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SEO Basics For New Website Owners

It is so exciting to get your website launched! You are anxiously awaiting tons of visitors, and sometimes, instead it feels like crickets. So what can you do to get more people to your website?

What you will find online for this problem is generally an SEO company telling you to hire them and they will fix all your problems with Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short).

But the problem with only focusing on SEO is it will never help you rank if you only focus on SEO and not marketing your website.

If the website is built perfectly, you will still never get traffic coming in because there are more factors to your ranking than just having alt tags setup on your website or using keywords or meta tags.

What goes into your website ranking?

While Google will never tell us the exact formula for ranking websites here is what we do know that goes into your ranking:

  • Quality Content
  • Quality Links
  • Page Speed
  • Mobile Friendly Design Secured with SSL
  • Time
  • And Traffic – This is the one most people won’t address

Let’s talk about how each affects your ranking and our experience in helping companies rank on page one and what we focused on to get there.

SEO Tips for 2020

Quality Content

This should go without having to say these days but I am still surprised at how terrible some peoples content is. Content is king in the online world and quality content – that is content people actually want to read and do stick around to read – is your first step in ranking your site better through SEO.

If you only have a sentence or two on your site you will have an incredibly hard time ranking these days. Most sites who rank on page 1 these days have over 600 words but the average is between 1300-2100 words. This means your blogs, newsletters, and service pages need to have enough explanation to address what you do, how you do it, and not just pictures or a few catchy phrases that no one is searching for.

BUT – be sure you have quality content, don’t just ramble on your website hoping that if you have a large amount of words it will help you rank – it has to be relevant content. Just spewing words was a tactic used by companies about 5-6 years ago and does not help you in the long run. You need to focus on quality.

One way we help clients find content that is relevant is thinking about questions they are always asked by customers. Generally, if you listen to what they are calling about or emailing you with questions about, you can find tons of ideas for content.

For instance – the Christmas Decorations company we helped get to #2 on Google used blogging about their industry to help their ranking. They wrote about things like:

  • Why you should never buy a Christmas Light Franchise
  • Ideas for Using Christmas Lights to Decorate For Weddings
  • Are LED Christmas Lights Worth It?
  • How Much Energy Will I Save if I Switch to LED Christmas Lights
  • What Does it Cost to Hire A Christmas Decorating Company
  • The Best Christmas Lights for Palm Trees

You will notice we used things like How, What, The Best, Ideas, Why. These are phrases SEARCHERS are using to find information and you want to answer their questions. You will also notice they are long keyword phrases. This is also important. Short keyword phrases like “Christmas lights” have tons of competition, but when you get more specific like “Commercial Christmas Decorations” or “Are LED Christmas Lights Worth it?”,  you will find yourself ranking ahead of competitors who haven’t taken the time to focus on content.

If you are unsure what to write about – we love using tools like AnswerThePublic.com to find ideas. Just be sure you are checking monthly search volume to be sure it is worth your time to blog about topics using things like Spyfu.com or Google Keyword Planner.

The key is having consistent quality content on your site. Consistent can mean 1x per month as you are getting started or as you grow 1-3 times per week. If you are just getting started focus on 1x per month or write 4 articles in one 1 day per month and schedule the posting out over a month so you have more. Just don’t get so overwhelmed that you do nothing. Something is better than nothing.

The reason you want to do something is every time you publish new content Google (or other search engines they are out there!) get notified you have a new post and they come back to re-crawl your site. You are telling them, “I’m still relevant! Come check out my new content!” Without new content your website becomes stagnant and this tells the search engines you might not be keeping up with your site so you aren’t as relevant as other companies that do have current content.

Be sure to keep the content of a page to 1 topic to rank best for the topic. Don’t jump around to multiple topics if at all possible! This is why many interior pages end up ranking better than a homepage that is a highlight reel about your business.

Keyword research is an area that a lot of companies overlook. It will help you tremendously so don’t skimp on this step.

Quality Links on Your Website

If you’re searching around online for how to improve your ranking you’ve probably been told you need to focus on backlinks. What are backlinks exactly? They are links from other websites back to your site.

Linking is a strategy that is important to your ranking but here’s what we’ve experienced.

  • Google loves linking.
  • They don’t necessarily care about how many backlinks you have. Yes, I said that.

Often SEO companies will tell you that you need to spend a lot of time investing in backlink strategy and get thousands of backlinks. However the Christmas Light site we helped get to #2 did not have tons of backlinks at the time, and we didn’t invest time, money or energy in growing them. We simply focused on quality internal linking and content. Sometimes this is called content siloing, deep links or link juice on your own website.

SEO Linking Strategy

 

The more deep links or link juice you have the better you will rank organically.

Now that is not to say that quality links from other sites coming back to your site aren’t worth while, they are – but be sure the quality is there and that you aren’t buying links. This was an old strategy, now search engines want to see natural links coming back to you. And eventually the natural backlinks will come back to you if you are producing quality content people want to read.

Using a personal blog as an example of a site we want to rank well on, if we write an article about “Keeping Your Kids Safe Online” we would want to have links back to that article from others referencing this article. Also, social media can give you quality backlinks. If people are sharing your content online, this gives it more credibility so using things like Pinterest or Facebook to help your blogs rank is definitely a strategy you should take advantage of.

The rule of thumb on including links in your articles or pages is having 1-2 external links per page (links out to other sites from yours) and 1-2 internal links per page (links between blogs or pages).

SEO Linking Strategy

The next factor in Search Engine Ranking that you can control is Page Speed

If you have a slow loading site, you will never rank well in search engines because when people do land on your site, they will most likely turn away or go back before your site fully loads therefore telling the search engines you are not a “quality source” because your visitors aren’t staying on your pages long enough to read anything.

If you are concerned your page load is turning away visitors, check your Google Analytics. Are people coming to your site and staying or visiting more than 1 page on your site? Or are they “bouncing” (only viewing one page and leaving in under 30 seconds). If they are leaving quickly it could be a page loading problem. If they are visiting more than 1 page – this is a good thing!

You want your site to definitely load in under 5 seconds but generally the 2.5 second mark or faster is where we want to see our sites.

This takes using themes or builders that aren’t bloated in coding. If you are using WordPress we also recommend using a website host with SSD servers and built in caching or a high quality caching plugin. This will help your site run faster because it won’t take so much time to gather information. You also want to choose the closest server to you or your audience to get faster loading.

There are may factors that go into your site loading fast but the biggest ones are your theme/builder, HTML & CSS files, as well as pictures and videos on your site.

And pictures and videos are where we often see sites being bogged down. You can’t use a 7MB picture or 300MB video on your homepage slider and expect the site to load quickly. You should optimize these to be web friendly files and at least under 500KB if at all possible but smaller is better. You can lower the quality a little bit as well you don’t have to have print quality photos on your website. 150dpi is just fine! And JPG images are generally smaller than their PNG versions. Only use PNG if you need a transparent background.

Be sure you have a mobile friendly SSL Secured website

This SHOULD go without saying, but you need a responsive website in 2020 and beyond. “Mobilegeddon” was over 6 years ago and if your website is still not – your rankings are hurting because of it.

In 2020 you need to also be sure you are using a site that has an SSL certificate.

SSL Certificates secure and encrypt data being transferred on your website. They protect transactions, contact forms, and any data transfer. Be sure you have the lock symbol in the address bar of your website. If yours still says “Not Secure” reach out to your hosting company and see what it will take to get an SSL certificate added to your site. Google has stated that they will downgrade sites that don’t have SSL certificates installed.

Many website hosting companies offer SSL certificates free with hosting or for a small fee so there is no reason not to have one anymore.

Website Ranking Takes Time

Just got your site up last week? Then you can’t expect it to be hitting anywhere near the first page of search engines for a few years, yes years (except for exact match searches with your domain name).

Remember it takes Quality Content + Time + Traffic to raise in rankings.

Depending on if you are a local or national business we have seen this time to raise in ranking cut in half or more with consistent content creation (blogging). One naturopathic doctor we worked with was able to get their site on the first page of Google for local searches within 6 months of implementing our siloing plan for them and now many of their blogs and service pages are starting to rank on page 1 as well for various topics.

The national Christmas Light company we worked with took 2 years to reach #2 in organic searches and the site started completely from scratch.

Be patient in the process, if you aren’t ranking organically yet, you may need to use ads, or other marketing methods to get people to your site now. See below.

Don’t overlook the most critical component of SEO ranking – Traffic

If a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it does it really make a sound? Same principle goes for websites. You have to shout it from the rooftops that your site is live and start directing traffic to your site. As long as the content you have is what people want to read/learn, getting traffic coming to your site will be the thing that moves your ranking the fastest.

Why? Because if people are visiting your site and clicking around to read various topics, that means your site has content people want and search engines will start to pay more attention to you and your content.

Google Analytics to Check Traffic

If your bounce rate is high – you should check your messaging because this high bounce rate will start to affect your ranking because Google sees that when they are sending traffic to your site, people aren’t being served the information they want and are leaving quickly.

Look at your analytics and ask yourself: Am I getting visitors? Are people being brought in to your site and getting the content they expect? Is the content quality? Are they only hitting one page and leaving or are they visiting multiple pages? Analytics is not for the faint of heart so be sure you know what the data is telling you or work with someone who does to help you interpret the data.

Ways you can increase traffic without it costing you anything in ads is using your blog to educate your audience. For example, a lawyers office we work with uses their blogs to teach people what the differences are in Estate Plans, Wills, and Trusts. They also educate people on ALTCS, taking care of aging parents, and protecting your assets. People are searching for these things online and as they share this content on their social media and at local networking meetings and people visit, search engines take notice.

You can use your blog to share recipes, teach people, entertain, and quiz your audience.

You should leverage your social media (Pinterest and Facebook primarily) and email marketing list to grow your reach.

And if you have to chose 1 method of marketing over another, in my experience email marketing is your better route. Spend the time to build your list. We were able to cut out over $55,000 in yearly Google Ads costs in the Christmas Light business by building up our email list and marketing to them regularly without losing revenue. We had almost 9,000 subscribers when we made this move and were emailing them at least 3x per month. The social media account had just over 2500 people. Email was the clear winner in getting in front of the audience of interested buyers.

We cut out ads early in the year and ran the whole year just using email marketing instead of ads on Google and at the end of the year our Gross Revenue was a little higher than the last and our net was $55K more because we weren’t paying out in advertising costs.

To grow your list you have to give them something of value.

It could be an E-Book, a coupon (this is what we did), or if your content is really good you can leverage updates on your blog as your lead magnet to sign up for a newsletter.

In our experience people don’t want to be bombarded by emails, especially super salesy ones, but if you give them value or only email them with real deals and content they are actually interested in they are more likely to stay on your list and click through to visit your website. Just be sure you don’t give everything away in the email. Otherwise your visitors will never be enticed to visit your site if they get it all in their email.

So big lesson here – If you aren’t getting sales – first check your traffic!

And if you are only getting a few people to your site, you can pinpoint the problem isn’t your website, it’s not getting enough people to your site.

If you want to get 1 sale – generally you have to get 50-100 people to view or even look at it. Start to pay attention to your conversion rates (how many people view vs. buy) and you will be able to figure out what your traffic needs to be in order to make what you need to in your business.

And the last thing you should consider to grow your traffic is having a Google My Business local listing. If you have an in-person business, you need a Google My Business Map listing. This listing 1) generally gets put higher than regular organic listings, and 2) gives you a backlink to your site. It is super simple to setup you can have it completed in under 30 minutes. Just be sure you are using the right keywords and descriptions with keywords in your listing.

If you don’t have a local address you want listed, you can instead use a service area.

Putting all these things together = SEO success online.

 

 

 

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