Is SEO your top priority?
Regardless of whether you have a small or large website, deciding what to do next or where to start with SEO is always a challenge.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is about creating your site and building links to it in order to appear high with Google, Bing and other search engines. For most websites increasing traffic is a priority, as more traffic leads to more sales, or means that you’re reaching a larger audience with your message, however it’s not always the top priority.
What to do first?
Before deciding whether to focus on an SEO campaign, the crucial question is “Does your website work?” If it doesn’t, then SEO isn’t your top priority. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the graphic design of your site sufficiently attractive and professional so visitors will want to stick around?
- Does your site have its own domain name, not just an IP address or a free sub-domain? If not, this needs fixing before you start link building.
- If it’s an e-commerce site, is it obvious how to buy stuff and can you complete the check-out process?
- Does your website have all the information it needs on it? If you’ve just launched a major new product or service, ensure that’s on your site before you start the SEO campaign.
- Ask a few friends who are ideally similar to your target visitors what they think of the site. If you get the same feedback from everyone that something needs changing, change it!
Where to start with an SEO Campaign
Once you’ve fixed other issues and are ready to start your SEO campaign, there are several stages you can consider and broadly speaking they’re best being completed in the following order:
- Keyword research – To discover what people actually search for.
- On-page SEO – Ensuring keywords are included in appropriate places on your site and the overall site structure is SEO friendly.
- Link building – Building links from reputable and relevant websites that link TO your site. (Incoming links from other websites).
There are wide range of keyword research tools available:
- Google's Keyword Planner - You now need to have an active AdWords account to use this, otherwise it only provides basic information.
- SEO Book's Keyword Tool - This lets you enter a word or short phrase and then suggests a range of related words and shows their estimated monthly search volume. This is one of the easiest tools to use.
- SEMrush - Gives search volume by country, so you can be sure you're focusing on relevant keywords for your country. This is particularly important for local or multilingual SEO.
- Ahrefs - Includes information on the likely Click Through Rate for different keywords, which helps separate keywords that visitors often search for just for a single piece of information (e.g. "Current time") without actually clicking one of the results to see more info.
See our in-depth guide on keyword research, including how to use keywords in product descriptions, blogs and when translating websites.
We offer free keyword research with every SEO project. We also look at a wide range of factors (as per the image pictured below) and apply a unique formula to calculate how competitive each keyword is, to help clients target keywords that are regularly searched for and have relatively low SEO competition, as these are the keywords that are most likely to generate the highest return on investment.
Regardless of what you’re selling or promoting, there are always many ways that people search for them (brand names, specific models, synonyms, etc.) and it’s essential that you do some preliminary keyword research to ensure that you target keywords that people are looking for.
On-Page SEO Basics
Before completing a link building campaign, it’s best to optimize at the very least your home page and any other pages that you’ll be building links to (typically called ‘landing pages’). There are often quick fixes that can be applied to your whole website too by editing the template of your site. Some of the top priority things to do:
- Ensure your Metatag Title uses the most important keywords and if you have a local business, includes the city where you’re based.
- Put the main title of your page in <h1> tags and ensure that <h1> isn’t used for irrelevant text (Search engines treat <h1> tags as the main heading on your site in much the same way as a <title> metatag is used).
- Write a compelling Metatag Description for your home page and other important pages. This appears in search results and should encourage someone to click it to visit your site. Don’t just put a list of keywords.
- If you’re interested in local business, put your address on every page of your website and mention your location in the first couple of paragraphs on your home page. (Visitors to your site don’t know where you’re based unless you tell them and nor do search engines).
- Include keywords a few times but not excessively in your text, links between pages and URLs (web addresses).
Create three or more excellent pages
Google values pages that have plenty of in-depth content - whether they're detailed product descriptions with truly useful information, in-depth blogs that include how-to guides, or pieces of news.
For small sites choose 3 pages that you're going to transform into optimal SEO content.
Start by researching keywords and choose 2 or 3 keywords per page that have low Organic Keyword Difficulty / SEO Competition, but a reasonably high monthly search volume. If it's a very specific keyword (e.g. "16m wooden ladder") that perfectly describes a product you sell, even if only 50 people a month search for it, appearing 1st for that keyword will generate significantly sales.
Plan your content, ensuring that the most important keyword appears in the Title, Meta Title, Meta Description and one or two of the sub-headings (but include other sub-headings that don't include any keywords at all for a healthy balance). If you're not sure what to write about, SEMrush's keyword tool has a 'questions' option, where you can enter a keyword (e.g. "wooden ladder") and it will give you search volumes for questions that contain this keyword.
You can also simply enter the keyword in Google and see if there's a "People also ask" section. This gives useful suggestions for topics to write about. Click any of the topics, then scroll down for more suggestions.
Once you've planned your structure, write at least 1,500 words per page on the topic. Make this as useful, informative and engaging as possible. The longer visitors spend on the page, the higher up it will rank over time. If possible include images, charts, quote statistics, or quote famous people.
Ensure that you link to these 3 pages from every other page of your site, using a keyword or at least part of it. (If your keyword was "SEO tips for 2020" for example, you might only be able to fit "SEO tips" in your menu. If it won't fit in your main menu, put it in the footer. If it doesn't work in the footer, then choose a different topic for a page that you are happy to link to from every other page of the site.
These pages will become your main landing pages and for a small site are likely to generate most of your organic traffic.
Building links to your site is an art form and is time consuming, however there are some places that you can start:
- Search for your most important keywords in Google and look at the top 10 pages of results. If any of these are free or inexpensive directories, add your site to them, including a good, unique description of your services. For some keywords the top page of results will be dominated by these kind of listings and being included in them is good for your SEO and can also generate enquiries. Don’t just copy content from your site though, write new content for each directory.
- Create social media profiles of your company on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and keep them up-to-date. There’s no need to link to these profiles from your website, unless you intend to keep them regularly updated. If you’re considering linking to these profiles, ask yourself if you want your visitors to visit your social media profiles, don’t just make it the default thing to do. Links in are more important than links out!
- Write articles of at least 500 words (preferably longer) that include a backlink to your site (either the home page or one of your main landing pages). Reach out to bloggers and ask them to publish the article on their site. A link from a high traffic, relevant, blog is worth several other links combined.
We offer a link building service that also includes article marketing on related blogs, infographic creation and distribution and a range of other link building methods and if you’re planning on completing a large link building campaign, we’d recommend using a professional SEO company. You may also be interested in our blog about why to avoid bulk link building if you’re planning to do your own link building campaign.
When done well you should see results from your SEO campaign once you have a page with good content targeting low competition, high search volume keywords, and some backlinks going to it. SEO provides a long-term benefit to your site, so it’s worth spending time on this and getting it right. Once you've seen success with the first 3 pages, repeat the process with more pages, and by continuing to do link building, focusing on quality over quantity all the way.