1. Pretty isn’t everything!
So, you’ve spent a ton of time and moola making your site beautiful—striking photos, image carousals…the works. But what about the “guts”? Is your site pretty on the inside? What does your code look like? What’s your site speed like? Are your Page Titles on-point? What’s pleasing to the eye isn’t always pleasing to search engines. Although there can seem like there are a trillion ranking factors involved in SEO, you can break it down into two basic categories:
- On-site: Page titles, meta-descriptions, site speed, content, and page code
- Off-site: Backlinks, social mentions, and online presence
There are very specific SEO best practices that fall under each category, but the combined list can be boiled down to the following:
- Continually create great content that is unique and valuable to your site users
- Be sure that this is not duplicate content, but individual and your own
- Make sure your site is technically sound, quick to load, and without broken links
- Obtain backlinks to your site from valuable and trusted sites
- Create keyword-rich page titles and meta-descriptions that meet best practices
- Integrate social media into your marketing mix
- Make sure your site has a text-based navigation and an HTML sitemap so search engines can easily access your pages
- Create and submit accurate sitemap.xml files
- Make sure your site is not generating too many server response errors
- Monitor your site via Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
Notice that being pretty isn’t on the list. Follow those recommendations and you should be good to go!
2. Dude…where’s your blog?
Search engines love content, but not just any content. You’ll need to create relevant, frequently updated, high-quality content for it to matter. Many sites do the minimum—for instance, they may start a blog but then do nothing with it. You need to blog often—at least once a week—and make sure that your blog is located on your website—yoursite.co/blog for instance—and not on a subdomain—i.e., blog.yoursite.co.
3. OMG LOL WTF—like, you’re not on Snapchat?
Ok, so you may not need to be on Snapchat, but you need to get social! What started out as what most thought was a passing trend many years ago has changed everyone’s digital lives as we know it. Even if you do the bare minimum—signing up for the major sites and posting once in a while—it’s better than nothing. Remember, you may not need to be on every social channel. Make your social strategy work for you. Social media has become so important for all types of business, and there is a good possibility that your potential site visitors will want to be social with you—so make your profiles compelling and post content that folks are interested in and will share with their networks, further amplifying your brand.
4. What are the cool kids doing?
A lot of site owners feel at a complete loss when it comes to creating their online marketing strategy. You don’t have to come up with your marketing plan from scratch. Great artists draw inspiration from great art, and the best writers never stop reading good books. The same goes for site owners—identify your competitors, and those you admire within your industry, and take note of what they’re doing. What is their site like? What kind of online advertising are they doing? What is their SEO like? What about their content? What’s their social media activity like? Create a spreadsheet and record what you find, then draw your inspiration from what you find.
5. Give them something to talk about!
When it comes to SEO, although great content and site structure are vital, a large part of SEO success depends on your off-line performance. Aspects that affect your off-line performance include: how people are linking to you, what sort of social media mentions you have, what your online reputation is like. Creating a solid site, making sure you product or company resonates well with your target market, and pushing out relevant content is a great start. But to perform, you’ll need to think out of the box, and get people talking (i.e. linking to your site.) You’ll need catchy, buzz-worthy content that stands out in the sea of boring industry blogs out there, and a fun social media or online marketing strategy to boot. Don’t do the bare minimum—go that extra mile to really knock it out of the park.
While you don’t need to have a PhD in online marketing to perform well in the search engines, it’s always smart to educate yourself as much as possible. Moz.com is always a great place to start, and the Go.co blog has great SEO tips as well. For those of you attending this year’s Global Startup Battle, .CO is giving away over $20,000 in prizes, including a trip to Amsterdam, to the winners of the .CO Innovators Track in Global Startup Battle.