Search Engine Optimization is all about optimizing a website for organic search traffic. It’s arguably the foundation to search rankings on the internet. It’s something that’s often overlooked because of the amount of time and commitment and cost that it has when trying to outsource it. A lot of people just don’t know where to start.
Unlike Google ads or Facebook ads where you’re paying for a specific placement, SEO and content creation doesn’t work that way. It’s an organic position. Ultimately, it helps bring down your cost if you’re doing any other sort of paid advertising, because you will start getting organic traffic, which will bring you more traffic at no cost.
It’s not guaranteed, that is the biggest difference. You could be on page one. You could be on page 200. Realistically, if you’re not on page one, maybe page two, you might as well not be there at all.
Building A Great Foundation
Building your SEO and content strategy is really like building a foundation to a house. You’re not just going to put random bricks and concrete and just build it. You’re going to start with a solid foundation. You’re going to have a blueprint. You’re going to have a plan. You’re going to know exactly what’s going where, and you’re going to be accounting for the things that need to go in the foundation. Before you start laying flooring, you’re going to have your plumbing and your electrical done.
Technical Issues Relating to SEO
The technical issues and your loading speed, that’s your foundation. If you have technical issues on your website, if things aren’t coded correctly, if you don’t have the correct headings and the images aren’t tagged with proper meta data, you’re going to be in trouble. You’ll be doing a lot of work and putting yourself at a disadvantage, because it’s going to take a lot more of that work to get the same results as if you had just started with a good foundation.
SEO Health Check
You should think of these technical issues as almost like a health check. You go in, you take a look at your site, you make sure you don’t have pages on there that you don’t need any longer. You make sure that the site is able to load fast. You make sure it’s mobile friendly. If you have inferior web hosting, check out our blog post about the importance of why good web hosting is important.
Often businesses are only looking at their website from their desktop because it’s during business hours, but what about mobile? Here are 20 Questions to ask a web developer before hiring them. If your customers are looking at your site from their mobile device, you need to be looking at it from that point of view as well. It’s crucial to be mobile friendly in today’s world.
Even if you’re not tech savvy and SEO savvy, you can try to find some time to dig through some of these issues on your website. Fix the critical ones no matter what else you do. Even if you have a ton of content and all the right blog posts, but you have technical issues, the rest of the stuff isn’t going to really matter anyway.
Start with a Basic Site Audit
We recommend starting with a basic audit, looking at some obvious things, just to see if your site’s loading correctly. Below are some first steps you could do yourself if you have the time and energy.
Optimize Your Loading Time
Optimizing the loading time for your blog or website is one of the easiest fixes that people often overlook. The first thing you want to do is make sure that your website is as fast as possible.
Google flat out says that faster pages rank higher. There are so many areas regarding SEO and paid search that Google will only give guidelines about, but they won’t actually give definitive answers. The only thing that Google flat out says is that faster websites have higher rankings.
There are all sorts of web page speed tests. Google has one that shows different errors. In order to get the website to reach the 100 mark, you would pretty much have to come up with a one-page site with no images. You also want to make sure that you’re not ranking 50 percentile or lower. You definitely don’t want a grade of C, D, or F. Anywhere in the A or B ranges is pretty good.
Compress All Your Images
Sometimes our clients will load these massive images, 10 MB images, 15 MB images. Most sites compress them anyways, but if a customer is trying to load your website on mobile, and has a slower internet connection, it’s going to take a lot longer for that huge image to load. If the customer gets impatient, they will likely just close out your site and move onto something else.
Image compression is very important. It’ll make an image smaller, but it won’t decrease the quality of it. It will make the physical file size smaller by getting rid of unnecessary metadata. There’s a lot of metadata stored in images, like the type of camera that was used, the shutter speed, or the geolocation. It’s all this data on the back of a camera, but no one needs it on a website. Unfortunately, many people don’t use the available plugins to minimize the CSS or the HTML or anything technical on the back side.
Make Sure Your Site Is Indexed
You can open Google Search Console, a free service through Google. You can check to make sure that Google is indexing your site. Make sure it’s found, because if your site is not indexed, it’s not going to show up anywhere. If you can’t figure out why you’re not getting any traffic, you might not even be indexed.
If you built your website yourself, you probably aren’t aware that there’s a default development setting on most websites that does not allow a site to be indexed while it’s in development. And oftentimes we see people who say, “Oh, well I can’t get any organic traffic.” We go in, it takes us two seconds to look, and we find they never took it off of development mode.
Fix Your Broken Links
Oftentimes people will move pages around without realizing the consequences. Maybe there is a link that they shared with someone, whether they shared it in an email or maybe it’s on a chamber of Commerce website or something. Or they had a guest post on a specific subject and then it linked out to their website.
And then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, the page got renamed, switched, or combined with another page. People think all they have to do is just change the links. The problem is Google that might have that old link. So, they might be ranking on page two and then someone clicks on that link and it goes to a 404 error page. This can look terrible to the customer and spoil their opinion of your company. So, make sure you don’t have any links or redirects that don’t work anymore. Services such as Screaming Frog help with crawling your website and ensuring there are no broken links.
Oftentimes people don’t know about redirects. Let’s say you own a restaurant, and you made a spring menu and uploaded it as a spring menu, and later you took it down and uploaded your summer menu instead. But that spring menu might have ranked on Google, and then a customer clicks on it and the page doesn’t exist anymore. Well, it needs to go somewhere.
Check Your Server Response Time
Server response time is also very important. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using one of the big box providers of shared servers, depending on the type of website you are running. However, when you’re on a shared space, you will suffer the common issues that people have with shared hosting, sometimes with devastating consequences.
With one of our clients selling products to the military, we spent a few months developing a website with probably 150 to 180 different military-grade products. And we put in a few hundred hours of development time into this site, getting it just right.
And we said to the client, “Hey, this big box hosting provider is definitely not the right place to host this website. We’re telling you, do not do it. It is very foolish to spend all of this effort to develop something and then go throw it on a shared hosting environment.” They didn’t agree. So, we ended up transferring to the big box hosting provider, and the loading times were horrific. We were literally seeing the image show up in five slow segments.
We spent all that time, money, and effort to develop a premier website. Why would you then go and throw it on a shared hosting environment? It was devastating to see that much waste.
There’s a reason it’s so cheap to use these providers. There’s a reason they’re only charging $10 a month to host. They’re taking your site and they’re adding 20 other people’s sites, and it’s all together on one shared space.
And what happens is, someone doesn’t maintain their WordPress site. They let plugins get hacked either intentionally or not. They don’t update their back-end. And now you have 15 other sites that are running incredibly slowly, which completely drags down your loading time.
By the way, hosting is only one part of it. What about maintenance of the plugins and just basic stuff that you should be doing on an ongoing basis to ensure that your site is running optimally? None of that happens with these big box hosting providers, unless you want to go down the managed WordPress route, which is a complete disaster.
Learn more about the importance of great website hosting and why you likely need more than just a place to store your files.
When Should I Consider Hiring a Web Developer?
Certain things you can do yourself if you have the technical background. If not, you can bring them up to your developer. For those who are small business owners who do not have a technical background, just remember you need the big items fixed. Do not overthink the small ones. Don’t ignore them, but some things are more important than others.
There are tools that are available that either the agency has or that you can buy yourself that can handle a lot of this type of thing. These aren’t extremely costly solutions, but you have to know the right ones to use and how to integrate them into the site. You have to understand how to get them to play well with the other things that are working in the background to ensure that everything stays in a healthy status.
If you’re not familiar with these steps, feel free to reach out to us or speak to your developer and they can certainly help.
Ready for Content Strategy
Once you have your foundation structured and you’re good with the technical aspects, now you need to figure out what type of content you actually want to put together to make this whole thing pay off. The goal here is to organically get people to your site, to make sure your site’s ranking on page one or page two in Google. This is not an automatic thing. It’s not guaranteed. It will take time and work. The good news is that it does work well when it’s done correctly.
So, what can you do? As a business owner, you need to be looking six to nine months out and ask yourself, “What’s important?” If you’re a seasonal business, then focus on a season on the opposite side of the year, because it’s going to take some time.
Let’s say you own a closet company and you’re starting to put together a content strategy. So, first ask yourself, “At what point would people most likely be looking to redo their closets?” Well, maybe you think that in the new year people are going to be looking for home renovations. Or maybe in the summer they will have a little more time. Or maybe new home buyers will look to customize their spaces before moving in. Interested in professional SEO management? Click Here to learn more about what to look for.
Start Writing Quality Content
So, you can look at some of those types of segments and then craft content specifically for them. Let’s say you want to focus on people who are motivated right after the new year to redo their closet as your first segment, then new home buyers as your second segment.
A great place to start is by creating a long-form piece of content. Check out our blog post on How to write effective SEO content to learn more. Think anywhere from no less than 1,200 words, but as much as 3000 words to get started. You don’t want to use repetitive text or just wasteful or useless content, but you need enough information to cover everything important and helpful.
Let’s say you start writing to a new home buyer saying. You might include:
- “Here’s what to look for when building out your perfect closet. Here’s what you need to consider.”
- “Here are things that people often forget about in their closet.”
Whether it’s drawers or space, or how doors open or how much shelves you need or ventilation. And for someone who has a big closet, if there’s no ventilation in there, they’re not going to want to spend a lot of time there. So, you get them to imagine building out a closet and then dealing with stuffy air or mold issues, etc. The point is you educate them on issues that possibly never occurred to them.
Let’s say you’re going to write content for new home buyers. You’re going to want to be able to start figuring out what’s important to a new home buyer. They’re either going to be building out a closet themselves if it’s a custom house, or maybe they’re going to want to redo a master closet. And you can really touch on those two things, but you want to make sure that they’re distinctly separated in the actual content. And if they’re not able to be connected smoothly, it’s probably best to put that content into two separate articles.
Next, you could write content to real estate agents that could then refer new home buyers to your company, and so on. There are so many topics you could intelligently write about. The point is to speak directly to the person you wish would contact you.
The article or content piece that you write needs to be written for a specific segment, for a specific person. It’s not a general, “Here’s why we’re a great come buy from us.” Instead, it’s “Here’s why we would be a good fit for this persona.” We put together an article about how to improve local SEO, please check it out!
Nail Down One Specific Goal for the Content
What’s the goal of this piece of content? It could be;
- to rank in the top 10 of Google on the first page.
- to have your piece included in some sort of industry publication.
- to get 50 signups for a mailing list off the bottom of your form.
- to get X number of page visitors.
There’s not a right or wrong answer, but you do want to make sure it’s reasonable, and that you have a specific end goal for why you’re spending the time to write the content. You must have a goal so you can evaluate at some point whether or not it’s successful or if you need to pivot.
Start Optimizing Your Post
Now that the post is written and the goals are set, assuming your site has no technical issues and the new post or article or page is able to get indexed by Google, the next thing step is to start optimizing that post.
It’s not a one and done type of deal. There are many types of optimizations possible. For something like closets, it might not change a whole lot month to month. But over a period of years you could optimize it, updating it with new styles, new trends, or new technologies that come. You could address these topics and build on it. You want to make sure that your post is relevant.
You definitely don’t want to delete it.
You would want to update it. In updating it, maybe you add another trend that you find that people are asking about. You can add to each item doesn’t have to be on its own. You do want quality. You don’t want what’s called thin content as in a blog post that’s two paragraphs, that’s not going to be good. But longer form content ranks better. You have more keywords, you’re able to get your organic rankings to be higher. Those elements are certainly important. Now as you’re trying to optimize, you can always answer a question. You can add in like a checklist somewhere in the middle, maybe 15 things that people tend to forget about in their closets. Or if you’re a lawyer, you could do five things you need to know about your rights at a DUI checkpoint. If you’re a contract attorney, you could make an article that says, “Don’t forget these 10 items and need to be in every single contract.”
Those numbered checklists are very valuable. You could also include a sub article of a guide or a how-to tutorial. All these things make for excellent content, but you always want to make sure that whenever you’re putting into the content is providing value to the user. That’s the most important thing and I think that often gets overlooked.
It’s all about value. It’s not about just saying something to say. It’s about, again speaking directly to your ideal customer, who you’re speaking to in that article and providing the most value that’s possible and over time and adding to it. I think that’s all really great.
You want to add links to other pages on your site from that article, but you need to give it time, a few months. That is one reason why SEO takes time.
Google needs to understand who’s visiting it, what actions do they take, what contents on there? And some of them will just take time for other people’s to their posts fall off or change positions, but it certainly takes time. And optimizing a post to make sure it’s relevant is important, but it’s not something that should be done on a weekly basis. Perhaps you could edit it if you have a handful of posts. There’s nothing wrong with editing it monthly or bimonthly or quarterly. You probably don’t want it to go a year, but to do it a couple times a year is probably a good practice for most businesses. Once this content is done, and it’s optimized and you’re in your flow.
Outreach and link building
There’s various opinions out there on how much the actual links play into it. Google is very, very good at being able to understand what’s a paid link. Going on a site like Fiverr, paying someone five bucks to get your website on 20 pages of various sites is going to do you nothing good. In fact, if Google sees that you’re doing paid links, it would not be uncommon for them to remove your website altogether. Meaning you will never be found. That’s worst case scenario.
Best case scenario, they see you’re doing paid links. They just say those links are worthless. Meaning, you’re wasting your time and money trying to get someone to do paid placement. And there’s a lot of good ways to ask for a position, and there’s many good ways to ask for a potential link from someone else. Again, if I was a closet company and I had a good blog post for new homeowners, I would start reaching out to real estate agents or construction companies. Show that you have a good blog posts that adds value, that does not oversell your business, that they could then use to use free content to promote on their site.
If I was a real estate agent, at some point I’m going to get tired of writing about selling houses or a specific neighborhood. They could do a feature and use their content to promote. They would promote it to their audience, you could promote at specific a realtor or brokerage to your audience and you have the cross mix. Now you have a link. And over time Google starts to evaluate the links. Now, certainly a link from HGTV is going to carry much more weight than some random no-name blog.
Quality over Quantity
But at the same time they also know that if you get X amount of links from various smaller blogs, it’ll begin to start to carry more weight. It’s not necessarily about the numbers, it’s certainly about the quality of the blogs. You wouldn’t want to post a blog on some sort of accountant’s website, but if it’s relevant and the people who would read that blog posts, potentially it could cross over to different verticals or the industry, it would prove to be a very valuable link for that specific business.
You can always cross promote on LinkedIn and social channels. There is weight, but not a ton. Writing a blog post and sharing it on your Facebook isn’t going to get you on page one. But potentially you could spend time and find relevant blogs that would be of value that you think your customers might be looking at and reach out to them to get them to share it and more often than not many people if you have a quality article, they’ll often say, “Sure, no problem.”
Examples of Good Outreach
It can be a simple email. “Hi, I’m Michael. I have this closet company. I wrote this blog post about things that new homeowners should look for when custom designing a closet. I think your audience would get a lot of value. I would appreciate you posting this if you find it of value.” That’s it. Simple, couple of lines, introduce yourself, make the connection, you can sign off on, “Love to catch up or talk about other opportunities.” And leave it at that. Nothing crazy, just something short, simple, straight forward. You certainly don’t want to write someone a book if it’s the first email. And reach out to them and that’s probably the best place to start for something like that.
These are all really good actionable things that can be done to improve your SEO. Can it all be done by the average person without a lot of experience? No. However, being educated on the matter and being able to ask pointed questions to the developer or the marketing agency brings a lot of value still. The more knowledgeable and the more up to date the owner of the website is, the better. Even if they themselves are not going to be doing the work, they can see the value in it, understand the value in certain things being done, and then give instructions for those things to be done on their behalf.
And if all else, you’re not looking to do the SEO or the technical elements as a small business owner or manager yourself, these are the things that you certainly need to look for when looking for someone who potentially would do it for you.
We wish you much success on your journey!