- 93% of online experiences begin with a search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!
- Google owns 65%-70% of the market share.
- 70% of users will click on SEO results over paid.
- 70-80% of users ignore the paid ads, focusing on the SEO results.
- 75% of users stay on the first page of search results (1-10th position).
- SEO beats social media by more than 300% in traffic for most content sites.
- Traffic from SEO has a 14% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) has a 1.5% close rate.
- For Google, 18% of clicks from SEO are on the 1st, 10% of clicks from SEO are from the 2 to 3rd.
If you're not sure you want to have me, or someone else, optimize your site for SEO, it's no problem. Most people can pick up on the basics of SEO themselves. I always like to see clients having some understanding of SEO before I work with them. If they don't have time to learn, that's perfectly acceptable, as I can explain how things work in ways most people understand and pick up quickly. The following is a check list I have come up with for SEO that will help anyone understand and get started in SEO quickly and easily. Of course, there are so many algorithms that Google and other search engines use to determine which site gets to show up for their respective terms, but this at least gets you on your way to understanding the basics of SEO.
- Keywords – you can't do anything with SEO until you know what keywords you are optimizing for. Once you have your basic list, then structuring your site, and any work you do with the site, around them will all fall into place. I usually recommend one or two broad terms that describe a website. These terms should only be one work, and very rarely more than two. From there a few two to three word terms that might describe a sub-category will help you structure your plan and organize for SEO. Your longtail (as SEO's will put it) or exact match (as Paid Search people call them) are the phrases that are more specific. These phrases then to be the biggest payoff for SEO since they represent terms that users will use when they really know what they want and are ready to buy. Therefore they tend to convert a lot faster and higher. I talk more about this in-depth in my workshops, and in my book titled “Search and Social” that is currently in the works. So stay tuned for the book that helps you really understand SEO on a very detailed level.
- Keywords in title tag - The title tag is what show up in the browser top. It is also what search engines use for the title in the “snippet” that displays in the results after a search has been completed. Having your keyword in the title tag not only helps SEO, but will aid in the click as the user will recognize the word they searched for within your title encouraging them to click your result over the other's on the page.
- Keywords in URL – Getting the key words in the URL is very important for SEO. Start with the broad terms in the domain if possible. If not, then in a directory with the category terms (2-3 word terms mentioned before) as a sub-directory, and then the exact match longtail terms as the name (or in the name) of the file. Your URL hierarchy is very important for SEO and having those keywords in there even moreso.
- Keyword density in document text – Listing out your keywords over and over again in a short paragraph will harm your SEO more than doing any good. A good way to explain how to watch your densities is to look at a page that has 3 paragraphs, each having about 150 words. Let's say you need to mention your keyword 9 times in order to get rankings. If you mention your keyword 9 times in your first paragraph and then not in the others that's bad. The trick it to distribute your keyword evenly among the three. So mention that keyword 3 times in each paragraph and evenly distribute it throughout each one of the paragraphs.
- Keywords in anchor text – The anchor text is the text that a user will click on within a page's content that sends them to another page. The text that links back to your website should include the main broad keyword that describes the site. The trick to this is to make sure that the page and the whole site linking to the site is relevant to the word in the anchor text. If the site linking to your site isn't relevant than that will actually get your site in trouble, and too many will cause you to lose rankings.
- Keywords in
tags- The alt tag is the alternative text that displays in the rare case that an image doesn't show up. It's a simple line of code that goes in the html that generates the image. For SEO purposes, the alt tag containing the keyword is important, and will actually help rankings. Be sure to stick with only the words relevant on that page, and don't list all of the keywords out with commas. That will get a site in trouble.
- Keywords in metatags – Be sure to get your keyword in your SEO meta tags, that's the description, title, and keyword tag that resides in the background of the html.
meta description tag- The description tag should be no more than 150 characters, and include your keyword(s). Try to describe the page as much as possible for SEO while keeping in mind that the user will see this in the search results. meta keyword tag- Some SEOs will say that keyword meta tags don't make a difference. Google doesn't really pay attention to them, but the meta driven search engines will, and there are thousands of other search engines aside from Google. So, for SEO purposes, and to help keep the focus of the page of the site, I recommend listing out the keywords in the keyword tag with the broad terms first, then the category, and the longtail. You never know, it might actually help SEO. meta language- If the site is in English then adding the language meta tag will help the search engines know which language to display the site on. If you have other languages, then try to make sure the language is in the meta tag. In some cases it can really benefit SEO.
- Google+1 – Yes, Google loves their social media site, and providing a way for users to +1 your page and site will drive up rankings in Google.
- Facebook 'Like' or 'Recommend" – The action of ‘Liking' a page for Facebook will sometimes help with Google, but really helps with Bing more than anything. Microsoft anf Facebook have a very close relationship allowing for Bing to use social actions that happen in Facebook to help drive rankings for sites.
- Facebook comments – If you can, try to pull comments that happen in Facebook related to your site and the page into the page itself. It not only allows for more and unique content, but shows Bing and other search engines that the content on the page is valuable to the user, therefore driving up your SEO.
- Twitter "tweet" - A simple tweet with your page's URL will always be counted as a “vote” for your page and website. The more you can get, the better for SEO.
- OGP - Open Graph Protocol – OGP was developed and adopted by Facebook as way to manage how a page or website looks when shared in social channels. Twitter, and other social sites have followed suit, and my prediction is that Google will start to pay attention to OGP soon. So be sure to spend the time and make sure your basic OGP tags are set for all of your pages. It could really help your SEO.
- Quality of source of inbound links
- Links from similar sites
- Links from .edu and .gov sites
- Age of inbound links
- Links from directories
- Links from Social Media
- Links on pages that include social actions
If you want to see how your different categories of terms are performing, you can use this handy template I created along with instructions on how to grab the traffic you are seeing. For some clients, I have used the template to show the estimated traffic I see in the keyword analysis compared to the actual current traffic to show what is missing. I will use the top few terms in the keyword analysis to see how aggressive the category terms are going to need to be to get rankings during the competitive report for SEO. The categories with the most potential, the largest gaps, and the least aggressive with competition are the ones I recommend to tackle first. The competitive report will also help determine what all will need to get done to generate rankings. Is it just one page with a bunch of content and the word mentioned several times, or is it a whole directory with files and filenames that include a mired of terms for SEO that all link to one another?
For usedcars.com the location pages where we generated rankings for the terms “used cars in”… with city and state searches was fairly easy for SEO. The content has a few lines of text seeded with the city and state from the database (also known as templatized content). Content for the page also came from inventory (car listings) provided from the database, with a block from normal listings in that city and a block of deals in which there is a calculation done in the back end that looks at the price of the car and looks up that VIN and price against the Kelley Blue Book value and returns the percentage difference showing cars that are priced under value and are a good deal. Users love those listings. There is also a large map that shows dealerships in the usedcars.com system that are located in that area. The map is generated from Google and helps those pages get rankings for that location.
Those pages were pretty easy to get rankings (after a lot of the mess was cleaned up), and have help rankings providing close to 50% of the traffic from SEO for that site.
A more complex project for usedcars.com that required more pages, and the SEO to be more aggressive is what we called the Make/Model project. The goal was to get rankings in SEO for the brand of cars and the cars with years search trends. We found that users that search the “year make model” search know exactly what they are looking for and are more likely to purchase. So, ranking for all of those year, make and model combinations were highly valuable to the business. The problem is, that all the other car sites know the same strategy and have been very aggressive for their SEO. A set of rules for syndicated and dynamic content was set in place along with a plan to roll out pages and content in phases. When I left in May of 2014 the project was still underway, but the pages were already seeing some traction. You can see how the pages were developed at http://www.usedcars.com/car/ - considering they are still intact and working on the pages as specified in the project.
There are also many resources other than myself or this blog, and plenty of SEOs with a lot of great experience. Ian Lurie is one of my favorite people in the world, and has a very successful agency with a lot of great SEOs he has taken under his wing and turned into skilled professionals. His company Portent can also help with website design, social media, and paid search marketing. Give them a glance over and see if they fit your needs. Bruce Clay is also a very close friend and someone I go to regularly myself for help. He works with very large corporations on a large scale including AT&T, CNN.com, Edmunds, and more. He is what some of us in the SEO industry call the “Godfather of SEO” since he was one of the original SEOs that has set the standards for quality in optimizing.
I do have a larger list of SEOs I know and trust, so feel free to contact me and ask me for someone in your area, or who might specialize in a site that is much like yours.
Either way, SEO can be fun and you can really learn a lot quickly if you want. You can know enough to be dangerous, but if you stick with the general rule of “don't trick the search engines” you should, for the most part, be just fine.
In the end a site that has increased traffic from SEO is a site that I generating a lot of money, and that's just good for business.