- Emily Kern
Search Engine Optimization Blueprint
I'd venture to guess that most of you consider SEO (Search Engine Optimization) a necessary evil. You probably didn't take a college class that taught you how to rank higher on search engines. You find yourself Googling "how to rank higher on Google," and you get overwhelmed figuring out "canonical tags" and "meta descriptions" and "link authority." What do breadcrumbs have to do with technology? I digress.
I was in the same boat. Though I did work with an SEO consultant at my previous job, I had little hands-on experience with SEO when we started KORE Talents (originally Talent Financial) in 2018. But, SEO is very important for businesses looking to grow their online sales. Even for service industries that don't sell products on their website, it's a tool to explain the services you provide and allow potential clients to get to know you. So, I've done a lot of Googling - and this is my SEO Blueprint, based on my findings.
What is SEO?
According to Wikipedia (yes, I'm quoting wikipedia), SEO is "the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by a website to users of a web search engine." It's the improvement of UNPAID results ("organic").
Why is SEO important?
You've spent valuable time building your website, creating content, and offering your talents to the world. That time and effort goes to waste if nobody sees your site! SEO increases website traffic and hopefully leads to more clients / consumers / customers.
What makes SEO difficult?
Formulas are constantly changing. Google often changes the algorithms that affect rankings.
Google favors brands. Big and established brands rank higher, and have an advantage when it comes to “link authority.”
Google likes older domains, with more content.
It’s down right confusing. So let’s break it down.
As a small business, what can I do to improve my SEO?
1. Technical Changes to your Website:
“Technical SEO” makes your website easier to understand for search engines (Google, Bing). Search engines “crawl” your website by sifting through the content and “filing it” within Google’s brain.
Action Item: Make sure Google and Bing are “indexing” your site. (This means they’re taking the “map” of your website and plugging it into their search engine so people can find it). Create a Google Search Console account and you can “submit your site map” to Google. (If you Google “How to Submit a Sitemap to Google,” you’ll find instructions!) Follow the same process for BING.
Action Item: Make sure your site uses SSL (HTTPS, not just HTTP). SSL stands for “secure sockets layer”, and websites with an SSL have an extra layer of security that can positively impact search rankings. You do have to pay for this, but it’s not terribly expensive and is worth it in the long run. How you get the SSL certificate will depend on who hosts your website, but this can also be googled. (Thank goodness for Google!)
Action Item: Test your website’s speed. Page speed affects your SEO rankings on mobile devices, especially. You can audit your website’s speed for free through Pingdom, and they’ll tell you what is slowing your page down. You want your page to load in 3 seconds or less - and the faster, the better!
Action Item: Pay attention to your HTML title tags and meta descriptions. These can be confusing and may require an SEO specialist who understands how to optimize these on a variety of hosting platforms (WordPress, Wix, etc).
Action Item: Make sure your website is MOBILE FRIENDLY. If your site looks messy when viewed on a mobile device, you’ll be in trouble when it comes to SEO. Google “Is my website mobile friendly?” and you’ll be able to test it.
Action Item: Make sure your website has a “flat” structure, meaning you don’t have pages that are deeply hidden within the website. You should be able to get to every page without having to click on too many sub-links.
2. Content Changes:
Content changes are much easier to make than some of the technical changes! When we talk about content, we’re really just talking about a list of things to keep in mind when you’re adding language and content to your site. Here’s the list:
The more quality the content is, the better. Think about what questions your audience is searching for, and write content that answers those questions.
Post content consistently.
Don’t have duplicate content on your site - each page should have completely unique content, without paragraphs pulled from any other webpage (not from any other website OR your own website, as Google considers this “plagiarism” in either case).
Thorough, comprehensive, informative content is going to rank higher than shorter content. The average page that ranks FIRST on Google contains 1400+ words.
Keyword- a word / short phrase that shows a search engine what your website is about; each blog post or web page should have certain keywords in mind. Use them often!
3. Reputation / Link Authority:
If there’s one thing that you can do to really boost your SEO, it’s boosting your link authority. When other websites LINK to your website, search engines think, “Their content must be good if other people are willing to share it on their page / platform.”
Action Item: Create a Sources account with HARO. HARO (“Help A Reporter Out”) is a great tool for building link authority (if they have your industry listed). HARO is an email subscription where you’ll be sent a list of articles that reporters are writing in your industry. You have the chance to help them by sharing your expert knowledge that they then will potentially include in their article. They will link to your site when they quote you, which boosts your link authority.
4. Local keywords, if applicable
If you operate a local business, you’re in luck. You may be able to rank higher for searches that are in your local area.
Action Item: Incorporate keywords on your site for your local area. Include your city and state, so that people who search “lawn care in Dallas TX”, will pull up your site as opposed to a lawn care site in Denver CO.
Helpful SEO Resources
Get a free SEO report with an “SEO Site Checkup score” at SEOsitecheckup.com.
MOZ.com has a helpful Google Chrome extension that provides information on your site’s performance.
Backlinko.com provides a lot of helpful SEO information. (Some information from this guide is pulled from them.) They have a “Technical SEO Guide” that’s wonderful!
Google Analytics is free, and allows you to see data on the number of people who hit your site, where they’re viewing it from, and how long they stay on each page. This is a great tool to see if people are engaging with your content, or if they’re quickly uninterested.
For more information on SEO, or for help with implementing the technical changes, contact an SEO specialist. While we do help businesses with marketing, we are not SEO specialists. (Everything we know is included in this blueprint!) We offer this information to provide value to our clients. We hope you can complete some of these “Action Items” before bringing in a professional to handle what’s left.