Planning Your Site with SEO in Mind

Can I Rank Higher on Google?

I often receive requests from small business owners to help them improve how their site ranks on search engines.  Often, they had a website built, and are looking to increase its effectiveness by focusing some energy on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  While there are certainly improvements that can be made in terms of speed optimizations and making sure that keywords are present in pages, certainly the most comprehensive corrections are best made earlier before the site is built.  Building a site with search engines in mind can make a big difference in how it performs.  There is a process that can be used to set up your site for search engine success.

Start With the Keywords In Mind

The first thing you want to do is to come up with a list of keywords that you want to focus on for your website.  Those keywords will obviously need to be relevant for your products and services, but you will also want to make sure that they are not overly broad.  If you’re a car dealership, for example, you wouldn’t try to rank for ‘cars’.  There are way too many things that people could be searching for, that have nothing to do with buying cars from you.  Also, a car dealership has a limited geographical reach.  A better keyword might be ‘Purchase Toyota in [your area]’.  You could add other makes as well if you sold multiple makes.

This example brings up an interesting concept.  You can now see that if you were a dealership that sold a wide variety of makes that you would want to rank for a number of those.  So we can start to build out our list of keywords from there.  We may also offer repairs.  We could add keywords like ‘Repairs on Lexus in [your area].  Or things like ‘radiator repair in [your area]’.  We shouldn’t be afraid of long-tail keywords, which are keyword phrases with several words.  They are specific and will be easier to rank. 

One often misunderstood aspect of SEO is that you cannot just add keywords to a page.  If you want a page to have a better chance of ranking, you want to make sure that the word and other related words are in the page’s content.  You can’t shoehorn keywords into the page.  If the content is not about the keyword, it won’t rank.  You really need a page for each keyword you want to rank for, so understand that a 6-page website will not rank for 30 keywords.

Structure Your Content

Search engines, like people, need context.  Site structure is one of the ways that we can offer context to both our users and web crawlers.  A flat site structure (meaning each page is directly under the home page) doesn’t offer much context.  If you have a 6-page site, that’s fine, but as we look at trying to rank for a range of keywords, we will need more content, and that will require better structure.  If we go back to the idea of the car dealership, we may want a page for each of the main makes we carry.  We want to be as obvious as possible, so we could have page addresses that look like https://somecaredealer.com/sales/honda, or https://somecardealer.com/sales/ford.

We could also have separate pages (I say pages, but we may want to use custom post types, but that is a little more technical than we need to get for the purposes of this blog post) for services, like https://somecardealer.com/service/transmission.    

Besides products and services, you could look at locations or service areas for pages.  So if your car dealership had 3 locations, you would want a location page for each.  If you had particular geographical areas you serviced, you could have service area pages.

Build Your Keyword Strategy

Now that you’ve got a list of keywords in mind and a site structure, you can start to form a strategy.  You may have started out thinking you needed a 6-page website and now you realize that you need a 40-page website.  That’s not to say that you need to build out all of that content before you launch.  If you can prioritize which keywords are important and build your site so that you can addon to a scalable structure, then you can start small and build over time.  If you planned on building a huge house, but couldn’t afford it, you could make plans for the larger house, and how you could expand it down the road.  If you planned ahead, the renovations could be faster and more economical, and the end result would seem less like a small house that had several additions slapped on it.

Other considerations

Blogging

A potential customer might be looking for information on a topic adjacent to your business.  Blogging is a great way to get potential customers on our site.  A customer might not be looking to buy a car, but perhaps they are searching for things to look out for in a used car.  You might also create a post that lays out all the steps involved in purchasing a new or used vehicle.  This sort of useful content can get people on your site and present you as a subject matter expert.

PPC

You could use PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising to help get you to the front of the line with searchers as well.  It may be cost-effective to pay for PPC ads as a way to ensure that you appear on page one of the search results.  PPC, in combination with SEO, is a powerful 1-2 punch.  It’s great if we can get search results organically, but if we’re building out our larger site over time as I mentioned in the strategy section, then PPC is a great way to start getting results on those keywords for which you don’t have content, or for which content is not yet ranking well.

Conclusion

We all want to magically appear on page 1 whenever a potential customer searches for our products or services.  That means there is always a fair bit of competition.  If you’re at the place where you’re building a new website, why not take a long-term approach to your site and plan your site out with SEO in mind.  A little extra work, in the beginning, can pay dividends later. 

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