Search engine optimization isn’t about ranking for that one perfect keyword phrase anymore. It’s about making sure your website is performing like a well-oiled machine.
Are the right technical pieces in place? Are you producing the right content? Are you connecting with customers, colleagues, and other industry thought leaders? These are the hallmarks of a good SEO program today.
Before you start thinking it’s all too difficult, it’s really not.
There are some quick SEO wins you can achieve to take steps toward higher rankings. Here are nine of them you can probably do just by setting aside an hour here or there.
Technical Quick Wins
1) Install Webmaster Tools.
Google Webmaster Tools probably deserves its own blog post entirely, but for the uninitiated, this service helps you see what Google sees when it crawls your website.
Simply adding and verifying your site with Webmaster Tools gives you access to data you can use immediately, like crawl errors and HTML improvements, as well as additional information for the long game, like content keyword data and links to your site.
Even if you only use it to identify the 404 errors Google finds when it crawls your site, you can quickly redirect those bad links to a similar page and pass on some of the link’s mojo.
2) Optimize existing pages.
By reviewing your content with these or similar tools either before or after content is published, you can ensure you’re using the best title tags and the right keywords for optimal search performance.
3) Get Google Authorship.
Many companies and their bloggers still haven’t fully embraced what is arguably the future of SEO: Google Authorship. While the jury is still out on whether or not it directly affects rankings today, most everyone is in agreement that Authorship will affect rankings at some point.
To get authorship, you can follow Google’s instructions on Google+ here. You can also add a link like this one to the content you produce online:
At the very least, you can get a more visually appealing search engine result that shows the content comes from a verified source. That alone has the potential to increase clickthrough rates on those search impressions.
4) Use Google Publisher.
Like Google Authorship, Google Publisher connects content to a verified publisher. This connection with your company’s Google+ Business Page has benefits that go beyond just rank, as well, taking advantage of Google’s Knowledge Graph.
This markup will ensure your company’s Google+ page, number of followers, most recent update, and an option to add your page to circles show up in a widget for your branded search results.
To have Google attribute content to you as a publisher, simply drop this code into the head section of your website:
<link href="https://plus.google.com/COMPANY-PAGE-ID/" rel="publisher" />
This will verify your company’s status as a publisher and display richer data about your company when people are looking for it online.
Pro Tip: You can make sure your content has the proper Author and Publisher markup using Google’s Structured Data Tool.
Content Quick Wins
1) Write a blog post.
But the search landscape for blogging is changing, too. Rather than writing something short and sweet or producing a high quantity of blog posts, take the time to write a lengthier, more informative post now and then. Google is gearing up to present the most valuable content in its In-Depth Articles feature:
This is still a very new feature (only about two months old), but current research shows that an article under 1,000 words has little chance of appearing in these results.
At the very least, well-written, longer form articles will provide more crawlable text and more interesting points to share. That’s not to say you should target word counts. Just don’t be afraid to go long.
2) Share on Google+.
Above you read about Google Authorship and Publisher markups, both of which require a Google+ page to complete. But what’s the point in having that Google+ profile or page if you’re not going to share your content there? A better question may be this: How do you expect your content to get maximum visibility if you’re not sharing on Google’s own social network?
Sharing on Google+ has both implicit and explicit SEO benefits. The most obvious is when you or your brand is connected with someone on Google+, your updates will likely show up in their search results. But the benefits go deeper than that.
A recent study by Searchmetrics indicated that of all the social signals Google uses in its algorithm, Google +1 activity had the highest correlation to ranking. By sharing your content you give others the opportunity to add the +1 stamp of approval to your content, which will help your rank in the long run.
If you need help getting started with Google+, check out this Google+ Cheat Sheet.
Relationship Quick Wins
1) Connect with thought leaders.
Sharing on Google+ is helpful, but you really need people to share your content in order to get the maximum benefit. This is where connecting with other industry thought leaders comes in.
At least once a week, you should take some time to find other people in your industry to connect with on Google+. Each connection can help you appear higher in the personalized search results of the people you connect with. Just remember connecting is a two-way street. You should share and +1 a connection’s content if you expect them to share yours.
Cultivating connections like this not only helps you develop relationships with thought leaders, it can help you become a thought leader, too.
2) Pitch your content.
Sometimes, a simple social network connection isn’t enough, though. Not everyone will follow you back on Google+ and some thought leaders still don’t use Google+. Taking a page out of the old school PR handbook, you can seek out blogs and writers to connect with outside of Google+.
Writing a simple, personal email to one of these potential contacts about one of your recent blog posts is a good way to start building relationships with other people in your industry.
Making a connection can have immediate SEO benefits if the connection links to your content or shares it on his or her social networks. Long term, a good relationship can lead to more links and shares, especially if you’re producing truly remarkable content.
3) Go offline.
Don’t limit yourself to the online world when it comes to SEO. In today’s environment, you must also be mindful of offline opportunities for SEO boosts. Whether it’s gaining links or branded search traffic through events and sponsorship or providing additional information online about a public speaking opportunity offline, it’s important to integrate your digital assets into these seemingly un-digital events.
One of the quickest ways to have the offline world collide with your online one is to live-blog or post-event blog. Whether it’s a simple industry meetup or a full-scale conference, you’re likely to have a number of opportunities every month for event write-ups.
Not only can these live events help with other relationship-building activities mentioned above, they can also provide you with an excuse to drop a few names in your content. And even the most humble person can’t resist sharing content that they’ve been mentioned in.
Dan Stasiewski is Technology Director at Kuno Creative, where he consults enterprise-level companies on content marketing, lead nurturing, and marketing automation strategies. You can connect with Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, or read more of his posts on Kuno’s Brand & Capture blog.