Recently, I performed an SEO audit for a potential client. I took a couple of days and scanned through their website, meta data, back end code, etc. to find any improvements he could make to increase rankings and traffic. After coming up with a rather large list I had a call with the client to discuss all of his options.
During the call I presented numerous recommendations for our SEO campaign but the problem I ran into was that the client kept asking me how much it was worth to make a change on his site in terms of improving his SEO. In other words, he would only make the change if I told him it was “SEO gold.”
The first thing people should know about SEO is that it’s a gradual process that improves over time. SEO isn’t something that magically changes overnight or even in a few weeks, (there are a few exceptions to that rule of course).
Sometimes SEO takes months and even years to see great improvements. Gradual improvements can be seen within a few weeks and only a couple of months. But to get to first page of search engine results, when you’re not even ranked, could take a while even if you’re an SEO expert. So, I found myself asking, “Is there really such a thing as SEO gold?”
I think it truly depends on the client and what is good and bad about their site in terms of SEO. If a client has zero keywords in their meta data or has no meta data at all, adding that aspect of SEO could yield great improvements. Or, if a client has nothing but images splattered all over their pages with no copy, then adding HTML copy could be considered “SEO gold” for just that client.
Below is a list of the basic SEO tactics everyone should implement on their site and I have prioritized them according to what I have experienced making the largest improvements throughout all of my clients. I like to start with the low-hanging fruit (things you can accomplish somewhat quickly) first.
1. Keyword Research: research all keywords and their variations and find out which have the highest search volume, least amount of competition and which are most relevant to your products.
2. Meta Data: Start writing page titles and meta descriptions with your keywords incorporated into them. Don’t worry about meta keywords – the search engines really don’t use them any longer and it can tell your competitors which keywords you’re trying to target.
3. 301 Redirects & Canonical Tag: For any pages that are 404′ing or have been moved implement a 301 redirect. Also implement a 301 redirect from your no www version of your homepage to the www version of your homepage. This will help prevent any duplicate content issues. Also, you can add the new canonical tag to the homepage to tell the search engines which version of your homepage they should pay more attention to.
4. Alt Tags: Find any images on your site that do not have alternate text and make your new keywords your alt text. Don’t make your homepage header alt text say, “home” – unless you want to rank for the keyword, “home”.
5. Paid Directories: Add your website to the paid directories. Some cost between $99 and up to $300 per year. The best directories to use for SEO are business.com, yahoo directory and bestoftheweb.com. There are of course more, but those are my recommended top 3.
6. Submit a sitemap: Download gsite crawler for free. Create an XML sitemap of your site and submit it to your root directory.
7. Robots.txt file: A robots file allows you to block certain pages of your site like miscellanous images, etc. from being crawled. So, if you have an excess of images on your site and they don’t necessarily need to be indexed, include those in your robots file so the search engines can crawl more important pages of your site.
8. Internal Linking: Internal linking is when one page of your site links to another page of your site. This helps create a flow of link juice from pages with high PR to pages with zero to little PageRank.
9. Additional Content & On-Site Optimization: Creating additional content is a long term strategy. Constantly updating your site with new content will not only keep customers from returning but also the search engines. If the SE know that you update your site frequently they are more likely to come back and crawl your site more often, eventually leading to more indexed pages.
10. Link Building & Free Directories: Link building is another long term strategy. Link building is the process of getting other well known, trusted websites to link to your site. This will help increase PR to your site – but it involves doing a lot of research and finding relevant sites that will link to your site for free.
10. Link Bait: Link bait is the process of creating something viral that people will pick up on quickly and send to their friends, etc. An example of link bait could be a contest or online promotion/sweepstakes where people enter to win – they twitter about it, Facebook about it, and pass it on to their friends therefore generating a lot of links to your site.
11. URL Structure: The search engines crawl your homepage first. Then they go one directory level down from there, and so on. So if your important pages are buried deep within your website, it’s possible the SE’s can’t find them. Create a URL structure where the SE’s can easily find your most important pages right after they crawl the homepage.
12. Back-end Code: If your developers know nothing about SEO, have them read some SEO coding articles. There is a better way to code your website to make it more SEO friendly with the search engines.
13. Social Media & Blogging: Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube, Squidoo, etc. There are a plethora of choices out there to promote your company. Get involved, do some research on where your target audience is spending most of their time. Most of these links will be no followed, however it’s a good way to get some additional branding and traffic to your website.
There are so many more things to understand about SEO and what it takes to get good rankings. These are just my top 13 SEO tactics to implement and in an order that should help your SEO rankings the most.
What you should take away from this post is that SEO takes time. Again, it’s a gradual process of changes made to your website over time that ultimately helps increase traffic and rankings.