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Is there an easier softer way to approach SEO?

by Tim Rimington | December 22, 2011

A client asked me this week if there was an easier, softer way of optimising their online store without having to go through the time and expense of a “full blown” SEO campaign. The answer depends on who you speak to, I guess. But if you step outside the comprehensive umbrella that encapsulates SEO, there may well be an “easier, softer way” to approach website optimisation.

Pondering this further, I must admit that I’ve spent the best part of 3 months trying to devise alternatives that are better suited to clients who don’t have a realistic budget for SEO, or who have enough on their plates without having to sit up until the wee hours trying to get their head around keyword research and copywriting for SEO.

So before I get an entire industry’s nose out of joint, I’ll draw a quick line in the sand! Search Engine Optimisation, almost by definition, requires specific steps in order to achieve a goal. But if we cheat that definition, perhaps we can slide in there somewhere, a different approach that’s geared more towards those small business people who are flat out managing their business and who are happy to settle for an “easier, softer” approach – for now.

The “easier, softer” approach I want to put forward, is optimising key web pages and making sure that their main SEO check-boxes are ticked. Is it possible to “dress up” a website so it appears relatively attractive to search engines? Just enough to get the website out of Google’s “bad books” and onto the “playing field”?

My soft approach is along the following lines:

1. Write down 3 realistic long-tail keyword search phrases that potential customers would use to find your products or services. Don’t include your business name!

2. Write a nicely flowing introduction sentence that incorporates the main keywords that best describe your products or services. Place your small selection of chosen keywords at the start of the sentence, but make sure that the sentence reads well and makes sense. This “sentence” will become your Home page heading. Place this text at the top of your Home page and give the heading a “tag” of “Heading 1” using your CMS Page Editor style tools.

3. Write 1 or 2 short paragraphs that, broadly speaking, further explain what you do. Few web users take time to read, so keep it short and precise. Now write 3-5 bullet points that sumarise everything, and again keep these short. As with your Home page heading, place the most important keywords and phrases towards the start of the first paragraph. Think of a newspaper and how the most important articles are at the top of the page. These paragraphs and bullet points should now sit directly beneath your Home page heading. “Tag” them with a “p” (paragraph) tag from within your CMS Page Editor.

4. Within your website CMS, place your small selection of keywords within the ‘META Keywords’ field for your Home page, separating each with a comma.

Now place your first paragraph within the ‘META Description’ field, and if the paragraph is more than ~160 characters in length, edit it until it fits. Search engines typically serve this text within search results so make it meaningful and consider slipping in a “call to action” if you can.

Finally, take the first sentence from that first paragraph and place it within the ‘Page Title’ field, ensuring that it doesn’t exceed ~60 characters in length. Again, search engines serve the ‘Page Title’ to their users, and this becomes the main text link you see on the Search Engine Results Page/s (SERPs).

5. Now go back to your Home page Page Editor and bold type important words or phrases for the benefit of skim readers (i.e. most of your website visitors who scan your text to identify that you have what they’re searching for). Don’t go crazy with the bold-type selections, try and keep them to a minimum.

What you should have now is a reasonably well-optimised Home page that search engines should favour. You’ve ticked most of the boxes for your first “test”, but search engines don’t stop at your Home page of course, they troll through your entire site looking for original content that’s adhering to the above points.

To continue the process, you repeat this for every web page on your site but instead of using the same keywords or phrases across every page within your page Heading and following paragraphs, you introduce keywords that are relevant to the content on that page, and that page only. So if you sell fruit, your Home page will make mention of apples, bananas, pears and oranges (because your Home page serves as a broad introduction about what you offer). But the separate web page that talks about ‘apples’, will not necessarily mention the other fruits as well. This means that your keywords for the ‘apples’ page will focus almost exclusively on ‘apples’ and any other directly related “service” or “product” associated with apples.

Search engines want to serve to their users, quality and original content relevant to the user’s search term. The more relevant the ‘Page Title’, ‘Heading 1..’, ‘Paragraph’ and ‘META’ tags to the actual content on the page, the more likely it is that the search engines will serve your web page to their users. But if your web page text bears little relevance to what you’ve placed in your ‘Page Title’ or META tags, the more likely it is that the search engines will view your web page with a degree of suspicion. Same applies to scraped or duplicate page content – write original page text for everything on your web site, without exception. If you have product data, “specifications” or other measurements, try to be as creative as you can when writing this onto pages. At least when it comes to Google, “copy and paste” is your worst enemy!

What I’ve proposed here is by no means comprehensive SEO. But if you get into the habit of writing quality page text and tags of relevance to the content on the page (as opposed to the web site as a whole), then you’re at least getting your web site off the beaten track and out onto the highway where it can be seen. Could this be a viable, easier, softer approach to SEO? You be the judge!

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