Part 2: Search Engine Optimization Strategies 101

“This blog series is intended to be a walkthrough for setting up a lead-generating website. My goal is to get you thinking about ways to improve your site and enhance its performance. Each blog post will be centered on a specific part of website development that will help you grow your online business. Some posts will be more specific and advanced, while others will be more general and introductory.  Taken together, the posts in this series will offer valuable tips, regardless of where you are with the maturity of your website.” Can SEO be measured, and can my site place in search engines even if it never has? The simple answer to this question is yes.  To get a more detailed answer, you first need to ask, “for what terms?” Not all terms are created equal, and the terms that are most achievable for you and will return the best placement aren’t necessarily the ones that you think they are. Measuring your site’s rankings is like following the stock market; it will trend in one direction and then another with good and bad days. As search engines change their algorithms, your site rank can improve or drop, sometimes inexplicably. So, maintaining placement requires ongoing attention to your site—all the more reason that you need to focus on heavily searched and achievable terms. This means focusing on creating content, incoming links and blog posts for the most searched terms that are the least competitive. Tom Cull, Internet Marketer here at Union Street Media, explains, that picking the right terms is a crucial first step.  A common mistake to avoid, according to Tom “It’s important to not just look at your competition and want to simply out rank them, but to understand that to out rank them requires an appreciation for long term strategies. Ask what the competition is offering that you could do better or find a gap in the market that you could fill to bait links. Simply having an optimized title tag won’t cut it.” Define Your Goals Having goals is the key to a successful Internet marketing campaign. Your goal should not be “I want to place number one for this-or-that term”; it should be “I want more of these types of customers.  Then, research what those customers search, and optimize toward that term. An effective strategy will define your specialty, whether it is rentals, vacation homes, or luxury condos, and the target market you want to do business in. It will also outline what metrics you will be using to measure success. Are you looking for an increase in quality traffic vs. quantity traffic? Do you want to increase the number of page views or time on site? Or is it simply to increase exposure to generate leads? Once you have your metrics defined, you should select 1-3 local markets to target first, as over reaching will essentially dilute your SEO efforts and just increase the amount of time it takes to rank effectively and complete your goal. According to Tom Cull, our Internet Marketer, “What’s more important than obsessing over search engine rankings is actually paying attention to keyword reports in your Analytics to see what phrases are driving traffic – the ones that work for you. You could rank #1 for Vermont Real Estate but not get any good leads. Of course, sellers like to see you rank well and it won’t do you any harm but always focus on the 20% of your market that make you 80% of your money. The best term might be ‘luxury waterfront condos’ or ‘rural homes with land’ that perform.” Using Keywords Properly Part of your SEO strategy needs to be keyword research. You want to implement your strategy on actual data, no guessing! It is important to research what keywords homebuyers frequently search, and of those, which ones are the least competitive, and therefore achievable for you. Knowing these specific keywords will help you or your analyst target your site more effectively, instead of focusing on general terms that are more competitive but less specific, meaning fewer qualified leads generated. How do you use these keywords to target search engines? They should be in your page URLs, title tags, meta description, page content. Try not to spam your website with these keywords because search engines like Google will recognize content spamming.  Don’t forget your blog! Optimizing your blog is just as important as looking at your website. Pay attention to using keywords in the blog’s headlines, tags and the URL. Google will index your blog sooner if you are posting at least once a week because it comes back more often to sites that update more often.  After about 100 blog posts, you become more relevant and Google will index your site more frequently. Stay Organized Around A Topic Content is King; I’m sure I can’t say that enough. Creating content on your website that is both engaging and keyword rich is key. Make sure when you optimize your site and blog it stays organized around one topic. Don’t optimize your blog for Burlington Vermont and your website for Stowe: Stay Focused! Keep It Fresh and Organized Your website shouldn’t have the same content it was launched with a year ago. Organize it so visitors have a good sense of where one topic begins and another ends. Breaking your content up into logical chunks or divisions helps users find the content they want faster. Avoid just dumping a large amount of text onto a page without paragraphs, subheadings or layout separations. It is important to make it easy to read. Our Internet Marketer, Tom Cull, elaborates, “Less is more. Very few people read every word on a page so the use of headings and short paragraphs on a single topic is the key, especially real estate, which is very goal orientated. It can be different across other industries of course.” A great example of this is Brian Boardman’s website where he lays out recommended searches based on sections of Burlington. This allows him to organize content around a visitor’s specific interests, instead of having one page dedicated to multiple sectors of Burlington. Brian also blogs and makes sure he’s tagging his posts in the categories. His readers can easily find the articles they want to read with just one click. Get Incoming Links From Those That You Do Business With Low quality incoming links from random places do not help you, but links from others in your industry and from complementary industries helps get Googles’ spiders back to your site more often. If Google “likes” another web site that links to you, you benefit from that site’s credibility.  Bloggers often link to each other, which makes your blog that much more important in the long term.  Don’t get fooled by link schemes. Google does not like being fooled, so even if it works in the short term it will hurt you in the long term. Stay tuned on this topic, we have a blog post on linking strategies still to come!