SEO Site Strategy for the Layman

I got an email the other day from a competitive website that was questioning what may not be going right with his website. Since it is a competitor to one of my customer’s sites, I have to assume that he came across the website that I had done for my customer and was questioning why his site was not doing well against it.

To be honest, I’m not completely happy with the rankings on that site  However, I made a number of SEO changes yesterday now that I have seen where it settled down finally for a number of terms. But, if it was beating out the other site in several places, enough for him to contact me, must be something is going right.

I looked over the website in question and thought perhaps a few comments on his website content and points to the right direction might be a nice quick thing to get him on the right path.  However, when I was done, that list was far too long to go over here and probably too much for a blog post. As well, true SEO people have all different strategies – what I may do to boost my SEO on sites may not be the same methods that another SEO person may use.  So your mileage may vary – take them for what they’re worth.

SEO Top Ten Ideas for Today

  1. Text content is your friend. Period. That really is the name of the game.
  2. Decide what terms for which you wish your site to be found. I honestly laugh when someone tells me “All of them.” Focus on a few specific terms, get those working well, and THEN move on.  Pick 5-8 terms first.
  3. You are NOT going to be found for 1 word keywords. So don’t even go there. You should be findable more frequently for two and three should get you good results. My market is of local interest. I focus on 2-3 word long tail keywords usually including the name of the town/city I’m targeting and the service/product that is important. A client told me the other day that the SEO company that they were using focused on 4-5 word long tail keyword phrases. That really IS a bit long – it really is doubtful that most searchers are going to type that many words in for the most part. Unless your business is in an extremely competitive market, I have to say your SEO company is shooting considerably low.
  4. Ask your friends what terms they would search for if they were looking for your business AND didn’t know the name of your company. Many times I have discovered that people will search for content in a very unexpected way at times that is not very intuitive. But many times, I can then verify it using Google Keywords tool. Use those terms.
  5. Use variations on your keyword phrases. Again, this can be checked via Google Keywords tools. When you have a 3 word longtail keyword, there are likely at least two to three different variations that are used. The more times you can catch those variations the better you will do.
  6. Make sure you fully use the space available in your website title, meta keyword and meta description tags. You have 60, 255 and 160 characters respectively. Make them all keyword rich. I have put the company name at the front of the title tag for years, but have now decided that putting the keywords in first with the company name following may be better – certainly in some cases. Most of the time the company name IS keyword rich, but getting those other search terms in is important too – particularly when the company name is long and not overly relevant.  There is nothing definitive on going over the character limits. Only roughly 60 characters DO show in your title, but it can be longer than that. Again, I’ve not seen any real plus or minus, but do stick to something reasonable. Google Webmaster Tools does have a category for excessively long/short meta tags, but I have never triggered it either way.
  7. Web page names can be useful. Many times, you will see a “Services” page – services.html or similar. Not real descriptive. There are MILLIONS of other pages out there – how about naming your pages exactly what your services are?  Like “wood_fences.html”?  ANY opportunity that you can get to increase the words in the page path that are keywords should be taken. Have a page naming strategy.
  8. Images should also be named with SEO in mind. Images should only be used to support your text and make the site visually exciting for the reader. Use the ALT tag to put in keywords, captions to also reflect your keywords and name the picture something useful like “rainbow_wood_fence.jpg” – NOT “img00012.jpg”.
  9. Make sure all pages can be found. Bots should be able to follow your navigation from your menu, but if they can’t  or it’s in question,  javascript menus or similar, make sure that you have a valid sitemap and make sure it’s submitted to the search engines. I link mine on every page.
  10. Last one for this post, but make SURE you USE the basic words for which you want to be found on your website. All too often I see a website that assumes the reader will know what the site is about because of the company name. The catch is that yes, once a human visits your site, they will grasp the idea that it’s a fencing site and all the content is in support of the fencing topic. However, in order to get the visitor there, you need to make sure that the SEARCH ENGINE understands that the website is all about fencing. Keep on using the word fencing (et al) throughout the page. So, SO many times I have been asked to critique a site – and the first thing that’s obvious is that they haven’t even mentioned what the site is actually about in the text. In the mentioned case above, you can say things like “wood”, “vinyl”, “aluminum” all day and the reader WILL pick up and infer that it is about “wood fence”, but the search engines don’t.

SEO effort and results are relative to your market

Sure this stuff is all general, and if everyone actually followed this stuff, my job WOULD be a lot tougher. Most of them are obvious, but they still are missed time and time again when people do websites.  Not every website will follow every rule. Generally the more competitive your market, the more things that you MUST do right to get the rankings. If you’re one of only 5 companies in the area, you SHOULD be able to be coming up on the front page of web search results with a minimum of effort. If however, you are in a market with several hundred other players in the same area, then you are going to have to do a LOT more of these things right.

Real SEO results take commitment

Don’t kid yourself, or sell your web company short – these things DO take time – both in terms of being able to see the results of the SEO work AND in terms of doing this kind of work. Too many times I see SEO companies that appear to have just guessed what terms might work well and charge outlandish money for doing their guesswork. There ARE definitive ways to determine which search terms are being used most frequently – and in order to figure out what they are, it can take a LOT more time in research than in actually typing out the page mods. It’s generally not a quick tippity tap fix – and if it IS – then you have a problem.  The wrong SEO company, you’re trying to cheap out on it and get gold for pennies, not clarified your goals enough, etc. In any case, if you can’t devote the time to get the results, the money to do the job right, or find the right company with the kind of skill needed to make your site sing, then you might as well just save your money – anything less is a waste of time and money.

For questions or comments, feel free to contact us at  If you are in the Raleigh area and looking for some SEO help, general web design, webhosting, or similar, give us a call.

Author: Eric Erickson

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