Summary - Use server caching, long-tail keywords, site analytics, and generate shareable content, offering the means to do so. Applicable to those wanting to make the most of online sales and marketing. If that’s not you at the moment, skip ahead.
Once the above tactics have been employed, or at least considered, you can start to plan your advanced SEO strategy. These tips will give you the edge over sites that are left to gather virtual cobwebs.
Site speed – how to get it
As faster sites are better ranked and keep visitors engaged for longer, anything you can do to improve page load times is time well spent. Many high traffic sites have optimised this by reducing graphics and content to a minimum functional and aesthetic level, often elegantly. See Google’s front page for a good example!
Enable any ‘caching’ features your CMS offers. This saves the site from doing the same database calls and full page refreshes for every new visitor and speeds up load times significantly.
CDNs, content delivery networks, as previously mentioned in the basic SEO section can be used to great effect for media-heavy sites. They cache your content on their servers and re-route users to their nearest local server to reduce load times. Try Cloudflare for this.
Another advanced way to do this is to serve larger media from a ‘cloud’ server such as Amazon’s S3 web services, which can reduce your hosting bills and increase end-user speeds. Your CMS, if using one, will have pre-programmed plugins and modules to do just this. If you are not using a CMS I’ll again assume that you know what you’re doing and can read the documentation to get this working.
Use the long-tail
A term popularised in 2004 by technology writer Chris Anderson, the long-tail is where you find the rare items that can still hold much value for many people; from major retailers (Amazon product searches for fluffy thumb warmers) to translators (Siberian-based specialist in fluffy thumb warmers). Long-tail search keywords can convert to sales more readily than the most popular ‘head’ terms (translator, translation etc.).
Highlighting your niche in your SEO keywords has the benefit of you coming to dominate and corner a specific service offer, as competition will be low or non-existent. Searchers are also potentially more likely to convert to buyers if your term is specific and business related, weeding out the searchers who are in the early stages of research only (i.e. ‘translation professional’ vs ‘free translation’). By making this small effort to study the niche keywords you can compete quite well with the large LSPs who regularly produce fresh content on big budgets. If you show yourself to be an expert in a particular field, and can be found for it, your chances of a sale through your website go up exponentially.
Your website analytics package is your friend. I use Google Analytics as it is comprehensive and free, but more in-depth, paid-for alternatives exist (Kissmetrics and Mixpanel), as well as free (in money and liberty) and open source alternatives such as Piwik. You can use analytics to find out your most popular content over time and then write more around that subject, especially if you find it brings in the right visitors.
Dig in to the data to find out which pages lead on to which others, to find out how people arrive at your site and use this to tailor new content to encourage the most active visitors to view more pages or to take an action.
Creating popular content
As mentioned, going niche is a good start, but it is not enough on its own. Standard writing rules apply for creating something interesting and keeping readers engaged. But what to write about?
Any exclusive data you can generate is a perennial favourite among freelancer-bloggers. Look through your analytics data, carry out a survey among clients or colleagues, or you can look over your previous year’s top 5 translation subject categories.
Keeping these data posts easily consumable (in lists, or summary form) and easily shareable (with a simple message) is key to converting readers to sharers and buyers.
Be careful not to always write about current affairs. Aim to write what is referred to in some circles as ‘evergreen’ or ‘pillar’ content. This is content that stands the test of time. It doesn’t go stale. Searchers will find it and enjoy it for years to come.
Other successful techniques I’ve seen work well over the years are quizzes, controversial pieces, funny pieces, in-depth pieces… if it’s different and interesting it stands a good chance of being read or shared, so be creative in your content creation.
A good source of posts can be to write about what your clients talk to you or ask about. Client emails contain the wording they use and these will often cover concerns that are common across their industry. If you work with their concerns and the specific terms they use you can create a stream of useful articles that speak directly to them and their industry.
The end goal of interesting content is to generate interest in your service, and this effect is multiplied by sharing and word of mouth, something you can facilitate by including social media ‘buttons’ on your site. CMS plugins and site code snippets are available (Addthis). The floating narrow left-side sidebar next to content is reported to be successful, as is asking for email signups and shares at the end of a blog post. There are many ways of doing this, with new ones developing all the time.
If you get ‘blogger’s block’ and need fresh ideas I would advise the occasional study of successful sites. How many posts do they have? How long have they been blogging? How do they use social media? How are their keywords laid out? How in-depth are their articles? The general trend you will tend to see is that luck and ‘the perfect post’ is often not the overriding success factor, rather persistence, quality and quantity over months and years. Find an interesting post and write your thoughts on it. If it doesn’t seem a good read when you’ve finished, you don’t need to publish it, but pushing it to the site may be of benefit in the long run if the quality is passable.
Finally, if ever offered any of the following ‘services’, you have now been formally advised to avoid them, on pain of suffering the wrath of the search engines for attempting to ‘game’ them:
· paid links (don’t buy backlinks from others, it won’t end well)
· link spam (always contribute to conversations in the comments)
· hidden keywords (this barely worked in the 90s)
· spam content (users can flag content as spam very easily)
· keyword stuffing (inserting keywords into a text unnaturally)
Using this chapter, and the roadmap, you should be able to structure your site in an SEO friendly manner to maximise search traffic. Now, when your visitors arrive, how will you then welcome and convert them to clients? Read on…