In many ways, 2012 was the year search engine optimization (SEO) really grew up. Google left us with little choice. But we evolved as an industry, striving to build high-quality content and focus on adding as much value as possible for our users, readers, and customers.
There was a lot of pain along the way throughout this growth process, and many are still cleaning up from the aftermath. For example, the gaps in Google’s algorithm have been closed to the point that any quick SEO tactic is likely to be just that — a short-term fix at best, a potential cause of long-term damage at worst.
If you want to win in 2013, you must commit to a solid long-term strategy. However, that’s not to say you can’t build small wins into your long-term strategy to assist in developing brand strength.
The only real way to beat the well-known online brands is to become one yourself. But just because the more traditional SEO tactics from previous years are now areas to avoid in 2013, doesn’t mean there aren’t any quick wins out there.
Research and Analysis Wins
- Make a cup of tea and read through Google’s patents to figure out where they’re going next!
- Not a fan of tea? Take your client for a beer instead. Find out what else they’re working on outside of your campaign. There’s a good chance you’ll find information that can be of great assistance.
- Spend time with your dev team. Get to know them and figure out their difficulties and bottlenecks.
- Build a checklist scorecard of how well you know outreach targets, and map out stages of how you you can get to know them better.
- Find the top bloggers in your local city or region. Figure out where they hang out so that you can meet them (events, don’t stalk them on the way home).
- Even better, arrange your own meetup and invite key bloggers and journalists.
- Run an industry survey to collect data, which can then be used for content production.
Google+ and Authorship Wins
- Set up Google Authorship for your site , or if you have already, verify that it’s working.
- Arrange a seminar to demonstrate how your team can link up their Google+ author profiles.
- Encourage your team to build up their Google+ profiles and share other content.
- Have a blog? Find orphaned posts from ‘guest bloggers’ and move them under the relevant author profiles where you can map them up – same for ex-staff members.
Events and Sponsorship Wins
- Find local sports teams and events you can sponsor.
- Submit a speaker pitch for an industry event.
- Create a content plan around liveblogging an industry event.
Content Strategy and Planning Wins
- Be creative – brainstorm new product ideas to make them link-worthy.
- Acquire a company!
- Get sued! (Ok, maybe don’t.)
- Open new content angles by relating your niche to a different topic.
- Dig into your data – look over old company reports, white papers, etc. for key statistics.
- Schedule a team brainstorm to develop new content ideas.
- Share a Google Calendar mapping out your website content plan with auto-send reminders to the people involved with different areas of content creation.
- Aim to split opinions with your content and promote this to both audiences for a reaction. It doesn’t have to be controversial, just as long as you have no right or wrong answer.
Relationship Building Wins
- Follow up! Make the effort to stay in touch with key contacts via social, email, phone, and face-to-face.
- Become friends with key influencers and meet them in person – invite them to lunch or arrange a meetup.
- Reuse great outreach connections and build on-going relationships.
- Provide customer testimonials for your software, product, and service providers.
- Ask influencers to add you to their partner pages.
- Get your users involved. Build relationships and brand interaction by rewarding loyal fans.
- Ask your friends and family to link to you if they have personal websites.
Content Production Wins
- Take photos and make them available under a Creative Commons license.
- Write topical content about a trend from that day.
- Interview experts within your niche (ego bait).
- Craft an exclusive content pitch for a leading authority website.
- Focus on one piece of great content, instead of four average ones.
- Develop a content ideation plan for an infographic using data from within your company.
- Answer common questions asked within your industry. This can be a great method for brainstorming content ideas.
- Set up Google Alerts for these questions so when these are asked on blogs or forums you can reply with your opinion (and link to your content).
- Create and syndicate video content to target new audiences.
- Offer a discount promotion to get people talking, and so they are picked up on promo-code websites.
- Create a great 404 error page. Your users will love it, and it might get you some links for creativity!
Comment Marketing Wins
- Make the effort to reply to comments on all of your content (posts on your blog, guest posts, news coverage, etc.) to help build relationships.
- Find an active forum within your niche to start contributing and building profiles.
- Find two targeted blogs; comment where you can add value, and subscribe or follow them and their key writers on Twitter.
- Take photos of your office, or store and upload a minimum of six high-quality photos to help your local listing stand out.
- Ensure all of your company addresses are registered and up to date on Google+ Local.
- Design business cards that encourage customers to review your brand on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp!, etc. Offer them a next-time discount incentive.
- Create landing pages with local intent. Submit them to Google Local if you have multiple addresses.
- Take a visit to your local library and dig deep into historical information about your local town or city. You might find a gem that hasn’t been written about online, which is great for picking up local citations and links. Michael Dorausch has some great tips in a local review of Tampa.
- Create a list of power reviewers within your sector and look to get on their radar.
- Make sure you’re listed on the key local providers, such as Yell, ThomsonLocal, ReachLocal, etc.
Blogger Outreach Wins
- Find two of the most authoritative bloggers in your niche and figure out the best way to connect. In all likelihood, they’ve added that to their “About” page.
- Pick up the phone and speak to top influencers.
- Hire writers within your niche and leverage their contacts for outreach.
- Spend your hour carefully crafting a great content pitch and make it personal and original.
- Give bloggers and journalists a product they can use or test in exchange for a review (use with caution, and make this well-targeted and selective).
- Write for authority sites within your niche. Build strong relationships and strengthen your reputation by leveraging the audiences of well-respected industry blogs.
- Get your client to create a company email address for you with their domain so it’s clearer when you’re sending emails out on their behalf.
Penguin and Panda Penalty Review Wins
- Perform a content performance ratio analysis to figure out how much content you need to clean up.
- Build a list of top sites you want to remove links from.
- Clean up your own internal anchor text from over-optimisation.
- Reduce cross-linking from other sites you own. Link from partner pages, rather than sitewide.
- Clean up any links from your social profiles and author bios.
On-Site Optimisation Wins
- Prioritise a list of key actions, and assign responsibilities and deadlines.
- Install SEO WordPress plugins to optimise your blog.
- Optimise page title tags. It’s the oldest quick SEO win in the book, but it still works!
- Test pay-per-click (PPC) ad copy as title/meta description to lift organic click-through rate.
- Review navigation structure such as breadcrumbs and internal linking.
- Use tools. I could fill another 96 points here, but I suggest discovering which two or three make you more efficient. Then spend the time to really get to know how to use them fully.
- Start to document your delivery process. This will save you a lot of time in the future when training your team.
- Run a knowledge share session with your internal team and/or client. Try to make sure they know what you do, then you don’t have to do it all yourself!
- Learn how to get things done. Watching this video takes 45 minutes — you’ve still got 15 minutes left. So you’re instantly more productive!
Link Removal Wins
- Analyse your backlinks to find off-topic, poor anchor text links.
- Analyse the market to find the percentage of exact-match anchor text for key competitors.
- Clean up any obvious paid or over-optimised links.
Link Reclamation Wins
- Google Operator Query “Brand Name” “Key Person Within Organisation Name.” Then ask to be credited with a link within article if not already given.
- Google Image search for your infographics or photos. Ask for link credits where these are not provided.
- Find broken links pointing out of site with this tool. This is another easy fix to clean up and makes your site look good.
Competitive Analysis Wins
- Research competitors’ top pages in OpenSiteExplorer to get content ideas.
- Review brand traffic history in analytics to measure the impact of offline brand signals.
- Think of creative ways you can get more people searching for your brand by joining up with offline advertising.
Public Relations Wins
- Bring your PR and social teams together to understand what they are doing and how they can help each other by working more closely together.
- Sign up for PR service HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to become a link source for news articles.
- Build a list of key journalists and media contacts you want to influence.
- Enter relevant industry and local awards competitions.
- Brainstorm ideas to connect offline with online tactics. How can you get more people searching for you (sending brand signals to Google)?
- Create and submit an XML Sitemap to keep this up to date in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Check how your website displays on mobile and tablet devices, and plan to create platform-specific sites if you don’t already have them.
- Fix duplicate content homepage: www vs non-www.
- Check for external duplicate content.
- Make sure the geo-targeting for your international site is set up correctly in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Optimise your site for mobile. Do it in less than an hour with a plugin.
Analytics and Measurement Wins
- Start developing a strategy around your top 20 PPC spend/converting keywords.
- Find your top converting landing pages. Optimise them and update the content to attract new links.
- Ensure all your analytic goals are in place to measure both micro and macro conversions so you can report on revenue, leads, and ROI to your boss and/or client.
- Talk to your clients and learn about their main business.
- Finally…spend your hour writing a report making a business case for the value of SEO to get extra resources allocated. Because really — an hour’s just not enough!