OK, I admit it. “Let’s get this party started” is probably the most overused cliche of the pop dance industry. I like both Pink’s version, Get the Party Started and the Black Eyed Peas’, Let’s Get it Started; yeah, I’m a 50+ year old, boring white male but I love pop music and pop culture!
STEP ZERO – listen to one of those videos, or whatever crazy upbeat music you prefer to get yourself MOTIVATED. Motivation is critical to successful SEO, as you have a lot to do, it’s not easy, it requires work, it’s competitive, but YOU CAN DO THIS! (Ok not that you’re motivated… you may proceed).
On Page SEO: Optimize the Content of Your Website
STEP ONE – Keywords. Research your keywords, and define your transactional keywords. What keywords to you want to rank for on Google? What patterns exist? Which ones are “more educational” and which ones are “more transactional”? What’s the competitive level? Is it local? Audit the keyword universe, including what you see on the Google screen – is it a) organic only, b) organic and the local pack, c) organic and the answer box? Identify what you want to WIN ON.
STEP TWO – Define your website architecture, usually (but not always) –
- Landing Pages – your SEO landing pages need to match your primary keyword patterns. Most websites have about 5-10 primary keywords. Make sure that these “exist” as landing pages.
- Keyword Footer or Visible site navigation – make sure that you have a keyword footer and/or visible (by this I mean “traditional” SEO) navigation, so Google can “see” keyword link-sculpting between the home page and the landing pages (and each to the other). This “optimized link” architecture or “link sculpting” is very important to success!
- Home page – you need a home page that is optimized, and think about how the home page will link to the landing pages from an architectural perspective. Of course, you have to toggle between “designing for humans” (pretty! graphics! clean!) and “designing for Google” (text! verbose! wordy!).
- Blog – every SEO-friendly website needs a blog with blog posts, so make sure you have this available to you, even if you’re not yet ready to blog.
STEP THREE – Optimize the Website tags and content. Here, with your architecture in hand, and your keywords, optimize the content. Specifically for the landing pages –
- Keywords to key HTML tags. Place your keywords for each landing page in the TITLE, META DESCRIPTION, IMG ALT, ANCHOR, and HEADER tags. Remember to get the keywords “in” the content yet make it readable and FUN for humans. It’s not either/or it’s both and: both FOR Google and FOR humans.
- Content. Write keyword-heavy content that is heavier than “normal” English but not so heavy as to incur a Panda penalty. The idea here is that “a little salt is good for the soup, but too much salt ruins the soup… and you need salt for good soup!”
- Link sculpting. Cross link the pages TO EACH OTHER in the content AROUND YOUR TARGET KEYWORDS. So landing page #1 should link to landing page #2 around the target keyword phrase of landing page #2
STEP FOUR. Optimize the Website tags and content of the HOME PAGE. Here, with your architecture in hand, and your keywords, optimize the tags and content. This is similar to the landing pages, but the home page has to have more than one keyword focus. So conceptualize it as a “gateway” to the website, with the TITLE tag clarifying to Google the most important keyword target and keyword theme and then “one click” links down to the landing pages. Obviously, write strong SEO-friendly content for the home page from the TITLE tag to the other tags (e.g., IMG ALTs, META DESCRIPTION) and all content on the page itself.
STEP FIVE. Check your keyword footer or visible navigation. Make sure it is short, sweet, keyword-heavy and has “one click” links to the target landing pages.
STEP SIX. Start up your blog. Blogging allows for you to focus on micro or long-tail content. So start blogging on very specific topics to your keywords themes, then link “up” to the landing pages according to the keyword targets (“optimized links”). I recommend four blogs per month. (I also recommend two Press Releases per month using “http” format and a service like NewsWire as part of your On Page > Easy Off page strategy / transition).
At this point, you have an optimized website – home page, landing pages, cross-links in the footer and text, and a vibrant blog. You’re pretty much DONE with On Page SEO.
Off Page SEO: Get Links, Social Authority, and Social Mentions
Now with your On Page “under control,” it’s time to switch to OFF PAGE SEO. Google looks keenly at external validations that you are who you say you are. That you are as awesome, as wonderful, and as relevant vis-a-vis your keyword targets. The primary factors are external links to your website, reviews on Google (if you are a local business), and as a distant third social authority / mentions (e.g., you’re active on twitter).
STEP ZERO. Do reviews apply? If you are a local business (e.g., plumber, CPA, web designer), then your keywords will produce local targets with the “Google Pack” visible. This means that REVIEWS are in play. For a local business, reviews are MORE IMPORTANT than links. If you are NOT LOCAL, then reviews do NOT apply.
STEP ONE. Audit your easy link targets. Call up Mom, Dad, Uncle Joe, business friends, colleagues. Have them link their site TO YOURS preferably in a short blog post that has lots of your keyword themes in it. Become “link friendly” as an organization by educating everyone in your business to look for links and to secure them. If the local paper calls for a comment, ask the journalist to link to you. If you join the national association of Hispanic Men who Love Cats, make sure that you get a link. BE LINK AWARE 24/7 as this is a longer process.
STEP TWO. Identify directories, associations, and organizations you can join. Google ‘directory’ plus your keywords, ‘association’ plus your keywords and JOIN UP. Look for decent, quality directories or associations that are relevant to your keyword community, that have listings (especially with DOFOLLOW links), and join them. Knock out the EASY directory-type links.
STEP TWO / b . If you are a local business, start soliciting links from REAL and HAPPY customers. Ask happy customers, “Hey – could you do us a favor? Write us a review on Google”. Most businesses if they just ASK will start to dramatically increase their reviews on Google. Yes I know it’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone. So stop whining and get it done.
STEP THREE. Move on to advanced link strategies. Like using a tool like AHREFS or MOZ and “reverse engineer” your competition. Who links to them, and why? Can you get these links? Similar links? Look to non-profit link-building (e.g., sponsoring nonprofits in your industry or niche). Even consider link-bait – a widget, a scholarship contest, something fun or provocative that will “spontaneously” attract links.
STEP FOUR. Go social. Secure and optimize your main social profiles – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., and try to be active and get followers. The MOST IMPORTANT for SEO is Twitter. So get on Twitter, start tweeting (your urls), and get followers! Even better get other people to tweet out your URLS.
Metrics: Measure Your Performance
OK, now that you have your machine running, it’s time to measure.
- Rank – are you ranking on Google vs. your keywords? Report this at least monthly and look for improvement. You can’t succeed if you don’t rank on your keywords, so measure this. You should see improvement. If not, you have to double down on hard work – usually MORE OFF PAGE – links and reviews.
- Google Analytics – use Google Analytics to measure everything “after the click.” Do they land on your website? What page(s) do they view? Do they take your desired action, such as an e-Commerce purchase or a registration as a sales lead? Why or why not? The point of your website is usually to either generate sales or sales leads. Is it? Why? Why Not?
- Other Metrics. I would also track, on a monthly basis, your site: / indexed pages on Google, your Domain Authority and inbound links (using a tool like AHREFS). Also, of course, track your reviews on Google and Yelp (#1 and #2 respectively as review sites for SEO) and all the 2nd tier sites like YellowPages or SuperPages or specialized directories. These are background metrics that tell you if there is “link energy” flowing into the site.
Never Stop Learning
SEO is an endeavor that changes constantly, that evolves. So bookmark and pay attention to the main blogs. Attend a few conferences, if possible. Buy books on Amazon from the key gurus (usually come out yearly). Stay up-to-date with the industry, so you’re aware of new opportunities (e.g., the ANSWER BOX) or new threats (e.g., PANDA, MOBILE-FIRST, PENGUIN).
Oh, and have fun!