A Beginners Guide to SEO – Part 2

In Part 1 of a Beginner’s Guide to SEO, we explored five fundamental areas to review when kick-starting your campaign. In Part 2 of this two-part series, we will move towards some of the more strategic elements which, when taken together, could serve as the basis of your SEO strategy for a period of months or years. These are tried and trusted approaches towards excelling as a business online, and are not liable to be affected by any changes in the online landscape in the coming years.

These elements, which work together in a strategic way, will allow you to build on the solid SEO foundation you now have in place, after reading and implementing the recommendations provided in part 1.

Create Compelling Content

When it comes to content, think of what I like to call the three ‘Cs’; ‘Create Compelling Content. As we saw in part 1, search engines like Google exist to match searches with the most relevant and useful content online. In practice, this involves prioritising those websites which have a reputation and a track record for providing high quality content on a regular basis.

A simple example could be a tax consultant who frequently posts useful original content to their blog on topics relating to tax issues for self-employed people. If this content is valuable and shareable, it becomes reputable in Google’s eyes, and so Google can ‘trust’ this content enough to start showing it in top positions in search results.

Another example could be a mechanic who posts useful car maintenance or motoring tips, a driving school owner who blogs about how to approach your driving test, or a personal trainer offering nutrition tips.

The level to which you can appear in strong search engine positions of course depends on the competition levels for your sector, which you will be familiar with having read part 1 of this series. If the competition is high, it means there is an even greater need for you to focus on content, especially if your competitors are active in terms of blogging and content development.

Demonstrate your expertise

You may be tempted to think that blogging on topics related to your area of expertise amounts to ‘giving away’ your information. On the contrary, the internet is full to the brim with free information in any case. What you are doing is demonstrating your expertise and experience, so that potential customers are drawn to what you offer, and have confidence in dealing with you.

What does all this mean? It means that simply by harnessing the power and potential of the internet, a business owner with limited resources can still command a healthy share of traffic for searches on Google relating to the products and services they provide. It means they can enjoy the reputation-building benefits which stem from this, as well as the leads and inquiries which will inevitably follow.

How often should I create and post great content?

The short answer to how often you should get into the habit of creating content is; as regularly as possible. Certainly, for best results, a blog requires updating preferably at least 2-3 times/week, or at least once a week, depending on your goals and your current position as regards your own SEO performance. Note that ‘compelling content’ means just that. Developing excellent content requires thought and an investment of time and effort in order to produce material that peoplewill find valuable and which they will want to read and share with others who can learn about what you do.

If you can develop a reputation for crafting great content, then not only will Google love your content and reward you, your readers and prospective new clients will too.

How do I create compelling content?

Here are some ways that you can create compelling content in an easy manner, which when carried out regularly, will give you a strong bang for your buck:

  1. Blog on your website – provide useful information for potential customers and share your expertise with everyone
  2. Post your email newsletters on your website
  3. Post latest news in your ‘Latest News’ section, or on your blog
  4. Post company whitepapers to your website
  5. Post client / customer case studies on your website
  6. Post ‘Top Ten Tips’ type articles on your website, or frequently asked questions
  7. Hold ‘Whiteboard’ days on your website or blog, to field and answer common questions
  8. Post testimonials or customer reviews on your website
  9. Post instructional guides or manuals on your website – these are very shareable
  10. Take note of common questions from customers and prospects and base blog topics around them

We are all busy people, but remember – you get out what you put in. The more effort you put into crafting quality, highly-readable, highly-useful content – and the more often you do it – the greater the return you will get. And in more ways than you may imagine.

Networking – the new link-building

Creating great, original content is important, but what if you are really short on time, perhaps don’t particularly enjoy it – or just want to explore other ways of boosting your SEO and expanding your digital footprint? You’ll be delighted to hear that content is not – and should not – be the only option.

One of the most important factors in terms of improving your SEO and increasing your search engine rankings – and therefore your traffic and inquiries – is increasing the number of links directing to your website from other high quality websites. Securing links from reputable websites in sectors related to your own is of the utmost importance if you are taking your SEO efforts seriously. The good news, however, is that it need not be a complex and difficult task – quite the opposite in fact.

Link-building is really relationship building

The easiest way to approach link-building is to think of building links as a mirror reflecting how you build relationships and interact with others in the offline world. Link-building should be much more a product or result of how you do business and work with others than a task to be completed, or a check-box on a spreadsheet. Websites with a strong, natural link profile are sometimes those where the owner had little idea of what SEO consisted of, or who invested very little time in understanding online marketing.

Quite often, the business owner would have built up a rich and diverse set of inbound links (links pointing to their site from other sites), simply because other sites linked to them as a result of the business relationships that were already in place. A business might have listed them on their own site due to the fact that they were a partner, or because they had a testimonial from them, which they then posted on their site.

In practice, what this means is that you can start by looking for existing opportunities to secure new links for your website. Here are some examples for you to think about right now:

  • Offer to write a guest post on a blog that is relevant to your industry / sector.
  • Contact the representative association for your trade or industry to get listed on their site.
  • Contact your suppliers, partners and those in your industry with whom you have a good working relationship, and ask them to link to you. Ensure that this is done in a natural way and has relevance, i.e. not just a link for the sake of having one.
  • Review past and existing clients with links to your industry, and ask them to recommend you on their websites via a ‘recommended partner’ or ‘recommended supplier’ feature. For example, perhaps there is a client for whom you carried out a project that was very highly praised. It may be that they could recommend you via a testimonial or mention on their site, with a link out to the relevant product or service on your site. Or, perhaps they could add a case study relating to the project on their site.
  • Offer to help someone. Could you contribute valuable content to a relevant business for them to post on their site? Consider approaching a business to ask if there are frequently asked questions their customers have, which you can answer. Then, you could write up an article offering advice or guidance on these issues, which the business could then post on their blog, with a link back to you. Or, perhaps you could give an up and coming start-up some free advice, and then have them write up a post on their blog or website, describing how your advice helped with their marketing plan or website launch.

Once you realise that opportunities abound when it comes to building inbound links and boosting your search engine rankings, it becomes a more natural process, far removed from the dated and ineffective methods of old.

Be Social

Social media does not play nearly as big a role in terms of SEO as content and links, and this is likely to remain the case. However, the importance of social media for business is evident, and for most businesses, it should be an integral part of any SEO campaign. The reason is because search engines such as Google do take into account signals such as the level to which you are seen as influential on social media channels, e.g. Twitter.

If you are a brand or business that is perceived as influential and authoritative on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, then a search engine can feel more confident that your content – and your overall online presence – is also authoritative and of benefit to its users.

In other words, if your content is shareable, then more people will hear about it and find out about it on social networks. This leads to further sharing and distribution of your content, including shares from those already perceived by search engines as influential. As word spreads and your reputation grows, this can then add up to stronger search engine rankings and an overall boost in terms of your SEO efforts.

How to leverage social media for SEO

Social media for business is of course a topic in its own right, but there are some simple ways that you can be active on social channels with your SEO campaign firmly in mind. The idea is that your presence on social media channels can act as a great way to drive visitors back to your website and to the content you produce. Think of content as the value you produce, links as the relationships that you build, and social as the way of showcasing all of this to the world.

Best of all, it is free to do so. Here are some easy ways to gain value from social media to maximise your SEO success:

  • Share other people’s content on social channels. This can include liking, sharing, re-tweeting and re-pinning other people’s content and messaging. In many cases they will return the compliment by sharing your content and re-tweeting you, etc. In this way, you build relationships and currency, and you may receive an inbound link or reference from a very valuable source, e.g. a quality website or blog in a sector relevant to yours.
  • Comment on blogs that have synergies with, or are relevant to, your sector or niche. Take a little time to give feedback on other businesses’ blog posts and content. They may return the favour by commenting on your own blog and offering their thoughts and feedback. Potential customers and prospects will see these type of exchanges, and in many cases view it as validation for your own business, and what you offer.
  • Again, offer to help someone. Carry out a Twitter search to see who may be looking for help and advice on a particular topic or issue that you can help out with. Do this not with a sale or deal in mind, but because you want to help out. If you do this without expecting anything in return, good things can come your way.
  • Host a Twitter chat using a hash tag, and invite others to participate. The chat could relate to topics that business owners often require help with, and you and others can step in to provide advice – linking out to relevant content, e.g. help articles on blogs and websites, as appropriate. Do this sparingly. Again, approach this not with the sale in mind, but in the spirit of engagement with others first and foremost.

I hope that this post will help you take your SEO campaign to the next level, building on the key steps outlined in part one of the beginner’s guide to SEO. The key question to ask at all stages of your ongoing efforts is ‘am I adding value’? If you can answer this in the affirmative and continue to do so, then you can leave the SEO myths behind and be confident you are on the right track as regards your own SEO success.

What are your top tips in relation to SEO? What has worked particularly well for you and your business?

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the section below.

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