In-house SEO teams and individuals are in a unique position – they’re able to focus on a single industry and company, whereas SEO agencies and freelancers face the task of executing campaigns for multiple clients in a variety of industries.
If you’re an in-house SEO professional, you’re probably already being bombarded with questions and demands for solutions to problems. But what tactics do you have at your disposal? What tools are in your toolbox?
This article presents the top 10 tactics for in-house SEO professionals; basically, what I would do if I was an in-house SEO manager.
#1: Analyze Existing Top Keywords, and Begin Tracking their Rankings
The first project of any new SEO campaign should be thorough keyword research and analysis. The goal is to identify what keywords for which you want to rank at the top of search engine results pages, find out what your current rankings for each of them are, and track their rankings over time to gain insight as to whether your SEO campaign is having a positive effect on rankings and traffic. There are a few great tools for conducting keyword research that I recommend; all of which are owned by Google itself.
Google Webmaster Tools
The keyword data in Google Webmaster Tools, within the “Traffic” section, shows you what search queries resulted in traffic to your website, along with queries for which your website was displayed as a search result. Besides the number of impressions, it also shows average CTR and position (to determine ranking positions and automatically track them over time, I recommend MySEOTool).
Google Analytics also displays data based on queries that resulted in traffic to your website, within the “Traffic Sources à Sources à Search à Organic” section. Unfortunately, many of these keywords will likely be clumped into the “(not provided)” umbrella, which means that the user was logged into their Google account at the time of the search.
Google doesn’t display search data gathered from users that performed search queries while logged into their Google accounts. Nonetheless, Google Analytics still provides useful keyword data that should be considered during the keyword research phase of the SEO campaign. For a more in-depth guide on using Google Analytics in your SEO campaign, see my article “The Definitive Guide to Google Analytics for SEO Professionals.”
The free AdWords Keyword Tool gives a comprehensive keyword overview that allows SEO teams to look at how their site compares to others based on keywords relative to your industry or your website content.
You can also specify a category and geographical location. These keyword ideas are generated for paid search campaigns, but this can also give some good ideas for top search terms that an SEO team may want to focus on that they hadn’t thought of before.
You can sort by competition, number of searches, and location. In this example for a printing company’s website, you can see the many variations of the original keyword search for “custom t-shirt”. It looks like many want to create the design themselves, which works great because the printing company has a design-your-own-shirt tool. By promoting this through SEO and content (blogs, press releases, guest posts, etc), the company can continue to drive more traffic to their new design tool.
Once a base list has been generated, make sure that the ranking page has the most popular terms included naturally, as well as in the title tag, meta description tag, and H1 tag. To further build relevance for your pages’ targeted keywords, do some strategic internal linking from other pages on your site using those keywords as the anchor text.
#2: Google Webmaster Tools: Lots of Cool Things To Do
Google Webmaster Tools also allows you to view your search queries and your average position for those keywords, but the data does vary. For instance, this website has a popular article on a summary of available magazines for marketers. Look at the difference in data for the keyword “marketing magazines” in Analytics and Webmaster Tools:
Analytics (CTR and avg. position are reversed):
One unique metric that Google Webmaster Tools offers is a summary list of inbound links to your website, as well as what pages and posts on your website are linked to the most. This information can help you determine which content is the most popular, allowing you to augment it or build other content that supports it.
Beyond these tactics, Google Webmaster Tools is a goldmine of actionable information. For a complete breakdown of how to use GWT to maximize your SEO campaign, see my article titled “The SEO Professional’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools.”
#3: Identify and Fix all Onsite Errors
Any good SEO campaign begins with awesome keyword research, which should be followed by a thorough website SEO audit. SEO audits should consist of identifying any errors or problems with existing onsite elements, including (but not limited to):
- Crawl errors (ie, 404s)
- Proper implementation of title & meta tags
- Page load speed analysis
- Mobile readiness & optimization
- Social media integration & activity
- Duplicate content issues
- Content quality/depth analysis
- Content frequency analysis
- Overall onsite content strategy
Here’s an excellent overview of onsite SEO best practices which I’ve found very helpful.
Google Webmaster Tools displays crawling information, alerting you to when Google encounters 404 (page not found) errors from pages on your website. This report should be checked regularly to ensure that actual users (and search engines) aren’t trying to find pages on your website that don’t exist. This can be frustrating for users, and is an indication to Google of poor user experience, which can negatively impact search rankings.
Once all the 404 errors have been repaired, resubmit the sitemap(s) for the website via GWT so Google can recrawl it and see that the errors have been fixed.
#4, #5, and #6: Build Links
Link building is one of the 3 Pillars of SEO, and should be the primary focus of any in-house SEO campaign. It’s a tactic that should be ongoing for the life of any SEO campaign, and provides the fuel that not only drives higher rankings, but also keeps them there.
It takes constant effort to build a strong link portfolio, especially because search engines are getting smarter and more rigid on the types of links that benefit websites. Because your domain can now get penalized for unnatural links that are pointing to your website, it’s important to focus on building reputable and long-lasting links that are up to search engines’ standards. Here are a few ways to build the types of links that will provide positive impact on your SEO campaign while keeping you protected from future Google algorithm updates.
#4a (Legit) Directories: Directories are still a great link building tactic, but only if you are using the right ones. Start by adding your social media profiles to the applicable directories (like Twellow and others on this list of Twitter directories), then move on to local business directories. Yext.com provides a great and regularly-updated list of strong local directories that will benefit search engine rankings, both at a national and local level. Yext also provides a great service that allows you to fill out your business information and have it syndicated to each of the directories automatically.
After those have been claimed and filled out, submit your site to dmoz.org, which is the Open Directory Project. It can take months to get your submission accepted, but it’s free, quick, and easy. The Yahoo Directory is another good one, but it costs $299 just for consideration; there’s no guarantee of inclusion, and the submission must be renewed annually.
#4b Share the Love with Partner Websites: If your company partners with other businesses, freelancers, or vendors, ask if you can be listed on their website and offer to list theirs in return (perhaps on a Preferred Partners page, for example). In addition, ask your clients to mention you if they are promoting something you have done for them or a partnership, such as an event planning company exclusively using your flower arrangements.
Or, a website design company could have “Site designed by Acme Design Company” in the footer of their client’s website (Always make all links transparent and make sure all clients and partners know about any links you may be adding).
#4c Interlink Pages: The idea of linking to internal partners and clients that you have worked with closely, as well as other websites owned by your company, also extends to internal linking on your website. Make sure your navigation is SEO-friendly and all relevant pages link to one another. This helps search engines crawl sites easily and quickly, and can also help new pages get indexed more quickly if they are being linked to from older and higher-level pages.
Pages should be interlinked according to what makes the best possible user experience. Think from the perspective of a new visitor, rather than someone who accesses the website multiple times per day.
#5 Guest Blogging: Once you’ve completed 4a through 4c, it’s time to begin your guest blogging campaign. Guest blogging has myriad benefits, which you can read about in my article “The Top 5 Benefits of Guest Blogging.” For a step-by-step walkthrough on exactly how to execute a guest blogging campaign, see my article “The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.”
#6 Other Ways to Build Links:
Still looking for more ways to build links? See my article “8 Ways to Build Links When Guest Blogging Isn’t Possible” and Neil Patel’s “The Advanced Guide to Link Building.”
#7 and #8: Build External Content
#7a Guest Blogging: I believe so strongly in guest blogging that I included it in my list twice. Not only is it an excellent way to build inbound links, it’s also great for building and publishing external content. Writing great content, no matter the platform, has been one of the goals of those in the SEO industry for the past few years. Set a goal to write a certain number guest posts per month and make these posts as great as the ones on your own blog (or even better). Make sure the writer bio is engaging and allows interested readers to connect with you by including links to your social media channels. Your goal should be to get more shares and exposure.
#7b Attracting Media Exposure: Media exposure can earn inbound links from the best publishers in the world, like CNN.com, Mashable.com, and more. Think about how you can do something really newsworthy that will capture the attention of the media. Charity fundraisers and scholarships are just a couple examples of how to do this.
#7c Infographics: If your company has primary or original data that can be useful to your target audience, visualize and share that data via an infographic. Not only will this help improve brand awareness, credibility, and authority, it’ll also help build inbound links.
#7d Social Media Marketing: Social media engagement should be integrated into every part of the online marketing mix, but it’s an especially key component of building and promoting your external content. Start by determining what social media network fits your business. Then, designate a member of your staff, an intern, or hire an agency to coordinate your social media marketing efforts. Remember, social media is one of the three pillars of SEO; don’t leave it out of your overall strategy.
#8 Syndication: If you have lots of great content on your website, think about paid and free syndication to gain exposure. There are many websites and blogs that syndicate great content from other websites and provide credit and a link back to the original post or article. Business2Community and Social Media Today are two examples.
Besides free content syndication, services like Outbrain and Disqus also offer a paid syndication option, where your content is shown to readers on other sites as recommended content they might be interested in. These campaigns are run similarly to Google AdWords and AdSense, in the fact that advertisers pay to have their content promoted and website owners hosting the Outbrain or Disqus platform get paid when users on their website click on recommended links.
#9 Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways through your website’s blog (using a widget like Rafflecopter) and social media accounts can drive engagement and traffic to your website and profiles. There are SEO benefits from:
- Contest traffic to your website
- Links via others’ social media accounts
- Blogs promoting or sharing the giveaway information.
There is some correlation between the the value of the prize and resulting levels of traffic and engagement, but it really depends on your target audience and what they find valuable.
Many companies give away gift cards to sites like Amazon.com because almost anyone would find value in them. While these giveaways will always generate traffic, experiment with further personalizing your campaign by offering giveaway prizes that nobody else can.
For instance, an author could give away autographed copies of his or her book, or a NASCAR sponsor could give away a Meet and Greet with their driver. These unique giveaways may bring more traction and bring a wider, yet more targeted audience, as they are already going to be interested in your industry and what your company has to offer.
#10 Schema Markup
Schema and rich snippets were created to help search engines identify key information on websites that their users are searching for. By using schema to identify this content, it can be indexed faster and more accurately.
While it should be implemented on all websites, when it comes to local business listings, be sure to add the applicable schema code to your website to help Google and other search engines display information such as menus, hours of operation, and product pages in their search results.
Schema.org has sections for different industries and the Schema Tool from RavenTools lets you create schema easily. Because the schema markup has been created as a correlation between the major search engines, it can help your position or display of information on multiple search platforms.
While the variety and breadth of in-house SEO tactics can vary widely depending on the industry and company goals, the main thing to focus on is to provide a strong, clear presence online. Whether this is through local business listings, guest blog posts, or concise schema markup, in-house SEOs have the ability to outperform agency SEOs because of their unique and in-depth knowledge of their particular industry. This fact, coupled with a strong SEO strategy that includes the tactics I’ve listed above, makes in-house SEO professionals a force to be reckoned with.