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How to Do SEO for Now and Forever

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.

Content Creation

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.

Writing Tags

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.

Moving Forward

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.

About the author

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Jill Whalen

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!

23 Comments

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  • In Past, link building is dominant but now a days there are so much limitation on link building so content become powerful one. There is no doubt in seo that content is King.

  • SEO is not for the only back links, search engine ranking, you can not target SEO ranking target the right audience to helping your business growing.

  • That article really opened my eyes and also the personal knowledge of what SEO is.
    Because by knowing and understanding the science of SEO is also true that we build a website that will be developed.
    Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge

  • Insightful article. I place a lot of content in my site but still fail to get the traffic numbers I am seeking.

    I will follow this site a little more to find the key.
    Best wishes

    Peter

  • Thanks for the insights. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the core SEO tasks we have to do. Not least as colleagues run around with a social media obsession, losing track of the SEO priorities.

  • Yes it is indeed very recommended to move on from shady link building tactics to content marketing. Finding the right content for your target audience will earn your business more reputation and of course the chance to gain links from reputable sources in your industry. Going social is also one of the best way to widen your rep too.

  • SEO is changing daily and difficult to keep up with at times. Thank you for a great article – need to keep adding quality content.

  • This article is one of the most interesting and informative content I have come across. Thank you for the information. I will be waiting for more updates from you.

  • Be sure to click the link above to the article on meta description tags. The way these fields are used by search engines has changed dramatically with time.

  • Great article. If I didn’t know better, I would say you’ve been eavesdropping on my conversations with my insurance agency clients. I’ve always said, “Time or Money!” It’s refreshing to hear my words echoed back to me. Now I can use this as 3rd party verification. Great article!

  • Too many times on-page SEO is looked at so closely that the site visitor is neglected when it comes to providing content. I’m constantly preaching to improve page content and to write GREAT blog posts that not only support the keywords/search terms but, at the same time, offer the visitor information that will help promote the perception that my client is the expert in their field.

    Still today people tend to look at their website differently than they do their offline marketing materials. I continually hear prospects and clients say that they want to place minimal content on the site because they don’t think their visitors will want to scroll or that they don’t want to bore them… REALLY? (If you can bore them, maybe you’re in the wrong business.)

    I finally was able to get my point across by asking a pointed question. I tell them to read their site then answer this: “If you were standing in front of a room of prospects telling them about your product/service, is this all you would say (and how you would say it)?” That typically gets the gears turning and, from there, can develop a decent site that is WORTHY of marketing.

    Your article is a great one; however, I differ in opinion on one point. The meta description should be your site’s 155-160 character sales letter that screams, “pick me; pick me!” Too often it’s overlooked since the engines don’t use it anymore.

  • SEO was necessary only when the Web was in its infancy. Nobody really knew much about HTML, except for the tags. The importance of the HTML tags was unimportant first, as Yahoo was a handmade portal. Then the portals started to charge for inclusion in their listings, regardless how well or badly the HTML was designed.

    Then, the search engines came to life. Google especially started to grant special importance to the HTML tags and how they were incorporated in the page. That new search engine requirement created the so-called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). After the first couple of years, for the most part, SEO became a big bunch of baloney.

    Besides, SEO turned into a huge waste of money. Every webmaster should have known well HTML, its tags, and their incorporation in the webpages. An idiot shouldn’t be a webmaster in the first place. An idiot can’t create good content — the main purpose of a Web site.

    The worst part of SEO: It attracted Google’s anger. People paid for SEO, instead of paying to Google (especially in AdWords advertising). Every big company wants all the money for itself. Spreading the wealth around is not acceptable to the big Internet agents. Paying for SEO takes money away from Dracgoogla. And thus the Ugly Penguin came to life. It punishes every webmaster that employs good SEO practices. Dracgoogla assumes that the SEO was paid for.

    A good website, with a good design and content, must pay Google for traffic. Method: AdWords advertising. Bad sites, with bad content and bad HTML design, prove that they are not employing SEO. Therefore, Ugly Penguin (like the character in Batman), ranks higher bad pages, while forcing the good websites pay for AdWords.

    Google started such unfair business practice back in 2004 with the Florida Update. I believe Google was frightened by Uncle Sam. At that time, Dracgoogla was not nearly as powerful and arrogant as it is today.

    Mark my words: SEO is dead… definitively! Like in that Neorealism film: “Giuseppe e morto… morto definitivo!”

    http://saliu.com/Google-search-dishonesty.html

  • I especially agree with the advice to “go and find where your target audience hangs out”.

    Simply by posting relevant & value-added content (designed for humans, not spiders) on blogs and forums that already have high traffic in your niche can mean potentially floods of highly targeted visitors to your site without a search engine being needed in that process at all.

    I am a big fan of consistent keyword targeted content marketing (using pretty much the same basic SEO principles covered in this post) and generate consistent free daily leads for my online business that way….but it does take time to build up with SEO and simply going over to where your audience already is hanging out at completely short-cuts that process.

  • Very useful info. It seems every time that I think I have got SEO strategies figured out I find something else I have missed or done wrong. Making a website has become easier than ever but getting that website to rank on search engines is harder than ever. Proper SEO takes a lot of time but that’s the cost of business.

  • I think the hardest part is figuring out your audience. Being a remodeling company we have a set demographic of users and take that as a factor of the design and website navigation. Simplicity is daily goal for us. The less amount of bells and whistles to get the user to what information they need.

  • Informative article. You do a great job of outlining the basic SEO tricks that can help a business’s website rank high.

  • This is a complete summary of what we should follow. I am looking for more insight points about link building 2013. Can recommend some?