It’s no secret that Google, Bing and Yahoo! determine the winners and losers online. Rank well, and you’re likely to edge out your competitors for the Web-searching prospective customer. As such, if your business depends upon Internet traffic to retain market share let alone grow, it’s highly advisable to partner up with a quality SEO professional.
Disclaimer: Not all SEO professionals are created equal. Choose wisely!
Just because you are a small business doesn’t mean you can’t afford a quality SEO professional. BUT, certainly be on the lookout for spammy services that promise big for a low monthly service fee. A good SEO professional will sit down with you to discuss your goals, budget, products & services and target customer, then can assemble a comprehensive plan for attack.
Without further ado, the list:
1. Fix the errors
Seems simple enough, yet so frequently overlooked. Site stability and speed is calculated into Google’s page rank algorithm. Sometimes the site will appear functional, users can navigate from page to page, and despite a bit of lag, everything seems to function reasonably. Running the site through a series of tools and tests tells a different story. Here’s a list of the more common issues and how to fix them.
If there are crawl errors, search engines might not even be able to index your site, leaving you dead in the water. These can be quick and easy to fix, given a little know-how. Sometimes it’s an issue with the site map links not matching up with link destinations, caused mostly by temporary redirects. If it’s short-term, keep it temporary (302), if it’s permanently moved, give it a 301 Permanent redirect and be sure to update your site map to reflect the new destination.
More often than not, pages with light “original” content but a boilerplate group of paragraphs in the main content region on many pages confuses the crawler as to the intent and topic for the page. Move this content into a lower priority position on the page, and if at all possible, cut it down to less than a paragraph (2-3 sentences) and link off to a page dedicated to that topic.
Blank or duplicate meta description.
This one’s more for the users that might see your page come up in a search listing. That collection of sentences below the link? That’s the description. If you’re using the same general description across all pages the relevance to the user’s search drops significantly, and with a lower click-through rate, your page rank will more than likely take a hit.
2. Watch the keywords
Let’s say your a pet shop and you have a page dedicated to chew toys for dogs. This page isn’t an opportunity to discuss your business’ history, cat adoption days, food choices, oh, and chew toys for dogs. Try to use the exact keyword phrase you’re interested in targeting at least 2-3 times in contextual, common language in the first 150 words so both the reader and search bot know what this page is about. Getting the exact keyword phrase in the URL and page title is major bonus points.
3. Content is king
One sentence on a page won’t get you ranked (unless your HuffPost or Wikipedia), so don’t expect any results until you have original, meaningful content on the page which includes the targeted keyword phrase(s) as mentioned above. Strive for north of 300 words, on up to 2,000 words for long article/blog entries. I tend to try to stay in the 600-1,000 word range, as I find it gets you the most bang for your buck when hiring contract writers.
An oft-forgotten type of content is the images you’re already posting on your page to make them more visually stimulating. Search engines pick up these images for their image search catalogs, including some metadata:
page description where it was found
link to the page hosting the file
Make sure the file name describes the image, and if at all possible, ties back to the page content as well.
4. Google+ is a plus
Raise your hand if the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is roll over, grab your phone, and see what you missed on Google+. Didn’t think so. But, does that mean putting links, content, and managing a page on Google+ is pointless? In fact, the opposite is true. Google treats their own social network as a key place to pick up new pages to index. The bots like to see the pages stay active and fresh. Of course, this is most relevant with blog content, not a company’s “about” or “services” page.
5. Submit the site
Has your site and it’s respective site maps been submitted to Google, Bing, and Yahoo!? Once you’re sure you’re free of crawl errors get it listed, and sign up for Webmaster Tools on each platform. You’ll receive notices when opportunities and issues arise, plus there are great tips on improving your site’s presence, and free tools to test your work.
I hope you find these tips helpful. While a SEO professional will certainly kick it up a notch, these are some good “first pass” a tech-savvy site owner can do on their own, and hopefully demystifies some of the basics of how a SEO professional operates.