11 Steps to Successful SEO for Your Business

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I wrote in November a long article for my website about the necessary steps for a business to successfully engage in organic search engine optimization. The article provides an overview with additional references to go into more detail for each of the steps.

Here is a shorter and more compressed version of this article that is meant to be a high level guide for orientation. It is aimed to people who are not experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to SEO.

SEO is not magic and there is no magic bullet either. SEO is a long term marketing strategy with high ROI opportunities. Because of its long term commitment necessary, is a well formed strategy key to success, a strategy that is followed and verified and scrutinized along the way.

While all 11 steps below are part of a repeating cycle over the time while you are doing business on the internet, so are only step 6 to 11 task that need to be on going on a much more frequent basis. Due to the fact that steps 1 to 5 are not repeated very often, is it necessary to give them special attention and care to get them right at the beginning. Errors made there will affect all the others in a negative way and hurt your efforts along the way.

Feel free to comment any suggestions or questions below.

Less Frequent Steps that do not Repeat Very Often

  • 1. Keyword Research
    Keyword research is the most important first step that should not be taken too lightly. While you can easily test and change hundreds of keywords in paid search campaigns, so is this not possible for organic search optimization. You usually concentrate on one to five key phrases for the whole site (theme) and one to three phrases for a single page. For large sites with thousands of pages is it hard to optimize every single page to the full extend due to the limits in time and other resources.
  • 2. Competitive Intelligence
    Know you competition! What are they doing? Where do they rank, for which terms? Who is linking to them and why? The things you have to do depend on what your competitors are doing. The less competitive your vertical is online the easier is it for you to outperform your competition. This is important to determining cost and resources for your SEO efforts.
  • 3. Web Design and Development
    Fixing something that is broke is always harder than building it right from the beginning. If you are in the process of creating a new website, make sure to consider search engine friendly design and architecture before and during the actual development of the website. This will save you a lot of time and money and in most cases put you already ahead of a considerable number of your competitors. Search engine friendly design is not rocket science and search engine friendly design does not have to be ugly. Search engine friendly design is for the most part user friendly design as well, but there are some exceptions where compromises have to be made.
  • 4. Get Your First Inbound Links
    Don’t submit your new site to search engines and by no means pay anybody to do it for you. There are plenty of very cheap services and software products out there that offer for less than $100 to submission to thousands of search engines and in some cases even guarantee ranking #1 at them. Especially the second part is causing many businesses to fall for such offers. Don’t do it. If you see an offer like that, hold your wallet tight closed and run. Your site should be found by search engines naturally and they will find your site if a page that is already in their index links to you. Why? Because this is what search engines do, following links to discover content. There are plenty of methods to get your first inbound links. There are some web directories that are recognized by search engines and a listing there will do your site good. Except for the Dmoz directory are all those recognized directories commercial in nature and charge a fee for reviewing your site and the consideration for the inclusion in their directory. For that reason is it important to wait with the submission to any of those directories until your website is live and ready for visitors. Also check with vendors or good customers (B2B) who have a website for the opportunity to have them place a link to your website.
  • 5. Sitemaps
    The larger search engines allow webmasters to submit a sitemap to them via a webmaster console. The search engines also provide reports and other useful information, such as technical problems with your websites you might not be aware of via their console. Even if you decide against the submission of a site map to the search engines, is it advisable to create an account and register your website with them, just for the reports and statistics they provide free of charge and which are invaluable for your internet marketing efforts.

Ongoing Efforts on a Frequent Basis

  • 6. Web Analytics
    You can’t determine success or failure of any of your internet marketing activities if you do not track and measure their effectiveness. Engaging in any type of marketing campaign online, be it SEO, paid search, display advertising, email marketing, social media or affiliate marketing is like fishing in the dark without any type of web analytics solution in place. It is up to you to decide if you want a hosted web analytics solution or run software on your own servers. The options range from free services to very expensive and heavily customizable package. You have to determine what solution will work for you, but you have to start with one so don’t put it off. Web analytics helps you to determine where to improve your site and your marketing campaigns to channel your resources and money to the things that work and pull it away from the things that don’t work. Web analytics is not a cost center if it is done properly. It will pay for itself many times over and can make the difference between making and breaking it on the internet.
  • 7. Content Building
    A website is never done. It has to change and grow over time. This is a natural process to adjust to changes in the market, with maturing in this type of medium and your normal business growth. Providing good quality content that is related to what you do, but not necessarily aimed to sell something directly is the best opportunity to increase traffic and exposure of your business. Most people do not link to pages that only serve the purpose to make a sale. This leads to the next step in the process of successful search engine optimization of your website.
  • 8. Link Building
    The internet wouldn’t be a “net” without links. It would only be a collection of independent pages that are not connected to each other. Disconnected pages cannot be found and that defeats the purpose of them, wouldn’t it? Inbound links and internal site linking is important for organic traffic, meaning people seeing and clicking on those links to get to your website, but they are also important for SEO. Inbound links play an important role in virtually every search engine when it comes to ranking pages in their search results. Links are added and sometimes removed constantly. This is a never ending process and while it happens naturally, so is it advisable to be a bit more pro-active from your part to get more and good inbound links. There are plenty of sites out there that should link to you, but don’t know you and your content. Help them to find your content and encourage linking to it.
  • 9. Engagement, Trust and Community Building
    Social media and Web 2.0 might be buzz words, but the underlying core elements they are made of are much more elementary and fundamental. Don’t live in a bubble and talk to people without allowing people to respond and to interact with you. People will talk about you, with or without you being around. Take the opportunity to become part of the discussion to build trust and deeper relationships with your customers or potential customers. Listen to what they say and learn about their wants and their needs. Hear what they say about you and your products, especially the criticism and improve on them. You probably spend today money on focus groups and surveys. You can get the same and more free of charge on the internet, if you allow it to happen while you are around. It also provides the opportunity to expand your link building and exposure of your brand on the internet for a fraction of the cost of traditional intrusive advertising campaigns that are less effective.
  • 10. Ranking and Traffic Analysis
    Check where you are today to be able to compare it with data in the future. Look for trends and evaluate the success of your goals, which you should have specified before you engaged in any type of marketing campaign. You did set goals that are measurable I hope. Improving ranking is important for SEO, but more important than the ranking is the traffic that comes with it. Does the change in ranking yields in the traffic you expected? Does this traffic actually convert? This leads to the last step.
  • 11. Conversion Analysis
    No matter what you do, everything will come down to one critical factor at the very end. What is your bottom line? Did you make profit or did you lose money. While losing money in the short term for strategic reasons is okay, so Is losing money in the long run deemed to failure and the end of your business altogether. Whatever you do, it has to contribute directly or indirectly to a positive Return of Investment. Web Analytics is part of the process of making this determination among other tools and methods. Expand the things that work and help your bottom line and rid yourself of the things that don’t. Improve of details to increase conversion. This requires testing. Don’t reject anything upfront without testing it first. Things that work for others might not work for you, but the same is true the other way around.

For more information, details and resources for each of the eleven steps mentioned in this post see my original and more detailed article titled “11 Steps to Successful Search Engine Optimization” at Cumbrowski.com.

Carsten Cumbrowski,
Internet marketer, entrepreneur and internet marketing strategy consultant. You can find tons of resources to the various channels and topics in internet marketing free at Cumbrowski.com.

Carsten Cumbrowski
Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and Affiliate Manager. Carsten has over... Read Full Bio
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  • Jeff Quipp

    Good piece Carston. I might also add … make sure you have a sound business model. If there is nothing distinguishing about your company, or a unique reason to purchase from your company versus another, why should anyone buy from you? You must be exceptional in some way! This is crucial to long term success in search.

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Jeff, thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right, but that is a requirement before you start any kind of business, online or offline, wouldn’t you agree? 🙂

  • Phil

    Good write up. Often times competitor intelligence turns up some practices that you wouldn’t necessarily want to employ but at least you know what’s going on behind the scenes.

  • door hinges

    thanks for your seo suggestion.

  • Jeff Quipp

    @ Carsten … absolutely I would agree! It still goes largely ignored in greater than 50% of the cases I would estimate. In some cases, we’ve had to become mgmt consultants to help clients get a handle on this aspect. These differences, must also be the crux of the blurbs appearing as the description in the serps.

    • micky

      thanks for your suggestion about the seo…service

  • Reliance Computer Solutions

    Good article. I really like the part about the promises of someone with a sub $100 tool getting you to #1.
    I recently was in competition for the business of a realtor. The realtor told me “So and so said they can get me to #1 for $25!” It turns out it was some kid who wouldn’t even meet face to face with the realtor. It came from a listing on Craigslist.

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Jeff, I don’t know if your estimate is correct, but I agree that there are a lot of businesses that have no clue what they are doing. It surprises me that this is still okay in some verticals without putting the company out of business, but the number of those verticals are declining and not growing :).

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    “I really like the part about the promises of someone with a sub $100 tool getting you to #1.”

    Thanks, I also believe that this is an important information for a general overview of SEO. Chances are good that a company will get offers from some thugs that sound too good to be true and too many companies fall for those scams.

    Offers like that are one major cause of the reputation problem SEO has. I wrote a whole post about this issue in September as a result of a SES conference session earlier in August.

    If an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are very good that it is actually not true.

  • Robbie Gold

    I agree Conversion analysis is the most important aspect of SEO for business’s. Most people dont even use tracking.

  • Advanced Technology


    What you wrote is absolutely right, but we haven’t to forget that most of the time these rules are ignored by search engine and ofter by unsolicited users.

    Search engine infact ignores (actually) well formed web site, and users often stands up to the first web site they found (that could be spam) without searching further more options.

    And there aren’t rules that you could manage against spam of untrusted and incorrect games.

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    “and users often stands up to the first web site they found (that could be spam) without searching further more options.”

    You (anybody) should never believe the first opinion you hear, read, see etc. The more important or critical it is, the more diligence and double checking is necessary.

    I mentioned that once more in my other post from yesterday about Matt Cutts talking about paid reviews (paid links debate).

    Don’t just believe it, only because it ranks on page one!

    Don’t just believe it, only because Wikipedia says so!

    or how did I put it in one of the debates about Wikipedia content….

    “Only because Wikipedia says so, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because the New York Times says so, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because the Encyclopedia Britannica says so, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because CNN broadcasted it, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because the president said so, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because your mom said so, does it not have to be the truth

    Only because …..

    You get the general idea, I hope :)”

    that fits perfectly here as well, don’t you think?

  • Search Marketing Blog

    I agree completely with the list. As we all know, everyone in the industry has thier own opinion or “new greatest seo trick” but this list is the tried and true best practices for SEO.

    Great write-up!

  • Deb Harrison

    I never knew you could get reports and statistics on your sitemaps from the major search engines.


  • Utah SEO

    I would have put Information Architecture (IA) after #2 and before Web Design and Development. Good insight on organizing your IA can come after keyword research and competitive/demographic analysis.

  • SEO Web Design

    SEO is not a rocket science is a common term in our industry. Lets add a new phrase : SEO is a waiting game. Lose your patience and you lose the game.

    How about that? Any way permanent SEO result requires constant effort and time. What are webmasters expecting from SEO? To show that you are good in SEO or to gain natural traffic and securing the deals? While we are performing tasks such as link baiting and building, we are actually exposing our sites and branding them in the process.

    Results come with constant effort and time.

  • Toolbe Webmaster Seo Search Engine

    very nice information and seo guide. i am sure many bloggers and webmasters will find it useful.

    will blog about it.


  • Paul Burani, Clicksharp Marketing

    This is an excellent overview. For keyword research, I would recommend Wordze or Wordtracker, it’s worth trying both for a month and then just picking the one whose interface is more appealing…

  • North Carolina Graphic Design

    @Paul Burani – no love for Keyword Discovery? I usually combine Keyword Discovery and http://www.nonbot.com ‘s keyword research tool for both search counts and competitive analysis (competing pages and inTitle).

  • Goran Giertz – Website Marketing

    Great article. It covers it all. Thanks

    Have an exSeollent 2008

  • Jacques Snyman for SEO Results

    Love your work! It is important to note that nothing is static in the world of the web, and that evolution can occur so fast that it is easy to get left behind!

  • David Marx – Search Engine Optimization

    I like you pointing out that it is almost impossible to optimize all the pages on bigger websites to the max, due to time and resource constraints. Lets face it, even the biggest and best sites with virtually unlimited resources will find it nigh impossible to place each page on the front page of returned search results for that page’s specific keywords/phrases

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    David, thanks for your comment. It is not impossible, but it is not economical, however, if a site is generally designed to be search engine friendly, many pages will actually rank for long tail keyword phrases. Phrases that are often better converting than the more generic phrases, the website as a whole was optimized for.

  • David Marx – Search Engine Optimization

    Carsten yes, as a matter of fact have been going for the longer tailed keyword phrases myself, with good results

  • seocontest2008

    Excellent post jeff, 11 awesome ways to maximise all efforts in your business.

  • Redman

    Good pointed. All 11 steps are well explained. I know that organic seo is an ongoing and long term process. Everybody says we must seoing and wait results. But how long? How long it takes to a seo process to show its first results? Can we accelerate the process or we are at mercy of search engines?

  • Car Social Network

    Do your necessary SEO and it will pay off eventually.

  • jaypaul

    you did a Very good job for new users and explained in such a right direction.

    i’ve learned lots of things from this article’s 3 to 4 points , we should follow these type points to get targeted rankings in search engines.

    No one can get proper business without SEO, so try and learn seo techniqies your self so you can do proper steps for your business site.

    its a very important point in online business.


  • Automotive Social Network

    SEO is never a rocket science skill. It takes weeks to months before you start seeing good results.

  • Palestine Students Forum

    Thank you very much for this steps

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  • Ashish

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  • venkatseo

    Hi very interested to learn the concept, so am excepting very more from you…

  • Sofia

    u have mentioned nice points for SEO.
    i am also doing the same things for our client but i think SEO need time as well as patience along with the quality work.

  • panasonic canada


    i am agree with this article. this is nice article.

  • Solomon

    Good Article….Hope a good article from you about Linkbuilding

  • mohamed hamed ahmed


  • Sal

    Thank you for the information. I am sure this will help me to optamize my website.

  • Shaon

    Thank you for your good content. I have a small question. What is backward links means in google toolbar?? How to increase the backward links..and what are the steps for has a good rank quickly…

  • Bryan

    Excellent SEO article. alot of people are doing it wrong and not getting any benifits and blame that they don’t work
    This article will surely help them

  • david

    Excellent article and i am about to test these methods to my site.For some keywords my website rank in 5 to 10 pages of google.I observed my competitors keywords with my keywords,i am far behind with them.If i change my keywords and description in meta tags will it effect the google ranking immediately.

  • david

    Excellent article and i am about to test these methods to my site.For some keywords my website rank in 5 to 10 pages of google.I observed my competitors keywords with my keywords,i am far behind with them.If i change my keywords and description in meta tags will it effect the google ranking immediately.

  • Errandbug Restaurant Delivery | Lincoln Ne

    sometimes I see folks do the old school tricks…keyword stuffing, buying links, etc. It works for a short time…but eventually folks that do play be the rules end up reporting this behavior…or google finds it all by itself and destroys your site. Once you get knocked off the search engines a few times it is difficult to get relisted.

    Most sites that do get banned also end up taking the fast route…ie, change their domain name and then do the same silly thing over again to quickly get to the first page of results.

  • south india tour packages

    Thanks for this steps to seo… I am working on it…..

  • armeo

    thank you very much 4 these seo tips . these all are of great worth for any site