Recently, a few prospects and clients have asked what I pay to rank highly in Google. The answer is virtually nothing in dollars, but a great deal in time, effort, and thought. That is what you have to figure out. Do you want to even play in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) game and what do you want to accomplish? The standard 10 page website will not rank well, conversion to a sale should be the ultimate intent, and you may toil for months before gaining any traction.
Two years ago, I began researching search engine ranking for my 20% time. I couldn’t figure out why a startup competitor’s site was number one when searching for one of our key services and we were on the fourth page. After all, we were a 30 year old company with several national case studies from major manufacturers. After sifting through the massive amount of mis-information and lots of trial and error, the following are some things I’ve learned so far:
1) SEM is part technical, part content, and part rhythm.
2) Most web developers have no clue about what is invovled.
3) You and your staff must be committed to regularly generating new and different information for customers of approximately an hour per day.
5) Research some keywords or key phrases by searching Google and Bing to see your competition.
6) Decide if you want to compete or identify longer or more specific phrases like adding a geography to try and rank.
7) At least monthly, research, monitor, and add/adjust content – you’ll need a spreadsheet to record various activities and ideas.
8) When searching, always note the related searches for content ideas and alternative anchor text.
9) Compare and contrast your website versus the competition to determine unique approach for customers.
10) Your competition reviews your website more than your best prospects or customers.
11) Your site should be about what customers need, giving away some expertise for free, while not arming the competition with a complete approach or your best ideas.
12) “Content is King” is so vague and overused – It means you must have quality and quantity from a variety of sources.
13) Put another way a 100 page well-structured website with quality information for customers and supporting links from recognized external sources will dominate over several 10 page sites.
14) Eliminate duplicate content and ignore the multiple fake websites with canned content of any competitors.
15) Use a 301-Redirect so that company.com is automatically redirected to www.company.com as otherwise they are treated as two separate sites with duplicate content for search.
16) Home link should always point to www.company.com and not default.htm or index.htm.
17) Have a folder for images, company, and any other general or utility type folder to group information.
18) Don’t use more than one level of subfolders.
19) Keep the website structure as flat as possible.
20) Important pages should be named by keyword like estage-planning.htm rather than services.htm.
21) The same is true for folders – accounting rather than services.
22) Dump any Flash as it’s not searchable, is a legacy technology, and no one wants to wait for it to load.
23) Feel the need for speed – focus on making all pages load fast.
24) Consolidate CSS into one file and use simple HTML menus rather than script.
25) Smush images to increase load time with smaller file size and no quality loss.
26) Eliminate unnecessary code.
27) Each page should have a unique Meta title of up to 65 charachters with keywords first even for the home page such as “Estate Planning – Jones Brown Law Firm”.
28) Each page should have a unique Meta description of up to 150 characters which is used as the snippet information under title link in search results.
29) Customize headers H1 – H4 to fit the page style and utilize at least H1 as the keyword title on the page.
30) Images should have the Alt tag with the keywords for the page.
31) Pages should start and have some keywords throughout the page.
32) Internal website pages should link to keyword named pages with anchor text that matches or is a variation of the keyword.
31) Identify one or more conversion or calls to action.
32) Write for customers. Start at the end. Tell a story if possible.
33) The best content answers a question, automates a task, or illicits a response.
34) If you are expert in a product or service, have more than one page about it.
35) Forget the brochure features and think what buyers want – how will their lives be different and what questions they need answered.
36) Review your competition regularly to verify you have a different and more compelling message.
37) Use robots.txt to block irrelevant pages for search like login pages and pages that have been moved or removed.
38) Create a sitemap.xml to submit to search engines and track published pages versus crawled pages.
39) Similarly, create a rss.xml file to submit to related RSS directories to your site.
40) Create a blog at Blogger or your favorite to add content that supports and links to your site with no web development.
41) Use main keywords or phrase to link to your site.
42) Link to important keyword subpages too.
43) Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and other social media sites to link to your content – again by keywords or variation.
44) Everything you start with social media will be wrong – learn the merits of each and add your own personality.
45) Automate as much as possible linking services together so one update hits them all.
46) Participate with major players in your industry for listing at their site and linking to yours.
47) Find communities where you can provide information that you can link back to your site.
48) Press releases and article sites are another way to link to your site.
49) Some things you do will have a negative effect and you will have to adjust.
50) Use a URL shortener like http://goo.gl/ in status updates to save characters and provide a place to track hits.
Stay focused on your goals and observe the competition, but don’t run after everything new. Again, track how you are doing and evaluate if it is worthwhile. If you aren’t capable or don’t enjoy creating content for customers, stick to your day job as half-hearted shows through even more on social medial than on the phone. SEM is something I enjoy, but more importantly it has brought in more business than 2 salespeople in the last 2 years for little cost.