3 SEO Tips for the Ages
SEO has evolved since the mid 1990s from a cookie cutter method (pre-Google) to a set of best practices that are anything but simple. Many companies still get SEO wrong even when they think they’re doing it right. Often, a webmaster informs the IT Director, who informs the Marketing Manager and the CEO that the website “has been SEO’d.” Even the verb tense is wrong. It implies that search engine optimization is a one time process like upgrading a copy machine. Nothing is further from reality!
SEO is a Marathon
SEO is anything but a one time process. I liken it to training for and running a marathon. If you’re serious about running in a marathon, you better start training at least six months before the race. After the marathon event, unless you have no plan to ever run another marathon, you must continue to train. As long as you are a marathoner you’re always in training – ALWAYS. SEO is the same. It’s like every other aspect of business that needs ongoing care and feeding. Sure, you go through different phases of an SEO plan, but it’s never done. If you believe that, you’ll make your competitors very happy.
Simplifying the Mystique of SEO
While SEO has certainly evolved over the years, I seek to boil it down to three key points.
Your website must be friendly to search engines. It starts with the code that lives behind the front end which humans see at www.yourcompany.com. For non-techies think of website code as the plumbing, wiring and brick or wood structure of a house. While, the human eye sees furniture and decorated walls, without a solid infrastructure a house is not functional.
A website’s code should be “lean” which is the opposite of bloated. When a website has a bloated CSS or long scripts, the content on your website simply gets lost in the eyes of search engines. Literally, the search engines have difficulty finding your content because it’s so buried in a bloated code environment. The solution is to have a web developer clean up the code by consolidating it (optimizing) so that the content is easier for search engines to find and index it in their search engine (database).
Another important aspect of site architecture is the meta data. This is the data that speaks to the search engines about each web page. The title tag is very important because it identifies the central theme of the page. It’s also the title which is displayed in a search engine listing. The description tag is also important because it’s the snippet or summary of the page in the search engine listing. A well written title tag and description tag can make or break click throughs from your listings in a search engine.
Developing a keyword strategy is also critical to a sound SEO strategy that delivers results. There is no way getting around the fact it takes work. At my SEO services agency we use a keyword strategy approach that is very effective. I’ll share it here for companies and competitors alike with no reluctance. We identify the products or services of our client and the buyer personas of each one. Then we conduct keyword research by putting ourselves in the shoes of each persona. We create tables to list each persona and their pain points in order to think the way they think. Whenever possible we interview the personas or, at a minimum the people who know the personas very well inside a client’s business. Below is a sample of buyer personas used in keyword research:
This method of keyword research sets up a keyword strategy that drives the content strategy. The SEO results increase greatly for being found in search engines by each of the personas that buy the target product.
It’s been said that content is king. I once had a friendly debate with my friend Andrew Davis at Tippingpoint Labs about the role of content in SEO. His viewpoint was that all you need is great content to get good SEO results. It’s true that great content can provide good SEO results. But, the keyword strategy should drive the content strategy. The keyword strategy will guide what content you produce, for whom and the writing style. For example you may need content written for a management audience and some content for a more detailed worker. If you’re writing a page about a software product, the management level page and the data sheet page should be different to address each audience. The persona tables will help define how to write each content page.
Another important aspect of a content strategy is diversity. Text based web content is very important. But, search engines score all your content. By offering a good mix of content including images (with text tags), video and audio you please the search engines. Spreading your content across the web through social media including social bookmarking sites also contributes greatly to getting good SEO strategy results.
Lastly, the best benefit of a good content strategy is that it will result in getting inbound links. That means that people will link to your content and those links are the currency of search marketing. The more relevant inbound links you have, the better you’ll score with search engines.
It’s All About Conversions
I hope these three SEO tips were helpful to you. But, the truth is this is an incomplete plan. A solid SEO plan will get you found in the search engines, but you need a strategy that converts visitors to your website into sales prospects or members of your community. I’ll get to that in a future blog post.