Get Your Online House in Order: Steps to Take Before Signing an SEO Contract

Many of you have sold a home or two in your lifetime. Even if you haven’t sold your own home, you’ve watched real estate agents in reality TV shows teach home owners the importance of, and how to, get their houses in shape before putting them on the market.

You get one shot to capture the attention of the people who are ready to buy, so before scheduling that open house you want it in tip-top shape. Otherwise, your best potential buyers will walk in, take one look around, turn and walk out.
You also only have one shot when someone visits your website looking to buy. Small business owners, wanting more business from their websites, are sitting ducks for signing contracts with shady SEO firms claiming to “do SEO” for their sites and promising more traffic. An ethical SEO firm would evaluate your website before working with you and make suggestions at what you need to do to get ready for the traffic.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of firms out there who will take your money and run SEO audit software on your site, tell you they will keep you on all of the local directories for a year, say they are doing some on-site SEO and embark upon some link building schemes that Google may actually slap you down for.

You will get some traffic to your site but if it hasn’t been prepped to be ready to convert those leads into customers; those expensive new visitors will bounce right off, never to return. Too bad business owners don’t have agents to tell them how to stage their websites to attract and convert business.

This is one of the things I offer people in a Talk it Out Session. I think it is so important that I also started doing it in what has become a quite popular talk of mine, The Good the Bad and The Ugly, Rapid Fire Website Critiques.  When I give this presentation at a conference, I first train the audience in best practices for home page design and content and then ask people to submit their urls for us to review their websites. We go over them one by one and the group evaluates them on the basis of the points we went over at the beginning of the session. It is fun to do and eye-opening as everyone can clearly see the mistakes that the website owner was previously blind to.

Consider this post a public service.  Before signing up for what you think is a great way to get more traffic, keep reading to find out how you can be sure you are not throwing money down the drain, bringing in traffic that leaves as fast as that homebuyer in an atrocious house.  

  1. Make sure your website is well-designed, loads fast, clearly says what you do, and who you do it for, and has clear calls to action. These will inspire trust. Don’t just rely on your own judgment; ask a few people what they think about your site and specifically ask: If they needed your services or products, would they buy from you?
  2. Make sure Google can find you. It might sound weird, but a very important question is, “Do you have words on your website”? Google and other search engines find you on the basis of what you write on each page of your site. The search engines want to see you using your words for keyword phrases and synonyms of those phrases that you want to rank for—one on each page or blog post.

Getting visitors to stay on your site

You can build it so people might come, but will they stay? They will if you have clearly written content that is personal and engaging and sets your business apart from the others. This is the heart of building SEO and keeping it.

Search engines find you by your words, and the more of your words that you put out there that readers find valuable, the more Google love you will get. How does Google know if your content is valuable enough to give it ranking?

It seems to be circular reasoning but the more traffic you have to your site, the longer people stay on your site, and the more pages your visitors read, the more Google will give you a higher search ranking.   

What all this tells you is that you have to blog and do it regularly. Write about things that will be of interest to your readers that add real value to their lives. Answer their questions, solve their problems, and point them to options. When people feel smarter after reading you, they will come back for more, and they will come back more often.

(Of course, don’t forget to optimize posts you write for search engines. It’s not hard. You need to use one keyword phrase per post, and use the phrase in the title and the body of your post).  

Social Media is Key

But if you stop there, you won’t get any traffic. You need to be actively promoting your content on social media platforms. Send info and a link of the post to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc. When people who follow you share your posts, more people come to your site, and Google will reward you.

Take Twitter for example. Set up an account complete with a picture, and search for people who are interested in your area of expertise. Follow them and they will appreciate your interest because real followers are the currency of Twitter. They often will follow you back, so get busy. When you tweet the link of your website article, search engines will index that page, which will help you even if you haven’t attracted many followers.

Speaking of followers, some people do well with Facebook pages and others with LinkedIn. What you do on social media depends on your target market.  

[Tweet “PSA: Don’t sign that SEO contract until you read this!”]

Every Lead Counts

Don’t forget your email. Build a list of email addresses from people interested in your expertise. Email them excerpts of your posts so they will click through to your site to finish reading. Ask them to share the links with others who will read the post on your site.

When a new visitor gets to your site, make sure you greet them with a compelling opt-in form to sign up to receive your updates. Don’t call it a newsletter and don’t refer to what you send out as an e-blast. Newsletters are boring and e-blasts are frightening. You need to think about it instead as a service to your readers that engages and educates them with valuable information. They are your valued prospects and customers, and reliable, consistent information builds great trust, and over time you will convert visitors into clients.  

Is it Worth It?

If you want online marketing to work, this is how it works. You must build up your content marketing engine before you hire someone to “do SEO” for you or purchase ads.

I know it seems like a lot of work but there is no getting around the fact that this is how Google rewards sites with higher search ranking. And if it becomes a routine part of your business you will reap the rewards of steady traffic. I have posts that I wrote five years ago that still get 40-50 visits a day and I have over 750 posts. Do the math. It is worth it?

When You Are Ready for SEO

Search Engine Optimization is not magic. Just to take the mystery out of the process here are ten first steps of good SEO practices:

  1. Make sure your website is Mobile Responsive. Your mobile rankings are at stake.
  2. Add descriptive alt tags to your images. Google likes sites to be accessible for the people who need to have sites read.
  3. Make sure your pages load quickly. Yes, Google likes to go fast.
  4. Set up Google Analytics and learn to use it.
  5. Install the Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress site. Read his tutorials and configure the plugin for your needs.
  6. Make sure each page or post is optimized for one keyword phrase
  7. Get your Google Local Business site set up correctly and completely.
  8. If you have a local business make sure your business name, address, and phone number are in your page footer in text, not an image.
  9. When writing a post link to other relevant articles you have written about before. Linking to other posts will keep visitors on your site longer, increase page views and lower your bounce rate; all things Google loves. Or link to your important pages internally  using targeted keyphrases like “web design atlanta“. 
  10. Links to your site from related, high authority sites are very valuable. Some easy ways to get links are to speak at conferences, volunteer with organizations, or write a guest post for someone with a high authority website. Being on a list of links on a directory is not very helpful, and in fact, the paid directories may be a bad link that Google slaps you for so be careful with any non-real link-building scams.


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