Let’s not be fatalistic here.
Failing to optimize your website for SEO shouldn’t make or break your consulting practice.
After all, consulting is a relationship business and as long as you are publishing quality content, meeting prospects and generating referrals you should have a pretty good sales pipeline.
Still, doing some SEO work can improve your chances quite a bit (and, it’s cheap).
The management consultant whose killer article on Improving Strategy Execution with Analytics that comes up on the first page of Google’s search results gets first crack at a prospect’s attention. Assuming there are a few thousand searches (or more) a month, that prescient consultant gained at least a few hundred more opportunities than his competitors.
That’s a lot of potential leads.
So, how does a consulting firm optimize their blog posts, web pages and other content to move up the Google rankings?
By following Google’s lead and not over-thinking it.
If you read our Worn-Out Consultant’s Guide to SEO in 2014, then you know that the Big G is desperately focused on content quality and stopping people from gaming the system.
Here’s a checklist of improvements you can make to move your posts, articles and website up the search ladder.
Keep it real
Your first priority with whatever you produce should be quality. Google spends a ton of effort trying to make search results more relevant and valuable, and is constantly updating their algorithms to separate the wheat from the chaff.
And, here’s the kicker: nobody really knows exactly how they do it. Google’s search team keeps it’s secret sauce under lock and key. Sure, they give some direction (otherwise, I couldn’t write this post), but there is no silver bullet.
This is why you should focus on creating content that you are passionate about, or at least knowledgeable enough about to produce something people will want to read.
Write for your customers first, tweak for search results second.
Make Sure the Page or Post Headline is Clear and, Jives with Content
Being clever won’t do you any favors here. Good headlines present a clear benefit to the reader by signaling what’s following.
The better the headline, the more clicks you’ll get. The more clicks, the better your results.
This clarity helps Google evaluate your content too, by taking the guess work out.
By all means, jazz up your headlines by using strong verbs, being quirky or adding urgency. Just don’t sacrifice style for substance.
Favor clarity above all else.
Google loves questions and has a keen focus on the context of information. That is, delivering the right content to the right people. No place is this more evident than in conversational search queries. Using Siri, Android and other voice recognition software, computer and mobile users are increasingly searching using common language.
Nowadays, a user is more likely to ask their iPhone, “how can I be more productive?” than to type “improving productivity” or “maximizing productivity” into their web browser. Here’s a video from Matt Cutts on this topic.
The more natural and conversational your content, the better you should look to Google.
Spend time on the meta description
The 160 character summary of your content, your meta description, can help improve you click through and ultimately your rankings.
When Google indexes your page, it will grab a “snippet” that it feels best represents the content. If Google thinks the meta description is the best snippet to use, it will list it in the search results under the URL.
By writing a unique meta description for each page, you have the opportunity have it presented in search the way you want it. Think of it as a page summary, and write it as concisely and warmly as possible.
Stop worrying about keyword density
The idea that Google cares how many times your keywords show up in the content has been thoroughly debunked. Search engines need keywords to understand what you are getting at and how to categorize you, but they do not care if each keyword meets a certain percentage of your total word count.
Google can pick up on synonyms and variations on the keywords too, so don’t stress about making awkward keyword phrases fit into your content. They will turn off readers and make your material less readable.
Use H2 Tags and Lists
Use Lists (bulleted and numbered) and sub-headlines (e.g. H2 tags), to break up your text into chunks and guide readers between new sections. Ditto for search engines.
Google likes it when you use relevant images to your content, but remember that it cannot actually read your image. Create captions for your readers that describe the image and hopefully contain a keyword or two and create alt tags so Google understands what the image is about.
Add Internal Links
Building internal links within your content is important and can help move the need on your search ranking. At a minimum, internal links help “bubble up” important content and improve navigation. Try to link each new piece of content to other areas of your site several times, but avoid going overboard. I’ve heard a maximum of six is good, but I’m not sure there’s any true math behind it.
Ken Lyons wrote a great article over at Search Engine Watch with pointers on maximizing your internal links
Make Sure Social Sharing is Enabled
Social networking has become quite relevant in how Google ranks information. The more you can get your material shared across social networking sites the more valuable Google will consider it.
This is why every business needs a social networking presence and should include easy to use buttons on their content for social sharing. Each site provides easy ways to include their particular button so it should not be too hard to add it to your site.
Here’s a link to social sharing plugins for WordPress users.
Most Importantly: Don’t Be Afraid to Edit Later
There’s no rule that you can’t revisit old pages, posts and articles and make changes. I’m always amazed at some of the simple errors in my writing when I look back at it.
Curate your content. Edit under performing pages and get that needle moving!