Ideally, you would think about SEO Strategy before building your website, but in most cases, SEO Strategy is an afterthought, something done to your site once it is finished. Most clients start looking for help after they’ve already built the site, and I know many of you are in the same situation. You already have a website, maybe created by an employee at your company, or it’s a site you built yourself years ago, but regardless, it’s a site constructed without thinking of SEO Strategy.
Now you want your site to rank well in the search engines, and now you are lost. You can in most cases modify a site to make it more search-engine friendly. In some cases, you a few small improvements here and there can show results.
First, a little background, there are only two important search engines: Google and Bing. These two search engines account for 97% of searches in North America. If you do well on these two systems, you will do well in most search sites.
So what does it mean to optimize a site?
It means putting your best foot forward when presenting your site to the search engines. It means structuring your site and creating search content in a way that you are optimally positioned in the search engines so that when someone searches for your business, services, or information, your website ranks at the top or near the top of the first page.
The devil is in the details; the search engines have hundreds of criteria that they look at to determine a site’s ranking. Some of this criteria are the text on the page and the number of links pointing to your website. Are the keywords the searcher is looking for on the site? Are the keywords in the URL, page title text, page headings, body text? Are the words near the top of the page or the bottom?
Are there keywords in the links pointing to your site? Where do the links pointing to your site originate? There are hundreds of criteria that the search engine uses to rank your site. The SEO field is constantly changing, and it’s a full-time task keeping up with it.
Encouraging search engines to highly rank your business site
The first thing you need to do is to see if the search engines index your site.
To do this, go to Google and search by typing the words ‘site:’ and then your site’s domain name. For example, site:yoursite.com, press enter, and Google will show you a list of pages it has indexed of your site. Look to see how many pages Google has indexed. If you have 150 pages on your site, but Google has indexed only ten pages, you clearly have a problem. Google may have a problem finding and indexing all the pages, or Google may think that some of your pages aren’t worth indexing.
Each page is listed below. The first line is the page’s title tag. Then there is usually text below the title, from the description meta tag, however not always. Through this method, you can quickly find how your page titles tags and meta description tags appear.
Hopefully, with proper site optimization, the number of indexed pages will go up over time. It is important to build a site structure that allows the search engines to move from page to page through your site.
Understanding Your Keywords
Keywords are the foundation of SEO Strategy. If you don’t know your keywords, you can’t effectively promote your site through search engine optimization. I explain in an earlier blog post that failure to follow your keywords can be a costly marketing mistake.
What are keywords?
What are Keywords? Keywords are the words that people type into the search engines, in response to which the search engines return a page of search results, which may include your site, but if you haven’t thought of that keyword, probably won’t.
You really must spend time researching your keywords to figure out what people are seeking. It is the keyword that connects customers to your site. If you get this wrong, you are making a big mistake, like a roofing company putting a foundation repair sign in front of their building. A keyword is the store sign that lets customers know what you are. So using the wrong keywords in your site is like putting the wrong sign outside a brick-and-mortar store.
If you don’t do keyword analysis, you run the risk of making two costly mistakes. First, you miss the opportunity to use keywords that you simply haven’t thought of, and second, some of the words you thought were important, really aren’t. So you will waste time on words that people aren’t using to find your service.
How to find keywords
The first step is to guess. Write down the words you think are important, ask everyone on the project what terms they think are important, look a competitors’ websites, and look into their source code to get the keyword meta tag for instance.
You will end up with a list of terms that will act as a basis for your full keyword analysis. Using keyword analysis tool, like Google Keyword Planner, you can dig through actual search data to tell you what people are seeking. It’s a shame if you waste time and energy going the wrong direction when just a little effort can make your website more useful.
Building the Optimization Foundation
Building an optimized foundation for your SEO Strategy entails creating a website that is mobile friendly, having URLs that are SEO friendly, title tags, meta tags, description tags, and structured data markup.
Before you begin to work on optimizing your website for search, we need to discuss mobile sites. Search engines now determine if a site is mobile friendly or not. If not, the search engines will downgrade your website in the search results when people search from a small mobile device. Studies have shown that search from mobile devices accounts for 50% of all searches. So having a site that is mobile friendly is vital.
Optimizing a Page URL
Optimizing your page URLs is one of the most critical components from an SEO perspective. Getting keywords into file names is a powerful way to give search engines information about the subject of your page. One of the common problems with URLs is that it doesn’t convey information to the search engines. Integrating your keywords into the URL is important. Use dashes to separate keywords; this lets the search engines know that that the word in between the dashes is a different word. For example: “digdeepmaketing.com/seo-strategy-home- contractors. “, where the keyword is “SEO Strategy Home Contractors.”
Not using your URL to optimize your site is a huge waste of prime real estate. This small fix can have a huge effect on the search results.
Optimizing your title tag
From an SEO perspective, the title tag is perhaps the single most important component on a web page. Just like the title of a book, the title tag is intended to describe the contents of the page, and it’s short, so if the search engines find keywords in there, it’s reasonable to assume the search engines locate the title necessary.
The title tag appears in the browser’s title bar when the page is viewed. The search engines use the title tag for two purposes. They use it for ranking purposes, and they read the text to figure out about your page.
The title text serves as a sales pitch to encourage people to click on the link when they see your site in the search results.
Here are a few tips:
- Use unique title tags on every page of your website
- Use your keywords
- Keep your title tags under 60 characters long
- Keep your keywords at the front of your title tag
- Title-case your title tags, capitalizing the first letter of each word
- Make title tags easy to read and scan
Description Meta Tag
The most important meta tag from an SEO perspective is the description tag. This tag is used to provide text in the search results, the snippet of text underneath the link to the site. So from a conversation standpoint, this text is essential. It’s a call to action, a way to directly talk to the searcher and to encourage the searcher to click on your link. But it doesn’t carry much weight for ranking; it merely is to provide informative text in the search results.
If you don’t add a description tag, the search engines will grab text from the body of the page where they found the keywords to display to the searcher. When search engines find keywords in the description tag, it bolds the keywords in the search results.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep your description tag under 155 characters
- Title-case the description tag
- Don’t use many filler words
- Capitalize benefits like “FREE QUOTE” to make it stand out
The description tag is about persuading people to click on your page, so the description tag is all about the benefits of visiting your site.
Structured Data Markup
There is a unique form of markup that search engines use to understand what different blocks of information contain. Regular web page code just describes to a browser how a piece of text should be displayed on the page. Browsers ignore structured data markup. Instead, it tells search engines what a particular piece of data is. A few uses of structure markup is to let the search engine know your business location, hours, reviews, and customer rankings.
Markup is an advanced technique but, is extremely useful and not too complicated if you spend a little time researching your options.
Working with Content, Navigation, and Internal Linking
Search engines need content, and that means text. This is a real frustration for so many people, but it’s a fact that search engines have a bias for text. But let’s face it, you are in a competitive business, a lot of other websites are competing for the keywords that you are after, so that means you need text with your keywords. You have to give search engines something to work with, something to index, and that means readable text, not images, not PDF files, or videos.
The first thing to remember is keywords! Don’t waste the opportunity to place powerful keyword words. Don’t let good places where keywords could be used go missing. For example, instead of using the title tag “About Us” use “About Our Wood Flooring Company – Houston, TX.” You need to ensure that everybody who creates content for your website must understand the keywords you are targeting.
PRO TIP: Print a Page of Keywords and Tape it on Your Desk Next to Your Keyboard
More Best Practices:
- Include keywords in the body of your text
- Don’t be too clumsy with your keywords, keep your text readable for people
- Use H2 and H3 tags for your lower level headings
- Only use one H1 tag for your primary heading
- Use keywords in your image file names
A good rule of thumb is to use your keyword 15 times or more, scattered throughout the page, but this depends on the length of content. Again you don’t want your content to be clumsy.
Optimizing Site Navigation and Site Maps
Optimizing Internal Linking
Internally linking your pages together through keyword. For an example, of what not to do, let’s say you want to create a link to your bathroom remodeling page, you wouldn’t want to say, “for more information on bathroom remodeling – Click Here.” Instead, you would want to word it as “visit our bathroom renovation page,” with “bathroom remodeling” being the anchor text to the link.
Internal linking lets the search engines know the content of the page and gives some authority to the bathroom remodeling page.
Include Location Information
Location information is paramount for home improvement contractors since you usually work close to where your customers live. So you should let the search engines know where you are located by adding a geo meta tag to your website so that your customers can find you. A geo meta tag will tell the search engines where you are located. You also should include your address in your site footer and on your contact us page.
You may want to create several different landing pages for each city you serve in a geographical area. If you want to appear in a search engine’s local search results, you can’t ignore local optimizations.
Gathering Links Outside of Your Site
Links that point to your website help you in many ways. First, links help search engines find your site. The search engines have bots that travel the web from page to page, by following the links they find. If you have no links pointing to your site, there is a chance that the search engines won’t bother indexing the site even if you submit a sitemap.
Link Building Theory
The theory is that if nobody cares enough to like to your website, why should search engines care sufficiently to index it. As I said earlier, the anchor text in a link tells the search engine what the page being linked to’s subject. If a search engine finds the words bathroom remodeling pointing to your website, there’s a good chance the page has something to do with bathroom remodeling.
Links tell the search engine how important your site is. The more links, the more popular the search engines assume a site must be. A more popular site that links to your website gives you more of a boost in popularity. It’s like dating the prom queen back in high school; you get an instant boost in popularity and credibility.
YOU MUST HAVE LINKS!
SITES WITH THE MOST LINKS WIN!
Link Building Tools and Tactics
One of my favorite tools for link analysis is Majestic SEO. Majestic is a subscription service but has many free features as well.
If after looking at the analysis and your find that there are no links to your site, you have a real problem. You must have links. It’s worth researching your competitors to see their number of links and where they are coming from. Through this research, you may find link building opportunities.
I will save in-depth link building for another article, but here are a few tips. Ask friends, friends, employees, business partners that have websites or social media profiles to link back to you. Also, you can distribute online press releases with keyword links in the body, distribute articles to article libraries or such sites like del.icio.us and suite101.com, with excellent keywords links in them.
Another source of links for your home contracting business could be your vendors and subcontractors. Consider industry associations too.
Dominate the Local Listings
There is more to localizing a site than just putting keywords onto pages. You need to submit your business to local search indexes. Local search results come from a different index. So even if you have good rankings in the organic search results, you will still need to work on the local search results. You will need to submit your business listing information to places like Google My Business, Bing, and Yellow Page.
If you have more than one location, you should create a listing of each. I recommend that you add as much information to each business listing as possible. Include as many photos, videos, and text as possible. Make sure that your listing address matches the address on your website.
Many people had have improved their website ranking and increased traffic considerably by just implementing these strategies outlined in this article.
You may want more, or perhaps you are working in a very competitive area where you need to do much more to compete. We find that a strong linking strategy is essential. SEO is tough and technically task, and with the search engines continually updating ranking criteria it’s important to stay current on the latest SEO trends.