Achieving a high search engine ranking in Google’s organic listings is a key component to your search engine marketing plan. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. In this article, I’ll describe four steps of a great search engine optimization plan.
Step 1: Offer Unique, Relevant Content
The first key component to any search engine marketing campaign is having unique, relevant content that you update frequently. There are three components here:
- The content must be unique. Google hates duplicate content – and made that very clear with its 2011 Panda update – so that if it finds the exact same content on two URLs, it will attempt to figure out which was the original version and only display that one.
- The content must be relevant. Search engines are good (and getting better all the time) at weeding out sites that pepper their content with high traffic keywords but have no relevant content about those keywords.
- The content must be frequently updated. Search engines value content that is frequently updated over static, brochure sites that never change. If you don’t update your site, chances are, some of your competitors are – and they will be the ones Google promotes.
A good rule of thumb is that you should make your site a valuable resource for the types of visitors you want to attract. Write for your visitors, but keep search engine rules in mind.
Step 2: Strategically Chose Keywords For High Search Engine Rankings
You have a lot of competition out there competing for the same keywords you want. If you’re hoping that you can achieve a high search engine ranking for a generic term like “travel,” “real estate,” “weddings” or “law firm,” you’re going to find that it’s going to take a long time and require far more resources than you imagine.
A better way to choose keywords is to put yourself in your prospects’ minds and ask “If I was looking for X, what keywords would I use?” Often times, prospects are searching for specific problems they have. They want to “set up an LLC” rather than search for “business law” or they want “buy a vacation home in Tampa, FL” rather than just “Tampa real estate.”
And always do research on what people are actually searching for. Google actually provides a free keyword tool that does most of the grunt work for you. It will provide you with a list of suggested keywords based on your primary keyword and estimate how many global and local search matches each of those keywords receives.
Step 3: Internal Linking Structure
How you link to pages within your site is extremely important. Your links should include keywords, which tell search engines what to expect when they follow your links. For instance:
- Wrong: Click here to download your free marketing plan.
- Right: Download your free small business marketing plan.
Step 4: Get Links From Other Websites
The final component of getting high search engine rankings is getting in-bound links, or getting other sites to link to your website. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Guest Post – If you blog, reach out to other bloggers in your niche and ask to publish an article on their site. Guest posting is probably the most effective way of getting links in 2013.
- Create “Linkbait” – Put together a list of entertaining, funny or educational information that has a good chance of spreading virally, then promote it heavily.
- Submit to Directories – While Google has devalued most directories, some, like the Open Directory Project (if you can get in), Best of the Web, and Yahoo! Directory still hold some weight. Smaller, niche focused directories that still maintain editorial control and don’t allow spammy sites can also work.
- Link Outreach – Search Google to find sites ranking for your keyword. Then, if the site doesn’t directly compete with you, contact the webmaster and ask for a link – or perhaps the chance to post an article on their website.
- Mine Your Competitors’ Links – Research who is linking to your competitors with Open Site Explorer, then try to get links from those sites.
- Find Broken Links – The web is littered with broken links to sites that have long been taken down. If you find a broken link on a website, type in the URL at Archive.org to find out what content was on the page. Then, create a page with similar content on your website. Contact the webmaster of the broken link and point them to your resource. They may link to you. You can also hunt down other sites still linking to the old page with Open Site Explorer.
- Write Great Content and Promote It – Look for high profile sites and blogs that might find an article you’ve written useful and pitch them. Good content gets linked to.
- Leave Comments On Blogs – Most blogs use the tag rel=”nofollow” to disavow links left in their comments, so you probably won’t get much link juice from leaving blog comments. However, you may get traffic. And you may find leaving comments is a great way to join the community of a more popular blog. Find potential blogs to comment on through Google Blog Search and Technorati.
A good small business search engine optimization campaign takes time. Focus on providing value, not spamming search engines and other sites for short-term gains. Google has taken extreme measures to curb spam with their Panda and Penguin updates, so any corner-cutting you attempt to do will probably come back to bite you in the future.