Let’s be honest: search engine optimization (SEO) is complicated and tedious, and you don’t always know if it’s actually helping your business. Hours spent optimizing this and backlinking that might feel like a big waste of time — and in some cases, they are!
But as much as you might want to kick SEO to the curb, you can’t ignore it altogether. If people are looking for companies like yours online, you have to get your website as prominent as possible on Google and other search engines.
Like anything, though, there are different rates of return on SEO techniques — and this post points you in the right direction. We’ve separated the splendid from the spurious so you can devote your time to the strategies with the highest payoffs.
Not all SEO techniques are created equal
Some facets of SEO are crucial, others not so much. Developing interesting, useful content is crucial, yes; scouring the Web for blogs to comment on or directories to join — that’s a pass. Use your time wisely and put your efforts into the following three strategies.
Related Content: Understanding SEO: How to Optimize Your Content for Search Engines
Develop blog posts built around long-tail keywords
Payoff: Attract highly targeted readers who will be grateful for your expertise and are likely to return for more
When you create the major pages of your site, you should use primary keywords. But for regular blog posts, focus instead on long-tail keywords, which are longer than primary keywords and target a specific niche.
To find long-tail keywords, use Quora and Yahoo Answers to see what questions people have about all kinds of topics. Use the questions to give you a sense of the granularity of information people are looking for, and then fashion your blog posts around those questions.
For example, if you’re a financial services company, you can search questions related to financial services. You’ll find queries like:
- What is the primary source of a credit bureau’s revenue?
- Does it ever make sense to stop contributing to a 401(k)?
- Which people get the lowest car insurance rates?
These “niche” questions make better blog post topics than simply “credit bureaus,” “401(k)’s,” and “car insurance.”
For more on how to use long-tail keywords, read this guide from Backlinko.
Check Google Search Console for errors
Payoff: Make the back end of your website as Google-compatible as possible
With all the talk of “content is king,” keywords and backlinks, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Google’s search algorithm also includes technical factors like site speed, mobile friendliness and crawl errors.
Your Web developer should be able to help you add your site to Google Search Console, which provides a wealth of information about your domain’s technical aspects. Check your Search Console regularly to determine things like:
- Is your site mobile friendly?
- Are all your web pages indexed in Google?
- Has your site’s security been compromised?
- Has Google levied any penalties against you?
These issues can get quite technical, so it’s best to engage your Web developer to help clear up any problems brought to light by Search Console.
Create backlinks through brand mentions and guest blogging
Payoff: Show Google how popular and relevant you are within your niche
Links to your website from other websites (backlinks) are still a major ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. What you don’t want, though, are links from spammy websites or directories, or links from articles you’ve guest posted on sites that aren’t relevant to yours. (For example, if you’re an architecture firm, don’t guest post on a pet supply website.)
So how do you find the best sites for backlinking?
Brand Mentions: Visit brandmentions.com to search for offline mentions of your business. When you find one, contact the company that mentioned you and ask for a link on their website. You can also set up a Google Alert for the same purpose.
Guest Blogging: Use Google search strings to find websites that accept guest posts. This list from Quick Sprout’s Advanced Guide to Link Building shows how:
- “keyword" + "guest post”
- "keyword+ “write for us”
- "keyword" + “This post was written by”
- intitle:guest post guidelines
- intitle:guest blog guidelines
- Google Blog Search
Once you’ve identified a few high-quality websites in your niche, contact the marketing/communications director or editor at that website about submitting a post. When you get to the point of sending in an article, include a link to your website either in the body of the post or in the bio at the end.
If you focus 80% of your efforts on these three SEO techniques, you'll likely get more traffic, engagement and conversions on your website.
For a more comprehensive list of the most important on-page optimization steps for your content, download our Free SEO Toolkit.