The SEO universe can be daunting because it is forever changing; once you wrap your mind around the latest tip, trick or trend things shift and you’re left puzzled like a deer in the headlights.  Don’t fret, there are some standard practices that can help guide your SEO efforts.  And the good news – there are several metrics available that can help you make sense of your analytics as they relate to SEO.  Central to all the tips listed here below, however, is the standard practice that SEO needs to be ongoing, continuous and proactive.  A passive approach will yield passive results.  People live – and shop – online so you want them to find you.  Fast.  SEO is critical to making this happen so don’t dismiss or devalue the importance of an ongoing SEO strategy.

Start with the data.

Data is the ideal start-point because it doesn’t lie – it will give you an accurate snapshot of overall performance.  Piece by piece you can identify areas of concern or double down on what is working.  As previously stated, there’s a wealth of analytics that can help you with this process, including:

  • Unique visitors, page views, time on site
  • Popular pages, where people leave site
  • Newsletter, alert subscriptions
  • Comments & quality of comments
  • RSS Syndication
  • Videos played
  • Search engine visits, crawling
  • Brand searches
  • Offline and online mentions
  • Sales & conversion rates

You’ve measured.  Now what?

While there are a number of things you can measure on your site, the real question is what you are trying to achieve?  Optimization may help to rank you high in a search engine but why is this important?  Well, to get more traffic of course!  The better question is will that traffic convert your goal(s)?  What about building more links in the process?  You always need more links.  If driving sales on your site is the goal then more focus needs to be placed on converting the traffic you already have as opposed to spending time, energy and cash to get more.  In this case you might consider conversion optimization, which could simply mean refining a current offer or doing some split testing to see which resonates more.  Or here is a crazy idea: listen to your customers!  Actually learn something from their feedback and objectives to help guide your optimization efforts.  You can take the additional step and even write some FAQs or Q & A’s to address common concerns or questions from your customers.  Another idea is to cross-analyze your current customers spending habits.  Think of additional products or services to sell your current customer base and make them aware of any product announcements via email (DZ – does this still fit with conversion optimization?).  Lastly, consider optimizing the interest factor of your site to make it more appealing than your competitors.  In short, make your sales pitch or value proposition more appealing – this will help you treat any rankings as a bonus (DZ – does this make sense; not sure if I lost the meaning while editing).

Connect link building & traffic.

Link building is another tried and true practice that can positively enhance your SEO.  To gain traction with link building, first and foremost you need to be interesting.  This might sound a little broad and generic but it is a fundamental piece.  Consider how you interact with your customers when they are both happy and dissatisfied from a written, customer service perspective.  Analyzing this simple premise – being interesting – can help attract the interest of blogs and other media outlets, which can also mean backlinks from valuable and reputable sources.  Trying to get these links as one-offs devalues both the process and long-term benefit.  Creating interesting and compelling content should be part and parcel of your ongoing marketing efforts, which will help with link building and your overall SEO efforts.   Another link building tactic is to offer a guest post to another site that will in turn link back to you.  Again, the focus here should not only be the link but the quality of content you are providing and the overall brand image you are conveying.  A guest post should serve a number of functions, including building brand awareness, increasing reach and serving your underlying marketing objective.  In short, pick where you post carefully; deliver real value and always try to extract way more benefit than just the link.  You can gauge your “interesting level” with recall studies, surveys and questionnaires.  When people are positively interested then do something in response to show you’re engaged.  Sample ideas are special discounts to site-specific readers.  Finally, when measuring the effectiveness of outreach through guest posting look for increased brand name searches.  Look at how people travel down links to your intended site.  Ask yourself – did it work the way I wanted?  Did it translate to the bottom line sales?  Remember that measurement should also be flexible and geared towards achieving business goals.

Frequently SEOs will pitch high rankings and guide SEO efforts from the one-dimensional premise of getting new back links.  They use only this measurement and overlook the engagement with the brand, mentions and traffic to the site as a result of the efforts.  There’s increased focus on quantity and not quality.  I’d venture a guess that customers will be more disappointed to see a lot of low quality links that boost rank but really nothing else.  Again, link building and broader SEO should drive marketing and sales goals, not just fluffy reports.  Measuring link counts is just like measuring engagement; your approach needs to be more strategic.  So if outreach, guest posting or other activities don’t help to build your business then don’t use them.  Focus on producing quality content utilizing the metrics you already have. This should help increase your bottom line.

Lastly, it is difficult to discuss SEO without mentioning Google.  Don’t focus too much on what Google will or will not do because you cannot control them.  Focus on what you can control – the overall quality of the content you provide your customers.  And remember there is no magic “SEO wand” that will boost your ranking over night.  It’s a process, not a product.  Plan strategically and invest against long term goals, not just in reaction to shifts in the Google algorithm or what your competitors are doing.

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