Few marketing strategies (uh, none) can rival search engine optimization or SEO when it comes to long-term return on investment (ROI). Whether you choose to do your own SEO or hire an SEO company to do it for you, there are a few things you need to know in order to maximize your success.
Let's start with the basics.
What is "SEO"?
Simply put, SEO is the process of making changes to your:
The goal of these changes is to make it easier for search engines like Google to find your site and guage the relevance and authority of your web site. Generally speaking, the more relevant and authoritative a web site is, the higher it will rank organically given an individual search query.
Web Site Code & Structure
Think of your web site's code and structure as the foundation of your SEO house. There's a saying in the SEO world, that "content is king"; however, the world's greatest content is worthless if it is laid on top of a poorly coded web site. Think beautiful house build on an uneven slab of mud... it's not going to be beautiful for long!
You might think that all web sites are the same, but you'd be wrong. It's much faster (read: cheaper) to layout a web site as a bunch of images, but text placed inside of images cannot be read (beyond a point) by search engines like Google. It's not uncommon to find a web site that appears to have 1,000 words of content on the page, but because of the way the site is coded, Google only sees ten words!
How can you make sure your web site is properly coded?
You can start by hiring a web site design firm with a portfolio of high-ranking contractor web sites. Your web site is not an area to be "penny wise and pound foolish" - after all, many savvy contractors generate $100,000+ per month in revenue from web leads. Saving $7,000 by buying the $3,000 web site over the $10,000 might seem like a big victory, but if it does you're playing the wrong game! If you're small contractor just getting started and you're forced to take the DIY approach, build your web site on a Content Management System ("CMS") like WordPress. Many (but not all) modern CMSs practically force you to organize your files in a logical manner.
If your web site's code and structure is the foundation of your SEO house, on-site or on-page content (text, images and videos) are the house itself - the brick walls, roof, floors, etc. Assuming a proper foundation, on-site content is king when it comes to SEO. You need content that establishes and promotes your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it. It really is that simple, but there are other things you can - and should - do to make your web pages even easier to find.
At a minimum, you should:
"Keyword phrases need web site pages." Make this your mantra.
When you hire an SEO company (a good one anyway), a big part of what they should be doing (after putting accurate tracking in place, gathering baseline data and optimizing your web site's code and site structure) is identifying target keywords, analyzing the competitors' pages that currently rank for those keywords and updating your web site's pages to better target the keyword in question - or creating a new, more accurately targeted page altogether.
Great SEO consultants are a mix of analyst, copywriter and sales person.
Optimizing Your Overall Web Presence
If you have a properly coded web site and you've been filling it with unique and relevant content - content that establishes your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it - you're already doing more than most other contractors. However, it is difficult to rank well organically for competitive keyword phrases in major markets without an authoritative overall web presence.
At the highest level, the web is sort of a real estate game. Links from other web sites to your web site are like votes to search engines like Google. Getting more votes from relevant and authoritative web sites using your target keyword phrase and you're almost certain to rank higher organically for the word.
How do you get links from other web sites?
Like everything else related to SEO, there are thousands of different strategies and approaches to link building. Again, here's the minimum you must know and do:
Generally speaking, if you focus on creating great content (think informative - NOT salesy), you'll naturally attract the best type of links - and you won't have to pay a dime for them. The only challenge with this strategy is that it takes time. You can buy links or build elaborate link-wheels if you want faster results, but be prepared to have your site banned from Google altogether if you get caught. If you represent a legitimate contracting company, the juice isn't usually worth the squeeze.
Stay tuned for my next post in this series where I'll show you how to identify the best keywords and track your results!