The step-by-step Search Engine Optimization To Do List is outlined below.
I think there are 2 different scenarios for optimizing existing Web sites – one for Web sites focused on only one product or service, and another for “large” Web sites with more pages and/or multiple product/service sections.
For narrowly focused Web sites, the goal should be to (1) optimize the site for one major “Educational Conversation” AND several iterations of that same conversation in the major search engines; (2) create or re-optimize your “Site Map” pages (a XML version for search engine crawlers and a HTML version for human visitors) and submit it to Google via Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools); and (3) re-optimize your site’s Home Page and submit it to Google via Google Search Console.
For “large” Web sites, the fastest, most effective and least disruptive way to optimize an existing site for the major search engines is to (1) create 3-5 “Educational Conversation” Web pages; (2) create or re-optimize your “Site Map” pages (a XML version for search engine crawlers and a HTML version for human visitors) and submit it to Google via Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools); and (3) re-optimize your site’s Home Page and submit it to Google via Google Search Console.
These 3-5 “Educational Conversation” pages should align with the major product or service sections of your Web site. I suggest creating and optimizing 3-5 educational conversation pages in this exercise because optimizing that many pages is a formidable task.
If you follow this “80/20 Search Engine Optimization To Do List”, it will provide you with the greatest traffic volume from search engines for the least amount of search engine optimization effort (a form of the “80/20 rule”).
Let’s get started!
- Before you begin this process, a word of warning to existing Web site owners: Do NOT open a Web browser and visit your Web site!
Why? Because the initial stages of this optimization process have nothing to do with your existing web site! Instead what we are doing is finding out who your key target customers are and what they most probably search for in Google when they are trying to find information on a product or service you offer on your Web site.
- Whether your Web site is large or small (narrowly or broadly focused): FIRST, sit down with a pad of paper and describe in as much detail as possible the characteristics of the major “Buyer Personas” that you are most interested in attracting to your Web site.
Buyer Persona – what’s that? Here’s a primer on the subject from HubSpot: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template]
SECOND, now that you have a clear idea of who your major Buyer Personas are, next you need to write down the type of “semantic searches” those folks who want to learn more about the problems that your product or service solves would search for in Google or the other major search engines.
- This step is the KEY to a successful “on the page” Search Engine Optimization effort, so put as much time as necessary into selecting these key “semantic searches”. Be prepared to “tweek” the initial selections based on what is returned when tried in Google.
- Example: simple keyword phrase search: “buy solar panels boston” (without the quotes); semantic search starts with: “how do solar panels work?” (again without the quotes).
- When you finish this exercise, you should have identified 3-5 key semantic searches that are closely related to the products, services and/or topics discussed on your Web site. And they are popular enough to attract a sizable amount of search traffic based on researching these phrases in a major search engine like Google.
Next: What To Do With Semantic Searches
- Enter your 3-5 key semantic searches only into the Google Search Engine, but do it as follows:
- FIRST, go to www.google.com, type one of your key semantic search phrases into the Google search box on that page and press the Enter key. Note the number of results returned and print the top 10 search results.
- SECOND, type the same quote into the Google search box, but this time surround it with quotation marks, and press the enter key. Note the number of results returned and print the top 10 search results.
- FINALLY, first type in the phrase “intitle:” into the Google search box, then add the key semantic search in quotes, and press the enter key. Note the number of results returned and print the top 10 search results. (Here’s what your search box entry would look like if your key search phrase was “how do solar panels work”: intitle:”solar panels work”)
What You’ve Accomplished So Far
- What you have done in this short exercise is 1) found out how many search results Google returns for the typical way that a search phrase is entered (no quotation marks), 2) how many search results Google returns for pages that contain that exact phrase at least once (quotation marks), and 3) how many search results Google returns for pages that contain that exact phrase in the Title Tag of that page (see below).
That final step helped you identify those Web pages that have had at least some amount of search engine optimization applied to them relative to the search phrases you are working with. These pages are your real SEO competition for that phrase!
NOW Let’s Take a Look at your Existing Web Site
- For existing Web site owners, now it’s time to look at your existing Web site, but not how you may have done it in the past.
- For this exercise, you first need to open a browser (Chrome, Firefox or Opera) and add the following free extension: SEOquake. Here is how SEOquake describes itself: “SEOquake is a free plugin for your browser that provides you with organic research data at the click of a button. Currently compatible with Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera, SEOquake can provide parameters for listings within search engine results. Along with organic research data, SEOquake provides other useful tools including an SEO Audit, Keyword Density report, Internal/External Link analysis and even social metrics.” Think of SEOquake as the free version of semRUSH (SEOquake’s owners), a very powerful (and expensive!) SEO analysis tool.
SEOquake provides a ton of useful SEO-related information, but right now we’re going to focus on one key parameter: “Density”. Enter your Home page URL into the browser. On the SEOquake bar at the top, scroll to the right until you come to “Density” and click on that link. You will then be provided with that Web page’s actual one, two, three and four word keyword phrases.
I’m sure you guessed what comes next! Let’s compare what the actual three and four keyword phrases are on your Home page with the semantic searches generated above. How close do they match? That answer will tell you how much work is left to be done on your existing Home page!
- Before we dive into the next section, there’s one more free test I’d like you to run on your Home page – how fast this page loads. Head on over to GTMetrix.com and test the loading speed of your Web page. Why? Because loading speed has become a key ranking factor with both Google and Yahoo (Microsoft Edge) search engines. This came about because of the increasing use of these search engines on mobile devices, especially smart phones, where loading speed is typically much slower than on desktop devices.
Why GTMetrix? Because it combines the detailed loading speed results from both Google and Yahoo (Microsoft Edge) search servers.
To use GTMetrix, go to GTMetrix.com, enter the URL of your Home page and hit enter. Really it’s that simple! Be sure to run this test at least one more time.
For our use now, focus on one thing: “Fully Loaded Time”. Compare your result to the “Average Fully Loaded Time” by hovering over the arrow next to your page’s Fully Loaded Time. Is your time better or worse than the average time? Again you’ll now have a better sense of how much optimizing needs to be done on your Home page.
For more detailed information about GTMetrix results, please see the following article on Winning WP: “How to use GTMetrix to Test a Website’s Speed – Effectively!”
Key On-The-Page SEO Items
- For each key semantic search phrase, analyze the following 3 Web page components on the Web pages generated above:
- Page Title Tag (use the “View | Source” command in your Web browser to view Title tag)
- META Description Tag (use the “View | Source” command in your Web browser to view META Description tag)
- First 250 words (approximately) of the “visible” page text – this is the text you can actually see when viewing the page in your Web browser
Note: We will also look at visible text in each internal hyperlink pointing to that page later in this exercise
These 3 items are the most important “on-the-page” components for the search engines we’re interested in optimizing for.