Here’s an image from Peter’s Site, where you can download a tool that validates your html. It’s fun to watch and rather pretty, but probably not the most practical way to begin organizing your SEO efforts.
I think it’s a perfect image for the process, though, for several reasons. First, it shows the complexity of the process. The multifarious elements of SEO strategy make it hard to keep track of all the aspects of your efforts. Validating code is just one of the many specialized issues that will arise as you work on SEO. And the result is organized in a way that, while you may admire it, doesn’t give a clear result.
“Optimize” means to make something as good as possible. Optimizing for search engines (as in “Search Engine Optimization”) means making your website as good as possible by the standards of the search engines while also making it as good as possible for your human visitors.
If you’re ready to do this for your website, you can divide the things you need to do into two major groups:
- on site optimization: things you do to improve your website
- off site optimization: things you do elsewhere to improve your online visibility
On site optimization should be the first step. It includes things like these:
- making sure your content communicates well with people and with the search engines
- making sure your design communicates the right message about your company
- making sure your pages load quickly
- making sure that your site is very usable
- installing analytics that allow you to track metrics that show you how your visitors experience your website
- keeping your site up to date
- adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis
Obviously, each of these items has many subparts, from optimizing your images to testing your shopping cart. Then there are off-site optimization tasks:
- gaining links from high quality, relevant websites
- making sure your customers know about your website
- engaging with your visitors and members of your target market (can be on-site, too)
- being a good citizen of the online community
- participating in forums and social media sites
- producing quality content elsewhere on the web linking back to your website
- using advertising or affiliate options if those are appropriate for your business
Again, each of these tasks includes many subtasks. How do you keep track?
- Schedule tasks Once you’ve identified the things that need to be done regularly, you can schedule them for the optimal frequency and put them on your calendar. Daily blog posts, thrice-daily Tweets, weekly visits to forums, a weekly block of time for linkbuilding, weekly or monthly work with analytics — all these are good habits to have. We use Toggl and Solve360 to keep track of things like this.
- Plan campaigns We plan campaigns for our clients, in part because it’s easy to charge for a campaign, but partly also because it’s measurable and manageable. Use tools like Basecamp, Solve360, or TadaList tokeep track of your campaigns. Things like keywords , linkbuilding, and content marketing lend themselves to a campaign approach. If you click on the links, you’ll see specific suggestions for all those things.
- Files You might use files or spreadsheets with either of the other approaches, too, but it’s possible to set up a file (electronic or physical) and keep track of even sporadic SEO efforts in this way. That is, you can track analytics on a graph, keep a spreadsheet of keywords you’re working on or links you achieve, and track your progress with an automatic site analysis tool. Then you can just watch things improve gradually as you take occasional steps. While this can’t be expected to give results equal to more aggressive efforts, keeping track allows you to avoid duplicating your efforts, taking such a scattershot approach that you get no results, or wasting time on things that haven’t worked (and you forgot).
As for my validation graph, I’m hoping that it’s not very good at testing WordPress sites, but it has given me a new SEO job to do for my own site: tracking down the code problems it found and fixing them. There’s no end to SEO…