Because SEO is such a nebulous pursuit, it’s becoming harder and harder to guarantee any ranking-type results for our clients anymore. Start-up sites that want SEO (usually only because they’ve heard it’s something they should want) are very reluctant. What they don’t know is they aren’t liable to see much search traffic success in the future without us.
This reluctance to start out with SEO is because we continue to get a bad rap. I mean, it seems to be worse than I can remember, and I’m going back 11 years. Most people think of SEO like Maisie Williams (Aria Stark of Game of Thrones fame), SEO is “Dade… So dade,” just like her “muther and bruther.”
To make things worse, there are people calling themselves SEOs, who are truly clueless. You know them. They tell potential clients, “We can get you ranked overnight!” So, they make sure your name comes up first when you type it into a search bar. Yeah. So, what? How many people search for your name? Huh?
Then, there are the black-hatters who do things that aren’t illegal, but certainly unethical, and the site owner pays them until the site is de-indexed in Google for those fancy shenanigans. These people probably paid big time for these little ranking tricks. Imagine how mad they are and how much they then hate SEO! Not good.
And so, yeah. We get the bad rap. My own sister said to me awhile back, “I heard SEOs are spammers.” Jeez.
When your own family thinks you’re a Net criminal, how can you convince new business owners they need to start out with SEO? They just figure it’s an expense they don’t need to have “right away,” if at all. I actually heard a big-name marketer once say, “You don’t need SEO,” and another clueless guru who said, “SEO never made us any money,” though he had no idea it did.
Of course, they’re all wrong. Dead wrong. Yet, proving that SEO works takes quite a while in some instances. Anxious start-ups lose faith after two months. “It should have taken four weeks! It’s eight weeks!” Uh-huh. It could be a year! It depends on many different factors. I mean, a new website can sit in the sandbox for a long time and right there, you’re cut off at the knees.
So, why bother? It’s an uphill battle.
Because… Even with all these drawbacks, the fact remains organic traffic is still the best type of traffic, even though it’s free. Many folks figure whatever you get for free is no good, but I can show you instance after instance where clients are making more money from search than any of their other traffic channels, and that organic traffic just converts better. People already know what they’re looking for when they type a query into a search bar, right?
That’s what I hang client’s expectations on these days. I tell them if they’re not making more money in a specified period (depending on how high the hill is to climb), regardless of the amount of traffic they’re getting, to fire me. Simple.
Start from Zero
The first thing new businesses should know is SEO should be the foundation of your business. It’s not a quick-traffic scam, it’s a way of building sites that are clear and easy for visitors to navigate, and are quick and responsive to any screen. It’s also about building sites that search engine spiders can understand and navigate quickly and easily. When you have that stuff right, you’ve probably won half the battle.
Things to consider when “under construction”:
- Keyword research: Lay a foundation with keywords you’ve actually researched. Don’t pick them out of the air or steal them from a successful competitor (though that’s a good place to start). Use keywords that you have some chance of getting traffic from and that you can float around on, like a life raft. There are keywords and there are key words. Figure out which words mean money in your niche and allow them to support everything you do. Start with three-to-five good phrases and let those be the only keywords that matter, at first. Expand as you learn more about the niche and which keywords are making money and which ones aren’t.
- Build a sitemap: Immediately upon getting the pages of the new (or revamped old) site in place, create a sitemap or use a sitemap generation tool to do it for you. I always build websites on WordPress for all the reasons you probably know already. A big one for me is the ability to customize the platform to suit a client’s needs. A MUST plugin: WordPress SEO by Yoast. It will create a sitemap for you, and you won’t have to think much about it.
- Make sure the site is running smoothly and quickly: It’s easy to test speed at www.pingdom.com, but that’s not really the cool part. The Pingdom tool will tell you what’s holding things up, and once you know, you can fix the issues. (Or pay someone to fix them for you.) Often, it’s the lack of an external CSS file, or uncompressed images that are the problem. Those are simple to handle.
- Install a robots.txt file: If you have any protected areas on the site or things you don’t want search spiders to find and index, you need to have a robots.txt file to exclude them. You can also hide pages like “Contact Us,” for example, that have no use for SEO. Don’t go nuts. Google doesn’t like us to “page sculpt,” but excluding utility pages is just common sense. I mean, do you want to search for your brand and find the “Contact Us” page as the first result? Of course not!
After You’re Running
Let’s say you’ve done all the easy stuff, like ALT tagging your images and using important keywords in your titles. You’ve also got the site running at a reasonable speed and everything is just chugging along. What comes next?
This is the time to start building your brand presence online. You need to be in as many places as possible and build a reputation for your expertise. What does SEO have to do with this?
Every piece of content you put out should be optimized for search. And it should be re-purposed and used as much as possible. Here’s what I mean:
1. Start by creating an e-book. Sell it or give it away, makes no difference. Yet, giving really great stuff away makes people wonder how great your paid stuff might be, right?
2. Take a portion of the e-book and write an article from it. How many topics are in your e-book chapters? You can get at least one article from each of those. I’m not suggesting dupe content, as we know that’s useless. I’m saying to rewrite what you’ve already written with new words and maybe a new slant. Use the I-D-E-A to come up with new content based on that same idea.
3. Use part of the e-book to create a slideshow. Just use a phrase here and there to pepper your images. Don’t use your content verbatim, though. Always remember that you want fresh, no re-hashed or duplicate garbo. That’s why I say use a different angle.
For example: Let’s say your e-book is about choosing a puppy. You write an article about dog training in chapter 3. How many angles will an article like that produce?
- What should you look for in a dog training academy?
- How can you spot a savvy instructor?
- What signals are you getting from your dog about the instructor? Will your dog respond to them and you?
- What should your dog learn in a basic dog training class? etc.
You see? Every topic has a gazillion angles. When you change the angle of what you wrote before, you change the whole article.
4. Read the chapters of your e-book and all of your articles into a voice recorder and make podcasts from them. Be sure to give them unique titles and descriptions in any podcasting site you place them.
5. Create a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation and make a video from each chapter. Or, talk about the chapter with a video of you with some graphics in the background. There are lots of way to approach this. Upload your new viddy to a few directories, like YouTube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. Again, each title and description you write has to be unique.
Just build a big web of content that focuses on solving people’s problems. You want to be one of the go-to persons when it comes to providing answers for people in your niche.
And then comes social media, don’t forget to tell your Facebook friends, your Google+ circles, Pinterest pins, etc. Put everything you produce into social media to get some feedback on your work. Notice the engagement factor by noticing the number of likes, shares, etc. If you’re not engaging readers, you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong and fix it.
Or maybe, just maybe, you decide you just have zero time for all of this. It is a very tall order, of course, and it will weed the girls from the women. (OK, or the boys from the men.) But THIS IS WHAT SEARCH ENGINES WANT TO SEE MORE OF — quality sites (authorities in the niche) providing professionally prepared content in many forms. Think Macy’s. Think PNC Bank. Think Wendy’s. Big brands have the manpower to do all of the above and more. If you want to continue to do business online, you have to play like the big brands play. Just that simple.
Mom and Pop ugly sites are over. They will NEVER fare in today’s search milieu. The days of the scrub Internet are over. And here is where SEOs with marketing backgrounds matter…
We’re the ones that provide the content and make sure that the SEO for each piece, inside and outside, is correct. Plus, all of these bits of content needs to be placed strategically. And this process needs repeating time and time again. You need to build your presence and your brand’s authority. How good are you at content production?
The Bottom Line: It’s ALL About SEO
OK, so you’re scratching your head. What does all this have to do with SEO?
It’s where those of us who see the handwriting on the wall are going with it. We’re not just testing domains or streamlining architecture or doing any of the myriad things those “math-type” SEOs are doing (though there’s still a big space for them to fill). Some of us are just going with the search engine flow and giving them what they want.
And guess what? This process can never stop. Search spiders are hungry little buggers and want fresh fodder, too. What happens when you stop?
Yep. You rot and you start losing the battle for organic traffic in about seven days. OK, arbitrary number, but well… You get the idea, right? If you’re not producing content, if it’s not SEO-friendly, and if you don’t care what kind of foundation you’re building? Then, don’t hire us.
Everything that can be done in terms of marketing online these days involves everything that can be done online. That’s what makes SEOs still as important today as they were even five years ago.
We know how to get search engines to love your site and your brand and we know how to make it happen. Going it alone just isn’t an option anymore.
In my best Sally Field voice, allow me to say, “You like us! You really like us!” You just didn’t know why you should.
Now you know.
Image credit: Morguefile.com (1), screenshot (2), copydoodle (3) and MSWord (4)