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Starting an SEO Project

SEO Project Basics

We're asked quite a bit to help people with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their websites. They, of course, want their website to rank higher and get more traffic. I figured I'd write an article to again sum up what needs to be done on an SEO project so that people better understand what the process is.

There are basically two main kinds of SEO: on-site SEO and off-site SEO. On-site is making sure your website is set up correctly. Off-site is getting links (backlinks) to your website.

First - just a note: at Webstix, we are very open about explaining how SEO is done. Other website design firms might keep things a secret... we don't care - we'll give away the recipe for the most part (some details we will leave out). We know that most business owners will see all the work that needs to be done and realize that it's not worth their time doing all that work. They would rather give it to the experts to do and instead do what they do best - run their business. Also, all this information is already out there on the Web if you do a little searching. We're not going to hide it. We'd rather explain things like this to our clients so that they understand the value of our work and all that needs to happen to get started with SEO.

Website Evaluation / Audit

If we didn't create the website or if it has been a while since we've worked on a website, then the first thing to do is an audit on the website. We need to make sure it's up to the latest standards and that it's set up well. It'll do no good to start sending traffic or set up links to a website that has major issues. We look at how the website is set up technically and then we also evaluate things like the content and calls to action.

We'll check to make sure that Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools have been set up along with proper site maps (XML and HTML). Basically, we'll check a lot of the things that we mention in our e-book: "Back to Basics: Increasing Web Traffic" because even just doing those things can cause a website to show up higher in rankings (you get a boost).

Once we've gone over the website and fixed things, we move on to keyword research and content development.

Keyword Research

Each company and industry is different. People type in different phrases into search engines to find what they are looking for. We need to find out which of those phrases matches what your company or organization offers and then find the ones that are easiest to rank for. This includes local searches (if applicable) and long-tail keywords (which are keyword phrases with 3 or more words in them). Some industries and keywords are going to be tougher than others - and, of course, some easier.

I like to say that doing keyword research is like taking a reading on a map before you head out on a journey. If you're just a few degrees off, you're not going to end up where you need to be. Many companies think that just putting up content, any content, will help. No, it won't and you'll be wasting your time on work that will not pay off. Be precise and deliberate about what you blog about if you want precise results.

Keyword research also should relate to your business model and strategy. If you make more profit off of certain "bread and butter" products or services that you offer, then focus on those items. Don't focus as much on the keywords (for products and services) that generate less profit. Get the most bang for your buck. If you don't know which products or services get you the most profit, then you'll first need to figure that out as it's an important factor.

Content Development

Now that we know what keywords to base content on, the content needs to be written. You can either do this in house or you can hire an SEO copywriter. Hiring outside help has it benefits. For one, you get an outside perspective. We hear this a lot from clients... they are, of course, very inwardly focused on their business that they soon forget what it's like to not know anything about their business. Getting that outside perspective is very valuable because it's how your customers view your company or organization as well. The copy then begins to better match how they think and perceive your business. When that matches, you get better results because you're speaking to them better.

If we come to you and say that you need 100 pages of content added to your website, don't freak out on us. All we're trying to do here is get you in the same league as your competition. For some websites, it'll take more and some will be less.

The content that's being developed needs to be original (not copied from anywhere else... at all) and helpful (solve a problem). It needs to be what people are searching for. I like to say that the content needs to be "bookmark worthy." This means it's so good that people will bookmark it and share it with others (share on social media).

How Long Should Articles Be?

A good target to shoot for is 500 words or more of text but the best answer is make sure it's enough of text to thoroughly cover the topic and give a complete answer that will rank above anything else out there. Maybe that's 300 words or maybe that's 2500 words if you want to make sure your website and article are "the authority" on the topic. Yes, that's what you're shooting for.

What you for sure don't want to do is put out 700 words of junk or filler... something with no meat in it. Don't just write garbage to meet a word quota. This gets you nowhere and just wastes your time. Also, Google could look at your website and decide that the content on it is not worth ranking and it could do you harm.

I'll go over blogging a little more below.

Getting Links to Your Website

thumbs-upPersonally, I don't like the term "backlinks" because that seems to infer that you link to them and they link back to you. That's a two-way link. Getting one-way links is better, so that's why I say "get links to your website" instead of "get backlinks."

A link to your website is like a vote for your website... kind of like a thumbs up. Not all votes are equal. The more authority a page and website have, the more powerful the link.

How it used to work is that the word being linked (anchor text) is what the "vote" is on but it doesn't work this way any more. Ranking for keywords used to be really easy. Now, what Google and search engines want is a more natural looking link profile. This means you have to vary your link text.

How Do You Get Links?

The best links you can get to your website are from other websites in your industry. One good place to start is with your vendors or customers - see if you can get a link from their website to yours. If needed, set up a "Links" page on your website to give them a link as well (two-way link).

Getting some links from website directories is good. Don't get too many but this gets your website out there. These links are low PR (PageRank) but they are usually links that contain the name of your website, your domain name or company/organization name, so having these links helps make your link profile look more natural.

Social media is what Google and other search engines are looking at. There are social media sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but also other social bookmarking websites. Start building links on all of these websites. Don't do it too quickly but gradually. We're not saying you need to have a Facebook page for your company (and it's not a good idea to set one up if you're not going to update it / don't have time to update it) but you should have social sharing buttons on your website's blog so that you make it easy for others to mention your articles on those websites.

And then there are other ways to get some links... yes, we're going to guard this part of the process, sorry.

Keep Blogging

The next part is to wait and keep track of rankings weekly and see where the website ends up for the list of selected keywords. While this is going on, keep blogging. Blog at least once a week and up to 10 times a week or more if you can.

Here are some articles that will help you:

How Do You Know What to Blog About? (webstix.com)

The analogy I like to give is that you get more fish with a bigger net. You get a bigger net by having a larger website. If someone is searching for a certain phrase and your website happens to have that phrase on it, then you have a much better chance of showing up for that search, right? So... you need to add content, it's that simple.

One easy way to blog is to do what I just did above. I referenced another article and now I'm writing more about it. This is called "content curation" in the SEO industry. You read other articles in your industry and then do a blog post about that article where you reference it (link to it) and then write more comments about it. You end up with a post that is original and links to another source... and that's good.

The Perfect Blog Post

Here's what I think a great blog post is:

  • At least 600 words (again, enough to thoroughly cover the topic without boring people)
  • 1-2 links to other, high authority websites
  • 1 image per every 300 words that relates to the content
  • 1-2 YouTube videos
  • 1 link to another page on your website (within the content)

Your post or article should be informative, solve a problem, be easy to scan and read, and then give links to other resources. You get credit for content when you embed a YouTube video. Another good thing about adding YouTube videos is that they keep people on your website longer. If you're running Google Analytics, then Google knows how long people are staying on your website and this can help you get more traffic since Google sees that people that are on your website spend a good amount of time there.

Again, your post needs to be "bookmark worthy" which means it's so good that people want to bookmark it and share it. Don't just spend 10 minutes on an article - spend a good hour or more on one. Do some research or interviews or do content curation.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After doing all this, do it again. Keep doing it until you get the rankings you want. Keep doing keyword research and add content to match those keywords. Keep building links (gradually). You need to do more than your competition and do it better than them.

The next thing to do, if you want results more quickly, is to do some pay per click (PPC) advertising. We can help with that. It's not just about building AdWords ads but building specific landing pages for those campaigns and then testing them. Once you get your winning ads and landing pages set up, it more or less goes on autopilot with less maintenance needed - you have the winning formula that produces leads.

Conclusion

Look at this article. I'm using headings, bulleted lists, bold text and I'm linking to other, good sources. This is what goes into a good blog post. Awesome content will eventually get you to rank organically and this is true, "white hat SEO" (playing by the rules). It's what Google wants. If you're in a hurry to rank quickly, then go with PPC advertising.

To be honest, doing SEO is a lot of grunt work. Having the skills to build websites or build satellite/subdomain sites will help. Knowing where to easily get links will help. Knowing how to do effective keyword research is essential. Most business owners don't know this stuff, so they turn to us.

If you're interested in getting help with your website and getting it to rank higher, then please contact us. Now that you're read this article, we know you understand what the process will be like and what goes into good SEO.

-Tony

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