The first thing is to follow best practices and properly tag your site during setup. Most Content Management Systems have fairly self-explanatory fields where you can place meta descriptions and tags and so forth, but many business people, even fairly tech savvy folks, will skip over them or don’t bother to take the time and learn what they do.
As Brent posted earlier in “SEO’s Dirty Little Secret”, if you cross your t’s and dot your I’s in most industries, you will be ahead of 90% of your competition who didn’t even bother. It takes a bit of effort, but some quality time with Google and your CMS’s online manual will be all you need to do your own basic optimization. If you want us to take care of it for you, we can do that, but that’s not our primary business. And in cases where a client needs really intense optimization to reach the top rankings in a competitive industry, we refer the job out to experts who can deliver return on investment.
But there is yet another path to Google stardom that you can take without paying anybody or even looking at a meta tag – have really kickin’ content.
The best case study I can come up with is from the world of webcomics. I am a big fan of XKCD, which I thought of as a quirky little niche comic for math and science geeks. On a lark, I typed “webcomic” into Google and was surprised to find that xkcd is number one. Number one on Google for a highly competitive keyword. They beat Penny Arcade, the Godfather of Webcomics. Penny Arcade has its own convention, for crying out loud.
I had to find out why.
I ran XKCD through our site grading service. Randall Munroe is a pretty tech savvy guy, so I figured his site would be optimized to the hilt with all sorts of tags.
Nope. Nary a tag, description, heading, or directory entry to be found. Even his blog is not properly linked to the main site. His t’s are dotted and his i’s are crossed and nothing’s set up the way a professional would. How is this working?
Then I scrolled down the report a bit more. His traffic ranking? Top 0.1%
His Pagerank? 7 Freaking Seven. There are Fortune 500 companies that would kill puppies for a Pagerank of 7, and I’m pretty sure some have.
Little XKCD has over one million inbound links.
That, my friends, is how you climb Google rankings. You come up with consistently awesome content, then promote the heck out of your site in your network and on every bit of social media you can get your hands on. If your stuff is good, by the fickle and democratic nature of the internet gods, it will take off. People will come to your sites and they will post links on their Twitter and Facebook to bring their friends along. That is how you turn a daily comic about stick figures and math jokes into an internet institution.
Now, I understand not every business owner can be an artistic genius. And you don’t have to be. But the key to good rankings and high traffic is always appealing content that satisfies a need. If you’re an expert, share your expertise with the world. Update regularly so people have a reason to come back to your site or subscribe to your RSS feeds. If you can deliver well-written, engaging content and promote it well through your network, you don’t need to pay for SEO. But if you’d like help, that’s what we’re here for.