If there’s one thing that’s a constant when it comes to SEO, it’s that things are always changing. Ten years ago, a good way to get your site ranked at the top of the search results was to stuff your page full of keywords and then hide them by making their color match the page’s background. Try that nowadays and you’ll be penalized in the search results.
If you’re optimizing a newly-created website, changes to SEO tactics and strategies shouldn’t be something you have to worry about, because today’s SEO best practices revolve around one, some concept: quality. Awesomeness is probably a better term for it, actually.
But what if you’ve already applied old, bad advice from random online forums and other shady hangout spots?
Just as cars need tune-ups, and your body needs an annual health check-up, your business needs a comprehensive audit from time to time. Going back to evaluate and fix what isn’t working is natural, so doing the same thing when it comes to your website’s optimization strategy shouldn’t be a foreign concept.
In 2012, Google made over 500 updates to its search algorithm. Is it about time you evaluated where your website’s online presence stands? Here’s how to initiate your SEO evaluation and overhaul your strategy.
Step 1. Audit Your Inbound Links
There was a time when all that mattered about inbound links was how many your website had. The more links you had, the better your rankings were. To compete in this environment, companies figured out massively scalable link spam strategies, blasting forums and blogs with nonsense to create links. Link wheels became all the rage, as did link networks and link farms.
Sadly, these tactics perpetuated and permeated the industry because they worked.
But the folks at Google aren’t stupid. They caught on to these scams and started penalizing websites that engaged in these tactics, while rewarding the websites that had legitimately-acquired, quality and authoritative inbound links.
These days, remnants of these past practices can hold your website down in the rankings, preventing it from getting the visibility it needs to attract traffic, leads, and sales. The remedy? An inbound link profile audit, followed by removal and disavowal. The goal is to identify bad links that are pointing to your website, and get them removed or disavowed.
I’ve actually written a step-by-step walkthrough on exactly how to audit your inbound link profile, which is here. However, if you’d prefer to have professional help, there are link profile audit services available.
Step 2. Audit Your Website from a Technical SEO Perspective
Once you’ve identified and removed or disavowed your spammy inbound links, it’s time to look at your website from a technical perspective. Consider these questions:
- Is it crawlable by search engines?
- Is the content organized logically and helpfully?
- Does it load quickly?
- Are the title and meta tags unique and present on every page of your website?
- Do you have both an HTML and an XML sitemap?
- Are there any crawl errors or alerts showing in Google Webmaster Tools?
There are a number of other elements to check as well. Vudu Marketing has an excellent on-site SEO guide to help you evaluate your site’s onsite SEO. If you need help with this, ask a professional for a website SEO audit.
Step 3. Evaluate Your Content Strategy
If you have any question as to how important content is to your website’s search rankings, check out this video by Matt Cutts in which he explains how good content, even when it isn’t optimized, will still trump poor content that’s technically SEO-optimized. Of course, he explains that a combination of good content and good SEO optimization is best.
So, how do you engage in a content strategy? The answer isn’t simple or short, so here are some great articles that explain, in-depth, how to get started:
- 7 Ways to Find What Your Target Audience Wants and Create Epic Content
- How to Generate a Year’s Worth of Blog Post Ideas
- How to Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy
Overhauling your content strategy doesn’t mean you should simply write up a bunch of new blog posts and queue them up for publishing. While that can be beneficial, start by taking some time to review what you already have on your site. When looking over your content, ask yourself the following questions:
Is my content well written?
Start with the basics. Spelling and grammar count; Not only with the search engines, but with your readers. Your content is a reflection of your brand; and professional brands don’t make mistakes at such a basic level.
Beyond that, your content needs to provide value. Depending on what type of business you are (ie, B2B or B2C), value can mean something entirely different. B2C value might be humorous, entertaining, or interesting content. B2B value might be solving a business problem, answering a tough question, or providing readers with an excellent resource or tool.
Lastly, content should be written with your target audience in mind. Make it easily readable by chunking it up into sections, and use subheaders to introduce each section. Content that looks intimidating won’t be read or shared.
Is my content strategically segmented?
Look at your product and/or service pages. Do you have one only one page that lists all your offerings? If so, you’re likely missing out on many opportunities to rank well.
Each product or service should have its own page optimized for the keywords related to it, along with a specific call to action.
Does my content link to other pages on my site?
According to SearchMetrics, internal links correlate well with higher search rankings. Look over each page to see if you can link to another related page on your site. Not only will this help strengthen your SEO efforts, but it can also direct visitors/customers to other products or services that they may be interested in. It’s a great way to cross-promote your products or services!
Step 4: Integrate Your Social Media Strategy
Once you’ve initiated your content marketing strategy, it’s important to leverage social media channels to maximize your reach, build your audience, and establish your brand within your market. If you don’t yet have a social media marketing strategy, it’s time to get one. It’s the number 1 Social Media Marketing Trend that Will Dominate 2014 (investment in social media will become a necessity, not a luxury).
You’re going to need a robust social media marketing strategy to build:
- Brand awareness
- Conversion rate
- Social signals
- Website traffic
- Inbound links
Here are some articles with recommended reading on how to integrate social media into your overall campaign:
- The Three Pillars of SEO in 2013: Content, Links, and Social Media
- How Social Media is Changing the SEO Industry
- How to Integrate Your Content Strategy & Social Media Campaigns
Going back to Matt Cutts’ video, these elements aren’t the only ones that Google uses to calculate search engine rankings, but they represent the bulk of the algorithm.
After you perform your initial website audit, try to schedule a periodic review. Any time an algorithm update is released is a good time to review current strategies and tactics.
Has your website or business been caught in the crossfire of recent Google algorithm updates? Are you struggling to recover or craft a new strategy? Let me know in the comments!
Image credit: Idaho.gov (public domain)