By John Eberhard
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically it is a series of actions you do to drive more traffic to a website, from search engines.
If you have a website and have never done any SEO, then chances are you are not getting much in the way of traffic to that website. And if you are not getting much traffic, then you probably are not getting any responses from that website.
Having a website is not an end in itself. For most companies, the reason you have a website is to present your company to people, and convince them to respond to you. But if you have hardly any visitors to the site, then you will get no one responding.
It IS possible to drive people to come to your website, and thus respond to you. There are several ways to do it. But SEO is one of the best long-term ways to drive website traffic. And you NEED to do it.
SEO has basically two parts, with typical IT mumbo jumbo names: 1) On-Page Optimization, and 2) Off-Page Optimization. Sounds like something you do to a jet engine or something, right?
To make it simple, On-Page Optimization includes things you do directly to your website to make it better able to attract traffic from search engines. Off-Page Optimization is what you do with other sites to create links back to your site.
On-Page Optimization: What’s Done On Your Site
First you do keyword research. You come up with a list of 100-250 or so potential keywords that people might type in when looking for your products or services. Then we do research on those keywords to find which ones have a decent number of people searching for them regularly, but don’t have a million sites competing for them.
The goal is to find keywords with decent traffic but low number of competing sites. Because you might be able to rank well for keywords that have little or no searches, but it won’t do you any good. And if you try to get your site to rank for keywords that have large numbers of sites competing for them, you will never be able to rank well for those keywords.
So the sweet spot is: good number of searches, low competition.
Once those sweet spot keywords are selected, we write titles and descriptions for each page of your website, then input those into the pages in the hidden areas of the pages, called “meta-tags.” These titles and descriptions are what shows up on Google or other search engines when someone searches for something.
So that’s a one-time action, which can be completed fairly quickly. It should be repeated every 2-3 years or so.
Off-Page Optimization: Building Links
Once you have your titles and descriptions entered into the site for every page, you now have to create links coming to your site from other sites. Why? Because Google says that links coming to your site from other sites is one of the most important criteria in their deciding how your site will rank for any given keyword.
So how many links do you need? That depends, to a large extent, on how many links your competition has coming to their websites from other sites. If most of your competition has hundreds of links, then you need hundreds of links. If most of your competition has thousands of links, then you need thousands of links. That’s if you want to really compete in the arena of search engine rankings and website traffic.
So how do you build links to your site from other sites? Well the methods used to do that have changed a lot over time.
First of all, Google says to never do anything to create links to your site. Just put up great content on your site and people will naturally link to it. I have written extensively in the past on why this self-serving advice from Google is not good for YOU. But to summarize, there is so much content on the web now that if you do not actively take steps to get other sites to link to you, no one will. So if you hear someone tell you that you can’t build links because Google says not to, ignore that advice.
I have written articles over the years on what you need to do (and what you can do) for link building these days. Google has taken actions in the past few years to actually stop people from doing certain link building actions. So it is important to know which actions are still working. Here’s what you can and should do:
- Writing a press release about your business, and posting it to multiple free online PR sites, and at least one paid online PR site. The release should have links to your website within it. These online PR sites usually rank well themselves, so a link there counts for something. The paid online PR sites will usually get your release into multiple sites for newspapers and magazines. I have seen no evidence that these links are negative in any way, or that they don’t work anymore.
- Creating online business listings. You can create listings for your business on multiple business listing web sites, such as Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Merchant Circle, Manta, Insider pages, Hotfrog, etc.
- Links to your site on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter now count as links to your site.
- Contacting the owners of blogs and asking to write a guest post for their blog, with a link back to your site, is good. Then you have to write unique content for that blog only. And obviously it has to be a topic you are actually an expert in. The challenge here is that there is a saturation aspect to this activity as well, as a lot of people are trying to do this, and so blog owners are getting a lot of these requests.
- Post your articles, releases or other content to your blog or blogs.
I saw a billboard the other day for the Marines that said “We don’t take applications, only commitments.”
The concept of commitment is relevant to link building. It is not something you do for one month or three. It is something best done for a minimum of 6-12 months. I have clients where I have been doing link building for them each month for 9-10 years. And those are the clients that get the best benefit from SEO, because they know it’s something that they have to do continually. I have doubled, tripled or quadrupled website traffic for clients that have worked with us over a period of time.
So you don’t have to join the Marines. But you do have to do on-page SEO and then commit to an ongoing program of link building. And that’s when the traffic starts coming.