If you've been in business longer than a month, odds are good that you've been hit up by companies offering to drive hundreds of additional visitors to your website via the latest social media trend, your Google local profile or, most likely, through improving your website SEO. Whether via automated form submissions on your website, SPAM emails or robo calls… even our firm, which does SEO for clients, receives those same messages.
If you've ever researched SEO, one of the first things you've likely discovered—hopefully after finding out that your instincts to ignore the unsolicited sales pitches were correct—is that it's not easy to figure out where you should focus.
A lot of that stems from Google, the search engine of choice for driving traffic, which uses a highly complex algorithm with hundreds of potential variables to determine what shows up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The algorithm gets updated upwards of 500 times a year to varying degrees and none of the details are publicly disclosed.
Add in searcher-based personalization results, industry competitiveness and other forms of search results (map results, video results, image results) possibly showing up and it's no wonder that many small businesses throw their hands in the air. That's what those spammers are counting on—that business owners don't want to deal with it on their own but would like to get that additional website traffic.
That begs the question: if you understand SEO may be valuable, but don't have the time or desire to become an expert and you're not ready to hire a legitimate expert—what can you do to help your website traffic grow?
Here are seven simple things that you or your web developer can do to make sure you're headed in the right direction in 2019 and as you gear up for 2020:
This isn't something that will directly help you with your SEO per se, but it will help you understand and report on the impact your SEO efforts have when you look at the Traffic Acquisition report (look at the 'Organic' channel). It has the added benefit of providing additional information about your site's performance, such as user information (what type of device they used, where they live) to information about what content was effective at driving traffic and conversions.
Make sure you also set goals on the website. Whether it's a contact form you want someone to complete, specific content you want them to view, or something else you come up with, just make sure you can measure how often people are doing what you want them to do on your site.
Search Console might be one of the most overlooked tools in a marketer's tool belt. It's free and the basic elements are pretty easy to use. Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools) is a system that will tell you what Google knows about your website: errors that it is finding, all the pages it knows about and where people are linking to your website.
Most importantly (for SEO), it will tell you the top search queries where your site is showing up in the results, where you are ranking on average and how many of those queries resulted in clicks to your website.
This Performance report allows you to identify keywords currently ranking on page 2 or 3, so that you can develop content strategies to try to move up in the rankings or find new variations of keywords for which you might want to write entirely new content.
Claiming your website in Search Console isn't too difficult either, especially if you have Google Analytics installed. Just enter your domain, prove that you own it (or are an administrator on the site) and it will start collecting data.
Almost every client that I've worked with think they know the search terms people are using to find their business. Sometimes, they're close but most of the time, when we dig in and do the keyword research, we find that there are words their customers use that they weren't aware of or that aren't part of their company nomenclature. Or the acronyms they use stand for something else in a different, larger industry.
Even more importantly, keyword research can often reveal related searches that users may perform, providing ideas for deeper content on your site that is useful and specific to those additional queries—which are often less competitive and may drive traffic that is more likely to convert.
There are numerous keyword tools out there that you can use to find information about keywords. Some, like Google's Keyword Planner, might prove to be more difficult and other options, like KeywordTool.io, may require subscriptions to get full data. But tools like KWFinder and UberSuggest offer at least limited access for free and are fairly intuitive to use.
You'd be surprised how often people launch their site and then don't look at it again for weeks. Months. Years. And then wonder why traffic to the site has dropped. Or completely dried up.
It isn't just the quality of the content on your site that matters. The freshness and frequency of content on a site helps search engines determine a site's value as well. There are very few industries where content that's two or more years old, without any updates at all, is going to be considered as relevant as fresh content.
Additionally, if a search engine is consistently finding fresh and updated content on the site, they'll typically crawl your site more frequently. This gives you even more opportunity to show your authoritativeness in your field, which will lead to more (and potentially higher) rankings and more traffic.
This one may require some help from a web developer, but two areas that Google has grown particularly concerned about in recent years are speed and security.
The security part is fairly easy to check—if you go to your website, and the URL shown in your browser doesn't start with “https://” then you need to get an SSL certificate installed on your site. Your hosting company may be able to help with this.On the speed side, two tools to check your site in are Google's PageSpeed Insights tool and GTMetrix. Both tools will provide a score for your site and insights into what might be slowing it down. Some of the fixes will be fairly technical but we've seen sites improve dramatically in search rankings just by making changes to lessen load time.
If your business focuses at all on a local audience, make sure you factor in local SEO efforts.
Claim your profile (or set one up) on Google My Business, Facebook, and other directories like Yelp. Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) should be consistent across all the primary directories. A tool like Moz Local can help. You should also get feedback and reviews from your customers, either by asking directly or through utilizing tools like GatherUp or BirdEye.
There's more that can be done if you need to ramp up your local game even further, but these basic steps will give you an advantage over your local competitors.
As an SEO consultant, there may be some bias here, but the key to this recommendation lies in the word 'legitimate.'
Unfortunately, the SEO industry has generated a lot of snake oil salespeople and many small companies especially are now so wary of them that they'll ignore SEO altogether—even when they know they need it.
Here are few things to consider when trying to find a legitimate SEO consultant:
The best a legitimate SEO consultant can guarantee is that they will follow best practices, provide you with insights into your current web traffic and how to best improve it. They should also be able to provide references for work previously done.
Search Engine Optimization is a complex game, whose rules aren't completely known to anyone playing it. The steps above won't push you to the top for a hyper competitive keyword like 'car insurance,' but they will provide your company the insights and directions to begin increasing your traffic, leads and revenue from your website, no matter how big or small your company is.
Tony Tellijohn is a digital marketing strategist whose time in the industry dates back to 1998. He's worked on both the client side and agency side. He started his own digital marketing agency, Aktion Interactive, in 2012, and is a co-founder and former President of the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association (MnSearch).
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