Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy For Beginners

SEO is an ugly topic. Lots of hearsay floating around with little evidence based opinion. Many assumptions, rarely facts that you can trust. It’s not my intention to tell you how to do SEO, no no, like they say, there are many ways to skin a cat! This is simply my findings over the past five years.

First of all we’re going to simplify what you’re doing with your website. Set one goal, one page must be more important than every other page. Pick three keyword phrases in your industry, those are your first three goals. Then develop your outreach strategy (how other websites will link back to your websites). Determine what you’ll update your website will ongoing forever and ever amen, and you got yourself a perfect little search engine optimization strategy.

  • Set one main goal
  • Pick three main phrases you want to come up for in Google search
  • Why will people want to link to your website?
  • Update your website weekly
  • Measure relentlessly 

If it isn’t as easy as described above than come along for the ride, you aren’t alone!

First, you don’t need traditional SEO if you are;

  • A major corporation, simply changing how your website is structured will do wonders!
  • If you have an amazing social media presence (e’hem, Wheel House, The Riders, Hard Pressed do NOT need SEO help)
  • If you publish content (stories, photos, videos) weekly to your website you most likely have no use for SEO

For everyone else here are a few starting points to give you enough information to piss off your I.T. manager at the office.

nobody likes a know it all

Since early 2014 StrategyLab.ca has had the pleasure of being ranked one or two consistently in Google for the phrase “nobody likes a know-it-all”. Go on, open an “Incognito window” and search it. It’s pretty amazing seeing that it’s Canada wide. Yes, nobody likes a know-it-all right across Canada.

1. Your Targeted Keywords phrases in Google (What Keywords are you trying to rank for?)

What are people searching for to find you? Remember, 50% of all searches are 4 words or more. Start publishing longer, more keyword rich content to your website. If you don’t mention the keyword phrase you want to come up for in search, generally you won’t come up in search for those keywords. So the opposite is also true, publish on a topic for years and eventually you’ll get that search traffic for whatever you’re writing about.

This is the first step because you need to target the 3-5 most popular keywords in your market. Generally there are NOT what your current website is targeting. We see this weekly. Naming pages what people “want” to call them, instead of what people would “search” for. Used Autos vs Used Cars, Aquatics vs Swimming, Regina Marketing vs Marketing Strategy Company Regina.

Stop thinking you’re smarter than thousands of people searching in real time.

I once got in an argument with an educator as to what to call a new business class they were introducing at a certain institution. I instantly said “why are we deciding? Shouldn’t we trust what people are searching for?” You know, trying to get in front of demand instead of trying to create it ourselves. They didn’t like my suggestion and went with Introductory Digital Media Marketing. Something NO ONE WOULD EVER SEARCH FOR IN A MILLION YEARS! But they got to name the class so that has to feel good.

What tool to use?

Google Keyword tool will give you keyword search trends, approximate volume of search, and you can even input your website to get what keywords Google thinks you should be coming up for.

Be careful with your keywords. We took over a car dealerships SEO and one of the first findings was the page titled “Used Autos”. Compared to “Used Cars” people search for “Used Autos” 0.0015% less often. You must know what keywords you’re targeting and only one phrase per page! There’s always one keyword phrase that’s more important than any other phrase to your potential customers, you must find what that is. 

Search volume of used cars vs used autos

Easily the most misunderstood part of SEO. You can’t rank for EVERYTHING in your industry, you aren’t Wikipedia. Use Google Keyword tool to win the argument. Why bring opinion into your website strategy when you can use data?

The other argument you may hear, “Used Autos” has much less competition for it than “Used Cars”. Well if you look at the “suggested bid” in Google Keyword tool it shows “Used Autos” as more expensive of a search phrase to bid on as well as the competitiveness of both search terms are equally high. I don’t know about you but if you are a betting person you’re probably going to go with the one that has 99.9985% of the search volume.

In Moz you can also look up Keyword search volume. It’s quite convenient because you can add any keyword you find to any campaign you have setup in Moz.

Keyword Search Volume Regina Real Estate On-page optimization for real estate regina

2. Your Odds of Ranking in Google (Your Domain Authority)

We used to call it Pagerank. A number given to websites by Google as the only public measure on behalf of Google to let website owners know how valuable your online footprint was. Several year ago they stopped updating Pagerank and by doing so allowed many competitors into the SEO industry.

You see every page gives a signal to Google, every websites Domain Authority is made up of those signals all combined into your websites overall authority. This number is derived from many different factors, as well its a logarithmic scale, being that going from 10 to 20 is much easier than going from 20 to 30.

If you want to find out more about Domain Authority see this article here:

What is Domain Authority and how do you use it? (we even ran 66 websites through Open Site Explorer to get a DA)

What tool to use?

Open site Explorer. This is a Moz tool and yes they have paid versions. You can get your Domain Authority, write it down somewhere safe, and start working to increase it.

Bigideacamp in Open Site Explorer

If you want to measure like we do at StratLab, get the paid version of Moz, add three of your main competitors and you get a report every week of where your Domain Authority ranks compared to your competition. On top of that you get to track your keyword phrases you’re coming up for in Google.

3. How optimized are your website pages? (On-Page Optimization)

Catering your websites pages to what Google wants to crawl is a strategic move. It isn’t an absolute science and changes all the time. What we need to remember is that Google always wants to provide the best search result possible. That means the front page of Google has to change, daily if not more often. The algorithm Google uses at one point was said to be changed and adapted to new information every Eighteen hours. So every day something changes in Google, you must change along with it.

At the time of this writing here are some of the most important factors to consider when developing your On-page optimization:

For whatever you are trying to rank for, get that phrase all over your webpage in the most non-sleazy way possible. Yes it’s easier to just blast your keywords EVERYWHERE on a page but Google no like that either. Other than the basics like having at least 300 or more words on a web page, having at least 2 or more relevant photos on each page, as well as links to all the major pages on your website.

 

For example if you are a “Canadian Cupcake Company” you’ll want to get that keyword phrase:

  • In your URL (www.CanadianCupcakes.com)
  • In the title tag your web page (What shows up hyperlinked in Google when your website is displayed)
  • In the “Meta Description” of your web page (What displays underneath your hyperlinked website in Google)
  • In the H1 tag (the main title of your website)
  • Several times mentioned throughout the body of your web page (in paragraphs, “body” means paragraphs of writing)
  • In the image file name and the image “Alt” text (what Google reads in a picture besides the picture)

Moz gives you a grade per page based on 27 different criteria. Here’s Moz’s On-page optimization report.

On-page optimization for website company cupcakes and websites

For the full report see here: On-page Grader for Website Company

Once you understand how to optimize a websites pages you’ll never create a page the same again.

 

What tool to use?

Yoast (Great WordPress plugin), All-In-One SEO (another great WordPress plugin), Moz on-page optimization

We use All-in-one optimization (have used it for over 7 years) to edit your meta descriptions, meta keywords, title tags, all in real time, in each page in WordPress. The best part is you don’t have to click into a page to edit this stuff you can do it in the back end

All-in-one seo

Yoast gives you a realtime display of how optimized your page is for a specific focus keyword

We use Yoast on any SEO website. It gives you a simple read out (red for no good, yellow for meh, green for SWEET!) so you can really show your clients how you’re making their website more optimized. Here’s what Yoast will display on a given page, this is for the “marketing strategy” page on the Stratlab website.

Marketing Strategy Focus Keyword

 

4. How many links do you have? (Positive signals to Google that your websites hot shit!)

No not directories, I mean simple links back to your website? Google can’t magically appear on your website, she finds your website because of a link from somewheres else! You may get a link for editorial content. When you’re written something and others want to link back to you for it.

EXAMPLE: Back in July of 2016 I wrote the post 7 Buzzwords You Need to Stop Using at Business Meetings & in Life in General” mentioning one of Hugh MacLeod’s business cards. Sure enough, GapingVoid.com links back to my blog.

Link on Gapingvoid dot com

Anytime you mention someone else on your website you’re sending them a positive signal via Google. The more positive signals you have pointing back to your website the more valuable it is seen in Google’s eyes. (I know that sounds weird, I felt weird writing it).

Here are some of the common ones you probably already have:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Vimeo, Google+. Basically any social media website that allows you to input your website address is a positive signal back to Google.

SEO in Saskatchewan

Now the social media links will only provide value as long as you’re active on that social platform. There’s is no Martha Stewart “set it and forget it” strategy when it comes to SEO, you’re either building your tribe or wasting your time.

 

Now some of the not so common links you could easily acquire with a little bit of work(taking from past experience on websites we’ve come across):

Sask jobs.ca, Used Regina, Slideshare, Alltop, Tech Vibes, reddit, and major website that allows guest posting or comments.

What tool to use?

Aherfs, Open Site Explorer. We use Open site explorer and have had a lot of success with it. On reddit OSE does not get the respect it deserves and people seem to love Aherfs, to each their own.

5. How do you measure? (What’s your goal?)

No one needs a website. C’mon, if you were independently wealthy and had no use for growing a company let alone sales, why would you have a website? 

Your website is a means to an end. It displays your phone number and email. It shows your weekly specials. It displays pool schedules. A website itself is useless, unless you’re measuring what people are doing on your website and how they’re finding your website.

With anything that has to do with SEO or online measurement having two different sources of information is ideal. No data is perfect, you must tease the lessons it is showing you yourself (reading between the lines).

Example:

In Google Analytics you can see what type of browser people were using when they were on your website. A heavily skewed audience using Internet Explorer could lead one to assume the average age of visitor is older. Whereas traffic coming from a Safari browser would indicate a younger average audience age.

Pick you number one goal, write it down and get started!

Contact us page visits, Total traffic, Organic traffic, Social referral traffic. These are the main measureables I track in Google.

Contact Us Page – because it’s the most valuable page on my website.

Total Traffic – this gives a good indication where your trend is going. Comparing total traffic to the previous month as well as previous years “same time period” will give you a good indication if you’re gaining traffic to your website or leaking like a cheap boat.

Organic Traffic – I like to know if my Google traffic is going up or down. Again, comparing the previous month and the same time period year on year is a good indication of your website gaining in Google traffic or losing.

Social Referral Traffic –  I only want to see this because it is usually a fraction of the organic traffic a website receives. It puts all those “social media strategy” talks into perspective.

 

What tool to use?

Google Analytics and Moz are the tools we use. I like to compare to previous months and years to determine if my traffic is increasing or decreasing.

Here are some of the Google Analytics reports comparing June 2017 to June 2016 on the Strategy Lab Website.

Analytics Strategy Lab All Traffic

Analytics Strategy Lab Pages 

Analytics Strategy Lab Browser & OS

Here are some of the Moz reports you can access using the Moz software.

Competitor Report in Moz

Moz on-page grader

 

What now? Well remember:

  1. Set one main goal
  2. Pick three main phrases you want to come up for in Google search
  3. Develop reasons why people would want to link to your website
  4. Update your website weekly with information you want to be an authority on in the future
  5. Measure relentlessly, only you can prevent website disasters