Users will be confused and so will the search engines.
If you sell showers, have a page on showers. This makes optimisation easier and the content more focused. That way users and search engines can see exactly what you’re selling and what your page is about.
3. Write for Your Audience
Too many times you see copy like this: “We have been selling quality showers for over 25 years. We stock over 1,000 showers at low prices, and we deliver showers within 24 hours. Buy a shower now.”
That doesn’t appeal to anyone. Write as if you’re talking to the user. Explain the benefits and always answer the question every user thinks when they’re browsing a site – “what’s in it for me?”.
If you can master this, you’ll not only find that Google views your site more positively, but your conversions might just increase too. Because who doesn’t want to buy from a site that explains exactly what they get out of buying from you?
4. Produce Great, Evergreen Content
This phrase is bandied around all the time, but very few sites explain how you as a business new to SEO can do it. It’s actually simpler than we make it sound. You’re an expert in your field. You must be, otherwise you wouldn’t be running a business in it.
Because of this, you have knowledge that other people are interested in. Whether it’s potential customers or industry commentators, there is someone out there who wants to hear what you know. So tell them.
Use keyword research to find out what questions people are asking, or having trouble with – questions like “how does my shower work?” or “is shower A better than shower B?”
Evergreen content is another great way to give your site a real boost in traffic. Evergreen means something that never goes out of date (or can be kept relevant with regular updating), a resource that is always useful. This could be a list of short story competitions or art events. Whatever industry you’re in, there is a possibility to create this kind of useful content. And it’s not that difficult to produce. Do so and your site will attract a constant stream of visitors.
5. Measure and Improve
There are hundreds of SEO tools, like Ahrefs, out there to help you with everything from backlink analysis to social mentions. Most have free versions and others are affordable enough even for small businesses. Use these to your advantage.
The more you know about your audience and your site’s performance, the better your chances of improving it. Maybe you’ve got a link from a happy customer. By using tools to find this, you can reach out and thank them, improving your relations and sealing loyalty. And who doesn’t want that?
If you’re unsure where to start, check out our guide of the best online SEO tools. It splits the tools out into the various sections you might need them for, including social and traffic, and details the benefits and who each tool might be useful to. Check it out and if you have any feedback, let me know.
SEO will always change and evolve. It’s the nature of being online. With so many people trying to game the system and cheat the rankings, search engines are in a constant battle to eliminate spam and promote quality to the top.
If you can focus on producing a quality site that puts the user first, you’ll win over the hearts of search engines and visitors. Do this and you have every chance of improving the amount of visitors that land on your site and their chance to convert when they do.
Good luck and I hope these tips have helped. If you have any more or any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments.
Image Source: Paolo Dala on Flickr
Written by Dave Langdale