[Ed: With minor changes, we republish one of our earlier posts though it's more than two years old (gasp!). Still good, still relevant.]
In The Sound of Music, the governess sings: “Let’s start at the very beginning/a very good place to start.”
The same holds true in using effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, except you might want to start before the beginning by researching key phrases as you develop your SEO strategy or before you begin to implement optimization techniques.
In the old days, one had to pick key phrases, spend months ranking for them using SEO techniques, and test whether anyone bought. The ability to research key phrases has become more sophisticated, so that we can now assess competition and number of potential searches to discover the ideal low-competition, high-traffic key phrases to aim for in a successful search engine optimization strategy.
Here are some “wrong turns” or for the sake of this post – SEO sins – that people make in their SEO planning.
1. They fail to research keywords
Use keyword research software such as Google’s Keyword Research Tool to find high-traffic keywords. This is one of the least glamorous and most important steps in developing a successful SEO campaign.
2. They don’t check the competition
Check the competition of key phrases by typing the phrase in quotes in Google and look at the number at the top right of the page. This number lets you know the competition for the key phrase. For a small to mid-size business, aim for less than 100K in competition.
Generally, it takes less time to rank for a low competition key phrase than for a highly competitive one. An option, if you have the budget, is to test key words in a pay-per-click campaign to find out if people will buy.
3. They don’t use keywords in copy
My earlier posts here on Women Grow Business discuss this and other steps you can take to improve your rankings. In short, use your key phrases in the headline, first paragraph, and as a link to other related pages on your site.
4. They fail to blog
Search engines love blogs. If possible, use software such as WordPress for your content management system for the entire site. At the very least, use WordPress for your blog. Many programs – called plugins – are available for installation with WordPress. When installed and used correctly, these plugins can help you improve your traffic and your rankings.
5. They don’t use a site map
A site map helps search engines find all of the content on your website. Sign up for Google Webmaster tools, which will let you add a XML site map to your website.
6. They fail to use images
Include an image with your blog post and tag the image with descriptive keywords. You can find images on Flickr to use for free or buy the rights to use low-cost images at
a photo-sharing site such as iphoto.com.
7. They do not participate in their community
Comment on related blogs and leave a link to your site. Some of these links are “follow” as opposed to “no-follow.” A follow link is a link that a search engine will follow.
Image: willia4 via Flickr, Creative Commons