So, You Want Your Website To Be #1?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a mysterious industry for many professionals– even those who rely upon it for their marketing. We’ve all gotten those email solicitations claiming that, as a result of an investment with THEIR company, YOUR website can rank on the first page of Google. Is this really possible, or is it just a scam?
There are scam artists in the field of SEO, just like there are in every industry. And you should steer clear of anyone who will guarantee you a first-page ranking, because Google has been making changes that are targeted specifically at punishing businesses that are trying to game the system. The good news, though, is that those same changes favor professionals who are above board in their practices and invest seriously in their website over the long haul– whether you are a one-person operation or part of a larger team.
Understanding SEO can help you adjust your marketing strategy more effectively to get the results we all want: to attract new massage clients!
How Search Has Changed
The practices of the search engine optimization industry, by their very nature, have to change with the search engines. And of course (even though alternate search engines do exist) when it comes to searching the Internet, the one-stop shop for most of us is Google.
1. Google’s Mission: Organizing the World’s Information
Google was founded with the mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.
In the spirit of that mission, they are constantly cataloging the web, looking for the website with the data that provides the most valuable information to the person searching for it. This is good. This is what has made Google that one-stop shop for search. And they are always fine-tuning the algorithm that produces and displays the search results to make it better for their users.
2. Internet Marketing: an Industry Is Born
As the years went on and the Internet became a marketing tool, an industry sprang up to study Google’s secret algorithm, and how websites could be adjusted to catch Google’s attention.
This was the origin of the search engine optimization industry. It’s been around even longer than Google, and it used to be (mostly) a numbers game. With the right combination of internal links, backlinks, and keywords, virtually any website could be competitive in Google Search. Unfortunately, this also lead to an epidemic of buying and selling links from higher-ranked websites, and of content that was so loaded with keyword spam as to be nearly unreadable…much less useful as an answer to a question.
3. The Fight Against Spam & Google’s Changing Algorithms
Google noticed the web spam. And in the last few years, we have seen them implement several algorithm changes that reduce the emphasis on backlinks and even keywords as a ranking mechanism.
Today, we are in transition to a different kind of web. The popularity of social media and advancements in coding mean that it is now possible for Google to create a web based on the value your site provides to other human beings.
4. TODAY: Link Building IS Brand Building
This means that link building has become brand building. Feedback loops have become social. Word of mouth marketing reaches a whole new level. And everyone is a publisher.
The SEO industry is growing up, thanks to the algorithm changes that forced websites out of their spammy rebellious teenage years. The good news, though, is that for professionals– authentic experts in their fields– it is possible right now to take steps that will ensure search success over the long haul, even for a very small business.
SEO “Under the Hood”
Because Google’s algorithm changes have been gradually making spammy keywords and technical ‘black hat’ practices obsolete, some important SEO elements can be set up and then evaluated every three months based on their performance and your SEO goals. Here are a handful of elements on your website that together can help your other SEO-related projects achieve better results.
PAGE TITLES – The title of the web page is one of the first things seen by Google or any other search engine, so it is important to take advantage of the opportunities for valuable placement of key descriptions. For example, if your page title only says “Home,” it is not very likely that someone is going to find that page in search. Instead, if you title your home page to be something like “Massage Therapy – Company Name,” it will be more likely to show up in a search for “Massage Therapy” or a search for your company name.
HEADINGS – After the page title, a search engine will usually crawl your header tags– in code, that’s all of your <h1>, <h2>, etc (or, in a visual word processor, the drop-down menu indicating text format). Header tags act as secondary titles for your page. Search engines use them to better understand the content you are presenting. Think of them like the outlines you used to have to write for essays in high school or college.
PAGE CONTENT – The content of your page is one of the most important factors in SEO. Previously this was weighted by how often a particular grouping of words was mentioned on a website, but today, it’s more about the context and overall value of the content. The days of “keyword stuffing” are over. It’s a much better idea to write content as if you were talking to the person that is viewing your site. Keep in mind the way you would talk about your business at a networking event or a first meeting. You would not be concerned about how many times you said “Massage Therapy”; you’d trust that the words would be a natural part of the conversation.
IMAGES – Search engines look at the images on your page as well as the written content. Descriptive image file names and alt tags help to confirm to search engines what your web page is about. If you have a page about carpal tunnel syndrome that has 3 pictures on it with file names like DCM3028.jpg and no alt tags, it is probably going to rank much lower than a page that has properly named and tagged images. (This also gives you the advantage of showing up more easily in Image Search.)
INTERNAL LINKS – Linking from one page to another in your website content helps your audience discover other relevant pages easily. Continuing with the example of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome page, you may also have pages on your website about the prevention of wrist injury and assorted treatments that help with carpal tunnel. By linking those pages together, you add value for your website visitors (as well as SEO value) by pointing them to relevant resources on how the condition can be prevented and how it can be treated.
SITE MAP – The site map is a file that tells search engines what pages you have on the site, appropriate update intervals, mobile site information and more. A proper sitemap can help search engines find all your pages and index your site properly. You can write your own site map, or have a site map automatically generated for you online. Either way, you will have to upload the file to your website using your FTP server or a file upload feature from your web hosting company, but it is a straightforward and important way to ensure that Google sees every part of your site that you want it to see.
The Importance of Content Creation
When it comes to SEO, it’s a big mistake to think of your website as “complete.” And the most important thing that you should be updating on a regular basis is your content.
If you’re not creating your own content on your website, and updating it on an ongoing basis, you’re going to miss out on a lot of SEO opportunities. Every new page you create with new content will be searchable and add a greater overall SEO value to your website. You should constantly look for ways to add more content, then more, and some more. Talk about a new topic, go more in-depth on a previous topic, or provide a public (generalized) answer to the questions you hear from clients.
Blogs and Podcasts
Content can come in many varieties and provide different levels of value. For example, you
can write a blog post, and if it turns out to be pretty popular you may want to turn the blog into a podcast. All you have to do is record yourself reading the blog, maybe add in a little extra depth or insight, upload it to a podcast library, and embed it in your site. This will allow busy people to listen to your blog while they are doing other activities.
Or, to be even more sympathetic to the needs of your audience, you might turn that blog post into an infographic. If you find Photoshop daunting or don’t consider yourself artistically inclined, there are lots of talented illustrators and graphic artists that you can connect with online through places like deviantArt, Google+, or Fiverr. When your audience has neither time nor inclination to read long articles (which is fairly common these days), graphics are a great way to get the message across in a shorter time.
When it comes to SEO value, some content is just not created equally. Video has a very high optimization value to it, particularly videos uploaded to YouTube, which are indexed by both Google Search and the YouTube search engine. Since YouTube is actually right behind its parent company as the second most-used search engine in the world, a properly optimized series of YouTube videos could bring your website more traffic. Luckily for us, YouTube was kind enough to supply an optimization guide and checklist.
Finally, content that is not seen cannot be valued as highly, so when creating content, do not forget to share it with your followers on social media! The more people that come to your website and interact socially with the content, the better. That’s the whole reason we try to produce good content– the more value your content adds to people’s lives, the more likely they are to share it with their friends or colleagues.
Building Social Authority
Being social in general is important for signaling your authority to Google, so activity on any social network might theoretically benefit your search rankings. However, if you only have time for one social network, Google+ is probably the place to be for the SEO value. There are several ways that Google+ can help your business show up in search.
Your Google+ world is integrated into Search.
Endorsements (+1s, Shares, and ratings) from people that you have in your Google Plus circles will sometimes show up on the first page of results. This means that the more people who add you to their circles and interact with your posts, the more influential your content will be when others search a topic that you post about.
Google+ posts are indexable and SEO-friendly.
In addition to the endorsements boost for website pages, every public post on Google+ is indexed by the search engine. This is not the case for any other social network; the flow of public posts that Google can discover from Facebook or Twitter are much more limited. When writing a post for SEO in G+, treat it like you are writing a blog post. A post with proper SEO will generally have a bolded title, light keywording in the body copy, relevant links, and an image or embedded link. Engage others too– if you got an idea from another user, make sure you mention them in the post.
Your profile can be attached to your website.
Whether it’s your personal profile or your company page, when you connect your website with your Google+, it helps Google to recognize your identity across the web as an authority in your industry. Don’t forget to place a Google+ Badge on your website to encourage visitors to give your page a +1 or to connect with you on Google+.
Google Local is now a part of Google+.
As its own separate entity, Google Places was the home for local business reviews. Today, you can create a Local account for your business and (once verified through snail mail) your business will show up on Google Maps and you can engage with other users, get +1s, and encourage customers to leave reviews. When other users leave positive reviews, it helps Google to understand that the community endorses your business, which could be a determining ranking factor when it comes to location-based search.
This is just the beginning.
Search is only going to become more social as the years go by. Word of mouth marketing has been among the most reliable business development techniques for years because of the great results that it yields. The Internet provides a whole new platform for spreading the word about a truly great business, so data about individual endorsements are likely to become a part of Google’s algorithm and thus an important tool for marketing success.
SEO is a rich industry, and there is extensive debate among experts about techniques for improving a site’s rankings. In general, though, the rules of SEO are actually pretty straightforward these days:
1. Get the fundamentals right. Be thoughtful when it comes to your page titles and headings, label your images appropriately, and make it easy for a visitor to navigate around your site and find what they need.
2. Create great content. Think about your keywords, but don’t stuff your articles on them. Consider what your potential clients want to know, and what they will respond to. Make the content that you’re most comfortable creating. Do it often, and share it.
3. Be social. Use platforms like Google+ to build relationships and share your content with new audiences. Connect your website to social platforms and make it easy for others to share too. Be thoughtful about what you post, but encourage your customers to leave honest feedback. Building relationships with others is still the best way to grow a business, and the Internet makes it possible to do that on an international scale without leaving home.
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Have you tried to use search engine marketing to grow your business? What did you try and what results did you see? Share with us!
Comments from original Massamio post:
Great article. Too many people get scammed by the spam SEO emails that really hurt their rankings now with Hummingbird. I hope people follow your system, very well outlined. — Posted @ Monday, November 04, 2013 6:08 PM by Joel Goldstein
Thank you that was a really interesting article which covers the 101 but goes beyond with useful tips – some of which I have immediately acted on – and links. I’ll be bookmarking this one. — Posted @ Wednesday, November 06, 2013 7:57 AM by Ceri
Thanks for this in depth article on SEO and how to get to page one of google. I used to be at top spot for ‘massage my town’ …still on first page. Stressing out now as i want to get back up to top spot, but between my web company helping me. My scurrying around google getting more info on SEO. Plotting out some really good blogs to put on my webpage, and much more content for my page it has been a stressful month. Your article is very helpful and easy to follow for the minimally literate in WordPress and SEO as myself. Thanks! — Posted @ Wednesday, November 06, 2013 8:00 AM by Rhonda
Thank you for the very kind words Joel. Ceri, I hope this article can help you boost your rankings. Rhonda if you are using WordPress I recommend looking into a plugin called Yoast SEO. It is a little techie but most of the important features are automatic when you activate the plugin. I’m glad you all found this article useful! — Posted @ Wednesday, November 06, 2013 8:56 AM by Greg Trujillo
Hi , I have a existing website, may I know how much you charge for seo service ? I’m looking for a seo service can rank my website to first page top 5 every key words of ten . Prefer stay the ranking — Posted @ Monday, November 11, 2013 3:13 PM by Miss tan
I would ask that you follow me on Google Plus, or email me directly so we can talk a little more about your SEO needs. One thing is for sure, we will never tell you that we can get you ranked to the front page (top 5) for any keywords for any amount of money. SEO companies that offer that kind of service are usually scamming you, or have some very poor practices. They may be able to get you to where you want to be, but if they are not playing by Google’s rules you can get banned from search altogether. — Posted @ Monday, November 11, 2013 3:19 PM by Greg
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