We’ve been in business for 3.5 years now as Y-Designs. We’ve done a lot in that time. We grew from 1 person (just me) to 2 people and we even have a regular intern; by that, we’re a tiny company still 😉
We learned about design, development, SEO, and business as a whole. Today, we want to share with you our SEO strategy because I know it could help you too. Since the time we started, Google has drastically changed the way it understands the web and its content; you have to actually have good content or your site is screwed and you’ll never rank.
Below are some lessons we learned. Nowadays, we get anywhere between 200 to 400 hits a day; we’re just getting started and we hope to continue to grow. Without targeted SEO and strategizing, you can’t make this happen. The theme of this post is: Add value to the internet and Google will reward you. Targeted SEO is adding value to the internet.
Lesson 1: Share what you learn as soon as you learn it 100% (maybe at least 90%)
As a small company you have to be light on your feet and ready for change and opportunity at any time. This means that you have to determine whether certain trends have staying power and whether they’re worth learning.
One of the misconceptions about all of this knowledge is that it is proprietary; I assure you that anyone smart enough can learn a lot by just searching on the web. Take Stackoverflow for example; it’s just a bunch of developers asking questions and answering each other. Knowledge at the consumer/small-mid business level is not proprietary at all. You only have to gain from sharing information.
By sharing complete information, you can act as an authority on the subject and therefore gain reputation. This reputation is tied to the site that you publish from; if you know SEO, this leads to page authority/domain authority (MOZ) or Page Rank (Google). (PA and DA are measurements of the importance of the page in relation to all the other pages/domains that exist).
Note: Sharing partial or incomplete information is not preferred since it would require that person to re-search on Google again. Keep in mind that Google knows everything. If the person looking for a content lands on your page and quickly exits, then they’re not happy to be there. Share complete information only.
- Most Web Design/Development concepts are not proprietary; this is probably true for most other types of knowledge also (Just make sure its not your super secret sauce!).
- Share Complete information once you’re sure it works; recommend other similar information on the same page to promote the user to stay on that site.
- Be original whenever you can. Don’t copy other people’s stuff. I didn’t actively read anything while writing this. This is from our experience.
- Be transparent about your knowledge. Give credit to others where its due.
- My resource for SEO and content strategy in general:
Lesson 2: Find your niche
Many people will ask us, “What do we blog about? We have no clue!” Okay. This is a common issue for a lot of folks since blogging ain’t easy. Often times though the easiest thing to share is the things you work with every day.
For us its software and programming or design tutorials. We found our niche early in the game. We use a Joomla CMS component called K2 on many of our builds and while popular, they have a terrible documentation set. Realizing that they could use some help and so could we with traffic, we wrote at least 30 tutorials and related blog entries on the subject. If you type in “k2 tutorials” on Google we will come up before getk2.org since we have a organized set of tutorials on our site.
To give an example for another site, say a travel package site, you could figure out what your niche is by digging into the knowledge of your tour guides and other employees. Below are some examples of the “niche information” for such company:
- Best street food in a city
- Top 10 hidden places to visit in a state
- Tips for better travel to some country
- Taboos to avoid while visiting a country with certain customs
- Signs of a good restaurant (and bad ones too!)
- You can read specific strategy on finding a niche here.
Niche information is what will make your site stand up as a credible source especially if you can get other sites to share your links too. You can always ping an authority on a subject via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to get them to see their opinion. They’re always looking to critique and figure out the trends so your voice if valid (remember the last lesson!) will be shared and valued.
- Be deliberate about your content and stick with it. Make sure its something that the site will talk about continuously for a period (a theme so to speak).
- Find where you can help others and they will help you. See if some open source project has terrible docs. Post complete docs on your site and share it with the community. Share knowledge that others might be looking for that you’ve gained through experience.
Lesson 3: Controversy and the change you can help make in your community
We at one point figured out that while Joomla is a great CMS has some issues especially relating to design (BTW, Joomla Core/Framework is greater than WordPress any day in terms of code). We wrote a relatively controversial subject critiquing why Joomla while great in terms of code is not succeeding in the broader mass market like WordPress is. You can find it here.
We didn’t really want to cause a stir, but we wanted to provide an outside perspective on a subject that is sour for many of the maintainers/developers in that community; Joomla just was not that cool and they had (have?) issues. We provided comparisons with competitors and potential solutions so that we weren’t just trolling, but helping to shape a direction.
We shared it with people on Twitter. We shared it with people on LinkedIn. We shared where we knew to share and we got the attention. This actually lead us to have the attention of many Joomla community members and while we do not take credit for the changes we recommended, many if not most of them have happened. We voiced our opinion on the matter and we may have helped turn some minds.
Joomla significantly improved these aspects after we published that entry:
- Documentation (Its a lot nicer than it used to be and I appreciate it!)
- UI/UX for the Joomla CMS backend is a lot more appealing than it used to be.
- Extension updates and “install from web” functionality
Controversial subjects should be stated only if you have enough credibility. (Again, remember lesson #1. Gotta know your stuff before you post anything.) We have enough credibility seeing as about 50% of our builds are Joomla based and also because we had contributed to Joomla/K2 via our site. So, creating a controversy with potential solutions can get you a lot of good attention and you could potentially help people figure out a solution to a problem that others do not necessarily want to face/fix.
Let’s revisit all key concepts:
- Share what you know
- Be Complete
- Be Honest
- Be Original
- Provide a healthy perspective with potential solutions
As for the actual details of content creation (keyword placements, HTML elements to use, etc) you can refer to here.
In the end though, we realized that from a search engine’s perspective a site that offers value to the user is going to win in the ranking game. They don’t want to list a site just because it has a ton of keywords; it wants to help the user find the right stuff. Targeted SEO is a way to help users find the right stuff through Google.
For us, these SEO, social and content strategies worked well in a way that allows us to be listed for the keywords which provided us with the kinds of work we were looking to do. Your credibility in a related field will allow you to be ranked better overall in your end goal keywords too. We are in fact either on page 1 or 2 for “Seattle Web Design” or “Seattle Web Design Company” (as of May 2014).
We haven’t blogged or written much since we’ve been so busy for the last 6 months and we feel super guilty about it! That said, we’ve gained so much more experience in design, development, SEO and business to the point where we can provide more from our own blog now. Back to blogging it is!