I was speaking at a conference the other day, and someone asked me an interesting question…
If you were to start optimizing a site for search engines from ground up, what would you do?
Answering that question would have been a bit easier years ago because to dominate the rankings all you had to do was to build rich anchor text links. Sadly, SEO isn’t that easy anymore… what used to work in the past doesn’t anymore.
Although SEO is still going to change drastically in the future, I think if you leverage the long term tactics, you’ll continue to dominate the search results in the future.
Here’s how I would optimize a brand new site for search engines:
Step #1: Start a pay-per-click campaign
Most SEOs start off with keyword research, and although you should as well, don’t do it the way most SEOs do. Sure, you can use tools like WordTracker to help you determine what keywords you ought to go after, but you’ll soon realize that their data isn’t 100% accurate.
What you need to do is to follow the keyword research steps outlined in this guide and then start a pay-per-click campaign using those keywords and phrases. This will show you the exact keywords that convert visitors into customers.
If you don’t know how to set up a pay-per-click campaign, just watch the YouTube video below:
This is important because it doesn’t matter how much traffic you’re generating. All that matters is how much money you are making. If you can’t convert your traffic into customers, you won’t be doing SEO for long as it will be too expensive of an endeavor.
When going through this process, you don’t have to spend much money to figure out what keywords can drive enough paying customers… $500 can take you a long way.
Step #2: Build links
Once you’ve figured out what keywords to go after, you need to start building links. You don’t need these links to be rich in anchor text, but you do need them to be highly relevant.
So how do you find highly relevant links? You search for them. If you are trying to rank for a keyword such as “dog food”, the most relevant link would be from a web page that already ranks in the top 100 search results for the term “dog food”. The second most relevant link would be from webpages that rank within the top 1,000 results for the term “dog food”.
Sure, many of those sites are going to be competitors, but a large portion won’t be. By leveraging these email templates, you’ll be ready to email manually the top 1,000 sites that rank for the term you are trying to rank for.
When building links, you should ideally point them to internal pages that are highly related to that keyword. So, for your dog food site, you would want those links to point to a web page on your site that only shows all of the different types of dog food versus your homepage with hundreds of random dog products.
By following this strategy for all of the terms you want to rank for, you’ll naturally boost your organic traffic over time.
Step #3: Build a Facebook fan page
Within my Google Analytics account, I have access to over 100 different websites. Can you guess what each of those sites have in common? Facebook is always one of the top ten most popular traffic sources.
If you aren’t on Facebook, you’re missing out…no matter what industry you are in. For a few thousand dollars, you can build a huge Facebook audience to drive traffic back to your website. Plus, page likes should help boost your rankings as social signals are used within search engine algorithms.
To build a popular Facebook fan page, you just have to follow the steps below. Once you do, you’ll notice that you can easily generate 15,000, if not 30,000, visitors a month from Facebook.
Step #4: Build up my Twitter profile
Just like Facebook, Twitter also happens to be one of the top ten most popular traffic sources for all of the sites to which I have Google Analytics access. Naturally, you should build up your Twitter profile to boost your social signals and drive traffic back to your website.
A simple way to get more Twitter followers is through Twitter’s ad network, which isn’t too expensive.
Once you are up and running, make sure you also follow these steps to get the highest possible number of retweets. And if you don’t have money to spend on Twitter advertising, you can also build a powerful account for free if you leverage these tactics.
Step #5: Hire a PR agency
Links from authority sites like TechCrunch or New York Times will always hold more weight than links from your mom’s blog. So, how do you get links from these authority sites?
You hire a PR agency. Don’t worry, if you don’t have much cash, you can always leverage a performance-based PR agency like PR Serve. You only pay them if they deliver results.
Here’s what I would have your PR agency focus on:
- Launches – anytime you launch a new feature or service, have your PR agency focus on getting you coverage. This is the easiest way to get press… assuming your features or services are awesome.
- News – if you have big news like a fundraising event, it’s easy to get coverage. It may not always be from TechCrunch, but there are enough authority sites that love covering news-worthy events.
- Guest posts – if you are a good writer, you can always have them pitch you for a guest post. Most blogs will turn you down, but it is worth a shot.
- Interviews – if you’re a rockstar, it will be easy to get you interviews. If you don’t have a stellar resume, then come up with some interesting data points that you want to share… a journalist will want to interview you on the data, assuming it’s interesting.
All four of the above tactics will not only help you build links, but they will also get your brand out there. People will read about your business, and it will help you make more sales.
Step #6: Write awesome content
Blogging is very powerful. For the last five years, it has been the number one revenue generating marketing channel for all of my businesses. It’s the main reason why I blog so often.
You should start a blog because it can do wonders for your business. Don’t expect miracles in a short period of time, but within a year, your blog should be kicking butt if you are writing great content.
If you aren’t sure on how to get your blog started, just replicate my process for writing blog posts and promoting them. It’s really important that you follow through on the promoting part because without it, your content won’t do much for you. With it, you’ll start noticing that your blog will get more search engine traffic than your main site.
If I were in your shoes and had to start a blog from scratch, I would only focus a portion of my time on writing blog posts because everyone can create great content these days. Where there is a huge gap in the market is in the lack of detailed guides. Spend the majority of your writing time creating content like The Advanced Guide to SEO. Once you have accomplished that, spend money on a professional design to make it look really good. You will stand out because most companies won’t go that far. That’s what’s going to separate you from the competition.
Step #7: Focus on conversion optimization
Conversion optimization only started to become popular in the last few years. No one used to care about it five years ago, but now everyone is doing it.
“Why?” you may ask. Traffic is becoming more expensive than ever before, and the price to get a visitor to your website will continue to rise in the future. By optimizing your site for conversions, you’ll be able to continually spend the money you need to in the future.
Before you start your conversion efforts, always start off by surveying your visitors. This will tell you why they aren’t buying or what parts of your website they find confusing. With the help of solutions like Qualaroo, you won’t have to worry about coming up with survey questions as they have a lot of templates tailored around conversion optimization.
You can then use that data to determine what changes need to be made to your website. When running A/B tests, make sure you run them till they are statistically significant.
If you find that you are running tests that are causing your conversions to move drastically up or down, it usually means that your visitors are sensitive to those specific web elements… which is a good thing.
For example, if you ran an A/B test on the text of your call-to-actions and the variations didn’t drastically go up or down, it means that people aren’t too sensitive to your call-to-action text. This means that you should consider moving on and testing other elements of your web page, e.g., your headline copy.
You should be focusing on getting big conversion wins, and the best way to do this is to make drastic changes to your web pages.
If you want a few A/B testing ideas, check out the following blog posts:
- How to optimize contact forms for conversions
- Click here: 11 ways to improve your call to actions
- 11 obvious A/B tests you should try
- Holy grail of eCommerce conversion optimization – 91 point checklist and infographic
- 13 unconventional landing page strategies to increase conversions
- 31 conversion optimization tips – how to increase conversion rates
You will notice I left out things like Google Plus and on page optimization. I did it because those are the basics that you have to do, no matter what. Instead, I wanted to focus on tactics that will drastically help you achieve desired results compared to the techniques everyone else is using.
What other things would you do if you had to start your SEO campaign from scratch?