Search engine optimization (SEO) is marketing work which results in a website showing up higher in search results and which delivers more qualified prospects to the website without spending money on advertising.
By defining SEO like we do above, it keeps you focused on the goal, rather than the process. The goal of SEO is free traffic. And not just any traffic, but qualified prospects who have an intention to buy.
The higher you rank, the more free clicks you get
'Ranking' is the position you show up in in search results. If your website shows up in position #2 on Google, that means you rank #2. The higher you rank, the more visibility you have and the more clicks you get.
The image below illustrates why it is so important to be near the top of search results.
Step 1 - Keyword Research
What keywords do you want to rank for?
The keywords you decide to go after will determine how much free traffic you get, and how much that traffic will be worth to you... e.g. how many new customers you get will be determined by which keywords you rank for.
When deciding on which keywords to target in your SEO, there are several issues to consider;
- Search volume. How many people are using that keyword in their search? The search volume is directly related to how much traffic is available for that keyword. The more searches there are, the better. In the example below, the keyword 'affordable furniture' gets more monthly searches than 'furniture online' and for this reason would be a higher priority.
- Ranking difficulty. The competition to rank certain keywords can be fierce! For small businesses, attempting to organically rank for some keywords can be a losing battle.... it will take too long and be to costly. And even then, it might be impossible. If an insurance company could rank for the word 'insurance', that would be great. However; it is not likely. Better to go after keywords which are easier and perhaps even better. For example, 'insurance company in burbank' would be far easier, and likely produce more paying customers than the word 'insurance' alone. In the example below, the keyword 'affordable furniture' has a difficulty score of 23, while 'furniture online' is rated as a 62 (more difficult).
- Commercial intent and opportunity. Ask yourself, do people with money use this keyword? Are people searching with the intention to make a purchase? Remember, people with absolutely no intent to buy (i.e. job seekers) might use a keyword, but those people are not of much value to you. Try to find keywords which clearly indicate a willingness to buy. For example; 'Plumbing company' is better than 'plumbing fix'. In the example below, 'free furniture' is far less desireable than 'affordable furniture'.
Step 2 - Website Structure and Content Development
Your website must be planned for SEO marketing right from the beginning. This includes the menu structure, the page names and the content of those pages. Once you have the structure right, the rest is much easier.
You should focus on ranking each page for just one primary keyword or phrase.
Here's why: The primary keyword is derived from;
- Page title
- Page URL
- H1 tag (hidden code, which is interpreted by search engines)
You can only use one phrase or kw in the above items. So it is crucial you make a decision what that kw is going to be.
It is possible to rank a page for more than one kw, and it is fine to plan a family of related keywords on single page. For example, you could place the following keywords on one page:
- affordable furniture
- furniture deals
- furniture on a budget
By utilizing H2 or H3 tags (multiple instances are allowed), structured snippets and related images, you could rank that same webpage for these keywords as well.
But your primary kw will always your primary ranking target and this will keep your SEO marketing efforts focused and therefore more effective.
Once you have the site structure and page content planned out, you can then go to work on the hidden components of the search engine optimization process. This includes;
- Meta tags for title and description
- H1, H2 and H3 tags
- Social tags, including open graph and card markup
- Structured snippets
Step 3 - Link Building
Link building is the process of creating links on other website, which lead back to your site.
Steps 1 and 2 of the process (shown above) could be considered part of the setup process. Those steps are prerequisites for obtaining free traffic from SEO campaigns.
In this step 3, you will build links to the specific pages on your site. These links must be built on highly respected websites to gain maximum impact.
The process of building links can easily consume several hours per day. If you are on a limited budget, let your SEO company know that you need to put a cap on how much time in invested in the link building process.
Step 4 - Create New Content
Google likes it when new content is added to your website. For this reason, it is most efficient to coordinate your social media work with your SEO.
The best social media campaigns require the ongoing development of new content, for making posts to your social accounts. If you plan it right, (and you should) that same content can be added to your website and used as SEO fodder. The relationship between content development and placing high in search engines is a foundation for understanding SEO.
Step 5 - Monitor your Ranking Progress
Your SEO expert should be providing you with weekly, or at least monthly ranking reports so you can watch the progress over time. Don't expect miracles in the first week of any affordable SEO campaign. It takes time to build authority and establish your presence in the eyes of Google. But if you are consistent, even a modest SEO package can work very well.