Where to Start with On-Site SEO
One of the questions that I’m asked most often when consulting with a client about SEO is: “How do I get to the top of Google?”. Every time I hear it I cringe a little, take a deep breath and say the same exact thing: “By not trying.”
It may seem counter intuitive to tell a client not to try to rank on Google while doing an SEO on boarding, but I have good reason. Google doesn’t care how much you brag about yourself or your services. They don’t care if you stuff every single keyword into your titles, pages and even your domain name. They care about connecting users with content that they need. The harder you try to game their algorithm, the harder it will be to succeed. When it comes to driving traffic to your site you have two options: buy the ad or do the work. There’s nothing in between. If you have the budget, do both. But optimizing organic opportunities is a no-brainer and will only make your paid campaigns more effective. So what is the work?
Get to know your user.
Last week I did a consultation with a successful trial attorney in Atlanta. She’d been blogging on an outdated site for nearly a decade and had amassed an impressive 300 blog posts. The problem was that downloading that data and transferring it to a new site was nearly impossible due to it being hosted on a 3rd party blogging service that claimed ownership of her content (tip: host your own site, never hand the keys to your kingdom to a sketchy company). When I told her that they could be manually copied, she scoffed “I’ll just keep the blog and build a new website.” I laughed and then when I realized she was serious I asked why.
“I can’t lose all of my SEO”
SEO is not a dog that can get lost in the park. SEO is a combination of metrics that translates to a sites performance. How does one define their site’s performance? Well, does it accomplish your goals? Yes. You need goals. So I ask her a few simple questions:
- How many leads does your blog generate? -None
- How many calls does your blog generate? -None, well I get a lot of calls about bed bugs…
- How much of your existing business came from your blog? -Unsure, probably none
- What do you want your website to do? -Generate leads
- Does it do that now? -No
Okay, we’ve arrived at the conclusion that she has nothing to lose. “But, she interrupts, what about all of my content?”
Let’s dig into that. After pulling an SEO analysis of her 9,000 keywords I see that she’s ranked in the top 10 for 6. All of them phrases about bedbugs. I ask if she ever blogged about bedbugs. Yes, 4 years ago. Well, you did a great job I tell her. Do you take bed bug cases? No she says. Right, back to my point; you have nothing to lose.
So how did she spend 10 years and 300+ blog posts and end up nowhere? She didn’t have a basic strategy. Someone, somewhere along the way, told her that blogging was the key to SEO success so she forged ahead laptop in hand and spent countless hours writing all to end up on the phone with me telling her to throw it all away. Here are the questions she should have been asked before starting any efforts:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What do they do for work?
- Where are they from?
- What are they looking for?
- What are the questions they ask you in the first :30 of contact?
- What are their concerns?
- What issues are they facing?
- How do you solve the problems they present?
Answer these questions and you’ve written the titles for your next 30 blog posts. No preset list of keywords, no resume of SEO perfection, just a list of simple questions that any business owner can answer.
If it’s that easy, why hire an SEO firm?
To be honest, I spend most of my time with my clients uneducating them and undoing all of the bad advice that they’ve read about DIY SEO tactics. I offer guidance and advice first and foremost and the sum of that guidance can be stated succinctly as: Good content leads to traffic, good web design leads to conversions and good business leads to more business. If your website is good, optimize it. If your content is bad, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your website is, no one will ever find it. If your business is bad, you have bigger problems than SEO.
Crafting good content takes a genuine understanding of your audience and marries it with your subject matter expertise. Often, I just play matchmaker. Once we’ve exhausted all of the good ol’ fashioned roll up your sleeves content creation, then we work on optimization efforts, SEM efforts, CPC ads, social media strategy, conversion optimization and skills that require a competent professional.
If your SEO firm’s idea for improving your websites performance is blindly blogging, backlinking schemes and keyword stuffing; fire them. They shouldn’t define the metrics for success, you should. Sure, I can get your page to #1 rank for the keyword “bed bug lawyers” but if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, how successful does that make you? Here are more important metrics than page rank:
- Lead generation
- Lead quality
- Cost per lead
- Average lead value
- Conversion metrics
- Bounce rate
- Time on page
- Quality backlinks
- Keyword rank with qualifying data (not just quantifying)
A good marketing strategy (yes, digital marketing and marketing are one-in-the-same it’s 2019) integrates tangible business goals, financial data (yes, you have to be honest about where you’re at and where you want to be), analytics from traffic and research and UX/UI design. Often these metrics are analyzed in a vacuum and the information kept in silos by organizational department. Good strategy is integrated, informed and specific; this is why you hire and SEO firm.