Stacey McNaught, Head of Search at Tecmark, provided us with notes to accompany the presentation she gave during our Google hangout on air, entitled 'DIY SEO'.
Summary of DIY SEO Presentation
Let me start by just saying that SEO isn’t the answer to all of your online marketing problems. It really isn’t!
If your problem is that you need more traffic (and more relevant traffic) then this is one potential solution. But if your problem is that you have traffic but it’s not convert or you need overnight traffic, SEO isn’t the right place to look.
But let’s assume that, if you’ve made it this far, your business goals require more website traffic. And let’s also assume that you are able to invest time into achieving those goals. If you don’t have the budget to outsource or bring professionals in, then you’re going to need to be prepared to invest a LOT of your time into this.
There are things you can do for yourself if you have the time to invest, but deciding where to start is often half the battle. So this presentation was put together to give you an idea as to those first steps and what you do without the help of a pro.
Getting Started with SEO
Before you even consider starting an SEO campaign, two things need to happen. You need to set goals and research your audience and competitors. Your goals are very likely to be traffic or lead/sale led. And in terms of identifying who you audience is and how they’re using Google to find your products and services, we have a couple of tools we can use.
- Google’s Keyword Planner - https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner
- Ubersuggest – http://www.ubersuggest.org
Both of these can help you to understand the keywords that people might be typing into Google when they’re looking for products or services that you sell.
Getting the Basics in Place
You really have to have an understanding of the basic principles of SEO. That’s not something you can learn in a short presentation like this. You’re going to have to dedicate some time to understanding the theory.
There are a lot of guides on the Internet that can help with this. But also do be wary of misinformation. There is one guide in particular that’s a huge fan of and that’s the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO. You can access that at http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo. It’s free and really easy to read and consume.
You’ll also need to make sure that you have some tracking on your site to measure progress. Google Analytics is free and does that very well (see www.analytics.google.com).
Google has its own Webmaster Tools platform, which is a system that lets you see how Google is getting around your website (or “crawling” it) and gives you information like errors on your site or links back to your website. You can sign up for Webmaster Tools at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and Bing has its own version at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster.
What Influences Your Position in Google?
Let’s make one thing clear first. There’s no magic formula. Google hasn’t released its algorithm. But what we do know is that there are over 200 different factors that influence where a website ranks in Google.
You can split the three of them down into 3 different areas:
- The technical side of your website itself
- The content on your site
- The “buzz” around your site (largely measured by links back to your website from other sites, mentions of your brand etc)
Get a Good Idea of What’s on your Website
You need to fully understand what’s on your site. You need to do a site crawl to get a list of all the pages that exist on your site and start to prioritise actions on them (lots of which will become apparently after you’ve read the Moz Beginners Guide to SEO). I like http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/ which is free for up to 500 page websites. It will return a list of all of your pages, the page titles, descriptions and other things that you’ll find out about through the Moz Guide.
Prioritise ensuring that certainly key pages have unique titles and descriptions. And make a big deal of content. Like a really big deal. You may find you need to invest a lot of time writing the content on your website and this is a great place to invest time! Make sure you are totally happy with the content on the site before you move on to anything further.
Google likes fresh content and sites producing lots of high quality content on a regular basis. So put a plan in place to ensure your content stays fresh on an on going basis. Maybe you could publish regular news? Maybe you’ll just update core product descriptions at certain intervals? It will depend on your business, of course.
Links and “Buzz”
The overwhelming majority of what influences rankings is what we call “off page.” This includes things like links pointing back to your site from other people’s websites. Don’t make the mistake, however, of assuming you just need to get loads of people to link back to your website to get rankings and traffic. Partaking in what Google calls “link schemes,” is considered an attempt to manipulate rankings and can result in losing visibility rather than gaining it. You can read all about link schemes at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en.
So what you need to do is create links because people want to link to something on your website. A few ways you can do that are highlighted next.
- Ego bait: I’m a big fan of producing what we call “ego bait” content and publishing it on your website. This is effectively content about other people. It can take the form of an interview with a single person or even a whole collection of snippets of interviews or tips from people in your industry. A great example of this was Buzzsumo’s “40 fears that keep search marketers awake at night.” I was asked to take part in this and even though I’m well versed in ego bait, I still shared the content. The content got hundreds of shares (starting undoubtedly with shares from the 40 people featured) and there are links from 46 other sites pointing back at this piece of content. This is a principle you could replicate on your own website.
- Creating resources and/or research: If you publish some data unique to you and other people use some stats in their own content, they’ll often link back to you as their source. A huge example is Google who publish lots of studies very regularly. Of course they already have a great audience. But their studies are well linked to. The example in my presentation shows a study that was published under a month ago and already has links from over 100 different websites.
- Image distribution: I’ve written about this extensively here, so I won’t go into too much more detail in this summary. But the way this works is that you release images (they don’t have to be amazing ones) under Creative Commons Licensing through Flickr. When people use them, they should credit you. And there are tools and similar to help you pursue the credits where the user doesn’t automatically credit properly. This has helped us at Tecmark to land links from the likes of the Government site and brand sites like Europcar.
Keep Up to Speed with SEO Changes and Updates
The final piece of advice I would offer is to stay up to date. This is a really quick moving industry. There’s so much changing all of the time. So read blogs, forums and get opinion from trusted resources. I included a recommended reading list at the back of the presentation.