SEO For Regular People

At Rogue Heart we had a realization, every SEO article and tutorial on the web is written from one digital marketing guru, to throngs of aspiring SEO strategist and web professionals. As such the language and framework for the conversation does little to help and inform small business owners, or even marketing professionals at larger companies. Getting good organic placement is a complicated and ever-evolving process so it took some time to craft an educational resource that would hopefully be relevant for a number of years without having to make significant changes. So we are pleased to present…

Rogue Heart Guide for Business Owners and Marketing Professionals to evaluate your web presence in 15 minutes.

As we look at SEO we’re going to break it down to 3 pillars;

  1. How Your Website is Built
  2. The Quality of the Hosting
  3. Strategic Content & Integrated Marketing

Each of these pillars is going to have several factors that we’ll dive into, but everything that effects your organic placement will fit in one of these three categories. Another thing that is important to understand is it is critical to have a baseline in each pillar, if your website is using outdated script (affecting your first pillar) it doesn’t matter how many blogs you write (pillar number three) it will not compensate for a deficiency in another area.

Pillar I Website Build

There are some best practices that web designers conform to. For example the syntax we used in the 90’s to build websites in the first generation of HTML still works visually, but while your site might look OK to the average person search engines that sees that older syntax are going to flag it. That makes achieving good placement very difficult. Best practices include using proper syntax with the most recent generation of HTML & CSS, but also things like making sure your website is responsive (works on mobile devices), that it’s coded in a way where it loads quickly (properly compressing images), and a host of other things.

Action | This can be difficult for a laymen to evaluate, but I do want to share one handy tool. The website offers one free website evaluation. If you enter your domain name, they’ll give you a lot of great information. Now if you have a low score don’t panic, some of what they grade on is thing like if you have a twitter account linked to your website (they grade a little too heavily on social media) so take the overall grade with a grain of salt. What we want to do is look at the errors and see if there are things like “using inline styles” and “no mobile friendly version” and things that are relevant to how your site is built. If you’re currently working with a professional web designer you can take that list of errors to them and they should be able to address those issues. If you are self-managing your site you might need to do some googling for solutions, and if it is really bad, you may need to look at other options for building your website. Keep in mind if you are using something like WordPress simply changing your theme can resolve (or cause) problems with your websites rank.

Pillar II Quality Hosting

For so many people hosting simply means the website lives on a server. At Rogue Heart hosting means your website is hosted on a server with a 99% up-time guarantee, where we monitor analytics and report regularly if your website is meeting your marketing goals, and also fight to mitigate spam. That’s a lot so let’s break it down. For search engine placement, an important factor is bounce rate. A bounce is when someone comes to your website and leaves without navigating to another page. At Rogue Heart our target bounce rate is 40%. There are two ways we improve bounce rate, user experience & mitigating spam.

User Experience

The reason Google places such a high emphasis on bounce rate is because it is a measure that people are finding content on your page relevant. If people can’t find what they need that has an adverse effect on your ranking. We had a website where the bounce rate was up, close to 60%. We looked into the metrics and discovered a lot of the bounce was coming from the page that had prices (this site was a for someone priced at the higher end of their industry). If we remove the prices from the website then the business has to deal with another 100 phone calls and 200 emails a year from people that are not likely to convert. We like pre-qualifying clients, so what we ended up trying was changing the page with pricing from the second spot on the menu and moved it to the far right, and put the about page in the second spot next to home. Within two weeks the bounce rate dropped over 15%. UX is all about trial and error… but our experience in the industry helps and we often get things write the first time.

Mitigating Spam

Spam is a nightmare for a few reasons. First, it mucks up our data, making it’s cumbersome to identify how many impressions your website has when you have to go and filter out 1000 pings from Russia. The larger issue is each ping counts as a bounce and makes your bounce rate go up. Many web host do not work to mitigate spam, and it is critical if you want your website to be a functional tool in your marketing efforts.

Action | If you want to know if UX or Spam issues are plaguing your website the first thing to look at is our bounce rate. Google Analytics is easy to set up on most websites, and it is a free service. If you are working with a web professional chances are they already set it up, and you can just ask your email be linked to the account. Once you sign in the audience overview page with give you a lot of information. If you’re bounce rate is low you are likely doing good. If it is high, I always check for spam first. If you look under Languages you should see 1. en-us (which means English US) and it should show how many sessions with a percent. If you have a lot of sessions from other languages, often ru-ru (Russia) then you are likely being targeted by spam. Unfortunately, if you are self-managing your website there isn’t an easy fix for someone without a lot of time and technical experience, but we may be putting a course together to help combat this. If you want more info email rob@rougeheartmedia with Mother Russia in the subject line.

Pillar III Strategic Content & Integrated Marketing

So the first two pillars are a little more technical, and while there are tools to evaluate where your site is at, the burden for fixing those shortcomings is often technical in nature, and largely falls on your web professional. Pillar three is where you can have a BIG impact on your rank without a lot of technical knowledge. First we want to look at content: content is king. Our goal as content creators is to create as many pages on our website, with our keywords in:

  • Header Text
  • Body Text
  • URL
  • Alt Tags

URL | Think of how many websites you visit where the about page URL is about is not a keyword that is going to help your placement. For best practices we use 3 to 5 works separated by a hyphen.

ALT Tags | Each content management system manages this a little different, but every image added to a website should have an alt tag. This is not only a good opportunity to use keywords, but if you don’t it will negatively impact your placement in google, and possibly other search engines. Alt tags are what screen readers use when blind persons access the internet. There are ADA standards for websites, typically we don’t have to strictly adhere to those guidelines unless we’re working on government sites, but Alt tags are simply a best practice that should be followed. This is tricky because we can verify all the images have alt tags when the site launches, but if you have staff upload an image for a blog and miss the tag it can be time consuming to manage.

Action | Google has a free tool called Google Webmaster Tools that will send notifications if google finds an error, like a missing alt tag. If you are self-managing your site it is worth setting up. If Rogue Heart is managing your site we set up all those alerts when the site goes live and we’ll let you know if anything comes up.

So those are the four areas that we want to make sure we’re hitting with keywords, the next step is to create as many content rich pages as possible. A site with 5 pages indexed in google is not going to rank as well as the site with 100 pages. That is why we encourage blogging. Every time you publish a blog, that is one more page with your keywords.

Action | Create as many pages as you can, but also develop a keyword strategy. A lot of people forget to include geographic references. We have a client that serves the entire West Coast and when I pushed on the geographic keywords they asked, “Why would we want to reference a particular city, we serve people everywhere?” So here is the rub. If they write a blog post about a client in Wenatchee, there isn’t a vendor in Wenatchee that does what they do, but anyone in Wenatchee that looks for their service is likely going to see that blog post come up in the top ten. One blog post can equate to a top ten google organic listing IF it’s not a saturated market.

SEO is one of our pet peeves, there is so much misinformation out there, and so many people that want to put your website on the first page of google for $500 a month. Hopefully you found this resource helpful. If you have any questions and are struggling, even if you haven’t worked with us before, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll help you find the tools and resources you need.