September 30, 2013
I see so many alleged ‘SEO tactics that just waste time and money without having any positive affect on the website. In many cases, things done in the name of SEO actually hurt websites more than help them. Which is why I write a whole lot about what not to do in SEO.
While it’s easy to say what SEO isn’t, it’s a lot harder to pin down exactly what SEO is these days. On the other hand, SEO is still the same thing I said it was when I first started writing about it over a decade ago — that is, making your website the best it can be both for people and search engines.
Still, that broad definition probably doesn’t mean much to many of you. You’re likely left wondering how exactly you should go about making your site the best it can be. So today I’ll explain how you can do just that.
Time or Money
First — when you’re talking about having the best anything, there’s no quick fix. Whether you want the best website or the best body, it’s going to take a huge investment on your part. That means you’re going to have to spend lots of money or lots of time (or in many cases both) to make it happen. Just as your big fat belly isn’t going to disappear overnight, great websites aren’t slapped together in a day. You will need some major resources at your disposal if you truly want your website to appeal to both people and search engines. This means either hiring smart people to work diligently on your website and its marketing, or spending most of your time doing it yourself. Your best bet probably a combination of both.
Understand Your Target Audience
To get started having the best website ever, you have to truly understand your target audience. You need to know who they are and what they would be searching for at Google. If you don’t know this information, start researching. If you have an existing customer base, do customer surveys. If you’re working on a new business, then be sure to research the heck out of the industry you’re getting into. You should have done this before ever deciding to start a business, but if you didn’t, you’d better do it before ever attempting SEO.
Create a User-Friendly and Search Engine-Friendly Site Architecture
Once you’ve got your resources and users figured out, it’s time to get to work. The first thing you’ll need to do is to create a crawler and user-friendly website. (‘See how your site architecture and navigation affect SEO here). This is a crucial step that you cannot skip. If you are working with an existing website, you’ll need to determine whether what you currently have is friendly to people and search engines. You need to set it up to meet their needs every step of the way. If it is, then you’re lucky, because if it’s not, you may need to start from scratch with a redesign.
Now that you have the beginnings of SEO baked into your site through its site architecture and usability, it’s time to work on your content. Ideally, you had some idea of your content strategy when you created the site architecture, because they go hand in hand. But having a strategy and implementing it are two different things. While creating content will be an ongoing activity, you do have to have your home page and main product and services pages written.
The idea with content creation is to give your users exactly what they want. And because you already know who they are, you should be able to start writing your content directly to them. By doing that, you’ll naturally be using the kinds of words that they use when seeking out your products and services at search engines. That’s really all that SEO copywriting is about.
After your content is created, it should be a snap to write your Titles and Meta description tags. As a quick summary, be sure to use your most important keywords in the Title tags, while also making them something worth clicking at the search engines. For your Meta descriptions, use some additional words that best describe each page’s offering. And for any blog posts or articles that you may have, your Titles should typically be the Title or headline of the article, and the Meta description should be a great sentence or two summary of what one will read in the article.
Getting the Word Out
All of the above is really all you need to do to have a site that is “SEO’d” from the get-go. But doing all of the above doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly start getting zillions of search engine visitors. You will now have to spend your time marketing your products, services, and even the website itself, as much as possible.
In most cases you’ll need to do both online and offline marketing. Online, you’ll want to learn where your target audience hangs out and become a part of their communities. Those places may consist of various social media such as Twitter or Facebook, and it might include other online communities such as blogs and forums. Offline, you may want to participate in and/or sponsor local events, advertise in magazines, newspapers, mailers, radio, or television. Your goal here is to do whatever it takes to get people to know about your brand, and ideally help you spread the word.
What I’ve mentioned so far is obviously a brief summary of all there is to do. None of the above can be done quickly or easily and without spending some money. But with that said, it is really all there is to SEO these days. It’s a combination of knowing your target audience, describing your great products and services in ways they’ll understand, and getting the word out about it all. Still, it doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels once you’ve completed those tasks. Moving forward, you must continue to create additional content for your website to fill the voids of what your audience might be looking for. Plus, you must continuously promote, market, and advertise. Constant vigilance and hard work are key with SEO.
This proactive approach to SEO is what it truly means to make your site the best it can be for your users and for the search engines.
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen. If you learned from this article, be sure to invite your colleagues to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so they can receive similar articles in the future!