How to reach the top with SEO – part 1
We’ve all seen a varying degree of articles on the subject of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), some of us too many! But I want to try and distil down the key things you can do to really make a difference to your organic ranking, things that I have tried over the last 2 years that have given real and profitable results.
Note, this is part of a series of posts, part 1 will quickly cover a few areas but subsequent posts will dig deeper in to key areas.
Firstly, what can be achieved
I have run SEO projects now for 4 companies in my career, and for several clients with my own business JamComm; and each time, without fail, the same thing happens. Initially what seems like a disproportionate amount of investment is made in to the channel with little or no results. Then at 12-18 months payback starts to appear. Before this you are fighting with management to try and continue the work, then the metrics switch and become one of if not THE most profitable marketing channel.
In my experience, on average, SEO after 12-18 months grows to add around +20-35% of new acquisition volume. The cost per acquisition moves to what was money spent for absolutely zero return to a channel delivering about a tenth of the average of the other digital channels being used.
So what are the main things you need to do
These are some of the basics, but as I say I will go in to more detail in part 2 and beyond.
1. Stay up with the developments
To be good at SEO you have to be a bit of an obsessive. You have to be hungry for the next thing, the next change in developments. Because nothing in this area stands still. So instead of some quick fixes to list out, my top recommendation is to do extensive and regular research.
You need to be plugged in to all of the relevant advice blogs:
Google Webmaster Central – keep checking their blog. Quickly you will learn its less about the links going in to your site and more about the design, structure and content of your site.
Moz – big fan of Moz, their News and advice articles are worth a regular visit, these guys know their stuff.
Matt Cutts – Matt has been an engineer for Google for years and offers up tips on new algorithm changes and anticipated changes coming along from Google so you can stay ahead of the curve. No single site to look up, just ‘google’ him.
SEMrush – also a good point to visit regularly with top tips on optimisation.
Searchengineland – a useful site and a personal favourite.
2. Get big on analytics
I’ve always argued that SEO is a moving target. You can never have all the answers. Algorithms change and what works today will be different tomorrow. The key is to be empirical – run loads of ‘test and learn’ activities to see what works. The SEO experts out there don’t have all the answers, and like you will need to test Google to see what bites. Look at what sites are performing for your target keywords and try and understand what they are doing differently. Then test it on your site and measure the effect.
3. Never rest
This is a large and complex area. The rewards are there but whoever manages SEO in your organisation needs to be hungry to keep learning and discovering new innovations. SEO is more an approach rather than a science, you have to be a fan and simply love it!
4. Now some key things you can do now
a) Make sure your site is fully indexable. Use Webmaster Tools to check how well Google travels through your site. You will need a Google account which you should already have from running Adwords campaigns. I’m going to talk about this one in more detail in the ‘Part 2’ post.
b) Make sure your site is easy to use and fun! Google ranking these days is determined a lot by the user experience. If Google can see users staying on your site, digging deep in to pages and returning, it will rank your site over competitors.
c) Check your keyword structure. Relevance is still a hot one for Google. You have to decide what your page is about and structure the page in a nice hierarchical flow so the page title to the headers to image names to text and links are all related. This will also improve the user experience so a double win.
d) Design your site for all devices. This follows from the above point on user experience, your site should be device agnostic. Google needs to see this. In fact it was recently rumoured that Google is starting to rank sites based on their mobile version not the PC version, but this needs confirmation.
There is no ‘finally’ actually. I have called this article ‘part 1’ as there is so much to say on this topic I will have to spread it over a number of posts over the coming weeks.