Every now and again a client emails me asking what they should be doing to think about the search engine performance of their website.
Most of these clients have sites that I’ve built for them using some kind of content management system (CMS), which means once the site is launched, they handle most of the day-to-day maintenance, updates, and content changes of their site.
For the most part, I believe in a straight-forward approach to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). To me this means the following:
- Build your site using technologies that are accessible to search engines
- Make sure the semantics of your content are worked out. Initially, this is focused on setting up the CMS so that site managers can easily add content that automatically accounts for strong semantic structure of pages (what’s the top priority header on the page, what’s level 2 content, what’s body copy, etc).
- Keep your content fresh (blogging is a great way to do this) and make sure it’s relevant.
Once this is done, the next step is to look at ways of building quality in-bound links to your site. What does this mean?
- Build relationships with other sites in your industry
- Create content that can be placed elsewhere that can bring people back to your site, in the forms of thought leadership, white papers, blog entries, etc. Just make sure that you’re not spreading your content around to other sources in a way that will dilute your own content strength
- Consider online advertising. Done right it can help the cause, though the long-term benefits often aren’t nearly as strong as the benefits gained during a campaign.
There’s a lot more one can do, and this topic can get involved and complicated. I recommend avoiding at all costs any methods that are questionable (this is referred to “Black Hat” SEO as opposed to “White Hat”, which is all above-board). But it can be a lot to manage or think about. I truly believe that the main thing to focus on is building strong, relevant content that your customers will want and deliver it using technologies that won’t interfere with your users or search engines. That will go a long way as you work to establish relevance for your website.
Last note: Google has a great starter 30-some page PDF guide to SEO. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never thought about these things before: