By Paul Hickey on August 12, 2013
People always ask us how our business got its name – a misspelled vegetable with the word “edge” in it. It’s simple – we help businesses grow. In small business SEO (and let’s face it, this content is also relevant to marketing directors and CMOs of larger companies who simply have had to downsize their marketing staff over the last few years) – it’s all about planting seeds.
It’s easy to get lost in the plethora of information available on SEO, and it’s equally easy to get frustrated when your business doesn’t show up on Google Page 1, 2, 3 or even 4 for keywords that you think you should be dominating. That’s why I’m here, to help you get started. Select the seeds carefully, plant them, then do the appropriate things consistently – and with the utmost amount of discipline – to watch them grow. I have such a passion for this topic that it’s going to be hard not to eat the whole apple at one time. So I’ll remind myself that today’s post is simply about getting you started. So let’s plant your seeds now, and check in with each other every two weeks, and by this time next year, we’ll be picking some ripe fruit and veggies (I mean, qualified sales leads for your business) from the garden together.
1. Identify your keywords. I know that you’re going to want to rank on Google Page 1 (we’ll call it SERP – Search Engine Results Page) initially for the most broad keywords possible. Using a company like E|SPACES for example, they’ll want to potentially dominate phrases like “office space” or “meeting room rentals.” The first thing you’ll want to do is take your broad keyword ideas and run them through a free keyword tool – like Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Although this is paid search data, it at least starts to give you some other ideas for similar keywords. It also gives you an idea of “competition” and “volume of searches.” To be clear, you’ll want to identify as many keyword possibilities that are relevant to your business, and get an idea of how many people are searching for them (local monthly searches), and how hard it may be to gain a high SERP (competition).
2. Search your keywords. It sounds stupid, but before you start trying to rank high for keywords, run some searches on them and just double check that those are the types of keywords you want to rank for. Using the E|SPACES example, you see in the screenshots below that “Office Space” is also a popular movie from the 90s, and maybe not one that makes sense to compete with. However, “Office Space Company Nashville” would be more relevant to someone trying to seek out the services that our friends at E|SPACES offer. Search your own targeted keywords – especially the ones with acronyms, and you’ll find that you can rule many of them out. For example, an acronym out of my industry – CMS – a content management system for a website – of course, actually stands for several other things (see below) that would far outrank my definition and create unnecessary competition.
Better search idea below (see our friends at #5)…
3. Think about the psychology behind the search. Building on #2, if you think about who may be searching for “CMS” vs. “content management system,” I would say the latter might be a more qualified sales lead. It may not get as much search volume, but it’s the user you want, and it’s a keyword with far less competition, so it’s easier to dominate. Taking it a step further, wouldn’t it make more sense to optimize for key phrases like “I can’t update the content on my website.” That user knows exactly what their issue is, clearly needs help, and may be in need of a new content management system. We call this “long tail.” After garnering all the keyword ideas your brain can stomach (yes, I said brain can stomach), you’ll need to narrow them down. Searching your keywords (#2) and focusing on Long Tail Keywords, can allow you to chip away and moving up the Google SERPs in a reasonable amount of time. Long tail is perfect for blog posts, as you wouldn’t necessarily build stuff like “my washing machine broke” on your homepage or within the information architecture of your site. Lastly, the lowest hanging fruit possible in the whole keywords game is one word = Local. Localize your keywords with the market you’re in. So, instead of “web design,” Cabedge goes after “web design Nashville.” Simple.
4. On-Page Optimization Tips. With me so far? Good. Once you’ve got about a few dozen keywords to keep you busy over the next several months, your next step is getting your website right as far as representing those keywords to Google. I’m just going to come out and say it. If you’re a small business owner, or a CMO with a dwindling advertising budget, get your site over into WordPress. You don’t need a full redesign (although it would help as well), but you do need a platform that easily allows you to optimize all the pages on your site without a developer. Once you get your site into WordPress (and my co-workers at Cabedge and Atiba are laughing at me right now because I joke that I wear WordPress boxer shorts and flash the “not-a-gang-sign W” with my left hand as I walk around the office – get the Yoast SEO plug-in.
5. What Yoast Allows You To Do. We’ve seen results time-and-time again with adding simple things to each page of your website. Now, keep in mind that this is not a cure-all, but despite what anti-SEO folks will say, this stuff is still very important, trust me. Or, if you don’t trust me, trust Hubspot or Moz. Search Engine Title, Meta Keywords and Meta Description. Boom. Still important. Yoast allows you to customize this for each page on your site.
Another thing Yoast creates for your is an XML sitemap to submit to Google via Google Webmasters. This ensures Google not only crawls your pages, but also reports back any errors it sees that prevents your site from being properly indexed. It’s like a legal cheatsheet. Use it.
6. Get Some More Keywords In The Code. Whoever tells you Google can’t read images isn’t telling you the whole truth. Before throwing images on your website, name them something relevant to the content on the page. And if you can name them something that has to do with the keyword you’re trying to optimize for – all the better. Be careful not to keyword stuff, meaning – don’t go crazy. You bought that 100 calorie pack in your lunch for a reason – don’t eat two of them. Google will penalize for keyword stuffing, but will reward for naming images and using ALT tags.
Okay, this is enough for now. Do this stuff in the next two weeks, and on August 26 (a few days after my birthday), we’ll talk through Google Webmasters and Google Plus Local.
Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.
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