Search engine optimization is a hot topic in the digital marketing community. Having a first page placement in search results for high-traffic keywords is like having a free billboard on the world’s busiest highway. SEO isn’t as easy as it once was though. With countless algorithm updates from Google; keyword stuffing, cloaking, shallow content, and unnatural link building practices will now get you penalized. The methods that worked two years ago won’t fly today. SEO is being handled with kid gloves by many agencies and large businesses. It’s hard to find qualified consultants and experts who’ll actually move the needle for your business in search results. Link building is still a vital part of any SEO campaign and many are afraid to approach this method with the same recklessness they once did. When hiring a web development agency to run your SEO campaigns you’re often spending a lot of money without really knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. Typically you’ll receive a weekly “rankings” report that tells you where you stand on particular keywords in search results. What’s usually not included in one of these reports is how they’re getting you websites to rank. This is problematic for a number of reasons, chief amongst these being that you won’t have control over how Google and other search engines see your website. Before you hire a SEO consultant or agency to build your website it’s helpful to understand the basics of how to SEO-optimize your business website.
Do Keyword Research
A great way to get a better understanding of your competition both online and in the traditional sense is to do keyword research. There are many free tools online. The best one to use is Google’s own Adwords Keyword Tool. It’s a great way of determining how hard it will be to rank for a particular term. It also gives related keywords that users search for in conjunction with. You can use these related keywords as a guide to launching a more diverse SEO campaign. Determining in a semantic sense how people are looking for your services will help you polish your own brand.
Use Dedicated Hosting
There are several types of hosting packages to choose from when launching a new website. Often times, many web developers will try to sell you on paying them directly for hosting services. There are several questions you have to ask them before committing; is this a shared or dedicated hosting account? will you be doing daily backups for security purposes? is this a longterm contract? The most important aspect of your new website is going to be a favorable user experience. An important part of an optimal user experience is having a fast website. When you get a shared hosting plan you’re often accompanied by what can be hundreds of other websites on the same account. This makes for slow page load times and causes bounce rates to go through the roof. Using a dedicated host will pay dividends when trying to scale and get more active users.
Use a Content Management System
While this isn’t a native requirement for SEO it’s generally good practice if you want to edit and publish web pages yourself. When you hire a designer you’re often times paying hourly for site maintenance which can really add up, especially if you plan on using your website as a marketing platform. I would recommend using WordPress, which has risen to unparalleled popularity in the past few years. Because of it’s ease-of-use, plugin ecosystem and open-source support infrastructure it’s hands down the best way to build a new website. While it may not be appropriate for things like web applications, large-scale eCommerce websites or directories it works for 99% of websites that want a comprehensive way to establish a web presence. Whether you use WordPress or not it’s absolutely vital that you ask your developer to use a CMS. The SEO options that come along with many CMS’s (especially WP) make it easy to adjust technical settings like title tags, meta descriptions and image alt tags (all basic SEO adjustments).
Carefully Pick Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The cornerstone of SEO is deciding what to use for title tags and meta descriptions. While these two things influence ranking factors less than they used to they’re still important from a direct-response perspective; it’s what users see in search results before they click on your website. All of your SEO work is in vain if potential customers don’t like what they see in search results. Think of your title tags as call-to-actions and your meta descriptions as the hook to bring them into your website. Using keyword research and your own brand try to come up with catchy and relevant tags to use. If your a plumber in Houston you may want your title tags to read something like “Affordable Houston Plumbers – Joe’s Plumbing”. And then make a value play in your meta description by describing how your services are superior to others.
It’s All About Content
You can link build and buy directory links until your blue in the face put if you don’t have a solid content strategy in place your SEO campaigns will fall flat on their face. There are no “quick fixes” in SEO anymore. To have long-lasting results you need to give users a reason to visit your website. The best way to keep them coming back for more is to have solid, spam free content to present them.
This post is from Clayton Curtis, a SEO consultant from Atlanta, GA.