If you've never done search engine optimization for your website before, you may be hoping there's a simple checklist of things you can do. While SEO checklists abound, the actual task itself is never done; you can always tweak your site in some new way to improve traffic or conversions. That said, you can still break the job down into certain component parts.
Stony deGeyter uses the analogy of an engine, saying that “There are many working parts, any of which can (and should) be improved, repaired or replaced to boost your vehicle's performance. The more your engine is used, the more work there is to do to keep the engine in top shape.” I think of it more like restoring an antique car to running condition: you may be most concerned with the engine, but lots of other parts matter, too, in ways that aren't immediately obvious. If you neglect those, you'll suffer – maybe not as much as if you neglect the engine, but you'll notice a difference.
However you think of SEO, you need to get a handle on its parts if you want your website to rank well, attract traffic, and encourage conversions. So where do you begin? The starting point for every SEO campaign is keyword research. What terms will bring you not just the most traffic, but the best traffic – traffic that is likely to buy what you're selling? What keywords can you realistically hope to rank well for in the search engines? These and other factors must be considered. Once you've completed your initial research, and put that keyword information to work in your titles, descriptions, page headings, and content, you'll need to repeat the research process at intervals – because keyword usage changes over time. Measuring the performance of your keywords can clue you in to potential shifts as they occur.
But keywords are just one part of a full SEO campaign. Those keywords are displayed on your website – which brings us to the next component: information architecture and usability. What do visitors do when they come to your site? Do they look briefly, then leave? Does it look like they're trying to buy something, but end up abandoning their shopping carts? A study of your site's architecture and usability can point the way to fixes for these issues and more. As deGeyter notes, “The mission here is to make your site search and searcher friendly on all levels.”
Another important component of a good SEO campaign is a thorough, site-wide content review. Such a review helps you “produce content that better relates to your audience, effectively uses frequently search keywords and improves the overall sales message being delivered.” Think about what you want to see when you surf the web, and you'll get a better idea of what to provide your visitors. Do you want to be educated? Entertained? Are you looking for information to help you make a buying decision? If the latter, what kind of information do you need? Create content in answer to those questions and you may increase not only the number of visitors your site sees, but the number of conversions as well.
Just make sure that content is worth your visitors' precious time! As deGeyter points out, “Without great content, your site really doesn't deserve great search engine placement.”
Of course, one of the biggest factors in your ranking in Google and other search engines is links. This is why link building is an important component in any SEO campaign. The first step is to research your own and your competitor's links, and use that data to decide what kinds of links to pursue. Remember that any link represents a relationship; when you ask for a link from a site, whether it's a blog, directory, or any other kind of site, keep that in mind, and write your query accordingly. Research sites before asking if they'll link to you!
One can't talk about link building these days without considering social media, one of the newest components in a good SEO campaign. It's not just a matter of having active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and maintaining a blog that receives plenty of comments. It's also a matter of keeping an eye on your online reputation (hint: use Google alerts, and check out sites like Yelp with user-generated business reviews). If you're having trouble staying on top of all of your updates and content creation, you'll want to create a publishing calendar to help keep you on track.
Finally, after you've attended to all of the other components of your SEO campaign, how will you know whether you're successful? That's where analytics and conversion analysis comes in. Professional SEOs performing this analysis use the information they gain to adjust the other components of the campaign. They may engage in a/b and multivariate testing to see how site performance and conversions can be improved.
I've barely scratched the surface of the basics that go into a good SEO campaign. Think of this as a starting point. The deeper you delve into SEO, the more you'll find you can do to improve the performance of your website. Good luck!
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