February 8, 2011
So what are you going to do about it? You’re going to take back control of the search results, that’s what!
You don’t need to be proficient at SEO or hire a Search Engine Optimizer to make a difference to your search engine rankings. There are several easy steps you can take that can make an immediate difference to your site’s visibility.
Here’s a 10 Week SEO Plan that will quickly put your site on the path to higher rankings:
Week 1 – Verify Your Site With the Big 3 Search Engines
If you want to understand how search engines interact with your site and find potential issues before they impact your traffic, you really need to verify your site and sitemaps with the big 3 search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) and monitor your stats regularly.
Start by registering your site with Google Webmaster Tools. This is easy. Simply create an account and verify your site by uploading a small piece of code to your server for Google to find. Then create a XML sitemap of all your site pages and upload it via your Webmaster Tools account.
The amount of information this gives you about how search engines interact with your site is truly mind-blowing. Once you’ve gone through this process, you’ll be able to check:
– how many pages Google has indexed and how often
– what errors Googlebot found while indexing
– what keywords your pages are being found for
– how many incoming links each page has from external sources
– how many internal links each page has from other pages on your site
– how well your site is optimized for target keywords
– how fast your site loads
– how many broken links are on your site, where they point to and on what pages, etc.
It’s a similar registration / reveal process with Yahoo Site Explorer and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Week 2 – Research Your Target Keywords
It’s easy to assume that because you sell “yellow widgets,” your customers type “yellow widgets” into Google to find your products, right? But the truth is, you don’t actually know what your customers are searching for unless you research it. They might be typing in “gold whatsits.” One of the biggest mistakes online businesses make with SEO is targeting the wrong keywords.
Start by creating a seed list of keywords. Basically, this is a brain dump of all the keywords and phrases you think your potential customers might type into a search engine to find products and services like those you offer. You need to get inside the heads of your potential visitors/customers. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute and think what would YOU type into a search engine if you wanted to find a site like yours? Then pass that list around the office, to family, friends and customers and get everyone to add the keywords *they* would use to find those same products and services. Keep going until you’ve got at least 50 keywords/phrases. That’s your search term seed list.
Now, take that list and enter it into an online keyword research tool such as Keyword Discovery, WordTracker or even the Google Keyword Tool. These tools show you how many searches each keyword/phrase attracts each day. Use this information to narrow down your choices. Don’t bother with keywords that generate less than 20 searches per day. Look at the most popular keywords in your list and choose the ones that relate specifically to your site content. Revise, streamline, and revise some more to come up with your final list of target search terms.
Week 3 – Integrate Your Keywords into Your Pages
Contrary to popular belief, sticking your keywords into your meta tags is NOT sufficient for Google to find your site a relevant match for related search queries. For a search engine to find a site relevant, it MUST find the keyword within the visible text on your pages and in link text pointing to your site.
Take your final streamlined keyword list and allocate your chosen keywords to the various pages of your site. This is a pretty straightforward exercise. Usually the content of each page will tell you what keywords will be the easiest and most logical to integrate into the body text and other content.
Now, rewrite your content to incorporate your keywords naturally into your pages. Try not to repeat a keyword phrase more than 3 or 4 times in a single page. Re-write your page titles and META tags, alt tags and headings to include your new keywords. When you create new pages, make sure you include logical keywords in your file names e.g. instead of www.mywidgetsite.com/page36%$2.html try www.mywidgetsite.com/shiny-widgets.html.
Week 4 – Create Tailored Title and Meta Tags
How many sites have you been to where every page has the same META tags? That’s a lost search opportunity. Every page on your site should have a different Title and META Description tag, tailored to the content of each page. Take your new keywords and create optimized titles and tags for each page you want the search engines to index. This indicates to search engines AND visitors what each specific page is about.
Week 5 – Install and Utilize Google Analytics
Have you installed Google Analytics on your site? If not, then do it today. Google Analytics is a free site statistics package that provides insights into your web site traffic and marketing effectiveness. You may already have access to a site metrics package courtesy of your hosting company or web designer, but I guarantee you that it won’t be as powerful or easy to use as Google Analytics. The program lets you see and analyze your traffic data in new ways and you can learn how your visitors interact with your web site over a specified time period.
With benchmarking tools, you can find out whether your site metrics under-perform or outperform those in your industry and more accurately measure your web site’s Return on Investment (ROI). Google Analytics synchronizes directly with Google AdWords and other PPC services too, so you can set conversion goals and track visitor pathways from the entry page right through to the purchase receipt. Google Analytics features a wide range of graphical report options, enabling you to prepare web site performance reports for stakeholders right across your organization.
Week 6 – Add Fresh Content
What keeps a search engine coming back to your site? Fresh content. By adding new pages and information to your web site on a regular basis, you’re sending a signal to both search engines and visitors that you have lots to offer and they should come back regularly. The more content you have, the more entry points you are providing to visitors as a way of finding you in the search engines. Think of your site as a reverse pyramid, where your additional content pages are providing more and more doorways to your site at the top level.
Week 7 – Revisit Your Internal Link Structure
A lot of webmasters spend too much time looking at external links pointing to their sites and forget about their internal link structure. The way you link between your own site pages can have a huge impact on the search rank of those pages. This is because Google and other search engines are influenced by the keywords that are used in the links themselves. This *anchor text* tells search engines what the page is about.
For example, if you are linking to your page about *leather widgets* from your home page, instead of having the link read “Click Here,” change it to “Read more about our leather widgets,” with the entire snippet of text used as the link text. This signals to search engines that the page you are linking to is about *leather widgets* and they are more likely to show that page as a relevant match to search queries for *leather widgets* in their search results. Try to integrate this link policy across your entire site, with all your pages being cross-linked via appropriate keyword-rich link text. You’d be surprised what a difference this small change can make to the visibility of your pages!
Week 8 – Get Social
Use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to publicize your site content. If you haven’t already established accounts for your business on these social networks, do so quickly. Then, every time you make a product announcement, publish a newsletter or add a new blog post, make sure you cross-post the content on these social sites. This will encourage more people to share your content and engage with your site, resulting in more traffic and more incoming links.
Week 9 – Build Incoming Links to Your Site
Speaking of incoming links, these are crucial to your site’s ultimate performance in search engines. The number of external links pointing to a page is a major component of the ranking algorithm Google and other engines use to determine a page’s relevance against a search query.
If Page A has 5 links pointing to it using *shiny red widgets* as the anchor text in the links, while Page B has 50 similar links, it makes sense that Google will find Page B a more relevant match and rank it higher in the search results. Make sure your site is full of Page B’s. There is an exception to this though – the sites linking to yours need to be trusted by Google.
You need to ensure the links you obtain are from high quality sites and not spammy free-for-all link farms or else the links might do you more harm than good. A simple explanation for how this works is here: How Does Google Collect and Rank Results?
Publish a link policy and encourage external sites to link to you using anchor text of your choosing. Seek out high quality directories and submit your site to suitable categories for your products / services.
Week 10 – Monitor, Tweak, Test, Tweak
Nobody gets anywhere by standing still. It’s the same with your web site. You need to constantly monitor how it’s performing and how people are interacting with it before you can improve it. For this purpose, Google Analytics is your best friend. Set aside time in your weekly schedule to review your analytics and make note of how your SEO work is progressing. Make a note of any issues that need addressing. Plan changes to the site based on visitor activity and keyword search trends. Log into your Webmaster Tools accounts for the big 3 engines regularly to check for indexing issues and monitor how many pages from your sitemap each has indexed.
Follow these steps and I promise you’ll see results in just 10 weeks.
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.