Search engine optimization starts with understanding your online business objectives. Do you want to provide company background, gather sales leads, or sell online? If you know what you want to achieve, you can then build a website optimization strategy targeted for your unique goals.

Think of search engine optimization as a puzzle with many pieces – including content, design, links and tracking. Website optimization involves bringing all these pieces together to create a complete picture that makes your Website attractive to search engines and customers alike.

These days, most businesses understand the basic concepts of SEO (search engine optimization) and why it’s important. However, when it comes to developing and executing a sound SEO strategy , most businesses don’t know where to begin. Here are five steps you can take to make sure all of your SEO bases are covered.

Step 1: Make a List of Keywords 

Keywords are at the heart of SEO, and selecting the right ones can make or break your SEO strategy. Compile a list of about 10 keywords associated with your product or services. Plug these keywords into Google’s Keyword Tool , and find variations that make sense for your business.

Using search volume and competition as your measure, narrow down your list to 10-15 keywords you would like to rank for. Then rank this list in order of priority or relevance to your business.

Your keyword list should be a living and breathing document that you review and update at least once a month. This will make sure you stay in keyword research mode and keep your keyword list evolving with industry and search trends.

Step 2: Build Keyword-Focused Pages

When it comes to websites and ranking in search engines, it’s always better to have multiple web pages tailored to specific keywords or phrases. Trying to get one page to rank for a handful of keywords can be next to impossible.

Use your keyword list to determine how many different web pages you should create. Ultimately, the number of web pages you create should coincide with how many different products, offerings, and locations your business has. This will make it much easier for your prospects and customers to find you in search engines no matter what keywords they use.

Each web page needs to include relevant content for your prospects and customers and should include pictures and links to pages on your site to enhance the user experience.

Create a list of all the different web pages you would like to create and rank them in order of importance. Then, create a schedule and devise a plan of attack to get those pages built. You will continue to roll out new web pages and enhance existing ones as you continue your keyword research and optimization . Keep your list updated and prioritized by what web pages will help you to best achieve your business goals.

Step 3: Set Up a Blog

Blogging can be an incredible way to rank for keywords and engage your website’s users. After all, every blog post is a new web page that gives you another chance to rank in search engines. If your business does not already have a blog, set one up, and make a point to blog at least once a week.

Remember, you are blogging primarily for your audience, not the search engines. Write about things your audience and/or prospects are interested in, make sure you’re including relevant keywords where appropriate, and your audience will naturally find you.

Step 4: Create a Link-Building Plan

While our first three steps were dedicated to on-page SEO tactics , link-building is the primary objective of off-page SEO, and it’s also a huge factor in how search engines rank your web pages. Dedicate some time to brainstorm all the different ways you can attract inbound links to your website. Start small – maybe share your links with other local businesses in exchange for links to their sites. Write a few blog posts and share them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Consider approaching other bloggers for guest blogging opportunities through which you can link back to your website. Another great way to attract inbound links is to use your blog to post articles related to current events or news. That way you have shot of getting linked to from an industry influencer or other bloggers in your industry.

Step 5: Stay Current on SEO News & Practices

Like the overall marketing landscape, the search engine space is ever-evolving. Staying on top of current trends and best practices is a difficult task, but there are multiple online resources that can make it easy for you to stay on top of SEO news and changes that may impact your website and your SEO strategy. Here are a few resources to check out:

  1.  SEOmoz
  2.  SEOBook
  3.  Search Engine Roundtable
  4.  Search Engine Land
  5.  This Blog!

Step 6: Measure and Track Your SEO Success

SEO can take a lot of time and effort. What good is spending all this time and effort if you can’t see the fruits of your labor? There are many metrics you can track on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to keep your SEO plan on track and measure your success. Create a monthly dashboard using Excel or a web analytics package so you can monitor how much traffic comes to your website from organic search.

Also, tracking indexed pages, leads, ROI, inbound links, keywords, and your actual ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages) can help you recognize your success as well as identify areas of opportunity.

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