A search engine optimization (SEO) project isn’t an act, it’s a process, and it’s important to understand the whole procedure before you start, to ensure an effective and profitable campaign. Let us simplify the process for you and break it down into the six basic steps you need to get started. We’ll include all the steps-within-the-steps, too, so you don’t miss a thing.

First, a note to be clear – these steps are not the total body of SEO; the initial assessment and implementation are just the beginning. After that, you have to continually monitor the results, continue to add meaningful content and update keywords and other information on an on-going basis. The only end point should be when you close or sell your business. As long as the company is in operation and seeking customers, SEO goes ever on. Here are the steps we’ll review:

  1. Research and Assessment
  2. Reporting and Goal Setting
  3. Content Building
  4. Page Optimization
  5. Social and Link Building
  6. Follow-up Reporting and Analysis

Research and Assessment

The research and assessment phase is two-fold. Firstly, we will identify keyword and keyword phrases to use to optimize your site. The idea is to find a balanced set of phrases to incorporate both high usage by searchers, as well as low competition within all the main search engines. This step may take a fair amount of time, but it’s worth every minute spent on this critical task.

The easiest part is likely to be distinguishing which targeted keyword phrase is the most frequently used. There are tools online you can use to enter a specific word or phrase and receive all the ways that phrase or word was used over the last 30 days, and how often. The concern is that the most-often used phrase is also subject to the most competition. It’s more effective and efficient to start with a list of 10 or 12 phrases, to assure that some are bound to be used by searchers but less competitive in total results on the search engines. Let’s say, for purposes of illustration, that you own a doughnut shop in Anytown. You only have one shop, so you’re more concerned with people looking for doughnuts in your neighborhood, at least at first, so you want to avoid broadly general terms like “doughnuts.” Narrow it down by adding the city name to the phrase, “Doughnuts Anytown.”  Be sure to include alternate spellings, too, so “Donuts Anytown” goes on the list too. One of those may be the most used, or you may discover another one, like “Anytown gourmet doughnuts.” Do a sample search in Yahoo, Bing or Google for that one and you’ll find there’s lots of competition with that phrase. When that happens, just shake it up a little, and use “Gourmet Doughnuts In Anytown” – still an often-used phrase, still includes the same basic information but with less competition to use it.

The second part of this step is assessing the competition. CrayfishSEO has the tools to give you a series of SEO metrics to analyze your site against your seven to ten closest competitors, both on-line and off. Using factors such as Alexa rating, domain age, inbound links, and social media, among other points, we can measure your starting position (you need a baseline from which to measure the success of whatever campaign you have in mind) and establish what areas require what work once the project actually begins – content building, for example.

Reporting and Goal Setting

The next step after measuring your starting position in the field of competition and generating a list of targeted keywords and phrases is to go back to the search engines for yet more information on current positioning. Knowing where you are is the essential start to getting where you want to go. It provides a foundation of information on which you can build and measure the success of your campaign.

You should have some form of site analytics available to you through your provider that will allow you to access this valuable traffic information. You can learn how searchers find you – what keywords are entered into what search engines, how long a visitor stays, how many bounce without really even looking around and much more. Where site visitors are coming from is another essential tidbit, whether they find you by themselves or arrive by way of a live link from another site.

After you have all that information at your fingertips, it’s time to set some goals for your plan. One huge advantage of SEO versus other options is that your goals will be measurable, quantifiable. Your goals are also linked directly to your company objectives, more focused than some other forms of advertising. With proper on-going tracking and follow-up review, you’ll know immediately what, if anything may need to be tweaked and you can do it right away, not wasting time and losing potential customers.

Content Building

There was a time, not too long ago, when keywords were enough. Search engines primarily looked for words or strings and there weren’t all that many businesses on line competing for viewers. Now, though, the internet is far more densely packed with companies of all kinds, sizes and industries and search engines are much more sophisticated both in what they can look for and in how they index what they find. Search engines today are eager to find serious quantities of meaning-rich, voluminous content that has a direct connection to the themes and focus of your business.

It isn’t just the search engines that demand quality content. Shoppers and searchers too now expect much more than they used to. If they click on a link and find a thinly filled, uninformative site, they’ll bounce on to the next result without a second thought. Quality content, content that informs and interests, will keep them there longer, lure them to other pages, tease them to return later to look for new offerings. It doesn’t have to be dry, or confined to only your products or services; industry updates, new developments or inventions, and other related information works too. Insufficient content is one of the more common reasons websites end up farther down the results page than they want to be.

Page Optimization

The next step, after making sure your content is hot, high-quality and working to attract readers, is to optimize the pages themselves. Verify that your titles are interesting and eye-catching, but not “gimmicky.” In the research stage, you will have generated a targeted phrase for each page, so you’ll want to incorporate that into your page titles, and then put your company name after that. Judicious use of fonts or boldface for keywords can also help draw attention to the important points you want to make.

Don’t let your page get cluttered with too many images. A few well-chosen pictures add visual interest but search engines don’t read them, so you’ll want a text-based system for navigation. Having that will ensure the search engine system indexes all the product and service-related pages correctly.

Random placement of your keywords and phrases on the page isn’t enough. They should be placed prominently, as that also affects how your pages are indexed. Lead your opening paragraph with the keyword or phrase, and make it look “natural.” The higher on the page the phrase appears; the more importance it has in its effect on the page ranking.

A site map is another must; in addition to simplifying navigation for site visitors, it helps ensure that the web crawler doesn’t miss any of the pages when indexing your site. META and ALTA tags embedded in the site’s code will not be visible to site users but those tags will be very useful to web crawlers looking for the relevance and subject of your page. Meta tags “hide” in the top part of your site’s code do most of the talking to the search engines. They also often provide the capsule description of the company on the search results page. An ALT tag is the code that shows information in a small box when you hold your mouse over it. That makes ALT tags great for placing behind images to add valuable information without adding clutter.

Finally, do some basic housekeeping to tidy up all the forms of code – rollover scripts, CSS scripts and so on – should be removed from the page and placed in an external file. Then reference each page of the site to the appropriate code file. The primary reason is to move your keywords and phrases and your content up, emphasizing their significance to the search engines, leading to a healthy boost in your rankings. Best of all, the process doesn’t usually take a lot of time or money.

Social and Link Building

Social media is growing exponentially, but this can be a huge boon to your business if you take advantage of all the opportunities it affords. If you are willing to devote the time and energy to maintain it, CrayfishSEO gets you started, establishing your social media profile and finding the best ways for you to use it to fit your company and business. There are no limits to the kinds of customer relationships you can build as you interact, share content, and generally connect with the two groups of people that count most – customers and potential customers.

CrayfishSEO also works on building an array of in-bound links to create maximum exposure to search engine crawlers and human searchers looking for what you have to offer. Google, for example, considers links to your site (as long as they’re from good quality sites) as if they were votes in favor of your website, which has a positive impact on your site ranking. There are free, online tools that can assist in verifying your links’ popularity level. We’ll show you how to use those to get the maximum value. Be aware, though, that low quality sites are nearly useless and may, in fact have a negative effect, especially with recent Google updates, and we can help you replace those with better in-bound links.

Follow-Up Reporting and Analysis

Remember all the reporting we did at the beginning of the project? It’s time to do it again, and continue at regularly-scheduled time frames. The way to get the measured results you need is to use search engine rankings, bounce times, traffic patterns and other essential metrics to compare to pre-project levels. The exact measurements may vary depending on your goals, but measurement and monitoring is essential for continued success.

There are a few things to remember as you go along. Patience is key – it takes time for search engines to rank and index a site and for those changes to appear. Depending on the search engine it can take up to six months to obtain really noticeable results, others will appear sooner. Especially when dealing with non-paid, intuitive results, there will be a noticeable lag time. If the results aren’t sufficient with just optimization alone, you may wish to add a paid campaign, such as pay-per-click (PPC) to speed things along. A PPC campaign can be set up quickly and the results are immediate.

There is no way to absolutely guarantee specific rankings and/or the success of specific phrases. CrayfishSEO can guarantee that we will optimize your website to make it as search engine-friendly as it can be made, using only honest and above-board tactics that reflect well on your company. We can guarantee that your site offers quality content, rich in keywords that will please the web crawlers, we will clean up your links, and teach you everything you need to know to monitor your results when we’re done, and we’ll always be happy to help if there are changes or upgrades needed down the road.

CrayfishSEO has all the insights, tools and experience that you need. We’ll work with you with the care and dedication as if it were our own website. Contact us at XXXX for information or a quote. Don’t wait to get started on the web success you deserve – call now.