Why Focus on SEO?
Well, it's essentially free traffic. You can't really "pay" for it, instead the way you would be paying is the amount of time and effort you would need to spend on the front-end before you can begin to see any results (6-12 months generally).
The benefit of ranking on the first page of Google is that you can drive "free traffic" that will likely be very high quality since people need to search directly for those terms to get on your website.
The Top 3 Things To Do to Rank on the First Page of Google
Here are the main areas you should focus on first and really nail down before moving onto other strategies. The 80/20 rule is what I am using here to determine what you should focus on.
From my experience, spending your energy here on these core disciplines of SEO is what will drive the most amount of ROI for your time.
Consistently Produce Amazing Content for the Audience You Serve
There's no beating around the bush here - if you're not consistently producing content on your website, it's not going to perform very well from an SEO perspective.
There's just too much online competition now and Google prioritizes fresh content from websites with high "domain authority" (translation: businesses that have spent a lot of time creating high quality content)
So, the first step towards ranking on Google is to start consistently producing relevant and helpful content towards the customers you serve and the industry you're in. Your best bet in options in terms of content are either a blog, podcast, or video series.
Each have their pros and cons, and those will differ based on what market you're in as well as personality type.
The big thing here is to start with one and commit to it. Don't let analysis paralysis get in your way - even choosing the wrong one here would be better than doing nothing.
Garner High Quality Backlinks
Earning links from other websites back to your website is what we call a "Backlink". This is a signal to Google that your website has a quality piece of content and is trustworthy - since that is likely why someone would link to your website in most circumstances.
It's very similar to sources in the academic world. While there are specific actions towards increasing the amount of backlinks to your website, it's not easy and takes time. It's very manual. So, you can't really scale or automate your efforts here to make this more efficient. And the best, most high quality link usually come about organically.
I would label this an advanced tactic and not focus on it too much when just starting out. High quality content will do just as much to boost your overall SEO rankings - and that's something your actions can directly control.
Develop a Lightning Fast Website
Finally, the speed and technical quality of your website is a huge ranking factor in SEO today. And this is an area of your website you do have direct control over.
This will be even more true later this year, as Google is preparing a new algorithm update (called the "Core Web Vitals Update") that introduces new metrics they will use to rank websites and likely increase it's ranking significance.
To get a current overview of where your website stands from a speed perspective, use a tool like Google's PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix. That will grade your website and give you a list of items that can be improved on for a higher score. What are the top factors that go into a fast website?
- A Quality Website Hosting Provider - Your website can only be as fast as the server it's running on. For WordPress, I like CloudWays, FlyWheel and WPEngine. Or BlueHost or HostGator if you need a more affordable option. I've also used Amazon Web Services with Webflow and was able to get great scores with that.
- A Great Technical Infrastructure - A lot of websites are either built inefficiently or run on slow, bloated themes/frameworks (especially on WordPress) that get in the way of being able to have a fast website. For WordPress, I would use only either Elementor, Oxygen, or Gutenberg. If you want another CMS option, Webflow is great as well and produces extremely lightweight code. For your website, there are also a bunch of smart technical optimizations you can make. This will help you really boost your website's loading time. These include minifying all HTML/CSS/JS assets, allowing your website to Cache assets, deferring tracking codes and scripts, and setting up a CDN.
- Properly Sized Media - The images and videos on your website are likely the biggest and most time consuming resources to load. And this is an area that I often see overlooked. You should always serve images in a size that are the maximum size they will ever be on a page. They should also be a relatively small file type - and you can use a service like TinyPNG that will compress your images. This reduces the file size but preserves quality (but always be sure to double check).
Interested in learning more about the nitty-gritty of SEO? Check out the blog post below. How to Optimize Your Website for SEO
Tactics to Hit the Ground Running with SEO
So, know that you are more familiar with the basics of SEO and what it is going to take to rank. let's talk about some specific strategies to actually make it happen.
Keyword/Key Phrase Research
You don't need to guess what your audience is searching for to inform what content you need to be creating. You can research the search volume, how hard it will be to rank, and competition of any keywords or phrases you are interested in creating content for. This will help you develop a strategy.
To get started with this, I recommend using a tool called UberSuggest
Pillar Blog Post
One of the best ways to quickly start ranking for a specific topic is to create a "Pillar" blog post.
Basically, you set up one master blog post that links out to other blog posts. So the main blog post is the topic, and the blogs it's linking to represent sub-topics.
So if I was starting a content website around Classic Rock, I would create a master blog post title "The Best Rock Bands of the 80s" and then list out blogs for each band from the decade (Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, The Clash, etc.).This works because the Google algorithm seems to really like long-form, in-depth content around specific topics. And because this blog structure clearly links out to so many sub-topics, it can clearly see how all the content is related and can rank them all higher together.
Local Service Landing Pages
This is another one of my favorite tactics. Basically, I would start creating landing pages around "local service" type keywords and phrases that you would like to rank for.
So, if you were an Interior Designer in Mahwah, New Jersey, you would probably want to start with a a page focused on the keyword of "Interior Design Services in Mahwah, New Jersey".
From there, I would flesh out the page with sections about other local areas you serve, what specific services you offer (bullet point list is great for this), customer testimonials, and frequently asked questions with answers. I would then include a CTA to where people can either directly reach out to you or direct them towards an entry point offer (if you have one).