RECOUNTING THE MAIN STEPS - SEO For 2013 & Beyond: SEO Made Simple For Beginners (2013)

SEO For 2013 & Beyond: SEO Made Simple For Beginners (2013)


There was a time when SEO only meant what is called ‘onsite optimization’. All that mattered was tweaking the page title, the description, the headline(s), the keywords, the content, the image alt tags, and of course some incoming links.

Today SEO is not seen in isolation. It is just one portion in the bigger pie called online marketing. Maybe we should rather call it conversion. For, at the end of the day, that is what matters irrespective of the type of website.

As the web is evolving more and more, it is becoming clear that the search engines may not be the only source of traffic to a website. Social networking is an equally strong – some say stronger – sender of traffic, and so it makes sense to try out that.

Critics may say that the traffic from search engines are more committed than those from social networks, and consequently are more amenable to conversion.

This is true to a big extent, and so for small websites search engine optimization remains and shall remain the must-do effort to attract, retain, and convert visitors.

In this chapter we will look into some of the main steps for SEO that will have strong bearing on the success of a website in the long run.

Where to Begin

I endorse the view that SEO, over the years, has become somewhat complex. This I feel is inevitable because of the millions of websites coming online every day, each of them vying for attention. At times it may seem difficult to decide which actions need to be prioritized.

The point I wish to make is that SEO is complex in the sense that you have many things on your plate to cater to, compared to what you would have done a few years back. But certainly – and this is important to understand – SEO is not difficult to do.

I always maintain that SEO is about using your common sense, though many experts routinely term it as either a science or an art. It’s neither, may I repeat. SEO is about doing things I have explained in the earlier chapters regularly, without pause or ponder.

This point about regularity of doing certain things is missed by many. The other point they miss is that for new websites the effect of SEO, if done well, is not instantaneous and can be felt only after some time.

Given the wide scope of SEO activities, it is perhaps normal to feel overwhelmed, which is why it is always a good idea to divide the works in small modules and spread them uniformly over a period of time, say a week. The same works are then repeated in the next week, then next to next, and so the cycle continues.

In my opinion, a large number of people take their websites lightly. They do not do sufficient groundwork and start a website like the drop of a hat. This to my understanding is because the entry barrier to start a website is very low. A common thinking is perhaps that if a website fails, it is okay. One can always start another website.

On the contrary, if you take your website as a serious venture, and have thought out how you want to proceed, there is less reason to worry. In this case you’ll have a plan to work on, and if something goes wrong, you can always fall back on another course of action.

Based on my experience, I advocate the following 4 steps to start a website and make it successful. Of these, the preparatory works are usually not repetitive. You do them once, and then proceed to the other steps.

The remaining three are however repetitive, and much of your success depends on how much time and effort you’re able to spare for these 3 steps. Let me briefly elaborate the 4 steps, following which I’ll discuss a 6-month plan in the next section.

1. Preparatory works

The commencement of a website is what involves the preparatory works. It all starts from the moment you decide to have a website for a business purpose. But let me come to the moment when you actually go for booking a domain name for your website.

The steps for considering a website for your business, starting it, and building it brick-by-brick have been detailed in the Chapters 2 to 4. These are the tasks that form the bedrock on which will stand your web business.

2. Contents

Since people primarily come to your site in search of some information, it goes without saying that you have to create and maintain a steady stream of relevant contents in your website. The contents can be text, image, audio and video.

Creating contents is a regular exercise, and so as stated above, put aside fixed days in every week when you ‘supply’ contents to your website.

3. Activities

All actions outside of your website, but are geared to increase and enrich viewership to it, come under activities. These shall include social media updating, guest blogging, and all those described in the Chapter 7.

Activities, like contents, have to be done regularly. Earmark some days of every week to accomplish this task.

4. Watch

Under ‘watch’ comes the important task of measuring results. This is the only yardstick to understand what works and what doesn’t for your website.

You need to install a traffic measurement tool like Google Analytics in all the web pages of your site. Google Analytics (covered in the next chapter) is of course much more than just measuring the flow of traffic to your site. ‘Watch’ is an important action and I feel this ought to be done daily even if only for say 5 minutes or so.

Making a 6-Month Plan

In business parlance, planning is a sacred activity. There are reasons. Human mind are programmed to work in a pattern. People produce more output when they are able to work according to a plan. Planning produces predictability, an essential element in the jigsaw puzzle of productivity.

No surprise then that the progress of a website should also be planned in advance. This is not to suggest, as in case of large websites, that you need to have long sessions of discussions and deliberations, culminating in lengthy documents.

You can be brief, and your plan can very well be just a one-page detailing. But planning you should be doing, not only to know what to do next, but also to be prepared to adequately meet unforeseen occurrences.

In the section, Planning for Long Term (Chapter 2; Figure 2.2), a tentative long-term plan has been shown. This is a rough outline, but for the short term it is better to make a relatively detail plan so that you and your team members, if any, have a definite roadmap to follow.

Let me chalk out a typical 6-month plan for a small web business engaged in information sharing by blogging. As is to be expected, I have taken the flow of traffic in terms of page-views as the benchmark index for planning subsequent steps.

Page-view is defined as the loading of a single HTML page of a website on to a browser. This can happen when someone clicks the link to the page in search result, from other page in the same or other website, or comes to the page directly by typing the URL of the page in the address bar of a browser.

The last one does not happen usually. Page view is an indicator of the popularity of a website and the pages within. Internet marketers and advertisers consider the page-view figure of a website to decide whether or not to place ads in that website.

Okay now, let’s look at the following 6-month plan for a newly-launched content-based website. We will begin from the point where you have already decided the broad parameters of your proposed website, and are on the verge of booking a domain name for it.

Week 1-2

1. Buy a domain name, preferably having the main keyword in it

2. Get a web host for your website

3. Install WordPress (or other CMS), since you want an info-blog

4. Decide the web design from a free/paid WordPress theme

5. Decide the layout of the homepage and other static pages that can be the same as the WordPress theme. You can make the homepage slightly different even while keeping the same look and feel as the WordPress theme.

6. Write the stuff in the homepage as needed, stressing on the main keyword of your web business.

7. Submit your website to Google Places8.1, and install the free Google Analytics code so that it appears in all the pages to come in your website (covered in next sections).

Week 3 Onward

Provided you’ve the basic structure of the website (see Structuring Your Website, Chapter 2) in place, the main job will be to build the contents. For a website to succeed, the need of relevant content will never end.

As stated earlier, the content can be in one or more of the 4 types – text, image, audio and video. Of them, text is essential, but only text is dull, boring, and uninspiring. And so it needs to be peppered with images, and audio and video, if conditions permit.

The points to remember while creating contents are briefly as under (see the sections Making Content Easy to Read, and Creating Contents That Work in Chapter 4, and also whole of Chapter 5, Why Content Matters & How):

· The writing must offer something of value to the average readers. How-to articles, lists, tips, and suchlike are all-time favorites.

· Internal linking from one article to another within your site is absolutely essential. The more you do, the better it is for your website in the long term. You may consider including relevant keyword or its variation in the anchor text.

· To the extent feasible, weave each article around one or two keyword phrases that are relevant for your site.

Week 15 / 24 Articles Posted

Taking a modest 2 articles per week, let’s assume you have penned 24 articles by the end of 15th week. Any visitor who comes to your site now will have a fair idea of what your site is about. Also you may expect Google having indexed some of the article pages, if not all of them.

By this time you should start some off-site activities aimed at garnering links to your website as well as spreading your expertise on the topic of your website.

These will, as detailed in Chapter 7, include writing in other web publications, revving up Facebook profile, guest blogging, participating in forums, and so on.

In each case you have to do in a way that it helps your website. At the same time your effort should not look too obvious. The visitors don’t like hard pitching, and may in fact move off if you cannot tone down your approach.

Start watching the web analytics figures to get the early signals of source of traffic and the keywords the visitors are using to come to your site.

If you are following these steps copybook-style, and yes if your website covers a popular niche, and your choice of keywords is reasonably competitive, then there is a good chance that the page-views to your site on a monthly basis will notch upward of 300 if not more.

Though 300 is too small a figure as yet to come to a conclusion, it can however be indicative of the visitors’ interest in your website, especially if it shows a rising trend.

Week 21 / Page-views Upward Of 1000

Certain factors that play important role in fast rise in page-views are as under:

· Understanding the target market and ability to direct your effort toward it

· Demand of your niche topic and availability of good quality supply in the target market

· Your reputation in the niche…if you are well known in your niche subject, chance is very high that you’ll get visitors pretty quickly.

· Your influence in your chosen social media circle. If you already have, for example, a good number of Facebook fans, your site will get visitors from the word go.

· Availability of email subscribers to a previous blog of yours. When you announce a new site to them, and if it is relevant to the earlier one, you get guaranteed visitors right from the beginning.

I have listed 5 criteria above, but there can be several others that can quickly get visitors to your site. It is important to remember though that you have to maintain a healthy flow of relevant contents to have the early visitors stick to your site in search of more information.

When the flow of traffic and content occur in tandem, you may expect a surge in visitors flocking to your site in a short time, maybe in just 4 to 6 months or even less.

Week 24 / Page-views Upward Of 5000

I may be a little fast in predicting the page-views to an average website that does not have the advantages mentioned above. If however this does happen and you find that both the page-views and the pages per visit are rising fast, it’s time for you to look at various ways to start earning from your site.

You may be offering an e-product for sale, which can be yours or an affiliate’s. You can also earn from ads in your website by either renting out space or by clicks that the ads generate. In the initial stage you’ll have to place ads on your own volition, and earn after they are clicked by the visitors.

As your site keeps on improving the page-views, a time will come when interested advertisers will approach you for placing their ads in your site. When this happens, you know you can now charge the advertisers for renting out space in your site irrespective of whether their ads receive any click-through.

This marks the beginning of earning good sum of money from your site. As you put in more efforts, the page-views increase, and the earnings too increase in tandem.

Page-views Upward Of 30000

Okay, I’ve made a big jump. But as your site consistently clocks in more than say 30K page-views and has an increasing trend, the time is ripe for starting sponsorship of products.

This is a good idea especially if the returning visitors constitute 20-25% of the total, because this means there is a loyal group of visitors who come often to your site. Watching the pages per visit also figure in this regard.

Week 30

In your eagerness to start and improve earnings from your site, don’t lose sight of the number one priority – that of continuing to add relevant contents to your site.

The reason I reiterate this point once again is that after 6 months you will have a good idea about what is working well in your site and what is not.

The analytics data will give you a couple of vital information among a whole lot. You will know which keywords are bringing the maximum visitors, and which pages are seen the most.

You will also know which sites are sending you traffic and how much. Among the referral sites that send you traffic, pay close attention to the top ones, and explore how you can further add or enrich your presence in those sites.

The keywords data may reveal a lot of other variations which you haven’t thought of. These are the ones that you’ll now use to write more articles.

Submit Website to Google Places

What was earlier Google’s Local Business Center was changed to Google Places in April 2010. With this the concept of local search has firmly come to occupy the center-stage.

Once listed, a local business can be easily traced with the help of Google Maps. The service is free, and in fact any business even without a website can avail it.

The following image (Figure 8.1) shows a typical listing of businesses (highlighted in red) for the geographical location of Gurgaon, Delhi in India.

Figure 8.1

Some of the important features of Google Places are as under:

· Any business irrespective of size can be listed.

· Information like address, phone number, photos, videos, car parking availability, and even special promos can be added to the listing.

· Having a website is not mandatory.

· Google confirms each listing by calling at the phone number given or by sending postcard at the given address. This is done so that only authorized owner of the business can add or alter the listing.

· Google+ Local8.2 is another product that helps users discover and share places.

Signing up for Google Places8.1 is not difficult, and should be done even as your website is shaping up. Check out this PDF pullout8.3 for more information. Also read Google Places Cheat Sheet8.4, a concise but helpful booklet.

Using Google Analytics to Study Traffic

One of the first things to do in your website is to install the free Google Analytics code8.5. It’s a great tool that gives you deep insights into the flow of traffic to your website and their behavior while they are in your site.

Google Analytics, earlier known as the Urchin software which Google acquired in early 2005, is a must-use tool both for the fact that is free and also because it offers in-depth analyses of your website traffic.

Some of the broad traffic indicators that you will get to know over a chosen period of time are as under (see the image below, Figure 8.2):

Figure 8.2

1. Number of visits, pageviews, pages per visit, percentage new visits, average time spent in the site, and bounce rate (the last one indicates how quick a visitor leaves the site; the lower the better).

2. How many pageviews of which pages and percentage of the total, how much traffic from which search engine, which referrals and direct arrivals.

3. Keywords used by visitors for arriving and percentage of the total.

4. Top landing and exit pages, top content by title, in-page analytics like which portion of the page receiving how many clicks, and so on.

If you are using AdWords campaign, you can interweave it with Google Analytics to analyze how your campaign is working, and the changes you should bring about for more conversions.

If you run AdSense ads in your website you can combine the account with Google Analytics to find out which pages are getting you more clicks on the AdSense ads. As your site gets old it will be fascinating to study how the traffic to your website has been changing over the time. Google Analytics is so powerful yet easy-to-use tool for that.

Using Google Webmasters Tool

This is yet another very useful free tool from Google that helps you to properly run your website.

Figure 8.3

Let me quote from Google Webmasters Tools8.6 how you can benefit by using it:

· You can know how Google crawls and indexes your site and learn about specific problems Google is having accessing it so that you can rectify them.

· View, classify, and download comprehensive data about internal and external links to your site with new link reporting tools. Find out which Google search queries drive traffic to your site, and see exactly how users arrive there.

To understand the utility of Google Webmasters Tool, take a look at the image above (Figure 8.3) which is a portion of the dashboard page for one of my websites.

I can at a glance know the top search queries that fetched traffic to my site between Nov 30 and Dec 30, 2010. The second table gives the total links from different domains that are pointing to my site. In each case the link More >> shows detailed results for that parameter.

Apart from the search queries and incoming links, the webmaster tools give some other vital information, one of which is the data on Internal Links.

As pointed out in the section, Internal Links between Pages in a Website (Chapter 4), Google places lots of weightage on the importance of internal links between pages of your website.

There are other information that can be had by using the tool. For example, it diagnoses the different crawl errors like ‘page not found’, and for you as the website owner this is a great help to correct the mistakes if any.

Like Google Analytics, it is free to use Google Webmasters Tools. After you sign up with an account you’ll be asked to verify that you are the owner of the site. Once that is done, you have to indicate to Google which pages you want tracked. If you’re operating a blog, simply give the feed URL and you’re done.

It’s a good idea then to visit the webmaster tools page for your website time and again to find out what Google feels about your website.

Installing SEO Book Toolbar

There are many free SEO tools available on the web that help you to glean important information about other websites, like the key-phrases they use, the incoming links to those sites, the overall traffic flow to those sites, and so on.

None, according to me, is as helpful and elaborate as the SEO Toolbar for Firefox8.7 offered free by SEO Book. It can be installed only in Firefox browser8.8 which too is free to use.

You have to set up a free SEO Book account to start using the toolbar. This is a breeze, and once the toolbar is up there on your Firefox browser use it for access to a vast range of information (see image below taken from SEO Book site8.9, Figure 8.5).

Figure 8.5

For a new website owner, such heavy information load may not mean much in the beginning. But as time passes and your website gets more and more traffic, you’ll be inclined to know more about other websites vis-à-vis yours to understand how your site is faring in the web marketplace.

Keeping Abreast of What Is New

Nothing is perhaps more effective than knowing the latest happenings around you. This may seem a bit overwhelming at times, but it surely keeps you in the loop on the face of fast-changing web scenario.

This book aims to teach you the basics of SEO and how you can easily do it yourself for your website. It is possible though that your main business is something else, and not about SEO or web marketing and your interest in studying this book is only to boost your SEO prospects.

With that in view, let me mention some steps below for you to remain abreast of the latest on the web in the field of web marketing and SEO.

· Google Alerts8.10:

You can set up alerts in Google for any search term, and let Google email you all the new information on the web for those terms. The search term can be your name, your website name, your main keywords, your competition’s website name, or anything else. There is no limit to the number of alerts you set.

· Google Video on YouTube8.11:

Subscribe to Google’s YouTube channel to receive whenever new news videos are released by the search giant. This simply lets you know something Google wants to tell all at the same time when everyone is getting to know.

· Digital Marketing Metrics

comScore8.12, Hitwise8.13, and Nielsen8.14 are some of the major sources of digital marketing metrics that give early information on major developments.

· Subscribe to RSS feeds

Subscribe to the RSS feeds of some major websites including SitePoint8.15, Search Engine Watch8.16, SEO Theory8.17, High Rankings8.18, and Search Engine Land8.19.

Learning from Experience

Learning remains incomplete unless you experience it by actually doing it. Experimental learning, to quote from Wikipedia8.20, is the process of making meaning from direct experience.

An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others' experiences.

Putting it in a different way, experiential learning is learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning. This aspect is important in the case of practicing search engine optimization or SEO. Why?

As pointed out before, SEO today is more about how Google considers your website and the pages in your website to be important for any given set of keywords. There is no science here really (except the proprietary mathematical algorithm used by Google), and there is no art also.

The only thing that matters is doing different things in a constant effort to try and rank higher in the search results. Add to this the fact that the web world is constantly changing, and new priorities and technologies are coming to the fore every other day.

It is therefore essential that as a website owner, eager to benefit from high search rankings, you need to dirty your hands in SEO. When you do that you’ll discover many small nuggets of value that have not been told to you.

An example is that of this A/B split test case study8.21 that doubled the conversion rate by simply shifting an online form from below to one side of the webpage.

Consider the small experiences you come across to be your most valuable learning because you learnt them by actually doing what you are told to do.

The bottomline is simple. Search engines are man-made things and are susceptible to change listings whenever the people concerned feel the need to do so. Thus, to be a gainer in the SEO game, you have to get down to the field and start playing it earnestly.

You Cannot Do Everything

By now you may have guessed that you may not be able to cater to all the aspects of SEO for your website all by yourself. After all for many of you SEO is one part of business marketing, and there are other parts of your business to look after.

Small businesses are prone to bear the brunt of slackening SEO efforts due to lack of sufficient manpower. Then again, the people you need to work for you have to understand the SEO concept well and know how it can be properly applied to your site.

Usually, the planning part of your website does not need many people. If you have grasped the concept well, you may be able to start your website and take it to the point where it has the foundation of say 20-25 articles and has been given the direction to proceed in the future.

The first sign of trouble becomes apparent when you need to ensure there is a constant flow of contents to your site, and also take care of vital works like link building, guest blogging, and so on.

This is the time when you need someone to help you in your works, and the best way to go about is to outsource the work you need done. There is no dearth of freelancers who cater to all kinds of web-related works. Some of the renowned ones to search for freelancers are Freelancer8.22, oDesk8.23, Elance8.24, PeoplePerHour8.25, and Fiverr8.26.

When you outsource works, keep in mind some important points as under:

· You may not outsource all the works at a time. Identify the main work your site needs and decide how much of that you can do yourself. And then outsource the rest. For example, if content creation is the main work (I think it is) and you find you can write only 30% of your need, outsource the balance 70% of the writing needs.

· Decide upon a monthly budget you can spare. This is important because you may not perhaps see any immediate tangible gains by spending on outsourcing.

· Do not engage a freelancer for a long time. Give works in stages even though your need is for the long term. This is so because in many cases the freelancer, when assured of your work, may himself outsource it to someone else, thereby possibly affecting the quality.

· For content writing works you have to be alert against the chance of plagiarizing. Make this very clear that you have zero tolerance against any kind of plagiarizing. Remember many writers do clever plagiarizing by copying only few lines from different sites and then join them together. So, to find out their trick, pick up a full line or a paragraph and search it in Google.

· If your budget permits, get 3 to 4 content writers to work for you. Mention their names and brief bio at the end of respective articles, and also in a separate page like ‘Who writes for us’. This sends a good signal to the visitors that your site is important and has many contributors from across the world.

· Lastly, take a little time of yours and read the famous best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek8.27 by Timothy Ferriss. This will unveil the steps on how to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want.

Plan Ahead & Grow

Ok, I’ve at last reached the end section of my book. There are lists of valuable resources after this, but they are only lists, aren’t they?

I select the topic, Plan Ahead & Grow, deliberately. I feel there can be no better parting wish to my readers than telling them to make a plan and stick to it to grow.

Over the years that I’ve been engaged in several web activities I’ve found planning to be of paramount importance. Planning gives direction, but more importantly, it cuts down the time to complete a work.

I can list several advantages to the credit of planning, but the following few are indeed important:

1. Planning involves engagement of mind before actually doing a work. It provokes you to think positively about how to take up and complete a work.

2. Planning means commitment to the work on hand. It helps you breaking the work into small elements that are manageable for completion within stipulated time. It also binds you into finding resources for those elements that need outside help.

3. Planning lets you find alternatives and make course corrections should anything go awry. This step is not considered essential by many. As a result, when something goes wrong, they don’t have any alternate plans to fall back on.

4. Contrary to point 3, if the business grows faster than you imagined, planning helps you to take the full advantage of it. In absence of suitable planning, your business may altogether miss the golden opportunity of fast growth.

5. When planning is done in consultations with your colleagues, everyone in your company knows what is expected of her/him. This way the flow of work becomes smooth, and the overall output can be maintained along expected lines.

With these words, and wishing a prosperous business to all of my readers, let me conclude this book.

You are most welcome to contact me for anything you want to let me know. The contact details are given at the beginning of this book. Here it’s again,

Lastly if you have liked reading this book, please tell about it to your friends, relatives, colleagues and anyone else you like to. And do please write a review in Amazon to let me know your experience about this book.

Finally, don’t forget the free lifetime enrollment to my video course on SEO Best Practices for Beginners to Start Web Business, coming next.