“I’m completely lost. Where do I start with this stuff?” I asked apprehensively.
“In the beginning, doing SEO is all about building a solid base for yourself. You build the foundation and then everything follows naturally from that,” Scott started his voice low and distorted over Skype.
I desperately wanted to learn how to start doing SEO work for my startup Airtime for Email. The goal was to build a sustainable sales funnel of people hitting our site every day. Unfortunately I didn’t know the first thing about how to do this. And so I was Skyping with a friend of mine, Scott McLeod, freelance web dev and SEO extraordinaire.
After about an hour on Skype I knew enough to start building my base. And now a few weeks later Airtime is ranking on the first page for a few of our target keywords. Below I’ll go through a few of the strategies I used to identify keywords and then attack them for better rankings.
Research with Google Keyword Tool
When I first began asking around about SEO a lot of people pointed me in the direction of Google Keyword Tool. I took a look at it for a few seconds but I didn’t really understand how powerful it was until after Scott helped me out.
The key to this part is to find keywords that have a high volume of monthly searches and low competition. Google makes this unbelievably easy. Seriously it only takes a few minutes to start finding keywords for your niche. For Airtime we started with “email signature.”
What we found was awesome. Not only was “email signature” being searched 246,000 times a month, but the competition was also low! The third ranking search term was one of our competitors but they didn’t even have meta keywords on their site (a topic I’ll cover shortly). Google also gave us a bunch of related keyword suggestions to go after. After a little back and forth we settled on this list:
- email signature
- outlook email signatures
- interactive email signature
- outlook email
- outlook email signatures
Ranking well for these keywords would bring in a lot of monthly traffic. Next we decided on a plan of attack to start ranking.
Meta Descriptions and Keywords
This one is pretty simple but it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked. Before talking to Scott, Airtime had no meta tags at all! Basically the meta description tells Google what the blurb about your site should say in the search results. You get extra points if your description mentions the keyword you’re trying to rank for. The meta keyword (unsurprisingly) is a list of keywords that are relevant to your site. Alone these two aren’t going to do an amazing amount for your ranking, but as part of a larger strategy they’re essential.
Copy Modifications for Better Keyword Density
Once you’ve figured out your keywords, now you need to go through your site and make sure they appear relatively frequently. Only do this where mentioning the keyword makes sense (otherwise your site starts to like spammy) but a good keyword density is essential in ranking well for your target searches.
For example we changed a line like:
“We integrate with a variety of mail programs such as Outlook, Google Apps, Mac Mail and Sparrow among others.”
“We integrate with a variety of mail programs and allow you to easily customize your email signature in Outlook, Google Apps, Mac Mail and Sparrow among others.”
That small change makes us more relevant for the search term “email signature in outlook.”
Changing Your Site Title
Most startup sites have horrible titles for SEO. For a long time Airtime’s title on all of its pages was simply “Airtime for Email.” Much better is to have the keywords you’re trying to rank for in the beginning of your title followed by the company name. For example our title is now “Market Your Products With Your Email Signature | Airtime for Email.”
Creating an FAQ Section
Another really great way to achieve keyword density is to create an FAQ section for your website that gets linked to from the homepage. In the FAQs you can answer simple questions that have to do with your niche, and also help you rank well for your keywords. For example one of our FAQ questions is “What is an email signature?” which is a fairly frequent search on Google, and helps us get our density up for the “email signature” keyword.
You can even do more pages that specifically deal with different keywords and link to that from your FAQ section.
A great way to do increase your rankings is to set up a blog with WordPress around the keywords you’re trying to rank for. For example, we registered EmailSignatureInOutlook.com (an exact domain match) and wrote a few posts about email signature creation in Outlook. Then we linked to that blog from our FAQ page, and linked the blog to Airtime.
Pretty soon we were ranking well for that search term and bringing traffic to Airtime. I’m going to do an in-depth follow-up post on that experience (use WordPress!!) in the next few days.
There’s a Fine Line To Tread
With SEO there’s a fine line between trying to rank well and being scummy. On the internet there’s nowhere to hide, so if you’re putting out shit content and doing odd things to get back links you’re going to get called out. However, if you’re genuinely trying to provide information about your subject matter, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that it will help you build a better business. Just don’t try to trick people, or the search engines.
Neither will be fooled for long.