By Guy Levine, CEO of Return On Digital

Search engine optimisation is not a dark art. In fact, it is quite simple as long as you know the rules of the game. The first rule is that if you want to get to the top of Google for a keyword which is going to make you tons of money, it will probably be a tough journey to get there, especially if competitors have been in that space a lot longer than you. The second is that the search engines will always change the rules and sometimes, well most of the time, they won’t event tell you. So how do you build a campaign based on tried and test strategies which will always work? Please read on…

While not strictly SEO, the first step is to build a site for conversion. SEO is a method of increasing business, so having lots of visitors but no sales or enquires defeats the purpose of driving more traffic. Also, simply increasing the conversion rate of a website therefore generating more enquiries or sales from the same amount of visitors adds value straight to the bottom line. Visible and strong calls to action, easy to find contact details, simple shopping carts and lead capture are good places to start.

Now we have a website which acts as your company’s star sales person, it’s time to think about the prospect. What will they type into Google to find what you offer? Start with the ‘no brainers,’ ask internally and customers for their suggestions. Have a good search on Google. Then use a free tool like the Google Keyword Tool for more suggestions and a guide as to how many visitors each keyword may generate. This will then give you a keyword list to work with.

With your keyword list at hand, it is time to go through your website and make sure it is relevant and in context with your keywords. Make sure keywords are visible on the pages, especially in headlines and internal links. Optimise your title tags and description tags with your keywords as well. We usually suggest using only 4-6 keywords per page so if you have lots of keywords you may need to add more pages. Now is also the time to make sure your site uses good code and loads as fast as possible. Google Webmaster Tools will give you lots of information on how to optimise this.

Your website strategy will be coming together nicely, now it’s time to build links, so some link building tips are in order. Firstly go for the easy ones by searching for your company online and see if any sites mention you, but don’t link to your site. Get these fixed and it’s a nice start. Secondly don’t just go out and buy a lot of links as it could well get your site banned. However appealing it may sound, its risky business. Thirdly, you should make sure some of your external links say ‘click here,’ some say your company name, and some mention your keywords. This is how they would appear naturally and our aim is to keep your link profile look natural! The last tip is to simply write good content. People will only link to your site if you have content worth linking to!

With your house in order, it’s time to snoop on your competitors to see what they are doing. Use Yahoo Site Explorer to see what links they have and see if you can acquire them as well. Use Way Back Machine to see if they have had any major site redesigns lately. See if they have any social media buttons on their site which might show they are active in their marketing, and might give away some clues.

So, with these strategies in mind always look at the end goal…which is to drive more business. Don’t get caught up in SEO for SEO’s sake.

Guy Levine is CEO of Digital Marketing Agency Return On Digital. A specialist and results driven provider of SEO, PPC, Social Media and Conversion Rate Optimisation.