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by Andrew Tonks on 19th July 2012
Generating quality organic traffic via search engines like Google is one of the most cost effective ways to effectively market your website and business online. However carrying out an effective SEO campaign can be costly and extremely time consuming; in the wrong hands, it can also be a complete waste of your time and money.
Perhaps in the past you’ve employed an SEO but seen little to no return on your investment but are now looking to give it another go to help get your name out there online. If this is the case, then here’s a simple guide on how you can reboot your own SEO campaign and start getting the right people looking at and interacting with your site:
First off I would recommend critiquing your site from the standpoint of a potential customer, ask yourself if this was the first time you arrived at the site would make a purchase from it or get in contact? Does the ‘look and feel’ of the site represent the type of business it is representing? Are there any glaring usability issues present on the site that would hinder someone carrying out a conversion?
The reason I bring this issues up right from the start is that there is no point carrying out an extensive SEO campaign, getting people looking at your site and only to lose them when the design is unprofessional or prevents people from carrying out a conversion on the site – the whole point of the SEO campaign in the first place!
If you find your site doesn’t present your business in the best light or you have usability issues, then I would recommend you address these from a design point of view before getting down to any real SEO work.
You should be looking to structure your site so that it represents your business – are all your products on the site? Does it tell someone who has no idea of your business, what it is in fact you do and stand for?
Analytics & Current Rankings
Hopefully the site already has Google Analytics set up and you have a fair amount of data to work with. It is important to review this data to get an idea of what is in fact working on the site at the moment. If you have e-Commerce or Conversion Tracking set up on the site, be sure to look not only at what keywords are driving organic traffic at present but what keywords are also generating conversions.
Once you have a list of keywords that are your top traffic drivers, I would recommend ascertaining what rankings you have already. If you find there are a few keywords you’re ranking for already on page two of Google for example that actually convert well, this might be a signal that you should look to improve the rankings of these keywords and not necessarily go off and carry out a tonne of additional keyword research.
Reviewing this data will start to give you an idea what sort of keywords people have used in the past to find your site and will give you the foundations of any keyword research. If, however, you’ve got very little data to work with, not many keywords that are driving traffic or do not have any rankings to speak of then your next step is keyword research.
So you’re confident your site is a good reflection of your business, there are no usability issues and you have an understanding of the sorts of keywords that are generating conversions at present. If this is the case, your next step is to carry out keyword research to gain an understanding of the types keywords people are using to find the sort of content that is present on your site.
In most cases I would recommend using Google’s free tool, Google AdWords Keyword Tool. This will give you as much data as you need to carry out an extensive keyword research project. When using the tool, the main points to take away are that you should be looking at the number of exact match searches each month within the market you are looking to target. I would usually look to have between three to five suggestions for keywords to target on each page, how you decide which keyword to target usually then depends on which one is the least competitive online.
To ascertain just how competitive a keyword is you should should carry out a search for each term in-between speech marks in Google. You will then be told how many sites are targeting this exact phrase in the index, the lower the number the less competitive the keyword, for example:
You will often find that you have a load of keywords you wish to target but maybe not enough content on the site with which to do so. If this is the case, then this is an opportunity to expand the site’s content to allow you to target the extra keywords you have discovered.
My colleague Tara has covered this in more detail in the following video:
At the end of this process, you should have a list of each URL on the site and a keyword you wish you would like to rank that page with, selected by taking into account the number of exact match searches each month in your particular market as well as the competition for that keyword within Google’s index.
Next it is important to gain an understanding of what sort of links have been built to the site already. If you’ve employed an SEO in the past and you’ve seen little to no improvement in rankings or have suddenly lost a load of rankings, it is highly likely that they’ve employed out of date or ‘Black Hat’ link building techniques that have been found out by Google.
I would recommend running a simple analysis at first to gain an understanding of the type and volume of links the site has, using a tool like Site Strength Indicator should give you a good idea. Once you’ve got an idea of the volume of data you’re working with, a more complex link analysis tool like Open Site Explorer from SEOMOZ is needed.
Once you’ve run a scan of the site you’ve going to need to know what to look out for in the way of links that are damaging your site, which is picked up upon quite well by Mike, our Online Marketing Manager:
At the end of this process you might well discover a number of links that may be damaging your site, in which case I would recommend contacting the sites directly and request the links be removed. This can be extremely time consuming and frustrating as replys can be slow and webmasters may be uncooperative but it is worthwhile. There is no point carrying out all your SEO work only for it to be hindered by these sorts of links. If you find that your site has been hit particularly hard and you’ve requested a large number of links be removed, then you might need to file a reconsideration request directly with Google.
This is picked up quite well with the guys directly at Google:
You will also need to review the quality of the site’s content; do you have a large amount of spelling or grammar errors? This might sound basic but you’d be surprised at the level of the content out there – if you’ve managed to get a potential client to the site and they see errors all over the site do you think they are still likely to purchase from you?
Also, it is worth reviewing the content from a sales point of view; does the content sell who you are and what you can provide? Is the content engaging? Does it tell the user what to do next if they’re interested? What is your USP?
I would recommend viewing my colleague James’ video on reviewing your sites content:
On Page Optimisation
So now you know what keywords you’re looking to target and you’re confident the content will put you in the best light once people start viewing the site. Next you need to demonstrate relevance to search engines like Google through the use of on-page optimisation.
This is pretty well laid out in the following video by my college Alec:
By carrying out the optimisation work detailed in the above video, you will be able to demonstrate relevancy to search engines – the first step in increasing rankings and attracting targeted traffic to the site.
Finally you need make sure there are no technical issues that are preventing search engines from indexing the site or confusing them in anyway. Also it’s worth taking note of any 404 errors on the site, which can be found out through the site’s Google Webmaster Tools account – if you don’t have one, get one set up! It’s free and provides invaluable data on how Google views your site. Any 404 errors can be amended be setting up appropriate 301 redirects and will ensure search engines can continue index as much of your site as possible.
You will also want to make sure the site has no canonical issues, whereby the site’s homepage can be accessed via a variety of URLs. For this issue I would recommend viewing Matt Cutts’ Canonical Link Element video, on the Google Webmaster Forum:
So now you’ve done all the research, sorted your links out and improved the sites content as well as on page optimisation – job done right!? Wrong, I’m afraid, you need to factor in ongoing promotion of the site to increase relevancy for the keywords you’re targeting and to keep on giving search engines a reason to continually visit the site and reindex it.
First off it’s important to keep on updating your site and to send out signals to search engines your site is still relevant.
How you accomplish this is will laid out by my college Mike:
Another great way to get your brand out there and build quality, relevant links back to your site is through the use of guest blogging, explained by my colleague Andy:
Finally, for a general overview of link building techniques, you should be employing to build on the work you’ve already done, have a look at the following video by Mike: