I have been watching the debate back and forth…SEO is dead, SEO is very much alive, Social Media is the New SEO, SEO and Social Media Work Together, and so on. Of course, no one has the definitive last word on this subject because it is ever changing.
However, I can make two statements with confidence…
- Social Media is not going anywhere.
- People are still using search to find information.
The real debate here should be about online advertising, but that’s another Journal altogether.
When looking at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) today, you have to factor in a few more things than in the past. In previous years, you only had to worry about content, and before that (in the olden days), you could get away with a decent set of META Tags and a nice smile.
Today, you need to consider Mobile, Blogging, Bing, Facebook, Twitter and more. You simply cannot just focus on Google, although it is still very important. For this post, I want to focus on 4 things you can do now to make sure your SEO is on target and the traffic is coming…
- Link Building
- Social Media Marketing
- Site Structure and Code
- Tracking and Measurement
This is, as it sounds, building links to your web site (inbound links), as well as building an effective linking structure within your web site. Of course, the best inbound links are from the big boys, i.e. Google, Bing, etc. These occur through indexing, where you are ranked and listed favorably for specific targeted keywords and phrases.
But there are other ways to build the number of good inbound links to your site. Think of it this way, you are a restaurant and you need customers. The inbound links are the roads that lead to your restaurant. You want more roads leading to you, but you want these roads to bring the right clientele. So, you want roads coming from the right parts of town, making the trip for your targeted clientele an easy one.
So, how do you build these inbound links? This can be in the form of guest Blog posts on a popular Blog in your industry or a Blog for a partner company, trade org or friendly competitor. All you have to do is ask them if they would be interested in you writing a guest post. The worst they can do is say no.
These guest posts will contain links back to your site. And, in that post, include references to articles or your services that link back to specific pages on your Blog or web site. Then, within your own blog posts, add links to the services pages you reference in your post. For example, you see that we’ve linked to the SEO services page on our site from this post.
The links can also be in the form of simple listings, a member page on a Chamber site, a profile in a group site, trade organization, etc. Make sure you optimize these pages to include keyword-rich profile bios and link to as much as they will let you. If they allow you to add in the RSS feed for your Blog, do that. Take advantage of these listings to the fullest.
Another way to build these inbound links is to distribute your press releases to online publications. Depending on your budget, this could be something you do yourself, or you might use a service like PRWeb. Either way, getting your press releases picked up about a new product, new hire, expansion, book or published article, award, etc, is a great way to build keyword-rich links back to your site. If you have the money, use a good service and a quality copywriter that knows SEO and the web. They get you the most reach for you money.
Social Media Marketing
We know social media is not going anywhere, but I will argue that the vast majority of small businesses do not know how to use it to bring traffic to their web site. Social media is social, promotional, conversational, and interactive. What it isn’t is direct sales.
Social media marketing is about getting the word out and then getting a response. You don’t want to go crazy and post your web address on a bunch of Facebook profiles or post ads in LinkedIn groups. This will drive people nuts. Instead, you need to engage.
Post useful information in your Twitter stream that you did not write. Be a resource. Then, when you post something from you, they are more likely to click. All the while, all of this leads back to your Twitter profile with your web site link on it. And these Twitter posts are getting picked up by Google and Bing.
If you have a Blog, use a tool like NetworkedBlogs on Facebook. This tool is very useful for promoting Blog content on Facebook and also has some great promotional programs. With this tool, you can create great keyword rich inbound links back to Blog posts on your web site.
If you are on LinkedIn, start a company page for your business. Then, link your Blog’s RSS to this. More links. You can also start discussion threads in LinkedIn based on your most recent Blog posts and link back to that post.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Engage –> Be a resource –> Blog –> Integrate with Social Media –> link back to your Blog and your web site.
Site Structure and Code
The code and structure of your web site are very important for lots of reasons, SEO being one of them. Search engines will search through your site (indexing) using the code as a guide, bad code = bad indexing.
There are many ways to enhance your code for search engine visibility. A few right off the bat are page titles, proper use of heading tags, ALT attributes and overall code structure. These are all areas within the site’s code that should contain targeted keywords that are well organized. If you are not sure if this was done properly, ask an SEO expert to take a look. They should be able to give you a pretty quick assessment of your code.
Site structure is important as well, mainly when it comes to navigation. For example, if you use Flash in your web site, do not use it for your navigation, since search engines do not read Flash and it will block or hinder indexing. Or, if you are using landing pages, make sure there are easy ways to bypass them or that they link to your main site effectively.
You don’t want to put up coding or structural “road blocks,” as these will block the indexing of your site. Another tool you can use to make sure the engines index your site properly is an XML site map. An XML sitemap is a file that lists all of the URLs (web addresses) that exist within a web site. The search engines use this as a guide to the content contained within.
Mobile search is booming. More and more users are looking for you on their handheld devices. Coding will matter here as well. Not just in how the page looks on a mobile device but also how the site is structured. Because when a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) lists your site on a mobile browser, you want the link to be to the appropriate page and you want that page to be structured so that it drives conversion, quickly.
This is all somewhat geeky stuff so make sure you have adult supervision before going in and making and major coding and structural updates, especially if you have something like WordPress or Joomla and are using a plug-in. Plug-ins are great but if you do not know what you are doing, you can potentially do damage.
Tracking and Measurement
Of course this is all meaningless if you don’t know how well it’s working. The great thing about SEO is that you can track and measure the results of your efforts. Metrics through tools like Google Analytics can tell you a lot about how well your site is doing.
With Google Analytics, you can track what keywords were used to find your site, what your most popular pages are, what search engines people used to find you and so much more. The tricky part is navigating this information and understanding what it all means. Google offers demos and tutorials on using Google Analytics, and we have also written a few blog entries about the subject you might find useful.
There are other tracking tools out there that serve more specific purposes. For, example, you can see what kind of influence your Twitter account has using tools like Klout. Or you can use the many site grader tools (Google offers these as well) out there to get an analysis of your site’s current effectiveness.
The one problem with these tools is that it usually just gives you raw data (and some of this data can be incomplete). Some give a little advice on how to use that data but you really need to be able to apply this information back to your overall marketing efforts. This is why SEO should always be a strong part of your overall marketing plan. It all ties together.
I hope you find these tips useful and that you now see that SEO is still very important. If you do what we suggest in this article, the search engines will index you and hopefully rank you favorably.
Questions, comments? Let me know if the comments area below…