Seven Critical Steps for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Ask ten different SEO specialists to list the steps of search engine optimisation, and you’re likely to get ten different answers. Most, however, will agree on the basics, even if they disagree on the number of steps, their sequence or what to call them. Here, I am listing what I consider to be the essential steps, in the most logical sequence.

1. Initial Analysis
You need to know your starting point before you can plan a journey… so first, you must determine a baseline. Aspects to consider here include market potential and type, and the current validity of your page in terms of code, the WAI Guidelines. Consideration must also be given to the competition, both present and future. When you have determined your starting point and your desired destination, you’re ready to begin.

2. Keyword research
This is one of the most important steps, as you will be selecting the keywords by which you want your site to be found. High placement in the search engine results page (SERP) for a particular keyword means little, if you’ve selected a keyword that most users are unlikely to use in their search. You must select a keyword that users are likely to enter into the search engine, but without putting yourself in the position of being one out of five million in the listing. Often, in very competitive arenas, the best way to minimize that risk is to focus on keyword phrases or long-tail keywords. It can also often be advantageous to select keywords that are sought less often, with less competition. Google Adwords and Wordtracker are two great analysis tools to help you select the best words and phrases.

3. On-page optimisation
There are a number of facets to on-page optimisation, including, but not limited to:
Internal linking, image optimisation, keyword density, meta tags, page structure and navigation. Also, attention should be given to accessibility, and compliance with the WAI Guidelines. Page load speed has also recently been added to the Google algorithm as a factor, and will probably soon be a factor with other search engines, if it isn’t already.

4. Blogging/articles/social media
In order to start building the credibility and popularity of your site, you need to make your presence known, and extend your knowledge beyond your website, hopefully attracting visitors and backlinks. Publishing a blog on the same subject matter as your website is one good way to do this. Writing articles on the same subjects is another very effective means of establishing yourself as an authority. Using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and other similar sites will also help you reach a wider audience. The most helpful of these will be the sites whose links to your site are not nofollow, which will pass no pagerank (PR) to your page. Even those, however, still have the potential of bringing more visitors to your website.

5. Search engine & directory submission
Submitting an xml sitemap to the search engines will alert them to the presence of a new site, and will aid the spiders in navigating your site, in case your navigation is either very complex, or poorly structured. Directory submissions can provide you with increased exposure.

6. Strategic link building
Links are what can bring your site greater pagerank. The quantity of links can certainly make a difference, but it is the quality of those links which carries the greatest impact. Relevancy is paramount, to achieve maximum benefit. A link from a sewing and embroidery site will have little value to a car customisation site. In-niche linking is always to be preferred. Be very wary of buying links from a link farm, and you should even be careful of reciprocal links. It is never a good idea to try to trick the search engines, as they take a dim view of websites that try to “game the system”. You could have your backlinks devalued, or even cause your site to be penalized, resulting in a drop from the search engine results entirely.

7. Repeat… and repeat again
This is an extremely important step to remember. Just because you’ve completed the above steps, doesn’t mean you’re finished. SEO is a continuous process. You should review and revise as necessary, on a continuous basis, as competitors pop up or disappear and algorithms are periodically adjusted.