Online Marketing by an Undergraduate

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How To: Strategy for Search Engine Optimization That Works

To follow up on my last post on the operations of search engines, I will outline a three pronged strategy for search engine optimization that will drive traffic to your website. Lee Odden’s Monday Inbound Marketing Univeristy lecture, “SEO Crash Course to Get Found” plays a strong influence here. Prong 1, perform keyword optimization, 2, make your site search friendly, 3, build quality links. Analytics complete the strategy. 

1. Keyword Optimization

The first step in any SEO strategy, keyword optimization, breaks down into three steps –  research, quantify, and implementation.

Research customer driven keywords with an eye to your sales funnel. Remember, the higher a consumer is in your sales funnel–however you define it–the broader the keyword. As a consumer gets closer to buying, optimize your landing pages around specific keywords to improve conversion. Below are a few research tools to help you extract common phrases and keywords:

  1. Customer surveys and interviews.
  2. Feedback from your sales and customer service teams
  3. Thorough review of competitor content.

From your inventory of keywords and phrases, whittle down your list  by quantifying their popularity, their competitiveness, their and potential using free tools such as Google’s Keyword tools or paid tools for additional functionality like SEMRush.com‘s paid service. 

Now, bring organization to your keywords. Using excel, or an online monitoring program,  sort your keywords into categories, and monitor their competitiveness, popularity, and relevance to your content. Use this insight to continually optimize around your best performing keywords and as insight into content generation. 

Finally, keyword placement. Place your keywords in title tags, headings, paragraph titles, body copy, the url, meta description tags, links and navigation…basically, anywhere  you can put text, optimize your keywords. A word of caution while you optimize, your first duty is to entice your web site visitors to come back. Make your content readable and engaging. Don’t go too crazy with optimization.

2. Search Engine Friendly

Make your site friendly in three ways – make it easy to find and revisit, easy to crawl your links, and make the site architecture logical and consistent.

First, A word of caution from Lee Odden, “Changing your web design, content management system or web site software can destroy[emphasis his] your search visibility.” In these situations, you MUST HAVE a migration plan. Elements to include:

  1. Map old urls to new
  2. Employ permanent redirects
  3. Ask your top trafficked inbound links to adjust their link to ensure continuity
  4. Monitor site analytics for 404 not found errors and make necessary adjustments.

Although I am jumping ahead, pursue inbound links! Inbound links from indexed websites make search engines more likely to crawl your site. Additionally, producing content regularly gives search engines incentive to come back for more. 

When a search engine bot finds you, let it crawl all your web pages. USE TEXT LINKS (optimize for keywords). If you must use ajax, flash, or javascript links between pages, make sure to include text links. 

Develop a logical site structure. If your site is about online marketing, the top level should be online marketing, then the next level should be social media marketing, inbound marketing, nurture marketing, etc.. The next level should be more specific after that. A logical site structure makes understanding what your site is about easier for search engines.

Furthermore, including an HTML site map on every page and submitting an XML site map is a phenomenal way to allow bots to crawl and index all your relevant pages.

    Lastly, a quick overview of worst practices:

    1. Using temporary redirects, using these don’t give credit as a link to your website. If you have to use a redirect, use a permanent one. 
    2. Make URLs as friendly as possible, really long urls and overly complicated ones are no good for search engines or people.
    3. Relying on ajax, flash, and javascript links. Always have alternative text links as an option

    3. Link Building

    “The electricity for site search” – Lee Odden. Link building adds credibility to your site. Get creative here. Some guidelines to get started.

    At the core of inbound link building is generating great content and promoting it through your social channels. Additionally, make sharing your content as easy as possible. Include options to tweet, share, digg, and bookmark right at the point of content (you will notice I have some work to do in this area).

    Furthermore, manage your link building the same way you manage your customer relationships. Use either a monitoring program or some method to manage your links and relationships. Link building is an activity you will do as long as you remain competitive online, so it is imperative to keep your links organized.

    Lastly, some performance indicators to keep in mind while tracking your link performance:

    1. Pages indexed – Are you continually adding content worth linking to?
    2. Crawling errors – Use webmaster tools (Google and Bing) to monitor broken links
    3. Rankings relative to own site over time .
    4. Inbound links – Quantity, quality, longevity, keyword referrals from search – what phrases are most effective for your objectives? what search engines are they coming from? 
    5. Social media traffic – Reach out to influentials linking to you much like you cultivate media people in PR. Become a resource to these influentials and reciprocation will follow. 
    6. Goal pages and conversions – Track your business outcomes.

    Note: everything about in site links from the previous section applies here.

    Analytics

    A complete SEO strategy requires analytics. Select a set of outcomes to measure, benchmark these at the beginning, then monitor these metrics at regular intervals – weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. Real time monitoring is a plus. Lastly, make sure you have the right analytics tools to measure your goals. Free and helpful analytic tools:

    1.  Webmaster tools (Google or Bing) – they let you know what keywords are driving your traffic. Using these webmaster tools also allows you to alert seach engines of any planned moves.
    2. Google Analytics – Chris Donaldson of pimpyourmarketing.com highly recommends fluency with this suite. Don’t know him? Check out his blog. Always thought provoking. 

    Summary: 3 Pronged Strategy – keyword optimization, search friendly site, link building. Tie the prongs together with analytics.

    If you liked this how to, leave me feedback or subscribe by RSS and I’ll write more of these in the future. Thanks for reading.

    Filed under: search engine optimization, Uncategorized, , ,

    Introduction to Search Engine Operation and its Relevance to Search Engine Optimization

    Before I started reading Rand Fishkin’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, not knowing how search engines worked made learning SEO unnecessarily difficult for me. When I gained just a little knowledge of search engines, many difficulties melted away. Download his guide to learn more.

    Fishkin breaks down search engine optimization into four steps: crawling the web, indexing web pages, processing queries, and finally, ranking results.

    1. Search engines visit web pages–called crawling the web–with the goal of indexing these web pages in a database containing billions of other pages.
    2. The search engine stores every indexed web page in a database that can search for, and retrieve, millions of web pages in FRACTIONS OF A SECOND. The intellectual power behind a search engine database boggles my mind. I think it’s nuts, but that’s just me.
    3. Every time a person queries a search engine, the search engine pulls out every web page from its database containing the appropriate keywords.
    4. Having pulled out each web page, the search engine uses an algorithm to rank each page from most relevant to the query to the least. Here, SEO enters the picture.

    At the end of the day, SEO is about communication. A website’s optimized keywords tells search engines, “this is who I am. Spread the word.”  Like having brand equity, a good online business has keyword equity. The stronger a business’ keyword brand, the better its search engine ranking for those keywords. Just like having a strong brand attracts more customers, so does having high ranking keywords attract more visitors.

    What other questions do you have about search engines? What do you think is essential to understanding search engines? Did you like this post and want to know more about search engines? Leave a comment and let me know, thanks!

    Filed under: search engine optimization, , , , ,

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