Hitchhiker’s Guide to the SEO Galaxy

Top tips to improve your online findability

“The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!”   ~ Douglas Adams

For some businesses getting noticed online is a lot like hitchhiking. There’s risk involved and rewards too, but both are a hit and miss kinda deal. The truth is getting found online has nothing to do with luck, voodoo or how many friends you have that are willing to click on a link because you asked very nicely.

seo for googleLet’s start with you and search engines and why you aren’t getting found. Search engines are big business and they have a responsibly to online searchers. If they don’t deliver relevant content, they lose searchers to their competitors. Just ask Dogpile how they feel about Google… Getting found online is all about understanding what the search engines want and how to deliver it in a way they understand.

In 1993 the Library Journal described Douglas Adams’ books as being “filled with loopy humor and pretzel logic…” While I’m forever thankful for, “So long and thanks for all the fish” (I used it in a resignation letter once), what follows is a practical guide to SEO based on hitchhiking best practices. Special thanks to HitchWiki.org for the inspiration.

If you don’t have the resources to hire an SEO consultant, these tips will help you increase your visibility. Remember though that hiring an SEO consultant is comparable to the differences between a do-it-yourselfer and an interior designer. You’ll see results, but a professional can get the job done faster and with a lot less trial and error.

Take a well-traveled route, even if it’s out of the way

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”   ~ Douglas Adams

SEO isn’t a new idea and understanding the basic tenants of it will take you back to your childhood and learning the Dewy Decimal System at the library. It’s simple a way to categorize the hundreds of millions of pages of content on the Internet. Notice I said pages – every single page on your site should be competing for visibility in the search engines.

  • Link to people and businesses that can help you and help Google understand your value proposition. The more both know about you, the more they can refer you to the right people.
  • Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. What’s good for your clients, is often great for Google. Ask yourself what your clients want when they arrive on your site – and then give it to them.
  • Remember this takes time. Whether you use an expert or do it yourself, SEO takes time. You’re building trust and respect with the search engines and that doesn’t happen overnight.

Carry a good map

“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” ~ Douglas Adams

search engine optimization terrorI never travel without a good map (which is now in my iPhone). It can tell me where I’m going, how long it will take me to get there and all the cool things I can do when I arrive. SEO is the same – remember, no voodoo here. Everything you do in SEO has a purpose and should move you one step closer to your goals.

  • Record your starting point – keywords you’re currently ranking for, traffic numbers and referrers. Chart every moment on a weekly or monthly basis so you’ll know if you need to change course.
  • Treat your site like a roadmap and label everything. Pictures, videos, links all need to be labeled so Google knows where you want to go to. Just labeling your images with the right keywords can make a huge difference in traffic – seriously!
  • Crowdsource your clients and website visitors about what they want. You may be under-delivering information and losing sales because of it. Tapping into the pulse of your online community can help you improve your value-offering to potential clients AND to the search engines.

Stand in a well-lit area

“I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”   ~ Douglas Adams

Hitchhikers that stand in dark, deserted alleys don’t survive very long. Same is true for companies that make online alliances with shady businesses. Search engines see the neighborhood you’re creating and they’ll either reward you or penalize you for it.

  • Link responsibly. Linking to porn, pills or casino sites is bad news and will land you in SEO hell. Even if they leave a lovely comment on your blog, don’t do it.
  • Share link love with like-minded businesses that can and will support you. Steer clear of competitors who aren’t into collaboration.
  • Link deeply to other pages on your site. When search engines crawl your site, you want them to hop from page to page to page – and hopefully hit every single one – before they leave. If you don’t show yourself some link love, they won’t either.

Stay positive, smile and laugh

“Don’t panic.” ~ Douglas Adams

how not to seoBuilding a sustainable SEO strategy is hard work and it can take a few tries before getting it right. A good SEO specialist will do it all by hand and if you’re seeing progress, keep going. If you’re not seeing any changes – or worse a decrease in traffic – get a second opinion. There are more than a few businesses that call that call themselves SEO specialists but use only Black SEO, which is neither sustainable nor smart.

Make conversation with drivers

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”   ~ Douglas Adams

Drivers pick up hitchhikers for lots of different reasons. If the driver’s looking for good conversation and gets glum sulking instead, the ride will likely be a lot shorter.

  • Use social media to amplify your SEO strategy. Your keywords and meta descriptions can make your message stronger to both your website visitors and social media community.
  • Engage like-minded businesses to collaborate with you. Work together to create on and offline events and share your communities – more water in the harbor helps all the ships rise equally.
  • Have fun! While SEO is hard work, it can also make your social media communications easier so relax and have fun – your community will see that fun and want to join in.

SEO isn’t a game of chance and while it’s not an exact science, there are some basic best practices that can help businesses get found. Read through our SEO resources and let us know if we can help you improve your findability online. And if you use some of our tips and tricks, let us know that too – we love to celebrate success!

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