CommonLounge Archive

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): basics, strategies and link building

December 23, 2017

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about improving your ranking on search engines so more people will visit your site.

All SEO tactics start out with content strategy.

SEO basics

The secret to a higher search ranking is getting high-quality links to your page or site.

For more information on improving your rankings, read Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO, which outlines the basics.

SEO strategies are divided into two categories:

  • Fat-head strategies
  • Long-tail strategies

Fat-head vs. long-tail strategies

The “fat head” keywords are those super-popular keywords that get the highest search volume. These are words that directly describe your company, like “sporting goods” or “children’s toys.”

If you make a bar graph of all of the keywords that lead to a particular site (listed from highest to lowest search volume), these few keywords would create a “fat head” on the bar graph. Fat-head keywords make up about 30% of overall searches.

These keywords are difficult to rank for, since so many sites are competing for the same words.

“Long-tail” keywords, on the other hand, are longer and more specific. These are keywords that don’t directly describe the company but are related in some way, like “durable basketball shoes” or “hidden chemicals in children’s toys.”

Each keyword doesn’t receive many searches, but as a group, long-tail keywords make up 70% of overall searches. They make up the “long tail” of the bar graph.

These keywords are easier to rank for, since you can choose unique keywords that your competitors aren’t targeting. However, in order to capture enough traffic to make a difference in your bottom line, you’ll need to target a large number of related long-tail keywords.

Fat-head strategies

To target fat-head keywords, you’ll need to find common keywords in your field with a high search volume.

You can use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to find the search volume for each keyword and find new keyword ideas from competitors’ sites.

You’ll want to choose keywords with enough search volume that if 10% of those people visited your site, it’d be a meaningful amount to meet your goals.

You may have a hard time finding significant keywords if your product or service is too new and no one is searching for it yet. In that case, long-tail strategies might be a better option.

You can use the Open Site Explorer tool to find out how many sites your competitors are targeting to a specific keyword.

Once you’ve found some promising keywords, check them in Google Trends to see if they’re still relevant and who’s searching for them.

You can also test keywords by buying search engine marketing (SEM) ads for them.

Once you’ve decided on your keywords, make sure to use them prominently in your site. Then get other sites to link back to your site, and if possible, have them use the keywords you’ve chosen.

Long-tail strategies

To target long-tail keywords, you’ll need to find out what problems and related searches bring people to your site. Your site’s analytics software (Google Analytics, Clicky, etc.) can tell you this.

If you don’t have this data, you can look at competitors’ sites for long-tail keywords. See what landing pages they’ve created and what keywords they feature. You can also check Alexa’s search rankings—if a site has a high percentage of visitors from search, they probably have an SEO strategy in place.

You’ll need to create content that will show up for these long-tail searches, and the content must be high-quality.

If you’re not a great writer, don’t worry. You can create low-cost content by hiring budget freelancers to write content for specific keywords.

Or, use content that you already have within your company. What information, data, or insights do you have that could be useful for your target customer?

Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Wikipedia grew by leveraging their contributor community to create long-tail content. Each restaurant page or wiki becomes a target for long-tail keywords, with little to no effort by the company itself. The SEO strategy is literally built into the product.

How to build links

All SEO strategy boils down to content and links.

Besides aligning your content with your keywords, you must also earn links from authoritative and credible sites.

You can build links by:

  • Earning publicity
  • Building it into your product (for example, LinkedIn users link back to their profile)
  • Conducting content marketing
  • Building widgets (each YouTube or Spotify widget links back to the site)
  • Making shareable content like infographics, images, or original research

Bloggers and reporters will often share your content or website if it’s relevant to their field. You can reach out to them by Twitter or email to share something you think they’d be interested in.

You can see who’s linking to you with tools like Open Site Explorer.

What not to do

Do NOT buy links or get involved in other so-called “black hat” SEO techniques. These will get you penalized.

It may work right away, but search engines will quickly find out and bump your pages down in the rankings.

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