Where to Start with SEO
This is always a big problem for newcomers looking to increase their website traffic. Everyone is looking for the magic bullet. This week I stumbled across a stunning webinar on this topic by Michael H. Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.
One of the slides that caught my eye was his SEO Pyramid. It showed what good SEO is all about, from the ground up – The four distinct layers. SEO professionals instinctively have this outline in their heads when building or re-building websites to get more traffic. Michael’s chart reveals how it all works in a simplistic way.
We’re going to have a poster of this on our wall as well as handouts for our key clients, who often struggle to understand what search is all about and what we do. To most it’s just keywords and links. But there’s actually four components and a real process to get the end results needed.
SEO – Much More than Keywords
I like this SEO Pyramid concept since it represents what good SEO work should include, but is usually omitted. Here’s an example. We recently reviewed a custom-designed WordPress site. WordPress is known to be the best for SEO. It had dozens of pages of good content, keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, etc. All the things SEO people say is critical. Yet the site didn’t rank, with barely 100 visitors/month. Why? Firstly, they’d copied content directly from another site. Secondly, they had no backlinks, lacking both the inclination and budget for this essential work. Sadly, this beautiful $4,000 website was largely wasted. It’s the sort of problem I see every day.
Here’s the fix – Build the SEO Pyramid
It’s not just a great strategy, but a practical ‘to do’ list, laid out in a logical order. Thanks Michael!
1. The Foundation – Good Content, Good Coding – Onsite SEO
Accessible, quality content. Ensure both the text content AND the site coding that displays it is of high quality. Make the content uniquely yours, never copied. It needs to be crawl-able by the Googlebot, using plain english urls, proper semantic page structure, xml sitemaps, no errors or duplicate content. Many locally built and open source CMS websites and shopping carts fail miserably on these technicalities, which is why an upgrade to a ‘Google-friendly’ and ‘Mobile-responsive’ CMS like WordPress can pay big dividends.
And run it on a fast, high speed host server. Not one of those cheap $10-20/mth plans. Your website pages should load within 3 seconds, preferably half this.
2. Keyword Research and Targeting – Onsite SEO
Many avoid the research bit, putting in what they think is best. Instead we require the most appropriate keywords, title tags, urls and meta descriptions that give the best traffic return. (Video tutorial). Capture the audience that provides the best ROI. Analyzing competitors. It can be a lot of work, but ensure that we can get plenty of relevant traffic. Google and others have many tools to help us. Bottom line is to ensure all content is optimised and a good match what people are actually searching for. Not what you like to write about.
3. Have a link building strategy (and budget) – Offsite SEO
Studies tell us that most people, like our client, find this bit too hard and simply avoid it altogether, believing that the good content, coding and/or keywords will somehow do the job. Sorry, it’s not enough now. Building quality backlinks provides incredible business returns. (N.B. Bad links will get you banned by Google). All this isn’t theory. Google often talks of it and SEOmoz also confirms that inbound links have the biggest influence upon getting your site to page one. But you still need the good keywords, coding and content too.
4. Social optimisation and consumer validation – Offsite SEO
The icing on the cake but becoming more important every month and is tied in with your back-linking strategy but with recommendations coming from people conversing in the dozens of social media channels.
More and more Google is seeking out real-world opinions and validations around how good your product or service is. What others say about you [socially] is more important, than what you say about yourself or your product. We already see this with Google Places/Maps listings as well as in mobile search, where those businesses with the most consumer reviews tend to show up more often and higher in the Google search page result.
So, what’s the most important. Content, keywords or linking?
When most think about SEO, they only think in terms of what is on their own website. Not other sites. i.e. The site content and keyword selection. Yet the stuff that happens beyond your website is more important long term. It’s 75% of the influence ‘formula’ to a high search page ranking. BUT, you must also have a good foundation with great content, coding, keywords, structure etc.
It’s what others say of you (on their sites) being more important than what you say about yourself on your own site. Think about that the next time you’re approached by an SEO company that just wants to optimise your site keywords and content.
Here’s that pyramid
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