The Strongest & Simplest Approach to Solid SEO Strategy

strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy

SEO is a complicated subject and a constantly moving target, but if you keep Google’s stated purpose in mind, you can craft a solid SEO strategy that works now and into the future. What is that purpose? To deliver the highest quality, most relevant results to users.

It sounds simple enough, but past efforts to game the system have landed many website owners in Google Hell…not always for their own actions. Many “SEO experts” are infamous for shady practices meant to deliver fast results. It makes them look good for a little while, until an algorithm update brings it all tumbling down. A major loss in pagerank can destroy your bottom line.

That’s why we’re going to give you the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy. No tricks. No gaming. Just real, evergreen tactics that will never get you in trouble—and will always push your site to the top of the search engine results page.

Focus on: Keywords

Even with semantic search, keywords are still important. Make a list of industry keywords you want to shoot for, and ensure your website content on your site is focused around those topics and words. Forget repeating keywords x number of times on each page. Longtail keywords also have their limits. Just write naturally about the subjects native to your industry.

Best keyword practices:

  • Do thorough keyword research.
  • Use your primary keyword or keyword phrase in your title.
  • Write a short, pretty URL that contains your keyword.
  • Use keywords in your subheaders.
  • Include keywords in your first paragraph.

Focus on: Links

Every link is important, even those coming in to your website. Be sure you link in and out only to quality, relevant sites. Linking to internal pages is great SEO, but the links should fit naturally into the text.

Incoming links are equal parts awesome and terrifying. If industry bloggers on high-traffic sites link to your content or mention your site in any context, it’s a real SEO boost. Ditto if you share your knowledge to be published on other sites. Guest blogging extends your audience and raises your authority.

You just have to be careful. Backlinks coming in from low-quality sites can hurt your SEO. It’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your site’s links, fix any broken ones you find, and make sure your incoming links are from authoritative links related to your industry.

Focus on: Load Time

The length of time it takes your page to load is critical to SEO for several reasons. Slow-loading pages are frustrating to visitors and increase your bounce rate—which is indicative of how fast and how often visitors leave your page. Load times are influenced by the amount of code that loads when a visitor arrives and by image size.

If your page is loading slowly, the cause might be ads, videos or music set to play automatically, or other scripts. Code errors may also result in loading issues.

Large graphics are also a common issue. Even if graphics appear to be small in dimension, they might be large files controlled by specifying size in the code. If you right-click a small image and open it in a new window and it’s huge, it’s not optimized, and it’s probably slowing your load time.

Focus on: Content

All basic SEO strategy should focus on high-quality content. Publishing great content attracts traffic by giving customers and prospects information about your industry and your products, provides endless opportunities to bolster your keyword strategy, and establishes your site as authoritative…a good reason for bloggers and journalists to write about you.

Whether you write content in-house or outsource, it should be informative and tailored to the interests of your audience.

Focus on: Location-Based SEO

Google’s latest algorithm makes location far more important than it’s ever been before. While city searches are still relevant, the search now drills down to a more granular neighborhood level. If you’re a brick-and-mortar, raising your rank, especially for mobile search, means adding more location information to your page. Instead of sticking to New York City references, be sure to mention you’re in SoHo or the Village.

Focus on: Mobile-Friendliness

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, your SEO isn’t up to par. Mobile search makes up 61% of all website traffic today and sites that aren’t optimized do not appear in the mobile search results. It’s a simple rule. If your site is not optimized for mobile, you lose any mobile traffic you might have earned.

There are a lot of details to SEO, but this is the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy on a broad level. Google is looking to deliver high quality results, and, if your website meets those high standards, that means your SEO is solid—and you’ll see boosts in both customer engagement and search engine results rankings. It’s worth it.


Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

I’m sorry… I don’t speak Jargonese

{Avoid Stuffing Buzzwords} While using certain keywords is important, cluttering your content with fluffy buzzwords is distracting.

Actionable, integrated, robust, dynamic, responsive…you get the idea. Marketers are all guilty of writing copy that is stuffed with buzzwords or of generating copy that shouts “Me! Me! Me!” as it brags up the cool features of a company’s products or services.

The problem with either of these approaches to marketing is that the content is written from the company’s internal perspective, instead of from your buyer’s external perspective.

REMEMBER: When a buyer finds your content, they probably came across it while they were searching for a SOLUTION to a business challenge they’re facing right now.

This means you’ve got only a few seconds — yes, seconds — to convince readers that you understand their needs and that you can help them solve their problem. While using certain keywords is important, cluttering your content with fluffy buzzwords is distracting. And forcing readers to wade through industry jargon to get to your “solution” isn’t being helpful, either.

So ask yourself:

Does your content quickly and easily help your customers solve their problems?

If it doesn’t — if it merely shows off what you know or what product or service you have to sell — your readers will look elsewhere for answers.

Today’s digitally savvy buyers are quietly doing much of their research online before they ever reach out to contact your business. They don’t call your sales team and ask, “Can you do X for me?” Instead, they scan certain areas of your website to find proof of what you can (or can’t) do for them. That’s why it’s more important than ever for your company to produce stellar content — framed from your potential buyers’ perspective — that is laser-focused on how your product or service directly addresses the needs and problems of your prospects.

You may have a great do-dad with lots of bells and whistles — or provide a wonderful skill or service with all kinds of à la cart options — but if your buyers don’t understand it or see how it will directly help solve their problem TODAY, they’re gone. In a swipe or a mouse-click.

Your buyers (not what you’re selling) need to be at the center of your content universe. So you need to first take some time to get to know your buyers and prospects by creating buyer personas. Arming yourself with insights from your buyers will take the guesswork out of determining their needs and allow you to create content directly aligned with solving their problems.

Good marketing isn’t about what you want to TELL your customers; it’s about sharing what your customers need to HEAR — right this moment.  {Tweet This}

Everything you create should be an answer to how you can help solve your customers’ problems. The first step in changing your content from being product-centric to being customer-centric is to ditch the Jargonese. If you’d like customized help reworking your existing content to be more customer focused, contact the content engineers at Cultivate Communications today. We’ve got just the translators you need to turn your Jargonese-laden copy into a lead-generating content marketing strategy.

No mumbo. No jumbo.
Mike Kissel

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The SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners Round Up

Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at search engine optimization from a beginner’s stand point.  We’ve covered how  search engines work, where to get started with analytics and keyword research, optimizing on page elements you control directly and how to get Google juice through directory submissions and link building. This post will summarize The SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners nicely, but if you’re not into the whole brevity thing and feel like you need a more detailed refresher I encourage you to jump back to older posts for a read. I’ve included a short list of some of my favorite tools and resources for SEO below, if you’ve got any to add please share them with readers in the comments below. Thanks for reading!



Part 1 – How search engines work?

We eased into the subject by taking a deeper look at how search engines work and understanding the 4 key tasks they perform: crawling, indexing, determining importance, and presenting search results. Programs called robots crawl from page to page using links and measure hundreds of different signals on a page with sophisticated algorithms to determine its relevance and importance to the keyword or phrase.

Part 2 – Where do I start?

SEO can seem like a daunting task, especially for a green horn, so this post answered the question – Where do I start? The first step is getting acquainted with tools you’ll need. Start by installing or gaining access to the analytics package of your site. Google Analytics is a good one and it’s free. The next step is tedious but important to everything else you’re going to do, so make sure to do a thorough job on keyword research. Think of what words you want to be found for and ask real people (like your customers) what words they would use to search for you. Write all these terms down including all possible variations and common misspelling of those words and plug them into a keyword analysis tool.  Again, Google offers a great free keyword tool with AdWords that you can use to determine which keywords on your list get searched the most and how competitive those terms are.  Generally speaking, the more competitive the term the harder it will be to rank highly for it so pick your battles wisely.

Part 3 – Getting under the hood

It’s time to get hands on so I assume you can add/edit your website files and have a basic understanding of HTML. If you need a few lessons check out this HTML Fundamentals interactive tutorial from Codecademy. There are many HTML tags you can learn all about, but I focus on only 3 that should be fairly easy for a beginner to work with that tell search engines and (more importantly) people what’s important about your site. The HTML title tag is found at the top of every HTML document between the <title></title> tags and should describe what each page is about. The Meta Description tag allows you to suggest how you’d like your pages to be described in search listings. If you find that the title and meta description is the same on all your pages, change them and you may see results quickly. Header tags are used to identify and organize content in descending order of importance and should incorporate your keywords.

If you have a static website that doesn’t change much, you may want to consider starting a blog to continually add fresh content to your site.  Google loves sites with lots of pages and blogging is a great way to fill that need while also letting you play around with internal linking and sprinkling keywords into your URL structure. Matt Cutts from Google discusses using keywords in your URL’s whenever possible in this short video. You’ll also want to make sure Google knows about all of your URL’s, so creating and submitting an XML Sitemap helps you make sure Google knows about the URLs on your site. This may be tricky if you are a beginner, but there are plenty of free XML Sitemap generators out there like this one. If creating a sitemap is a breeze, then you may also want to explore more advanced stuff like 404 Error pages, 301 Redirects and using the robots.txt file.

Part 4 – Building links & directory submissions

When other sites link to yours, it provides a signal to a search engine that your site is full of relevant content – sort of like someone casting a vote for your page. We call that Google Juice.  Building these links is one of the biggest challenges for SEO, but it’s also the most important. If you do nothing else, work to build back links to your site.  Things like well written headlines hook readers which can lead to more links. Comment on other blogs with a bread crumb link back to your site or offer to guest post on blogs with related content. One secret trick to link building is that getting .edu sites to link to yours gives you a good dose of link juice…if you can get them. Contact schools and universities and find a reason for them to link to your site.

Directories are a good place to start building your back links from, some are free while other are paid.  Web directories were originally created to organize content on the internet into logical categories, and this data powered many of the web’s largest search engines for some time. DMOZ has attracted a lot of criticism lately. Its human edited and takes a long time for a listing to get published, and even longer to change if you goof something up.  But it’s free so go ahead and submit a well written listing under a category that fits your business and move on with life. If you can afford $299/year, Yahoo! Directory is another one to have on your radar if you’re just getting started. If you want to focus on the local area, head over to Google Places to claim your free listing and use these tips from Google to optimize your Places listing to best show in local search engine results pages.

Other Helpful Stuff

As you continue learning about SEO you’ll discover that it’s a pretty big topic to wrap your brain around, and that the playing field is constantly changing. People devote entire careers to this specialized niche of digital marketing and it can be very expensive to hire an SEO because their results can be very lucrative for you. If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer and follow the steps outlined above, you’ll be off to a good start and a few steps ahead of the game.  There’s tons of great free resources out there on the web to help you learn more. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Google Keyword Tool – free keyword analysis and recommendation tool
  • Google Analytics – free analytics package for analyzing web traffic
  • Open Site Explorer – a backlink analysis tool for competitive research
  • Search Engine Land – news and information about SEO
  • seomoz – useful blog about SEO, also offers paid tools
  • seobook – useful blog about SEO, also offers paid tools and lists of free resources
  • SEOquake – a browser plugin that fetches information about any page based on a large number of parameters
  • SEOCentro – a host of free SEO tools like Meta Tag Analyzer, rank checker, keyword analyzer, etc.

PS: I’ll personally sponsor a $10 gift card for the first person to correctly guess the movie reference in this post in the comments below.  Ready…..go!

The SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners – Part 3

Congratulations!  If you’ve been following along with my last few posts you’re over a big hump as a beginner SEO. You’re now ready to tackle optimizing the on page elements of your website.  If you feel like you need a refresher, check back to read up on how search engines work and how to conduct a keyword analysis, otherwise let’s start by…

Getting Under the Hood

Since we’ve gone to all the trouble of picking out good keywords we want to make they’re actually present in well written content, and that our website code is clean, making it nice and easy for robots to crawl and index pages. This part of the process is very hands on and I’m making an assumption that you have a basic understanding of HTML and how to edit and publish files on your domain through your web hosting service.


There are some specific parts of the underlying HTML source code of your website that provide signals to search engines, so it behooves you to pay attention to and understand what they are. You can examine the source code of just about any webpage simply by right clicking your mouse and selecting “View Page Source” from the dialogue box that pops up. Below are some tags and a sample screen shot:

HTML Title Tags: Look for the title at the top of an HTML document between these <TITLE> tags. A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a page is about. Every web page can and should have a title declared using your keywords to describe what you think is important to potential readers.

Meta Description Tag: The meta description tag looks like this in your code <META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”informative description here”> and allows you to suggest how you’d like your pages to be described in search listings. Search engines can and do create different descriptions based on what they determine is most relevant to the search, but using them increases the odds that your preferred text will appear.

Header Tags: There are 6 HTML Header tags ranging from <H1> to <H6> that are used to identify and organize content in descending order of importance. Copy placed inside a header tag appears in a slightly larger and boldfaced font than its surrounding text. H1 tags are commonly used as a main headline, while a sub headline may be in H2.

URL Structure

If you blog regularly you’ll have more opportunity to play around with using your keywords in the URL structure of links. Using keywords in your URL’s whenever possible “does help a little bit” as Matt Cutts from Google explains in the video below. Most blogging platforms today will grab the main headline of your post and add it to the end of the URL. If you’re like me, you like to write headlines that will grab a reader’s attention which isn’t always going to be search engine friendly. A good tip is to write that arresting headline that will garner the most readers as you publish your content across the web, then a few days after the traffic big hump go back and change the URL structure to something more search engine friendly stuffed with keywords.


Another tool you should be using to help Google better understand your site and all of its glory is an XML Sitemap. Sitemaps help search engines crawl and index pages that might not be easily discovered otherwise, like content that hides behind a form. You can submit a Sitemap via Google’s Webmaster Tools. They don’t affect the actual rank of your pages, and it’s not guaranteed that all of your links will be crawled by submitting one, but it does lead to an increased presence and greater visibility of your site in Google’s index. There are plenty of XML Sitemap generators out there you can use for free so get it done if you haven’t already. More information about Sitemaps can be found in Google’s Webmasters Central Blog here


As you begin to tweak your copy remember that you’re writing for people, not search engines. Stay focused and on topic. If you have to write your keywords on post-it notes and stick them to your monitor to do so, then do it!  Content is King is one of the most overused clichés in SEO, but it there is a lot of truth to that statement. Search engines love fresh useful content. Blogging is a great way to continually publish fresh content, especially on topics most people would consider “evergreen”.

Other Useful On Page Search Engine Stuff

  • 404 Error Page: A 404 error is returned when someone tries to navigate to a page on your site that doesn’t exist. Having a custom 404 page can greatly improve that users experience by providing helpful information like a link back to your home page or other popular content.  It can even make you laugh like some of these clever examples.
  • 301 Redirects: Anyone who’s ever “moved” a website to a new domain  should be familiar with a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells a search engine that a URL it’s looking for has permanently moved to a new location. This is a critical part of ensuring you don’t have duplicated content on different URL’s that can negatively impact your page rank.  For more information about 301 redirects can be found here
  • robots.txt file: Robots.txt is a text file that gets stored in your websites root directory and provides instruction to search engine robots.  It allows you to specify what areas of your site you don’t want bots to crawl and index (like a 404 error page). You can also indicate the location of your sitemap and indicate the speed robots can crawl a server. More info about robots.txt can be found here.  

Don’t forget to check out next week’s post on topics around off page optimization. We’ll explore directories, link building and more! Have questions? Let me know in the comments section below.



The SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners Round Up:
Part 1 – How search engines work?
Part 2 – Where do I start?
Part 3 – Getting under the hood
Part 4 – Building links & directory submissions