“I need help with my SEO” and other emails I got over the Christmas break

“I need help with my SEO” said the email I received between Christmas and New Year’s. This client is not really a client, he’s the husband of a good friend so I had helped him setup a website for his technology company during the fall as a personal weekend-type project. You see, there’s a subsection of people, me included, who are unable to really “turn off” the work for long periods of time so we delude ourselves with the idea that building a quick website over a weekend is fun.

SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your site through organic search results” according to Moz.com the top authority in all that SEO is.

Everyone knows that SEO for a website is important. But few people really understand how it works and the fact that, like everything else in Marketing and in life really, it takes time.

Most SEO firms will tell you that an SEO effort takes 4-6 months to generate results, and if you’re performing lots of changes on an existing site (like a redesign) it can actually hurt your SEO for a short period of time while the site gets properly crawled and indexed by search engines and you’ve established a steady flow of traffic again.

Now, back to my friend/client who sparked the idea for this blog post: for a business owner, the best way to help in their SEO efforts is to generate quality content. FAQs, white papers, case studies, articles, expanded product and service information. The key being “quality.”

It sounds like a cliche. My client certainly thinks it is. I know because he told me they are “working on it” but it is not “a top priority right now.” But every search on the internet comes with an intent to find, learn, solve, buy, fix, treat or understand; and if your content is not serving one of those purposes then search engines will place it at the bottom of the pile.

Thorough content that serves one of those purposes, also means that you will get link backs, your engagement will go up and the content will be shared organically. Which explains why I’m writing this blog post, eh?

So, you’re a business owner and you think you need SEO help stat. What to do? Who to call?

If you’re marketing inclined or have a lot of time off (which a lot of business owners don’t have, I’ve come to learn) you can read and apply some of Moz’s common sense beginner’s guide to SEO, which is the tool I consulted when I was helping my friend a few weeks ago.

Stay away from any firm or contractor that promises you a guaranteed position in search results. Anyone that can guarantee that kind of outcome is probably engaging in a series of frowned upon or outdated practices like keyword stuffing, spamming, cloaking or manipulative linking that will work in the short term and then end up with your site being penalized by the search engines.

Setup tracking metrics like Google Analytics or AWStats (free) or Moz Analytics (paid) so you can keep up with who is visiting, and how many are from direct traffic, search traffic or referring traffic.

Develop a smart content strategy. Determine who your audience is, which intent you’re going to cater to, and work on developing content that positions your point of view as unique and helpful. Then determine a cadence, and the proper mix of channels and its off to the races (or the keyboard).

Keep yourself honest by pre-scheduling a whole quarter of check-ins in advance. At each of those check-ins, analyze the amount of content that has been published, its metrics and the overall metrics for the site. Keep track of the things that worked and the things that didn’t and adjust your content strategy accordingly. Experiment with new channels: try a video instead of a blog post, it doesn’t need to be polished it can just be you talking to your computer or phone - look at how Gary Vee does great work with the hyper produced as well as the spur of the moment content. This step, the one where you have to keep coming back to it and revisit, is where a lot of people and companies fall short. Because it’s an invisible task, and leads are coming in from paid sources, companies neglect free traffic and many opportunities are missed because those people didn’t find you when they were searching for you.

I went through these steps with my client. He was more expecting a magical tool that would resolve the issue at the flick of a switch and was disappointed that there was not a quick path with immediate results. Since our last talk, we decided he’s going to talk to his team about content strategy and get back to me if he has questions, I’ll be ready to help.

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