Good morning! Gutentag! Buenos dias! (I’m a morning person; can you tell?) I’m going to guess that you have a pretty awesome website, but you are either really unsure about what search engine optimization might be and how to get started in the massive task that is the world of SEO? No worries, friend. I have a plan for you to start tackling your website’s SEO within a week.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the practice of optimizing a piece of content to achieve the highest possible rank for a set of certain keywords. Currently, Google makes 500-600 changes to their algorithm each year and there is speculation that the algorithm has slowly developed its own ability to learn and adapt, so SEO more like a Rubik’s cube where the colors keep changing on you. Sounds insurmountable? Don’t think of SEO as a start-to-finish task. A truly updated, well-ranked site never stops observing and changing SEO.
Quick SEO Fixes
Constant assessment of SEO can be a full-time job for many and a daunting commitment for others. Never fear! I’ve come up with a list of quick SEO fixes to help even the most overworked and overbooked administrator slowly achieve better website SEO. So grab your lunch and let’s get started!
Monday (1 hour) Install an SEO friendly plugin
It’s Monday and you are probably a little wary of all of this. Trust me, I’ve built in a learning curve for today. We’re going to start this ride off slow as we ease back into the work week. Today, I want you to login into your website, navigate to the Plugins or add-ons section of your site, and install the most downloaded SEO plugin available. (I use Yoast SEO or All in One SEO.) Assuming you have a WordPress or Drupal website, this is one of the best ways to manage your site’s SEO settings and configurations. Play around with the settings and get acquainted with your site’s new best friend.
Don’t have a WordPress or Drupal site? No sweat! A substitute assignment for you is to read up how to optimize keywords on your site pages without even needing Phil from IT’s help. After you read that, you can fire off a quick email to Phil from IT to prep him for some upcoming SEO updates later this week.
Tuesday (45 mins) Do some keyword research and draft a strategy
It’s Tuesday. You’re past that dreaded Monday slump and starting to feel the momentum. Add fuel to your fire by drumming out a keyword analysis and formulate a strategy using some tricks and tools! Open up a blank document or grab a sheet of piece of paper and start with a mind map of your company. What keywords and ideas do you attribute to your company, website, or your target audience?
After about 5-10 minutes, open up Google and start typing in some of the words that you selected from your mind map and let Google show you what longtail keywords people are searching around your chosen word. Jot particular phrases and long tail keywords that grab your attention as what you want your site to rank for.
Going forward, you’ll want to use those keywords and phrases as a strategy to optimize your site’s current content. But for now, draft a couple short sentences that center around some of your keywords. These will be first drafts of your site’s page descriptions. That little blurb of information that shows up under the link in Google? Those 160 characters are the page’s meta description and it’s a good practice to mention at least one keyword within that section. With any of your remaining time, brainstorm some content ideas, such as blogs or site pages, that can use your new keywords and work to boost your site rank.
Want to optimize an existing keyword strategy or quantify your work? Start developing a strategy around your top 20 pay-per-click converting keywords if you have ads running. Also, SEOMoz recommends testing “pay-per-click (PPC) ad copy as title/meta description to lift organic click-through rate.”
Give me some tools! You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to forecast keywords within your industry but it requires a paid Adwords account. UberSuggest also allows you to freely forecast keywords.
Wednesday (1 hour) Optimize your alt tags and page titles
Hey, we made it to Wednesday! We’re halfway through the week and you already armed yourself with some truly valuable insight about your website’s SEO and content for future marketing campaigns. Today, we’re going to give our brain a little bit of a break and do some of the easier work. We’ll use yesterday’s keyword strategy to optimize your site’s existing page titles and alt tags.
Page titles are a breeze. Depending on which plugin you have installed, you should be able to login and access the SEO metadata at the bottom of each post or page. Most plugins and optimization tools will allow you to change the forward-facing title of your page. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the title speaks to what content it actually houses. For example, in this blog post, the forward facing title reads “5 Lunches to Better Website SEO | Story Block Media”.
As you can see, I list the title of the blog first. But, when planning out my blog, I specifically targeted the keyword “better website SEO”. Studies have shown that listing the keyword or the title containing keyword before the site’s name provided better results. After that, I use a divider (no studies suggest which kind was best, so use whatever you would like) and listed our site name. Your SEO plugin should automatically add the title for you; just check in the general settings of that plugin to make sure it does.
What in the world are ALT tags? So in a time far far away, websites were served up by an individual user’s personal computer or on the rare occasion, a company server. We weren’t always connected and plugged in, which means that images on a website were sometimes unable to render. Alt tags, or alternative text tags, were developed by the council of folks that govern web standards, to add some context to what that element was supposed to represent. Today, search engines place importance on those tags as a way to know what the image is about and that is how your Facebook profile photo ended up in a Google image search for your name. I can’t speak to other types of websites, but I find the easiest way in WordPress to optimize a site’s alt tags is to navigate straight to the Media panel and select each image and fill out the alt tag under each individual piece of media. Now, no matter where that element renders on your site, it will have the same alt tag. Alt tags should be short phrases that should speak to what is in the image. For example, if you need to describe an image of a bunny, you could say, “Bunnies for sale in Duluth”. The alt tag not only describes the image as being about bunnies, but it also uses a long tail keyword you might want to rank for if you sold pet bunnies in Duluth.
I have a custom site though! In that case, we’re going to have to do this slightly analog and get Phil from IT to help out. Pull up a blank doc or even an excel sheet and go through your site. Write out what you want the alt tag to be for every image you see and describe what page its on and where it’s at on the page. For page titles, simply list the existing page title and what you’d like the new one to be. Forward that over to Phil and check out your rank for those keywords in about a week.
Thursday (30 minutes) Sign up for Google Analytics
It’s Thursday and maybe you’re behind on your week’s assignments. Tomorrow is Friday and you don’t want to be late to that Bachelorette Party so you might be tempted to skip this one – DON’T!
Let’s just make it a quick lunch and get right to task!
I could wax poetic and give you instructions on how to sign up for Google Analytics, but their setup process is pretty intuitive in my opinion. If you find yourself lost, reference their help section. Sign up here and once you get started, grab the Universal Analytics tracking code. If you have a plugin installed, it should have a section that asks for the tracking number (UA-0000000-01). If you have a custom site or don’t have that available, you can also drop the tracking code in the footer code of the website. I’d recommend you ask a developer for help with that part or shoot that code over to Phil from IT with instructions to place it in the footer of the site before the ending HEAD tag (trust me, he should know what that means.)
Google Analytics is one of the most valuable and powerful tools you have available to understand your users, your site, and what is happening when someone visits.
Friday (1 hour) User and Mobile Friendliness
It’s Friday! Woohoo! Oh, but that means the office wants to eat out!
You’ve still got this! Check out your site on your phone. Is it mobile friendly? How fast does it load? Believe it or not, mobile and user-friendliness can affect your rank on Google and negatively affect SEO. Also, check out your company on Google to see where you rank (probably higher than you might have thought now that you’ve done some work) and see if your site is considered mobile friendly.
And if your site is still in Flash, you’re dead to me (and probably the rest of the world, too. Get with the times, friend!)
Saturday (Bonus) Working for the weekend
SEO still on the brain while you keep your nose to the grindstone? Here’s a bonus tip to help you rank higher on local Google searches: snap some quick pics of your office building outside and inside, and upload about 6 of those babies to your Google+ Local listing while walking into the door. (If you don’t have one, sign up for one immediately.) While you’re logged in there, check your listing details and make sure they are up to date. And when you have a chance to take a break, see if you’re locally listed on sites like Yelp, ThomsonLocal, ReachLocal, and any local area rating or listing websites.
As I’ve already mentioned, SEO is a constantly changing game. But as long as you keep your content in tip-top shape and maintain your keyword strategy with the occasional reassessment and audit, you might find that beating the system is less like paddling upstream and more about going with the flow.
Don’t forget to snap your lunches and use our official hashtag #SEOauditlunches to join in on the conversation and get more insight from others munching their way through to better SEO.
Better Website SEO Going Forward
Remember how I said you need to stay on top of it? Well, it’s not safe out there alone! Here, take this!