What are the best resources for learning about search engine optimization (SEO)?
This is a graph showing organic SEO growth for my startup, Tint.
What techniques did I use to do it? I explain in greater detail here (Improve your SEO: How we increased our search traffic by 2600%), but generally I followed the 4 step process outlined below.
Step 0: Learn about SEO
If you have no experience with SEO, I highly recommend taking a couple days to immerse yourself in basic SEO concepts and techniques as a prerequisite to everything else. There are many SEO myths that continue to spread as there is no definitive formula to ranking highly. Arm yourself with knowledge.
Check out SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. A highly recommended guide for beginners that breaks down key SEO concepts in an easily digestible format.
Google provides an SEO Starter Guide that demystifies what Google looks at when ranking pages.
Step 1: Find keywords.
Pretend you’re a customer for your own service. Which keywords will you search for? This is a question that could be considered even before naming your business, but assuming that your business is already named, start by asking yourself what keywords you would search for, and get in the habit of asking your customers how they found your site.
Find out what keywords your competitors are using. Some good tools for this are SpyFu,Alexa, and OpenSiteExplorer.
Write them all down in a big list and then use the Keyword Explorer tool to figure out which ones are high in volume and low in competition. Selecting the keywords that you should target is more of an art than a science and will require enough customer feedback to give you an intuition as to how “ready to buy” customers will be who are searching for certain terms.
Search for the keywords you are targeting and see how you stack up against the competition. Only choose keywords that you think you can actually rank highly for. You must look for weak competition. Weak pages usually don’t have the keyword in the title, is from a untrustworthy domain, or the content doesn’t exactly relate to your keyword. Strong pages include easily recognizable brands/domains, keyword optimized landing pages, and pages with great content / social validation (articles with lots of tweets/shares).
Step 2: Optimize site for keywords.
If possible, start by putting keywords in the name of your business or in the url of your site. For example, if I’m selling Dog Food in Dover, your domain could be http://doverdogfood.com/.
Tailor your title and description of your pages to contain these keywords. Don’t be overzealous, as Google can sense when content is too stuffed with keywords, so sprinkle them into your content so that it is still easy to understand as a customer and doesn’t look spammy.
For keywords that are very valuable to your business, build landing pages that target those keywords specifically and then build backlinks to them to push those pages as high as possible in the ranking for those keywords. For example, if I wanted to promote Tint for Events, I build a landing page that describes how Tint is used for events, how to set it up for an event, testimonials from event planners, etc.
Step 3: Set up and commit to a long-term strategy.
Start a blog for your business, but keep in mind that your blog should be catered to your audience! And put some effort into your content! Google tracks how long users spent on your page in order to determine how useful the page was to them, so the better your content is, the higher you rank. Many businesses make the common mistake of using their blog as a place to dump their boring press releases. Your customers don’t care!
Great examples of company blogs include SproutSocial Insights, SEOMoz’s blog, and the Mint blog. These companies are doing it right!
Also, check community sites like Page on Quora, Stack Overflow, and reddit for questions or topics that you can contribute to, especially questions regarding problems that your customers often have.
Other ways of generating backlinks are getting press, guest blogging, and conducting webinars.
If you’re a regional business, closely track your regional competitors rankings and keyword targeting efforts. For regional keywords, you don’t have to be the best Italian restaurant in the world, just the best one in town.
I followed the steps above and transformed our incoming traffic profile enormously. By getting hands on experiencing boosting a page’s SEO, you can learn it faster than watching any number of youtube videos or reading books or guides!