1. Find the right keywords
Think about the words your clients are likely to use when looking for your products or services on the web. If you’re selling appliances, for example, are your customers more likely to use a formal word like refrigerator or a slang word like fridge?
Make a list of 20 to 50 keywords, then go on Google AdWords. Once you have created an account if you haven’t already done so, you can validate that the keywords you chose are frequently used in online searches.
You can also use a Google AdWords product called Keyword Tool to find more keywords to build your list.
Use your keywords on each of your website pages to help them rank higher when prospective customers search using those keywords.
Start by using keywords in the URL—the address appearing in the Internet browser for each of your website pages. Also include them in your titles as well as in your metadata descriptions (the brief text that tells search engines what your content is about).
2. Focus on your unique offerings
Remember you’re competing against other companies for attention online from prospective customers. To rise above the pack in web searches for your industry, look for words that correspond to your market differentiators such as your unique offerings or geographic location.
Competition is also stiff for keywords you buy as part of a pay-per-click campaign, where an ad for your company appears above or beside the free search results. You pay the search engine company each time your link is clicked. Again, you will have to focus on niche keywords if you don’t have a big budget.
3. Don’t overstuff your site with keywords
As Google’s webmaster guidelines states: “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
If you are just sprinkling keywords all over your content, you risk distorting the meaning and irritating readers, so don’t overdo it.
Your priority should be to make the text clear and easy to read.
4. Build links to your site
The more sites that carry links to your site, the higher you will rank on searches. Ask the owners of related sites to carry a link to your site. Offer to carry a link to theirs in exchange for a link to yours.
Focus on the quality of the links. One link directing to your website from a chamber of commerce or a university website will help you more than a dozen links from obscure blogs.
5. Publish high-quality content and lots of it
The main mission of search engines is to help people find answers to their questions. So your best strategy to get lots of traffic is to create compelling content—articles, videos and photos—that provides quality information to your readers. Make sure to update your content frequently so it stays relevant.
A good content strategy will also position you as a thought leader in your field.
6. Get social
Social media is a great ally in your SEO strategy because people also use social media platforms as search engines. They’ll often search for companies or products using Facebook’s search function, for example. Your company’s social media profile will also rank in the search results when people search for your company or for related terms.
7. Make sure your website is user-friendly
Have a clean, easy-to-navigate website. Make sure it’s immediately clear to visitors who you are and what you’re offering.
Use a lot of headings to improve readability, and put your keywords in the headings. Headings stand out for search engines and will help you rank higher.
Site speed is also important for SEO. The last thing you want to do is annoy your visitors with a sluggish site.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure your website is optimized for mobile platforms. Search engines now penalize websites that are not easily displayed on a smartphone.
8. Measure results
Free and low-cost tools such as Moz, SpyFu.com, SEMRush.com and Google Analytics will provide you with more information on the SEO performance of your site and tell you more about your visitors—how they found your site (search engine, referring website, etc.), their geographical location and how long they stayed on each page.
This blog post has more information on analyzing your data to optimize your SEO performance.
9. Be patient
Monitor results from day one, but don’t expect fast results. It normally takes a few months to move significantly higher in search engine rankings.
Also remember that SEO is constantly changing. What works today might not work in two or three years. Keep working at it and stay up to date on the latest changes that affect rankings.
10. Aim high
Most of your users won’t make it past the first page of search results. A good position means appearing on the first two pages of search results. Past page three, almost nobody will see your page. So aim high!