December 16, 2013
If you are a new business owner or the creator of a shiny new website, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and begin searching for link opportunities and promoting content from your site for search engine optimization. However, content strategy and link building should be at the top of the SEO pyramid after a strong online base has been established.
Here are 10 vital on-site steps any website owner must take before moving to any offsite promotion and link building strategy. The steps should be taken in order from 1 thru 10 to ensure that you are set up and ready to go for any off-site efforts.
1. Create a new Gmail account – This is the first and most important step! You will need to separate your personal email from your new website email as soon as possible. There will be numerous log ins and confirmations coming that you don’t want getting lost in your personal email account.
2. Activate Google Analytics – Get the tracking code and get it on your site as soon as your site goes live so you know when, and from where, you are getting traffic.
3. Create a Google Adwords account – Even if you are not interested in pay per click ads, you will need this tool later.
4. Link your site to Google Webmaster Tools – This may require the help of tech support, but Google Webmaster will let you see if your site is functioning properly and this tool lets you alert Google of website changes. Once the site is fully updated, this tool allows you to upload a sitemap to be indexed by Google.
5. Link your site to Bing Webmaster Tools – Even though Google gets the majority of web traffic, it does not get all of it. It can be beneficial to know how your site is being viewed by multiple search engines.
6. Search for keywords in Google Adwords – Start distilling your products and services until you have a list of long tail keywords. Long tail refers to a keyword phrase that is specific and relevant to your business. For example, a new website that sells tools would not be able to rank for the word “hammer” but, “stainless steel claw hammer” could be a much more useful term.
7. Generate a list of 25 keyword phrases – Depending on your site, this may need to be a much bigger list, but you will need them for your title tags and descriptions.
8. Generate title tags – 70 characters or less, this is the snippet that shows up on the browser bar, on your search result title, and it happens to be one of the first things the search engines see when crawling your site. They should be different for each page on your website, and they should directly relate to what is on the page.
9. Three parts, and one pipe to rule them all – I like to create a three part title tag, separating each part with a vertical bar (often called a pipe). It looks like this ” | ” and it is usually on the same key as the forward slash, although it may differ for you. My title tag strategy is composed of the following: Primary keyword phrase | Secondary keyword “or” broader category keyword | company name. You can also put the company name first if you are trying to build your brand. Also, your tags may only be able to have one keyword phrase if you have a long company name. Conversely, an established brand may want to target extra keywords instead of having the company name display.
10. Meta Descriptions – 156 Characters or less – this is your first sales pitch to your customer. These should effectively communicate who your company is, what you do, and why the customer should go in to your site. Do not write these for search engines because they take a back seat to the title tags, and they can make you look ridiculous. Which of the following would entice you to enter the website:
Tag 1: Evan’s Shoe Store, walking shoes, dancing shoes, work shoes, sleeping shoes, girl shoes, boy shoes, man shoes, red shoes, blue shoes all shoes, shoes, SELL ALL THE SHOES, shoes…shoes
Tag 2: Evan’s Shoe Store specializes in all footwear types. We have both casual and athletic shoes available, and our friendly staff will help you find the perfect size and style, visit us soon!
Both of these descriptions were 156 characters. One promotes footwear in a professional and effective manner, the other looks like it was written by a pushy door-to-door salesman with Tourettes. A friendly, readable description with a good call to action is key to success.
These first ten steps, in conjunction with sound technical setup, will put you on the best path to SEO success. There is much more that must be done, and these first ten steps should be updated and tested to ensure they are doing the best job they can for your website.
Evan Wright is the digital content manager at DigitalParc, a Minneapolis Web design and SEO company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author of The Art of Saving: How to Create Your Money Masterpiece, a consumer advice book. Evan specializes in content strategy, SEO, and online marketing.