What do the following have in common: an e-commerce store, an affiliate page, an Amazon product, a blog?

Simple. They all need traffic to work!

The purpose of this article is to give you a quick explosion of SEO knowledge so that you can apply it to your web goals.  SEO can be effective and it can also be a bit dangerous, so be sure to approach it with an open, but critical, mind.

What is SEO?

SEO is the abbreviation for “search engine optimization”.  Most typically, people think of this as building links so you show up high in Google searches.

However, it really spans the range of doing a lot of different things:

  1. Show up in Google, Bing, or any other desired search engine
  2. On page optimization: page structure/hierarchy, alt tags, meta tags, keyword density, page length, robots.txt, mobile-friendly, etc.
  3. Off page optimization: inbound links including the link/anchor text
  4. Quality metrics: time on site, bounce rate, pages viewed, social signals, site speed

Any, and all, of these factors, can impact your search rankings.

google-algorithm-cheat-sheetWhy is SEO challenging?

Nobody knows the exact recipe the engines, especially Google, use to rank sites.  Not even one single Google employee could tell you the all the functions and features that Google is looking for in the ultimate SEO website.

Google has admitted to over 200 ranking signals. Some examples of signals are inbound links, bounce rate, text in page/post titles, page length, etc.  SEO experts are only left to discern what they feel are the most important signals.  Mainly they determine this from their own experiences as to what they feel has worked and is continuing to work.  

But keeping up with Google is the real challenge…

Google makes updates daily and major algorithm updates a few times a year.  

More recently they’ve stopped disclosing more of their changes.  They will even cross test subsets of users to see how people are interacting with certain types of content.

Then there are the major updates…

Starting in 2012 and still ongoing, Google has released Panda and Penguin updates that penalize “bad SEO”.  This can be a keyword-level or site-level penalty.

Negative SEO is a very real concern…

There is such a thing as over-optimizing your website and it could really hurt your Google ranking.  Making a comeback after being penalized can be very difficult to almost impossible.  It may mean having to get a whole new domain and starting over.

Keyword research is key…

Chances are you already have a site or product.  But how do you know if all your SEO work will pay off?

Before you jump in to do SEO, take a step back to figure out if it’s worth doing.  If your audience is “Chicago Florist”, even ranking #1 may only get you a phone call or two a week.

What is that worth?

Understand what your target keywords are, what the traffic bump will be, and if the time/expense is worth it.

Even further, you should try to learn if people looking for “Chicago Florist” are people ready to buy or just people looking to learn more about the topic.

A tool like P1 Targeting App can really help you zone in on what keywords will be easier to rank for and bring you profits versus ones that will be tough to rank for a could be duds.

Tools for estimating search traffic

There are lots and lots of paid tools out there for slicing and dicing keyword data.  But to just get started, there are a few great free sources for a “good enough” take at search volume.

(NOTE: Want to get ranked faster on Google? You can do so with these 8 SEO Tools.)

What SEO you should be applying today

Even though Google is constantly changing the game, following “best practice” and staying away from fly-by-night SEO companies can still net great results with these following tips:

  1. Identify your target: If it’s a very narrow target like “Chicago Florist”, you’re going to have a harder time getting good ROI.
  2. Get ‘on-page’ optimization dialed in.  Working your on-page SEO is a very low-risk tactic with Google and is typically pretty easy.
  3. Work on improving your quality metrics.  Focus on creating high-quality content, getting more social engagement, having fewer broken links, and having a fast server.
  4. Set up rank tracking for your main keywords and some other keywords.  You can use a program like Rank Tracker.  This will help you see where you are ranking and guide you to where your site can use some help.
  5. Build Links!  Start doing this organically.  Go out into the online world and start sharing your great content.  Forums are great places to start discussions.  Social media sites are great places to get links and build exposure.

Image Source: http://www.freshmetrix.com/blog/google-update-cheat-sheet/