The No BS Guide to Start Doing SEO at Your Business

I’ve been fortunate enough to run SEO projects from small startups all the way to Fortune 500 companies and I can tell you from experience it is never easy to begin doing SEO as a business. The reality is that there is so much information out there that for anyone trying to take the first steps you are guaranteed to waste effort in areas that won’t produce results.

Confusing Road Sign

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Every SEO project ever conceived started with the desire for results, that number one ranking in Google for an extremely competitive term or massive “unpaid” traffic. This is a good thing but also typically where big problems start. Now that you’ve dedicated the time and budget what do you do next? There is unfortunately an information overload on the subject which makes prioritizing extremely challenging for anyone but a seasoned SEO professional. Here’s what you do:

Set the right goal

SEO is very unique in that success pays off exponentially more as you become more successful. A top 3 ranking is going to send a lot of traffic but 11th will send almost nothing. Furthermore, Google has consistently made changes to guarantee big brands will rank even if their sites have extreme problems that would not allow smaller sites to rank at all.

Eye tracking study of Google SERPs

That means that any SEO plan that doesn’t involve being an authority online is missing the core value of SEO over any other marketing medium. The real benefit of SEO is that it has the potential for the lowest cost per customer acquisition of any marketing channel. If the end goal is to simply get a modest directly measurable ROI a big SEO project is setup to fail from the beginning. Consider looking at other marketing channels particularly paid marketing or just getting a basic technical plan for future SEO efforts.

For low authority sites

If you haven’t developed your business as a top authority on subjects relating to your core business there is a huge gap in what you could be getting out of SEO. The bottom line is that every SEO plan for a low authority website needs to include becoming an authority. These are examples of strong plans for developing authority:
  • Create such compelling content that the viral traffic you receive is profitable without search rankings
  • Optimize your PR to get links out of your placements
  • Run events that can break even and focus on social engagement of the participants
  • Use your well known and expert employees and executives to create content for big publications, organizations and events
The core of every example is that it includes engaging in valuable activities if you were to void all search benefits. You want to build valuable assets that can be scaled independent of your search rankings but also position yourself to benefit from search. If you develop world class thought leadership like this it’s nearly impossible to not get authoritative links and rankings in Google. Balsamiq is one of my favorite examples of this:
  • 11 employees total and their authority was built while there were fewer
  • 81 Domain Authority
  • Top ranks for extremely competitive terms like “mockups” and “wireframing tool”
  • Seemingly no SEO optimization done
Balsamiq blog post traffic spikes

Websites with authority

Once your website already has authority you have a choice to make:
  1. Optimize search engine’s ability to crawl your website and correctly rank you for your areas of expertise
  2. Invest in growing your authority or expanding into a larger topic niche/industry
The key to making this decision is to understand the interaction between authority and optimization. The more authority you have the larger the benefits are for fixing problems. There are many websites out there with straightforward technical problems that are worth millions of dollars in traffic if fixed. Comparatively if you have a technically SEO perfect website with little authority it’s often worth very little. This will help visualize balancing building authority and optimization:

Rewards to Optimization Ratio

Optimize

Note that what we’re trying to do here is make sure that we aren’t losing out on areas of expertise that we deserve to be ranking for. Unfortunately, search engines are far from perfect at crawling websites so it’s your job to ensure that you aren’t causing problems. To start you want to understand the key ways websites are crawled and put into a search engine, you must understand:
  • What is relevant content for the terms you want to rank
  • How a search engine crawler finds and indexes every page you would want to rank
  • What keywords your indexed pages target
There is a lot of depth to each of these points but you want to start by understanding how each of these components affect how your site ranks. It’s often a great idea to bring in experts if you aren’t capable of doing the deep dive inhouse but you still need to understand the basics of how these 3 components affect your site.
Every website needs to know this
Example Crawl Path

Additional resources:

Chris Warren

Chris Warren

Chris started his career as a professional poker player for five years. He soon realized that life in Las Vegas wouldn't be the last stop in his career and started building for profit websites on the side. This wasn't successful but eventually it...   read more

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9 Comments

  1. I love this one!
    "any SEO plan that doesn’t involve being an authority online is missing the core value of SEO"

    reply >
    • Yes, you are right that every SEO strategy have to on the top for your site/blog with a detailed plan workout. Especially if you are a small brand or an entrant than you have to be eqully competent and patient enough to keep working through your SEO strategies for a longer duration.

  2. This post articulates the role of authority in creating search visibility well. One question -- why is a choice between 1 and 2 for sites with authority? It does not seem like an either/or choice.

    reply >
  3. This is an excellent post. We are working to initiate this at present by giving the Internet a little love in the form of virus removal guides.

    reply >
  4. I think you nailed it Chris. Oftentimes I've seen businesses that aren't authorities in their niche spend way too much time optimizing their website. Usually these websites don't have much traffic to begin with and they're spending too much time trying to optimize their site to be 'perfect'. Problem is, they're putting so much time and work into on-page optimization but aren't seeing much benefit in terms of rankings/traffic. Basically they've hit that point of diminishing returns.

    Smaller sites that aren't authoritative yet should get the basics of on-page SEO down but then they should really be concentrating on growing the business using strategies you mentioned.

    reply >
  5. I totally agree with you that Google keeps changing algorithms which ensures that big brands will rank well even if their websites have problems. Penguin, over optimization penalty is exists for same purpose. You have given too good tips for success in online business.

    reply >
  6. I'm a little late to the party, but great post, Chris. I've certainly felt when I first started working in SEO that our company has so much information and I was baffled with trying to determine where was the best place to start organizing, optimizing and showcasing everything we were already doing. In the end, we just made the call to start with the areas where we were already getting the most buy-in, and allow our success there to lure over the other silos.

    reply >
    • Chris Warren

      I'm a big fan of that approach Ryan, investing in a new channel as a business it's very important to set it up for success, not put it out on a limb where it doesn't have time to grow over time (like your other channels have). I think it's both successful in terms of a strategy to demonstrate the value of SEO and a good way to approach business investments in new growth areas.

  7. Great post Chris. 100% agree with your philosophy in regards to authority/brand building. Ultimately an SEO strategy should be equivalent to pure brand building (not only done online, but through offline tactics), which could be done through a wide variety of strategies. It still baffles me that a good number of professionals in the industry assume that there is a single path / one-size-fits all solution for every problem. Spot on!

    reply >

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