There haven’t been too many industries that have changed in the last 5 years more than search engine optimization. Five years ago, it was enough to do some keyword research, have solid on-page SEO and find a few links. Doing those three things was enough to get you to the top of the search engines.
In 2013, it is a different story. SEO has grown up and evolved into a process (you don’t still think it is a silver bullet, right?).
In 2008, a website’s entire SEO or even marketing department could consist of one person, alone in a silo.
An in house online marketing department in 2013 consists of an SEO analyst, creative link-builder, an (info) graphic designer, a copywriter and a social media marketer. And don’t even think about trying to get those jobs done in a silo. A holistic integration of these disciplines is needed for SEO success in 2013.
It is getting more difficult for smaller businesses to be able to do their own SEO. But the truth is that it can still be done! While it isn’t going to be easy, it can be broken down into simple steps.
Once you realize that all Google really wants to do is show the best, most relevant websites at the top of its listings, the process becomes a lot more simple.
Surprise – Google is a Business!
Google makes big bucks on advertising in its search engine. These big bucks depend on people using their search engine. In order to keep people coming to them, Google knows that it needs to give the most relevant and engaging results to web searchers. Otherwise, they will go to the competition.
So Google wants to show sites that people read, return to, share and link back to. Google wants to show listings that get clicked on when they are displayed on the top 10. It wants to show results better than its competitors so that it maintains (and grows) it search engine usage market share.
Essentially, Google wants to show results that PEOPLE want to see!
Understanding that statement is critical! And we have boiled everything down to 7 simple steps. Follow these steps and you will have a website that people want to read, you will have a website that turns visitors into customers and you will have a website that search engines want to rank!
This simple 7 step SEO strategy is the one we will use in 2013 and beyond so be sure to sign up for more interesting SEO and online marketing advice on the way.
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Step One: Begin With the End in Mind
When you have clear goals at the beginning stages of developing a strategy for SEO (or anything else for that matter), you increase your chances of success by 1000%. OK…I made that stat up but your chances of success go up exponentially!
So many businesses come to us with terrible websites that no amount of SEO can help them. No matter how well we might get them ranked in the search engines, their website is not going to make any sales, or develop a relationship, or turn a prospect into a lead. No amount of rankings can help a terrible site!
SEO has evolved into increasing revenue, not just rankings. The strategy laid out in this post is all about increasing sales, not gaining top ranking as an ego boost.
Step One in this SEO strategy is having a dynamic website that organizes your content in a way that is easy for search engines to crawl. The added bonus of organizing your site in ways that make it easy to read for the search engines is that it will also force you to organize your content in a way that is also easy to access for real people.
There are many Content Management Systems out there that will get the job done but we always recommend WordPress. It is easy enough to master for even the newest of newbie. It is also powerful enough to get the job done for multi-million dollar websites.
If you have a static website, which we often refer to as an outdated, ugly brochure website; then grab WordPress and a premium theme….instant dynamic website!
Now that you can add fresh content to your site in way that people and search engines will enjoy, you can move on to step 2.
Step Two: Keyword Research
If you are going to succeed with SEO, you have to know which keywords you want to be found for. It seems incredibly easy but lots of businesses get this wrong. They have trouble getting into the head of their customer and end up developing content that interests themselves or their peers.
They think of keywords they would use to find their business instead of learning how to think about their business in their customers’ language.
You need to try to see things from your customers’ perspective. Shed your curse of knowledge to see their problems and feel their pain.
When you are solving your prospects problems with your content, it becomes much easier for them to buy from you AND the search engines will reward your content!
If you want SEO success in 2013, you need to become an authority in your market. Google wants to see that you are an authority on your topic. They care so much about this in fact – they developed AuthorRank, and understanding this new metric is a key to developing an SEO strategy for 2013 and beyond.
Why Authority Rules
It all boils down to the fact that Google wants to rank content that is written by an AUTHORity. Some SEO’s are arguing that this is the main driver behind their development of Google+.
Google wants to know who you are. They want you to claim authorship of your content. And when you do, they reward you by showing your content to those who may be interested in it.
It is only a matter of time before anonymous content (read web spam) does not make it to the top of the search engines any more. So, you need to become an authority…an authority on what, you ask?
On Your Keywords!
Do your research early and often in order to succeed at SEO. You need to know what terms you want to rank for next week and next year. Do your research to develop a few top level themes for your content (can you guess the top level theme on this one? – email me and I’ll let you know if you are right).
Research long tail keywords that can make excellent blog post titles. Learn to speak your customers’ language. What questions are they asking? How do they frame their questions? What do they type into Google?
Solid and ongoing keyword research is the cornerstone to any successful SEO strategy.
Step Three – Bake Your SEO Right In
Some folks still believe that SEO can be used as a silver bullet – only in moments when you need to rank your site for a certain term. But that just isn’t the case anymore.
As you can see with Steps 1 and 2 – SEO requires some planning and research to be effective. And as you are going to see in the next steps, you will also need to create and share some awesome content.
This third step is the bridge that brings it all together and creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
You need to bake your SEO into your website. Your title tags need to contain your overall keyword themes. Your meta-descriptions should be keyword rich and “sell the click!” Your header tags and blog post titles should contain language your prospects are using online. Your content needs to be relevant to your overall themes and long tail terms.
When you set your website up for success like this – the next steps in our SEO strategy become much easier. Proper on-page SEO techniques establish your websites relevancy in the eyes of the search engines. You are letting Google know the keywords where you think you deserve to rank well. Once this relevancy is established – when your SEO is baked right in – it becomes much easier for your new, fresh content to rank well quickly.
It is this new content that will draw in new visitors and turn them into new customers. And that brings us to step 4 in our 2013 SEO strategy…..
Step Four – Create Awesome Content
I know it is cliché now but content truly is king. It is especially supreme when it comes to SEO strategies that include AuthorRank and social media sharing.
Do you want to claim authorship on anything that isn’t your best work?
Do you want to share crappy content on Facebook, Twitter or Google+?
The internet has a very long memory. If you won’t share it with your circle of friends, how can you expect Google to share it with the world!
Lots of business owners cringe at the idea of blogging or creating content. When we first started recommending blogging as an SEO tactic, back in 2009, we presented it as optional. It is now the best way to separate yourself from your competitors and to do it in a way that promotes your website in the search engines.
If you can’t (or won’t) write relevant blog posts or produce some type of valuable content your audience wants and needs – then you have to find someone who can.
It is quite simple now really – produce excellent content or lose to your competitor who does.
Step Five -Share Your Excellent Content
So many businesses get social media sharing wrong. They work their ass off to get someone to their site – it’s on their business card, in their email signature and displayed in their advertising. They tell people their URL at networking events and share it on LinkedIn.
And when they finally get you to their site…. they present you with a big Facebook icon and lead you away. WTF? Is it opposite day?
Use your Facebook page or other social media to introduce yourself. Getting to know your prospects in a light hearted environment (like Facebook or a live networking event) and then directing them to your site gives you the opportunity to walk them through a process that ends with them becoming a customer.
If someone walked into your brick and mortar store, would you say “thank you for stopping in, we like to hang out in the bar around the corner, why don’t you meet us over there?”
Would you let them know you were attending a Chamber Mixer later that night and you would love to “engage” with them there?
Of course not!
They are IN your store. You would see what you could do for them and lead them down a process that ends with them becoming a customer. And that process usually begins with the words “How Can I Help You?”
Use social media to expand your network and share your message. Use it to draw people into your storefront where you can ask them “How Can I Help You?” An awesome way to start the conversation on social media is to share your optimized content.
Don’t get caught in the trap of boosting your ego with likes, followers and plusses. A networking event isn’t about how many hands you can shake…it is about the relationships you can develop!
Step 6 – Get Permission to Develop Those Relationships
Unless you are an ecommerce site, the goal you should be striving to achieve with every visit to your website is to convert that visitor into a subscriber.
You don’t have to sell them right away. In fact, you almost never should!
It is an age old adage for a reason but we often forget that people buy from those people that they know, like and trust. Don’t go for the sale immediately after the introduction, develop the relationship.
Let them get to know, like and trust you by engaging with your valuable content. Get their permission (usually in the form of their e-mail address) to send them more, free and valuable content. Don’t rely on them coming back to your site on their own. Stay top of mind by providing them with awesome stuff.
Did I mention you can get more awesome stuff from us by signing up for our newsletter at the top of the sidebar on this page?
Step 7 – Get Links
Did we really make it all the way to the last step of an SEO strategy before mentioning that you need to get some links? Welcome to the new SEO. Links are still a vital component to any SEO strategy but in the post Panda and Penguin world, it is the quality and not the quantity that counts.
There are all kinds of new theories on proper keyword usage, anchor text optimization, the benefits of directories or blog commenting. But truth be told, if you handle the first 6 steps well, the link getting will take care of itself.
Let’s think about this, what do you think will happen if you:
- Organize your site so fresh, new content is added regularly and is easy to find
- Do your keyword research so you know your customers’ pain and write about it
- Create awesome, valuable content, written in language your customers use
- Share this content with your social media followers as well as your loyal audience via email
- AND you make it easy for them to share it with their social networks
Do you think you will get some links?
Of course you will. And chances are you will rank for the keywords you chose way back in the beginning because you began with the end in mind!
How to Give Your Link Acquisition a Boost
But if you are finding that you still need a little help acquiring links, here are some link-getting tactics that can help put your SEO efforts over the top in 2013.
- Join social media groups like Google+ Communities, Twitter Chats, Facebook or LinkedIn groups where you can share your content with relevant audiences. Ask them to share and link to your stuff. But remember, this is not about gaming the system…you MUST create content worth sharing if you expect people to share it. Also, you will need to reciprocate by sharing other people’s stuff; you want to set a precedent that only the best stuff will get the love.
- Check out the tribes on Triberr. I’m sure you can find some bloggers who are like minded and also need some help getting their stuff promoted and shared. Maybe they even show up on each other’s blogs and post comments. Some tribes may even link to each other. Again, this isn’t about gaming the system. It is about promoting your awesome, original content in a way that is organic and natural. Triberr may be the most under-rated social media network on the internet and if you commit to producing content, commit to developing relationships on Triberr.
- Do some guest posting. Now that you are consistently creating content for your site, create some of your best stuff for other people’s sites. If your stuff is good other businesses will be happy to publish it and you will get exposure to a whole new audience who can share and link to your content. You can (usually) also write your own author bio which should contain links back to your site. This is a great opportunity to optimize the anchor text and establish your relevance for your top level keywords.
Notice that we refer to these 3 tactics as link getting tactics not link building tactics. This is on purpose. Traditional link building, where you don’t really care where the links are coming from, is dying.
You need to make sure your links are high quality and on relevant sites. Basically, you need to create content that people want to link to. You are not going to actively “build” links anymore, now you need to get them by earning them.
When you earn your links you do not need to worry about the latest algorithm update. You don’t have to freak about the latest cute animal, Google has unleashed on the world.
Your rankings will stay secure because you will have shown that people want to find your content and Google wants to show content that real people want to read!
Ending With the Beginning in Mind
So that is our simple 7 step plan for SEO success in 2013. We didn’t say it would be easy but if you can quiet the noise and settle down the infamous “shiny object syndrome” long enough to implement this SEO strategy, you will see tremendous results. 2013 is the time to stop with the gimmicks and move forward with a strategy.
If you have made it all the way here, to the end of this epic post then I thank you for reading. And you should thank yourself for being committed to improving your online presence in 2013.
The internet is full of prospects. The only question is whether they are going to find your business or your competitors. Implement these 7 steps to make sure they find you.
I’ll end here with a call for you to implement the first step:
Sit down tonight and establish some goals for your website. Start with a good BHAG and break it down into smaller, bite size chunks.
If you are truly committed to improving your business this year, leave a comment to let us know your biggest online marketing challenge. We’ll try to help you solve it…maybe even by creating some awesome content for you.
While you are at it, be sure to check the “Sign-Up to our Awesome Newsletter” box so you can be sure to stay up to date on SEO strategies that work in 2013. Thanks for reading…
Happy New Year…. And here is to lucky 13!