Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve your websites chances of appearing at the top of first page rankings in organic search engine results requires a combination of elements within your website, and a long-term strategy of off-site marketing. While you may receive hundreds of emails from companies offering quick-fix solutions and ‘guaranteed’ first page rankings, you can rest assured that these are about as quick-fix and ‘guaranteed’ as a magical weight-loss program that doesn’t require exercise or a healthy diet.
There are many things you can do to improve your website’s rank in organic search, which will lead you to new customers and a greatly improved return on your marketing budget, but you should be aware that these take time and effort. You will see incredible results if done correctly, but it will take some time to achieve.
To get started, here is a simple SEO checklist to be sure your website and online marketing channels are primed for success. This is a great list to begin implementing at the end or beginning of a year, so that you can track your results each month.
Research & Analysis:
- Know Your Audience
- Who is your ideal customer? Define buyer personas and learn about their needs and what types of information would be helpful to them.
- Conduct keyword research to discover which keywords your prospective customers use in their searches for related products/services that you offer.
- Know Your Competitors
- Think beyond the organizations you consider your direct competitors, and do a search online to see who comes up at the top of the list of popular keyword searches related to your products and services – you may be surprised at the results.
- Analyze the keywords that your competitors are ranking for and identify any holes that may exist in their results.
- Analyze the websites of your competitors to see where they excel and where they may be lacking. Pay specific attention to the topics covered in their blogs, their calls to action (what they are asking website visitors to do on the site), and their lead generation tactics. What can you improve upon?
- Uncover the websites that are linking to your competitors. Are they gaining media attention and links? Do they guest blog on high-traffic websites reaching prospective customers? Are they linked to by high-profile industry leaders?
- Know Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOT)
- There are always opportunities to rank well for keywords related to your products or services, but they’re likely not as straightforward as you think. For example, the keyword ‘divorce lawyer’ is extremely competitive, and your chances of ranking well for it organically are slim at best. But if you drill down to a more specific (long-tail) keyword such as ‘Boston divorce and custody lawyer’ you’ll narrow down the competition substantially and have an opportunity to achieve a better position in search rankings. Another example is ‘winter hats’ versus the more achievable ‘hand knit winter hats for babies’. Drill down to the most specific keywords you can to achieve better rankings.
- From your link analysis, determine which of the sites linking to your competitors you could also receive inbound links from. Reach out to media in your area to write articles and post your events or recent news. Be sure you are receiving links from all applicable organizations you belong to. Consider guest blogging on high-profile websites that could put you in front of your target audience.
On-Site SEO Elements:
- Keywords, Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Headings, and Image Alt Tags
- Each page of your website contains important elements that help search engines better understand the content on those pages, and help entice prospective visitors to click your links in organic search. Here’s a simple 6-step SEO audit from Hubspot to ensure your site has best practices in place.
- Does the content on your website match what prospective customers are looking for when searching online? A major trap that organizations fall into when attempting to improve their SEO is that they insert keywords into the titles, headings, and meta descriptions which don’t match up to the content on the page, assuming incorrectly that they can fool the search engines. The most important area to pay attention to on your website is the actual content on the pages. Be sure to identify the topics that prospects are most interested in, and incorporate plenty of information related to those topics.
- Drill down as far as you can, creating new pages for each sub-topic that relates to a category. This will showcase your website as a leader in information related to specific long-tail keywords, which in turn will help to improve your rankings.
- According to Hubspot research, B2B marketers that actively and regularly blog receive 67% more leads than those that do not.
- Contrary to popular belief, the reason for blogging is not necessarily to generate comments and open a discussion. It’s much more important to regularly write about topics that relate to the concerns, needs, and wants of your target audience, and lead them further into your website. This will help prospective customers find you while searching online for solutions to their needs, or will entice them to click through your links on social media channels and in email marketing.
- Calls to Action & Lead Funnels
- Once prospective customers land on your website or blog post, is there a clear path for them to follow in order to move forward in your buying cycle? For instance, do you lead them from a blog post to a related service or topic within your website? Do you offer a valuable and complimentary service or resource to them in exchange for completing a form? Are they enticed with related information to meet their needs?
- During your analysis of your SEO elements, it’s very important to analyze your calls to action and lead generation funnels. If you are lacking in this area and/or not seeing results, it’s time to reinvest in your strategy. We’re offering a free website audit to get you started.
Off-Site SEO Elements & Inbound Marketing:
- During the research and analysis phase, you pulled together a list of links that were leading prospective customers to your competitors websites. Now it’s time to make use of that list by reaching out to the related sites that aren’t currently linking to you and requesting links or providing content for them to publish. Start with the low-hanging fruit, such as organizations you belong to or provide volunteer services for, and go from there. There are two important issues to be aware of here, though:
- Think long-term here. Search engines don’t want to see a large amount of inbound links hit your site one month and then nothing happen in future months. A steady and consistent effort will win you the credibility you need.
- Quality wins over quantity. BEWARE the sites that exist solely for the purpose of delivering leads, these are often using black-hat techniques and could actually harm your credibility with search engines. You also want to be cautious when considering sites that require reciprocal links (they link to you in exchange for you linking back to them) and those that request payment for links. At best, these often will not help you; at worst, they could have a negative effect.
- Content Promotion
- Your prospective customers spend their time on a wide variety of other websites, on social media, and in their email inboxes. Getting your message in front of them in these other locations will greatly improve your chances of getting found, and will help you improve inbound links to your website. Consider guest blogging on websites that your prospective audience is likely to visit, deliver email newsletters to your network of subscribers and ask them to share with their friends, and utilize social media channels to deliver your content out to your followers and those following related topics.
This SEO checklist is a great way to get started, but it only scratches the surface. To achieve strong results, it’s important to follow these best practices and develop a long-term strategy that will be maintained on all levels. To see how you’re currently doing and get some tips for improvement that are tailored to your situation, request our free website audit.