A few years ago, SEO was a niche term—the sort of thing pretentious assholes inserted into their sentences to make themselves feel important without ever really knowing what they were saying. But now? It’s a common concept everyone and their brother understands, at least when it comes to the basics.
Like any business out there, Google doesn’t like to give away its secret recipe to just anyone. And that means SEO experts spend a lot of time studying what does and doesn’t work to crack the code of how to get that coveted number one spot. It ain’t easy, but when it comes to the digital world, what is?
When you’ve got a destination in mind (being number one), there are a few things you need to get you where you wanna be. Let’s dive in.
Get Your Bearings
Think of SEO like a road trip. If you don’t know where you are or where all the other cars zooming past you on the highway are, well, you’ve got big problems. That’s why the first step is clearing up the fog.
There are a bunch of tools out there that will tell you how your site ranks and what keywords it ranks for. Our favorites are Google Search Console and Moz’s Link Explorer. Google Search Console is great if you have the developer know how to claim your domain on the platform. Then you can see how your site is performing in searches, straight from Google! If you don’t have a tech wizard on your team, Moz lets you plug in a URL and go.
Now, where’s everyone else? Moz can help with that again through their Competitive Research tool (or even their Keyword Explorer). You can also check out SimilarWeb if you’re snooping on sites that get a lot of traffic. Search your competitors, export the data, and start figuring out where you win out and where you’re missings.
Slow and Steady
This is the opposite of what most people want to hear. After all, we’re Americans, dammit. We want stuff done, and we want it done now. Unless of course, we’re talking equal rights – that can wait another 50 or so years.
SEO doesn’t work like that. It can take weeks to see if your efforts have any impact and if you change a bunch of stuff at once, that makes it harder to know what worked and what didn’t.
So where do you start? With the stuff, you want to rank for. You’ve seen what your competitors are doing. You know what your services are. Make a list of a few high-level topics you want to be known for. For a manufacturer, it could be sub-assembly or quality assurance. For a baker, maybe it’s wedding cakes and gourmet cupcakes.
Whatever those categories are, keep them broad, then go through those keywords you identified and see what falls under them. Remember: don’t force them to fit. Either they relate or they don’t.
Now that you’ve got your topics and your keywords, all you’ve got to do is execute…and wait.
If You Build It…
…users will come. Eventually.
Take the topic you came up with and those keywords you put under it. Do you have a page on your site to correlate? If not, why not? It seems like it’s pretty essential to your business. Build it out! Does it have keywords incorporated naturally into the copy? (For real. Don’t shove them in. We’ll be upset, and so will Google). If not, work ‘em in.
Now it’s time to start building even more. Are there other pages on your site that relate to the topic? Link them to the new (or refreshed) page. Link them to each other! Start making a web of resources. Just imagine it like a bike wheel—the hub is the main page, and all the spokes are these related areas of your site. They connect to each other and then back to the main page itself.
So if I’m a bakery wanting to rank for wedding cakes, I’ve got a page about wedding cakes. And then I probably have some blogs about topics like wedding cake trends, types of frosting, best desserts, sheet cakes vs. tiered, etc. which I’ve linked to each other and to the wedding cake page. The nerdy terms for these are pillar pages and topic clusters, but we like cake better.
Once you’ve done this, revisit step one to see if your rankings have changed. And then wait. Measure again. And again. And again…