SEO is complicated, we all know that, so with this series of postings the goal was for me to challenge myself to think of the things that can be done to improve SEO results starting with a beginner series, and moving into more advanced ones. The idea is simple though, find things that you can do with 1 hour each day (I cheated a bit, some days require more than 1 hour). Day 1 - Get webmaster tools installed
Why? – Google Webmaster Tools would be the first thing I would install as it will help you troubleshoot problems with meta tags, spidering issues, 404’s etc. If you have not installed the Google webmaster tools, it’s quick and easy and will help guide you at those times when you just can’t figure out why something is not working.
If you already have the Google Webmaster Tools installed, which many of you may have, are you USING it for anything valuable, like checking the 404 report? The 404 report can tell you pages on your site that have been changed and no longer exist, which may have gotten value links prior.
For some resources on things you can do with Google Webmaster Tools after they are installed to help your rankings check out this Search Engine Land post on Google Webmaster Tools used for correcting broken links and this TopRank post on 6 uses of the Google webmaster tool.
You should be seeking out people who linked to you in the past and are now linking to pages that do not exist to get the link changed. If there are a lot of links that fit this criterion you should be 301 redirecting those old links if you can’t get the original link changed.
Time – it should take 5 minutes to do, anyone with access to FTP can help you verify your site, spend the remaining 55 minutes reading the posts above and checking your site out.
Day 2 - Keyword research, just do it!
Go to Google Adwords Sandbox for your initial keyword research – just type in terms and see what keywords come back – REMEMBER under the match type option select “phrase” not “broad” or your numbers are likely to be inflated, here’s an explanation on match types from Google. Never use one tool for all your keyword research, try using Quintura, MSN AdCenter Plugin for Excel and Yahoo! more results. Only focus on 10-15 words to begin with.
Why? - while you have all the time to go after hundreds for keywords you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and overwhelm yourself. Keep your focus small when starting. Do not target any single word phrases and be careful of targeting words that bring back mostly big brands. If you are just starting out, seek out keywords that are a good match but might be flying under the radar of the big brands like we did here, which are often the mid tail to begin with. Do you really think you are going to unseat E-Trade for stock trading terms right off the bat? Probably not, find your niches where large brand competitors won’t go or can’t get permission quickly enough to take advantage of spikes.
Time – Ok this isn’t a 5 minute change – hunker down, spend 3 hours figuring out your 10-15 most critical words that are not overly competitive
Day 3 - Lock down your social media profiles
Start with NameCheck
You probably don’t know what you are doing to do with social media yet, and that is OK. This little handy tool will let you know if a username is available on over 80 social media sites. I DO NOT recommend registering on all 80+, instead do the biggies: Twitter, YouTube, Stumbleupon, Delicious, LinkedIn, Flickr, and any others that are niche (for example: Kirtsy for women, Ballhype for sports enthusiasts). This post will allow you to get a synopsis of these social media sites.
If you want to succeed in search you’ll need to get links, and social media is one way to do that, but we’ll get into those strategies in a more advanced post in the series, for now job 1 is getting a consistent usernames on the most important social media sites.
Why? – You’ll need these for linkbuilding, community building, sharing content, maximizing reach of your blog posts, etc later.
Time – Pretty quick, you should be able to knock this puppy out in 1 hour.
Day 4 – Analyze your work
Analytics is going to help your SEO? Yes! Here’s why.
You have to know who’s referring traffic to your site and then know if that traffic is quality traffic. You want to be able to connect rankings movement to traffic movement to REVENUES – or you are asking to get fired. So you want to first get your analytics installed right use the wasp plugin or SiteScan to make sure your pages are tagged properly tagged. Web analytics is a garbage in garbage out kind of proposition, if you don’t QA your install, that time when you absolutely need the data, you won’t be sure what you have is accurate.
So, back to the SEO value of checking out your analytics data. Measuring bounce rates and the ability to be confident in the data you are seeing in your tool is critical. If you pick the WRONG keywords or are landing people on a bad page for that keyword your analytics package will give you those insights by showing you high “bouncing” keywords.
The reason why you don’t track SEO success by rankings is that if you pick words that are a very high bounce rate, the fact they rank well and get traffic means nothing if people aren’t digging into the site to actually BUY things, fill out forms, read blogs, etc. The other factor that drives high bounce rates occurs when your keywords are fine but the page you are landing users on doesn’t have the info they are seeking.
Once you know you have your pages tagged properly. In addition you should sign up for a service to track your rankings like Raven Tools, Exactfactor or my personal favorite the FREE SEObook rank checker by Aaron Wall.
Take those 15 keywords you developed earlier in the week and drop them into one of those tools above, once you do now you can benchmark where you are and determine how much impact rankings are having on traffic and how traffic is impacting conversions.
Day 5 - Get comfortable with Yahoo site explorer
Yahoo site explorer is the best FREE tool that I know of to see who’s linking to your competitors and who’s linking to you, in some relative order in terms of importance. This tool will really help you speed up the time spent on link building research. Another tool to consider is linkdiagnosis for reverse engineering your competitors backlinks. Understanding who your competitors are getting links from and devising strategies to go after similar strategies to get links will help you in the search engine rankings. So for now, just spend 1 hour understanding how the tools work – how to exclude their own internal links / subdomain links should be easy. If you have time left start off by reading this SEOmoz post.
Wil Reynolds, the founder of SEER Interactive, a leading team of SEO consultants, has been helping companies with their SEO for 10 years, starting his career in 1999. Today the SEER team works with clients ranging from large fortune 500 clients to small businesses seeking excellence and accountability in their search marketing campaigns.