If you’ve recently launched a new website, or if you’re on the cusp of launching one, congrats! You’ve done the hard work of setting the whole thing up, or have paid good money to get it done. Now it’s up to you to make it stand out from the oodles of other websites on the web. If that sound daunting, it’s because it is. According to World Wide Web Size, at least 3.76 billion web pages have been indexed as of August 19th 2013. The good news is that not all of these web pages are your competition. Many of them lack proper SEO, and worse, interesting or helpful content. If you’ve already got the helpful content part handled, follow these steps to help jettison your website upward through the SERPs.
Step 1: Perform Keyword Research
This should be done as early on as possible, even before work on the website begins. This is because you need to know what your website should be ranking for. Remember to base your keywords on more than what people are searching for in Google. Erin Everhart said it best in her Search Engine Watch article How to Make Your Keywords Fit Your Marketing Message: “When you have those uncomfortable ‘So, what do you do?’ conversations with the person next to you on an airplane, a keyword is one of the first things out of your mouth.” Your keywords should encompass your brand. You need to integrate keywords throughout your website, including in your page content, blog posts titles, alt tags, and even in your video. However, make your keyword usage as natural as possible. Going overboard can make your website looks spammy.
Step 2: Optimize Content
Not only should you incorporate keywords into your titles, tags, and text body, but you should also make your content shareable. By now you’ve noticed that just about all blog posts have social share buttons either at the top or the bottom of the post (though best practices say that it’s best to have them at the top). Not only do search engines use keywords in evaluating SEO, but they also use social signals like Facebook shares and Twitter tweets to evaluate the popularity of your content.
Step 3: Watch Your Links
The SEO ways of old dictate a certain approach to linking. It involves distributing articles with optimized keyword anchor text to other sites, and gaining backlinks from any old website with a high enough PageRank. Those days are no more. Google has cracked down on articles and press releases with keyword optimized text, so you could get your website penalized for it. Also, search algorithms have gotten smart enough to recognize whether the website linking to you is relevant or not. Only get your backlinks from websites it makes sense to be connected to, and add the rel=nofollow attribute to keyword optimized text so that it doesn’t pass for PageRank.
Step 4: Install Plugins
If you’re using WordPress then you have no shortage of plugins to choose from for your site. However, you should know that SEO plugins aren’t exactly a cure-all. Rather, they optimize your website’s code for search engines to pick up on. Some popular options include All in One SEO Pack, Yoast, and Scribe. Each SEO plugin has its own offerings, so investigate which one is best for your site.
Step 5: Install Analytics
Analytics software helps you to keep your fingers on the pulse of your website. If you’re new to analytics, Google’s free analytics program is a great place to start. Open a Google Analytics account if you haven’t already, and add it to your site. Google Analytics allows you to monitor vital traffic stats including unique visits, bounce rate, and conversion rates. It even lets you do cool things like split testing and analyzing your traffic in excruciating detail.
Step 6: Redirect Traffic
If you’re changing your URL, then you’ll need to redirect your traffic. You want to make this as painless to your visitors as possible. As suggested by Google, use 301 redirects to channel traffic from your old site to your new one. Instead of redirecting an old web page to the new site’s root, direct it to the corresponding page. This is for permanent changes only. If the redirect is temporary, use a 302 redirect.
Step 7: Keep the Momentum
Stay consistent with your website. Consistently post to and update your social media outlets. Listen to feedback, watch for bugs, and otherwise make adjustments where necessary. Keep updating, tweaking, and improving your website. Make it a dynamic, thriving web entity that people will be attracted to because of its valuable offerings, whether paid or free.
You should also remember that SEO isn’t a magic bullet, but a way for valuable websites to get the exposure they deserve. The higher the value of your website to your visitors, the better SEO will work for you.