"Just Google 'Jason McDonald' to find his site or send him a message – he’s number one on Google!"
You’d think that a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Guru should be number one on Google when you search his name, right? Well, Jason McDonald is!
I don’t think I am alone in wanting my website to be at the top (or at least on the first page) of Google’s results, so I picked up McDonald’s book, Fifty SEO Ideas: Free Tips, Secrets and Ideas for Search Engine Optimization, looking for some quick, easy to implement techniques to help me do so. I wasn’t disappointed.
McDonald tells the reader right out of the gate that not all of the 50 ideas in his book will be relevant. You can pick and choose “like a recipe in a cookbook” which techniques you want to use; you don’t have to do them in order either. Each technique is laid out on two pages with a bulleted summary, a description, a “Best For”, timeline, importance, To-Do list, and resource links. It’s an easy read.
The Big Idea
"Having a systematic understanding of your keywords is arguably the most important step in successful SEO."
There are several ideas/chapters on building and using keywords, so I am going to incorporate three of them here. Keywords are the way in which Google knows what your website is about so it can display it when specific words are typed into the search field. Keywords drive Google and SEO, but as McDonald says, most organizations lack a structured list of their own keywords. I know the ones for my website are outdated.
Step One: Keyword Discovery
1. Brainstorm your keywords. What words best describe your company?
2. Use free keyword tools to build a large list of keywords for your site. Google has a good one, search “Google Keyword Tool”. You can also use the Google Suggest option, by typing in a phrase into Google and see what suggestions come up.
3. Build a structured keyword worksheet.
4. Measure your success in Google Analytics. This will give you detailed insights into your website. Sign up for a free account.
Step Two: Title Tags
The title tags are the phrases that are seen at the top of the browser, the headline on a Google search, and helps Google understand what the page is about.
1. After you have prioritized your keywords in terms of importance, put your most important keywords in your title tags on your home page.
2. On all of your other pages, make sure the title tag contains the target keywords.
3. Make sure that the title tags are accurate and unique.
4. Title tags should be less than 69 characters.
Step Three: Meta Description
Think of meta description tags as your suggestion to Google for how to describe the pages on your website. They are different from title tags in that they are larger and explain in more detail what the page is about. Think of title tags as short phrases, meta descriptions as sentences. When you do a Google search, the title tags are the link, and the meta description is the description of the page under the link. Follow the same steps for designing meta descriptions as you would for title tags, but keep in mind that meta descriptions are longer (155 characters).
If you aren’t tech savvy or don’t make changes to your site, your web person can make the changes for you once you provide them the keywords, title tags, and meta descriptions.
"News is one of the most powerful techniques that you can use for Search Engine Optimization."
Google loves new content. Posting new content is what lets Google know that your website is living and not stale, old, and irrelevant. Press releases (PR) are a great way to add content to your site. McDonald suggests doing this monthly and says that it should only take a few hours or less.
Identify timely, SEO friendly news topics. Admittedly, this is an area that I have been terrible at. My goal, starting next month, is to do a monthly press release. I think that I sometimes fall into the trap where I think our news isn’t very interesting, but in reality, it may make for an interesting read by others.
Make sure that your keywords are in the PR, but don’t “keyword-stuff”. Google frowns upon that.
Post the PR on your website.
Syndicate your PR through free or paid news services. PRLog is one of the best he says. PRWeb is a paid service that starts at $99 per release.
McDonald has some videos that show you how to syndicate a PR. If you are doing any press releases, this is a must watch.
Identify bloggers who may be interested in your PR. Post links to it on all of your social media outlets.
"One of the metrics that Google pays more and more attention to is your web site response speed."
After I read about response speed, I felt embarrassed that I never realized this before. It makes so much sense to me now that this should be a factor, but I have never checked the speed of any of my websites, ever. I’ve had probably a dozen different websites over the past ten years. How embarrassing is that? (Blushing.) When I think about it, I have zero patience for slow-loading sites. My attention span is limited at the best of times, but online it’s even shorter. Especially on my phone. McDonald helps us solve this problem.
1. Go to one of the free speed tools (here, here or here).
2. Measure your website speed. If it is slower than 20% of other sites, you should be concerned.
3. Have your web developer fix your site with the solutions that the sites provide. Note that the solutions are technical – I don’t understand what they mean, so unless you are a guru yourself, call your web developer.
I played around with all three of the sites above. Google gave me a not-so-good report, the Pingdom was a bit better. All of them listed the challenges on my site. Excuse me for a moment while I call my web guy…
Once thing I stumbled upon that I found REALLY useful was Pingdom’s free service that tests your site every minute to ensure that it’s up and running. Did I mention it’s free? Did I mention it tests every minute? Consider me signed up! They also have other paid services that are more in-depth.
McDonald has some great ideas in his book. I’m not going to use all of them, but I did pick several to execute in the next couple of months. Writing a book on a technology like Google is challenging I would imagine. The technology changes daily, if not hourly. I did find a link that was listed in his book that didn’t work, but McDonald’s own website site is packed with free information. I think you know how to find his site.
Is your website listed at the top of Google? Have you ever been frustrated by a slow-loading site?