Elements of a Marketing Plan
Many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques require a significant amount of planning, strategy, and prior knowledge of how SEO works. Building quality content, keyword research, and reputation building are by far the most effective methods of SEO, but that requires a ton of effort. This post won’t cover any of that. In this post, you will find 7* techniques that don’t require much work at all and are guaranteed** to give a little boost to your SEO.
1) Put Your Address and Contact Information on Every Page
This is exactly what it sounds like. Put your address, phone number, and email address on every single page of your website.
Generally, the easiest way to do this is to put it in the header or footer of your website. This doesn’t just apply to local businesses either. Even if you’re an online-only business, having your contact information on every page will help. Google interprets address and contact information on every page as more user friendly and therefore attributes value in search engine rankings to it.
2) Claim ownership of your Google and Bing Local Listings
Unlike #1, you actually need a physical location to take advantage of this one. If you’ve ever searched for a local business such as a restaurant, you’ve seen local listings. See “restaurants in old town alexandria”. While Google likes to change how local listings appear on a seemingly search-by-search basis, they’re all managed the same way. Connecting your website to local listings in both Google and Bing will help your search rankings in either search engine. To find your local listing, search for your company as explicitly as possible to guarantee your listing comes up if it exists (eg “ironistic.com 1199 n fairfax st alexandria va”). If a local listing comes up, there will most likely be a link at the bottom of the listing that says “Is this your business?” or “Claim Listing”. If not, see the links below. You will either need to be able to receive a call at your business phone number or receive mail at your mailing address to verify that you are who you say you are.
3) Install an SSL Certificate
Using a security certificate used to be optional. The best practice was to use one anytime sensitive information was being stored in or transmitted through a website. Sensitive information includes credit card data, employment info, SSNs, medical data, etc. Google decided that it is time to change the status quo. On August 6, 2014, Google announced that “security is a top priority for Google” and “we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”
Don’t know if your site has SSL or not?
If your website URL says HTTPS at the beginning when you open it in a browser, congratulations! You already have an SSL certificate. If it says HTTP, it’s time to invest in an SSL certificate.
Installing an SSL certificate isn’t very difficult. Whoever is hosting your website should be able to do it for you. If you’re using one of the big registrars like GoDaddy or Network Solutions to host your site, they offer SSL certificates at low prices and will provide support when installing them. If you are using an awesome website hosting company like Ironistic, all you need to say is “We want an SSL certificate,” and you’ll have one installed within a day or two. SSL certificates are also not very expensive. You can purchase quality SSL certificates for $50 or less per year from nearly any provider.
4A) Create an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that search engines look for as they crawl sites, so they know what to crawl, how often to crawl it, and how important you think it is. An XML sitemap is simply a specially formatted file that you can create and upload to the root of your site (eg http://mysite.com/sitemap.xml). There are 3 key elements to an XML sitemap:
1) The page and file URLs – You should include every page and file on your site that you want to show up in search results.
2) Priority – You can assign priority to every page and document on your site. Typically the home page is 1.0, top landing pages are around 0.9, and lesser pages, documents, etc. can go anywhere from 0.01 to 0.89.
3) Update frequency – This is often ignored by search engines, but it suggests to them how often your content will be updated so they come back and crawl it again in a timely manner.
If you have a WordPress site, we like to use XML Sitemap & Google News Feeds. If you have any other CMS, try using a tool to generate it for you like Audit My PC or a paid service such as xml-sitemaps.com (free for <500 URLs) . If you’re feeling especially bold today and have a relatively small website, you can type one up by hand as well (don’t do that).
4B) Submit Sitemap from 4A to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
After you complete 4A and have a sitemap hosted with your website, you can speed up the process of having it discovered by search engines by telling the search engines that it’s there. You should register your site with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. After you do that:
5) Create a Sitemap Page
This is the sitemap that people, not search engines, but kinda search engines too, may actually use on your website. You usually see a link to the sitemap in the footer of most websites. Here’s our sitemap. A sitemap is simply a well-organized HTML version of all of the pages on your website so that people can see all of the pages in one place and immediately navigate to where they want. Not only does it make the site more user-friendly, which is appreciated by search engines, it gives search engines another easy place to find links to all of the important content on your website. You can create it by hand like any other page on your website, or some CMSs have automated tools available that will build and keep it updated for you.
6) Create (and upload) a robots.txt File
A robots.txt file tells a search engine a few important pieces of information; what pages to crawl, what pages not to crawl, and where your XML sitemap is (see 4A). The robots.txt is a text file that gets uploaded to the root of your website. I could go on for days (probably more like 30 minutes tops) about the minute details that can be included in a robots.txt file, but we’re not here for complicated. We’re here for easy. All websites should have at least a basic robots.txt file with the following content:
If you see any pages from your website being indexed in search results that you don’t want to show up in search results, you should add:
to your robots.txt file. If you want to view all of the pages that a search engine is indexing for your website, go to the search engine and search for “site:mysite.com” (no quotes). Here is Google’s guide to what a robots.txt file does and how to create one. Even if you don’t get very complex with your robots.txt file, simply having one with the above information will help your website’s SEO.
7) Sign Up for Google Authorship
Just kidding! Google retired authorship earlier this month, but it used to work incredibly well; almost unfairly well, which may have contributed to its early demise. This is just one example of how SEO tactics can change literally overnight, so it’s important to keep checking back here to see the latest news that could affect your website.
I hope you are all able to take advantage of some of the simple SEO tactics mentioned above. If you have any questions about what you could or should be doing to improve your website’s search engine rankings, please feel free to give us a shout. We’re more than happy to take a look at your website and let you know what you could be doing to build your business. And if you have additional EASY SEO tactics, feel free to add them in the comments below.
*I’m not sure if adding 4A and 4B but crossing off 7 still counts as 7 things, but I’m counting it as 7.
**There are no guarantees in SEO. Major search engines change their algorithms all the time, which makes some SEO tactics more helpful and completely eliminates the value of others. There’s no substitute for a lot of research, planning, and solid execution.