8 Secrets to SEO Success – and 2 things you should not do

Many people hear the term SEO and think it is the magic bullet to having the most popular, profitable website. In reality, SEO is one piece of a toolkit. Based on a presentation by Duane Forrester, 8 secrets to SEO success are outlined below.

The first secret to SEO success is this:

SEO is a marketing tool

from Duane Forrester’s slide deck

Understand that SEO is a Marketing Tool

SEO is one tool available to marketers to help potential buyers find the product or service that fills a need, much like email, advertising, social, print, promotions and direct mail. Prior to starting your SEO efforts, you should have a target goal in mind so that you know if your efforts are successful. This can be increasing traffic to your site, increasing purchases, increasing subscribers to your email list, or something else related to your particular business.

 

Forrester highlights six major investment areas an SEO campaign should cover to maximize your return:

- Crawlability
- Site Structure
- On-Page
- Content
- Links
- Social

Crawlability is simply how well a search engine is able to navigate your website. Search engines can’t ‘read’ Flash or images, for instance. When using images, provide “alt text” tags so that the search engine can understand what the image depicts.

Site Structure is both how user-friendly your website is (IE, is it easy to navigate and find what you are looking for), and how well-built it is: Do you have a sitemap, do all your page names accurately describe the content, do your pages link to each other, is your site a responsive design that can be viewed across multiple devices? You should use responsive design rather than “M dot” sites, as the mobile site is seen as duplicate, redundant content and can actually hurt your search rankings. Do you use 404 Error pages and tags that ‘talk’ to the search engines?

On-Page SEO describes the “back door” construction of the site: Accurate and descriptive title tags and Meta descriptions, keyword-rich H1/H2 tags, realizing that your meta description shows on the SERP (search engine results page) and may influence a prospect to click – or not.

Content: Each webpage should have well-written, proofread text free of grammatical and spelling errors, that match the title and meta tags you’ve written. Content should be original and fresh, when possible, and not just duplicates of blogs and articles that already exist elsewhere online. Part of being the authority in your field is the impression you make: Is your content easily understood? Does it answer the question your prospect is asking?

Links, both internal and external are important. Internal links across your site should not only make sense, pointing to content the reader would expect, but should also work when the user clicks! Social media sites should link back to your website, and you should pursue gaining links from well-established websites. Think of your website as the center of your online universe, with branches linking it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your eBay shop, your blog, etc.

Social media is important for SEO, but also for building trust among your prospects. Work to grow your social following; ask current customers to follow you. Post often, and ‘be present’. Think about this: when you follow a small business, whose posts do you look forward to – the authentic, interesting, funny shop owner who shares anecdotes about his dog and his day, or the stuffy businessman who can’t break out of using $4 words?

In addition to these focal points: Answer the question your target buyer is asking and, be ‘authentic’ when doing so. One way to know how your target audience is responding to your content and intended keywords is the multitude of tools out there: Bing webmaster tools, Google webmaster tools, and others can assist you with maximizing the impact of your site, to your target buyers.

Now for the things you “should not do.”

In the presentation, Forrester recommends using Hootsuite to post to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus via pre-selected RSS feeds. Based on my experience, I disagree. How many times have you followed a brand across multiple channels, only to see the exact same, un-original content on every site, two or three times a day? Do you want to continue following them? Do you get the feeling they are not really “there?” – They are probably not. Would you expect a quick response from someone who auto-posts other people’s articles to their social media? I wouldn’t. If the company doesn’t have the time to engage in person and post original thoughts at least once a day, they obviously don’t have a customer service person monitoring their feeds for comments, questions and complaints. It’s not a ‘bad’ thing to share articles from established authorities in your field, and you can build relationships by doing so – but it is easy to overdo and abuse the idea by making this your only content. Tools like Hootsuite can be valuable and important and make life easier – but consider posting an article to Facebook in the morning, then wait until afternoon to post it to Twitter. Gauge reaction, monitor your accounts for feedback, and respond appropriately. Don’t let a tool like Hootsuite become your “I never log in to my social accounts because I’ve got auto-posting set up and I don’t need to.” Similarly, don’t create multiple websites that host the same content. As with the “m dot” site, this is seen as redundant and will hurt, not help, your search rankings.

Finally, when writing your content with SEO in mind, it is tempting to try to over-use keywords and phrases you think people will search. Don’t do it. You don’t want to sacrifice your message for the sake of repeating “secrets to SEO” ten times on your page. (See what I did there?!?) Talk to the person, not at them, using sentences that flow and make sense for the sake of conversation, education, and helping them find the answer to the question that they asked.

To recap, 8 secrets to SEO success are:
- Understanding that SEO is a marketing tool. It takes time, effort, focus and money, just like any other marketing tool.
- To maximize your investment, focus on your website’s
o Crawlability
o Site Structure
o On Page
o Content
o Links
o Social
- Answer the question your target prospect/buyer is asking, and be authentic when doing so.

Two things you should not do:
- Duplicate and recycle content, whether across multiple websites or abusing the ability to cross-post to social media platforms, giving the impression that you are not ‘present’ and not the ‘authority’ in your field but simply copying ideas and articles of others.
- Write for the search engine and forget your audience. If your content is not user-friendly and readable, neither customers nor search engines will stick around.

Whether your website is new or you are trying to improve your search ranking, following these simple steps should help you increase the impact of SEO for your business. We will be experimenting with these tips — will you?

 

–Blog by Elizabeth Howe as part of a class assignment for Ross Jones’ Digital Marketing class. Additional posts and ideas may follow!