Every good marketing strategy starts with a plan. So, before you’ll see any results with SEO, you’ll need to know what your goal is and how you can work to achieve it. The first step is keyword research.
Keywords are the building blocks of search. They determine which searches your content will show up in and will drive users to your content.
There are two types of keywords: broad and long-tail. Broad keywords are short, general keywords that yield a high level of popularity and competition. Long-tail keywords are more complex and specific phrases that tend to be more niche and have less competition.
Say you’re a realtor based in NYC who is looking to generate more leads. Examples of broad keywords you may use are ‘NYC realty’ or ‘NYC sales agent’. An example of a long-tail keyword would be ‘top real estate sales brokers NYC’.
Which type of keyword you target will depend on the size of your business and the goals you are looking to achieve. Broad keywords tend to produce a higher volume of searches but are typically dominated by established brands. Long-tail keywords are better for small businesses because they are easier to rank for, but don’t attract as large a pool of potential customers.
You can use the Google Keyword Planner or other similar SEO tools to do your keyword research. Just search a few terms related to your industry and pick some relevant phrases that have a level of competition and popularity that fit your business.
Don’t Ask Questions, Answer Them
Once you’ve picked out your keywords, it’s time to start creating content.
To create effective content, put yourself inside the head of your ideal customer. You’ll want to figure out what keywords they’ll be searching for and deliver content that seeks to provide the knowledge or insight they need.
One trick is to answer questions, not ask them. In the early days of Google, the bot would recognize and favor pages that had the exact keyword listed as it was searched. However, the algorithm has gotten smarter and now tends to favor sites that answer questions being searched rather than repeat them verbatim.
For example, if you own a dog grooming business you may want to rank for the keyword ‘best dog groomers in NYC’. Rather than starting your blog post ‘Who are the best dog groomers in NYC?’ (a search term likely to be inputted directly into Google), start the post ‘Happy Puppy Dog Grooming hires only the best dog groomers in NYC’.
It’s a subtle difference that will help you differentiate yourself as an authority on the subject, not just someone looking to hack the algorithm.
Make Headlines Unique and Informative
The headline of your post is like the slogan on a billboard. It’s the first thing that searchers will see on their journey through the information superhighway and will determine if they actually pay attention or ignore it on the way to their final destination. So, you’ll want to make it punchy and attention-grabbing while still describing what it is you do.
Make sure the headline is unique enough to grab a reader’s attention, especially if the topic is likely to have several other posts competing for the same reader. But don’t make to mistake of getting too informal and risk losing authority.
Say you’re writing an article on the 10 best coffee shops in NYC. It’s likely that there will already be a few posts on the subject, so that title alone may not cut it. Something like ‘My Absolute Favorite Coffee Spots in All of New York’ is too informal and doesn’t really tell the reader what they’re getting into.
Something like ’10 Cafes in NYC with Free WiFi ‘or ’10 NYC Coffee Shops Ranked for Price and Atmosphere’, will earn you some unique readers who stand a chance of actually clicking on the link.
Write for Other Websites
Guest posting is a powerful component of SEO. Google not only ranks your content for native information; it weighs how much external content is interacting with your site as well. This means that websites with more external links pointing to them have a higher authority with Google and will rank higher in search results.
This relates to the basic concept of social proof. Say I’m a job recruiter and I have two candidates with virtually the same resume. The first candidate has one professional reference to vouch for him and the second has five. Chances are I’m going to go with the second candidate based on the concept of social proof.
Google works the same way. The more people who claim that your website is credible, the more Google will acknowledge that it is a trustworthy source and will send searches your way.
There are two ways to get these links to your site (referred to as backlinks). You can create amazing content and simply wait for people to reference it. Or, you can take matters into your own hands and offer to write content for other websites in exchange for a backlink.
Many popular websites offer guest posts and are typically ok with backlinking to your own site as long as the information is trustworthy and not overly sales-y.
Create Amazing Content (or Hire Someone Who Can)
Finally, the number one way to improve your SEO is to create informative, engaging content that genuinely solves the problems of your readers.
In the wild west days of the internet when Google was first getting started, it was possible to create blog posts that simply reiterated the same tired keyword over and over sandwiched between lazy, uninformative content and hack the algorithm to get on the front page.
Google has since recognized this error and created a bot that can detect quality writing. Therefore, your content must be of a certain caliber to be accepted by the bot and appear in top search results.
This doesn’t mean you have a Ph.D. in English literature to create content. It simply means that your writing must be grammatically correct and authoritative if you want to see any results.
If you are not the strongest writer, you may want to hire someone to create content for you. In today’s digital world, blog writers are easy to find. Just go through your professional contacts and see if anyone you know may have the expertise to take on your writing needs.