Picture this… you’re pulling 12-hour workdays doing anything and everything to drive sales and marketing initiatives for a small business. As you reach your breaking point, your boss asks: “Have you heard about this thing called SEO? Well, it sounds like something we should do. Please add that to your plan… and get it started ASAP.” Can you relate? Don’t panic! Thankfully, there are some fundamental SEO practices that can make a big difference with a relatively small effort. Just aim for these five “low-hanging fruit” to jumpstart an SEO campaign.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is the cornerstone of any SEO campaign. Through comprehensive keyword research you will find relevant words and phrases to incorporate into your site. Not much can be done to optimize your website without it. So invest the time upfront to setup your SEO campaign for success. Get a head start on your keyword list by answering these questions:
- What do your customers search for?
- What search phrases do they use?
- What need does your product fulfill?
- What solution does your product provide?
For more information on how to conduct effective keyword research, read the Beginner’s Guide – How to Conduct Keyword Research from SEOmoz.
2. Meta Data
Think of the meta data as a first handshake with a new business associate. It is a vital element in making a first impression, so it needs to be strong, unique and focused. The meta data needs to immediately connect with search engine crawlers and build a sense of relevancy. You need to consider two elements, the meta title and meta description.
Meta Title: The meta title is what a user will see at the top of a search window and as the hyperlinked title in organic search results. It is an important element in declaring the content on a page to crawlers and potential visitors. Each meta title is between 50-60 characters and should be unique to the content on the page. Include your 1-2 target keywords, a descriptive title of the page’s content, and your company’s name.
Meta Description: The meta description is located within the code header and it appears as the webpage description in organic search engine results. This tag is also used to describe the webpage content to search engine crawlers. As with the meta title, each meta description needs to be unique and relevant to the page content. The meta description can be up to 150 characters, includes 2-3 keywords (carry-over keywords from the meta title) and is a brief and targeted description of the pages content.
3. Header Tags
The H1 header tag is one of the easiest places to implement keyword optimization, because typically, all webpages have a title. Every title should be programmed using the H1 tag (<h1>Insert Page Title Here</h1>) instead of formatting code that specifies font size and weight. The H1 tag establishes a content priority on the page, and it tell search engines that the header as the most important element. Remember that each H1 tag should incorporate a targeted keyword, ideally one that is carried over through your meta data.
4. Image Alt Tags
Search engines cannot see (or crawl) content that is locked in images, so it is important to take extra steps to tell search engines what an image is. The ALT attribute is recognized by search engines as an alternative text description to an image. Every image on your page should have a keyword-rich description. This will increase the keyword density of the page and also help search engine crawlers better navigate and index the content on your site.
5. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is one page that contains all of the pages on your site, plus additional details such as the last date a page was updated, page priority, and update frequency. Creating an XML sitemap may speed up the time that search engines indexing and ranking of your site. Plus, it allows search engines to crawl and index pages that they may not have found through your site. Did I mention that sitemaps are also incredibly easy to create? There are a lot of free online tools that will crawl your website and generate a downloadable sitemap. Check out AuditMyPC.com, XML-Sitemaps.com, or gSiteCrawler.com to quickly and easily create an XML sitemap.
Once your sitemap is completed, it’s time to start submitting it to webmaster tool programs. If you are limited on time, I recommend starting with Google Webmaster Tools. When you submit your sitemap, you will be given a plethora of information on how Google “sees” your website and any issues it is having. This is a great resource for more advanced SEO optimizations down the road.
Even if you are strapped on time, don’t neglect some of the simplest SEO practices that can make a big difference for your site. By starting with the things outlined above, you will start your SEO efforts off right and can easily build upon your work in the future. So the next time the boss-(wo)man tasks you with optimizing the company website for SEO, resist the urge to panic and start with these five low-hanging fruit to jumpstart your campaign.