You’ve heard that search engine optimisation, or SEO, is an important part of your business strategy. But, when you look into it, there is a dizzying array of info. It’s not just about outdated concepts such as keyword stuffing or paying for links on low grade sites.
No, SEO needs a proper strategy that can take time to build and manage.
And, to top it off, your organic search results are unlikely to improve for at least a month, probably a lot more.
But where do you even start? Do you need to do SEO?
Well, lucky for you I’ve put together this super handy SEO cheat sheet for business owners like yourself.
Step one: Look at your audience
All your SEO efforts are for nothing if you don’t have a good picture of your ideal audience. With a good audience avatar (yes this is what it’s called), you can understand how your ideal customer behaves online.
Try and build up a picture of them using the following details:
- Age range
- Location (or locations)
- Their pain points. What is their problem that you have the solution to?
- Related offline behaviour. If they love to cook perhaps they find inspiration in travel or from cook books.
- Online behaviour. Which sites do they spend time on?
- Typical work habits or industries
- Income range
- Preferred social media
Of course this is just an example and you can get really granular with it. But even a basic picture of your perfect customer can help your marketing strategy in the long run.
Step two: Look at your website
To really optimise for search you need to have a website that actually works, has minimal site errors and is mobile friendly. If you’re using something like WordPress, Joomla, Wix, Shopify or any other standard CMS then you’re probably fine.
But, make sure your page load speed is decent and you don’t have a horrible layout.
Low quality images, crap copy, awkwardly placed buttons and any other shoddy design elements can negatively impact your SEO efforts – so take care of your presentation before you spend anything on search engine optimisation.
Your UX (user experience) and website copy are the elements that most people see first when they land on your page. And good website copy is also an important element of long term SEO, so if your website reads like a Tolstoy novel, or worse still, it barely has any content, you’ll need to get that sorted.
Step three: Competitor research
Checkin’ out the competition… You better believe they’re doing the same to you.
The purpose of competitor research isn’t so much to steal their ideas, but to see what you’re up against. Is there something they’re not doing so well that you could make some gains on?
- How often do they update their blog (if they have one)?
- Do they put out independent research papers, or anything unique?
- What are their social media channels like?
- Do they offer free downloads, courses or webinars?
- Is there a free trial or special offer that might tempt in those swaying customers?
It’s not just the website… Content and search engine strategy includes things like a good social media following and giving searchers a reason to choose you over the competition.
Step four: Ideas!
Now, during all of the above steps you will probably come up with a ton of ideas. This is when you want to get them all down on paper (yes, real paper with a pen and everything) and see what you’ve got.
The reason for getting it down on paper is that the tangible element gives you something to look at, scribble and annotate. There is something real about writing ideas down, and personally I find it helps to separate the good ideas from the bad.
What ideas are we writing down here?
- What you’ve realised your customers are looking for…. Perhaps a free guide or some helpful webinars.
- Concepts for blog posts.
- A flow chart of social media threads or a plan to snare an influencer.
The whole thing wih search engine optimization is that you’re aiming to give your customers something that solves their problems. It’s not actually about your business at all. But the side effect of being brilliant and helpful will, eventually, be more traffic.
Step five: Strategy
With all those great ideas and an understanding of both your audience and the competition, you can see exactly what you’re strategy is. Right?
Ok, well a vague idea is better than nothing.
A good idea is to build a goal to rank for an important keyword and aim for six months to be dominating the first page of Google. How would you do that?
Build one piece of super useful content that is the authority on the subject of that keyword.
Let’s say you’re selling karaoke equipment.. You’d want an in-depth guide to what you need to know about karaoke equipment, from home options to professional gear. This will be the content that anyone looking to buy karaoke equipment will flock to for it’s impartial and invaluable advice.
No hard sell required.
So this content might be a blog post, a download, a video embedded on your site or simply a landing page on your website. It doesn’t matter. So long as it gives as many answers as possible to your root search term – in this case ‘karaoke equipment guide’, but it could equally be ‘how to set up a freelance business’, ‘eco retreats in Austria’ or whatever.
Make it useful, include nice and original images and make it look good too. A nice layout is everything.
For reference, this piece of content is referred to as a content pillar, or cornerstone content.
This brings me to…
Step six: Strategy (part 2)
As part of your SEO efforts, you want to draw attention to your best piece of content. The cornerstone content is your War and Peace, your work of art on the subject of whatever it is you do.
Now you want to build smaller pieces of content that support your major content, offering smaller tidbits of information.
Back to our karaoke analogy, you might have a short post about the best microphone for karaoke, the most popular karaoke songs for football fans, or choosing lighting for a karaoke night.
These articles will be much shorter, usually around 500-1000 words. They will target their own related keywords and… This is the important bit…
They ALL need to link back to your cornerstone content.
Aim to release new content weekly, ideally. If you totally can’t do weekly, monthly will do.
Step seven: Earning backlinks
You might have heard that backlinks are very important for your search rankings. Its true, they are, but you do need to be careful with backlinks.
Part of SEO is earning backlinks organically, which is why you aim to create the definitive piece of content on a subject. This means that, hopefully, people will think your content is so good they’ll share it on their social media, write about it on their blogs and generally link back to it from all manner of places.
This does, of course, take time.
Can you pay for backlinks to speed up your organic search rankings?
Yes, of course. But… There are a lot of crap sites out there, designed to make people money from guest posts and the attendent Google Ads.
If you are going to pay for backlinks, do your research and find sites with good traffic, that are relevant to your niche and that don’t look like a bag of ass.
Better still, ask an SEO professional for help (oh hi there) so you don’t end up with a bunch of worthless guest posts.
Step eight: Don’t sweat the small stuff
For every blog post you do, there are a few things you’ll need to do to optimize your content for search. These are:
- Alt tags: include images in your posts and add a ‘description’ that includes the keyword. Multiple images are good, but don’t go too crazy with the keywords if you use lots of images.
- Internal links: I mentioned linking to your own content, so always make sure that your posts have at least one internal link.
- External links: Referencing external content shows the search engines that your content is relevant to a specific subject. Include one link, at least, to an authoritative source that isn’t competing for the same keyword as your article.
As well as this, you will also need to make sure you update content regularly. Don’t be afraid to add to it, change the images, insert new links or generally tweak the crap out of it forever. This is exactly what search engine bots like.
How long til number one?
So, this is the SEO cheat sheet that will get your content to the first page of Google eventually. As I say, it takes time, and it’s hard to cheat that.
For really competitive keywords, you might find it very hard to break into the top ten (i.e; first page of Google) at all. In this case, it can be advisable to aim for other ‘long tail’ search terms or other related keywords.
What results have I seen in my time as a content writer and SEO strategist?
Content I’ve written currently sits on the top spot for high volume searches. Some of these got there in days, most of it got there in weeks or even months. All part of a sustained and consistent search engine strategy.