So you’ve spent a fair bit of time on the design of your site, you have created a great facebook page and have a growing following on Twitter. You have a blog which you update as regularly as you can. Still, you notice that the traffic you are getting to your site is underwhelming at best. What should you do?
To be seen, you need to be found. This will take time (and therefore patience). Below are five best practices that should help you reap the well deserved fruits of your hard work- if applied. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, the steps can be outsourced to your SEO/design team.
1. Optimize your site for the search engines
The first thing to do here is to submit your XML site map to the search engines. This is a common omission by many small businesses! An XML sitemap is simply a special file placed on your site that contains an index to help search engines find their way to your pages. You create and place the file and then let the search engine know where it is. The site map can contain up to 50,000 links. Here is what Google says about sitemaps:
“We use the data in your Sitemap to learn about your site's structure, which will allow us to improve our crawler schedule and do a better job crawling your site in the future. In most cases, webmasters will benefit from Sitemap submission, and in no case will you be penalized for it.”
An SEO friend of mine is not convinced by the simple URL submission pages (to put it politely). There are hundreds of submission services around eager for a chunk of your money – do not part with it (yet). The thing to do here is to create an XML site map and submit this to the top three search engines, making it easy for other search engines such as Ask.com to find the sitemap on their own.
Creating your XML sitemap
If you use WordPress, it has a free plugin to create a sitemap automatically. Simply go to your Plugins menu in your Dashboard and search for ‘Google XML Sitemaps’, then click install. Otherwise you can use a sitemap generator which is perfect for small sites called XML-Siemaps.com. All you do is enter your domain name into a Web page and it crawls your site, creating the sitemap as it spiders your site, up to about 500 pages.
Submitting your sitemaps
You can submit your sitemap in three ways:
Ø Through Google’s Webmaster service
Ø By including a line in the robots.txt file to tell a search engine where it can find the site map
Ø By Pinging the search engines
You need a robots.txt file in the root directory of your site, with the following line inside it:
Your URL needs to point to your site map. The URL notifies the search engines that do not provide a Webmaster account such as Ask.com where to find your sitemap. Even if you do use both a robots.txt file and ping the search engines it is worth also creating a Webmaster account and submitting your sitemap through that account:
How to manually submit by using the Webmaster account
It is worth setting up an account on the major systems- Google, MSN/Bing – and submit your XML sitemap:
Yahoo offer a paid service to speed up adding your site but Google and Bing allow you to manually submit it. Given that Google represents the overwhelming majority of search traffic it makes sense to set it up there first.
To submit your sitemap through Google’s Webmaster service click the link below:
Ping the search engines
Pinging the search engines simply means sending a message (pinging) to the search engines telling them where a site map is. Enter the full URL to your sitemap including http:// after the = sign as shown in the first link:
Copy and paste the URL into a browser and press Enter, and you will receive a Sitemap Notification from Google.
2. Content remains King. Perform research to create content around your keywords and regularly update it
The more relevant your content and the more often you update it; the more often your site will get crawled by Google/the search engines and ranked for your prime keywords. Content is a fundamental aspect of Internet Marketing and high quality content can position your site as a thought leaders in your niche. In addition you will need to work on the following:
You can begin by using free tools like Google’s keyword suggestion tool . Type you keyword into the search box; eg homeopathic remedies. The tool will then give you all the related words and also the search volumes which are related to those words for the previous month. Collate up to 100 words- phrases which could drive traffic to your site. Google’s Insights for Search is also a useful tool to look at trending patterns in keywords. If you have existing content, plan to update it with fresh new information. If you are optimizing for keywords such as “homeopathic remedies for children”, you may want to create a landing page specifically for this to keep the relevance high.
Identify the most valuable keywords for your business. Then, use Google Analytics to find out which keywords are bringing customers to your site so you can create content especially for those searchers if you haven’t done so already.
Research competitor sites
Use tools such as compete.com to find out which keywords are used by your competitors. Yahoo’s site explorer can help you analyse the inbound links of competitor sites.
Perform the following Google searches: [keyword] Google search: [keyword blog]. Identify from the top 20 or so search results what is missing from these competitor sites- for example resource lists, How to guides etc. Other questions you may want to ask yourself when doing your research include:
Ø What are the recurring topics and themes which can inform your own content?
Ø What content topics receive the most links?
Ø What sites are linking to them( this can give you ideas for where to find links to your site)
In his excellent post Garret French suggests a consideration of the following points when mining for content:
Ø Core topic
Ø Number of words
Ø Reading level of content
Ø Embedded media (images, video, podcast, etc…)
Ø Outbound links on the page? Are they reciprocal?
Ø Scope/thoroughness of content
Ø Information structure (top 10 list, “ultimate guide,” info aggregation, etc…)
Ø Apparent target audience
Ø Apparent target audience skill level (basic or advanced?)
Ø What stage of the buy cycle does it target?
Meta Description Tag
This tag may confer no SEO benefit however a good Meta description can make the difference between someone clicking on your site and not doing so; or worse still clicking on a competitor’s site. The Meta tag is simply a description of your site which appears in the search engine results, taken by search engines from your site. You want the description to accurately reflect your site’s content, and be as inviting as possible. Although it is now accepted that it is not essential to be number 1 on Google, research does suggest that it is important to be on the first page. For additional information see www.seobook.com/video-optimizing-meta-description-tags-google.
Write A Compelling Title Tag
The title tag is vital because this is what is displayed uppermost in the Search Engine results page. It is the link that is clicked and the tag that is read by visitors before they decide whether or not to visit your site. Make this tag as compelling as possible. For some great information on writing good headlines read this great post by Copyblogger.
Consider allowing guest post opportunities on your site.
Allowing guests to post articles on your site is a good way to get fresh, relevant content. Another option is to provide a space where customers and visitors comment; you could be provided with an additional source of unique, user-generated content too.
Buyers will go through stages of buying before they make decision to purchase. Their search behaviour reflects this well. Therefore a buyer at the initial buying stages may be interested in comparative elements between products eg features, price, benefits; whilst a buyer at the final stages may be interested in the level of customer service.
4. Develop a Link-Building Strategy
There are several models around on how to build links; here is a quick summary of where you can find links:
Register with search directories. The Open Directory Project, Yahoo! and the specialty directories. These are important because people can find you when searching at the different directories but also search engines will often crawl these directories.
Ask your network to add a link to you. Most people have a website or blog – give them a bit of HTML so they can past your details onto their pages. Make sure the link has your keywords in it, eg outstanding vintage jewellery at a price you can afford instead of Click here to visit my friend’s shop
Contact companies you do business with and get on their client lists. If you have done business with someone and they have a client list, make sure you are on it.
Send out press releases: try www.prweb.com
Ask sites that link to your competition to link to you. Of course you will need to give them a reason to link to you. Can you be helpful and let them know if they have any broken links on their site, whilst also letting them know about complementary content on their site they might want to link to? Use link popularity software such as Majestic SEO to find links that point to your competitors’ sites.
Search for keyword add URL. Perform any of the following queries:
ü Keyword+ “add a url”
ü Keyword+ “add a link”
ü Keyword+ “add a site”
ü Keyword+ “suggest a site”
Use blog comment spaces to promote relevant content. The internet has billions of blog pages and many will be related to your subject area. Find those which are ‘do follow’ and post comments to their posts which relate to your content.
Get your blog reviewed for free through sites such as fuelmyblog.com. There are sites that will review your site for free, but why pay when you can get your site reviewed for free?
Submit your content to article directories. The benefits of this are twofold: first the article directory may be indexed by the search engines so links to your site will be picked up by the search engines secondly your article could be picked up by the site owners who need your content for their sites. Here are a few the good ones:
Pursue offline PR. Offline PR is by no means dead. If you can get mentioned in print with your link in print in a context that is relevant, you should get visits.
Use Question and Answer sites. These can be a content goldmine. Try:
Make sure you include a link to your site!
5 . Use Social Media in parallel with your SEO efforts
People spend hours upon hours on social media. It really can’t be ignored! Here are some points of focus:
Ø Use an SEO blogging platform such as WordPress to add content to your site. Thesis has been highly recommended to me as a theme (although I use a different theme).
Ø Use share buttons to make it easy for your content to be shared on social media, eg addtoany.com
Ø Automatically update your social media platforms with your blog updates
Ø Optimise all your social media platforms as this outstanding post from Kikolani demonstrates
Ø Update your company’s Face book brand and community pages often and keep it open for searching by Google
Ø Twitter is great to lift real-time search engine rankings, also for responding quickly
Ø Ensure your content is available to visitors through RSS which also syndicate to search engines; in turn increasing traffic and visibility
Ø Promote your brand on YouTube which is now the second largest search engine.
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