When people approach me about  search engine optimization services they often come armed with loads of complex plans and schemes they believe they are supposed to be following, based on what they’ve found doing internet research. When I get into those meetings I feel like a doctor whose patient just spent weeks on a hundred different “medical” websites researching scores of “proven” remedies for his condition before coming to the appointment.

It’s not that complicated. It’s the words you use that matter more than anything. First, though, before I start giving you search engine optimization advice, let me prove that I know what I’m talking about, so you feel comfortable with my SEO tips.

The following are the current search returns from Google for what I do. You can check them if you like by going to Google and typing them in. The list is simple. First it shows key phrases that are vital to me in getting new business, and then my ranking on page 1 of the search returns (not counting paid ads at the top). So for example, the first search item below is healthcare management ghostwriter, and you can see that two of my pages on winningwords.com (my business site) come up, ranking first and second on page 1 of the search returns for that phrase—ahead of everyone else on Google. There’s more:

Google Search Term & Rankings (Page 1)
healthcare management ghostwriter—1 & 2
health management ghostwriter—1 & 2
healthcare leadership ghostwriter—1 & 2
healthcare ghostwriter—1
environmental ghostwriter—1
environmental reporting ghostwriter—1
ghostwriter for healthcare executives—3 & 4
ghostwriter for healthcare leaders—1 & 2
health ghostwriter—4
healthcare freelance ghostwriter—1 & 2
lee reeder grant writer—1, 2, 3, 4
lee reeder writer—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
lee reeder photographer—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
lee reeder graphic design—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
lee reeder seo—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
lee reeder search engine optimization—1, 2, 3, 4, 5

As you can see, I don’t waste my time looking past page 1 of the search returns, because very few people do. I also do not pay a penny for these positions or for any of the analytics, beyond what my web provider gives me as part of my package.

SEO is not complicated. You don’t need contracts with “experts” that go to infinity and beyond, and you don’t need to spend a fortune. What it takes is some thorough, thoughtful work on the front end, along with ongoing content refresh, but the results will be worth it.

First, work with your staff to develop your most vital key phrases—what you want people to be typing in the search box when they are looking for your organization and its products and services.

Next, try those words and phrases out. Go to Google and other search engines and see where you rank in the search engine returns for those key words and phrases like I showed you for me above. These ranking results will form your baseline assessment, from which you will evaluate your progress as you work on your SEO over time. While you’re in this baseline assessment phase, look at some of the pages that are coming up ahead of you in the searches—your competition. What is written in the Title and Description tags in the backgrounds of their pages? How is that wording reinforced in the body copy on the page? This will give you some direction for the next phase.

Once you have done the baseline assessment, you are ready to start tweaking the wording and messaging that people see in the content of your pages. Look at all of the major pages in your site, and rewrite the content so that you incorporate those key words and phrases into the content that physically appears on the page. If you go to winningwords.com and look at some of the pages that explain my services, you will see that I am a little wordy, and sometimes even redundant—not the best advertisement for a writer and editor, and I have been called out on it by prospective clients. For those who do bring it up, I have one simple question: “So, how did you find me?” It’s always the same answer. Again, not the best work sample, but it works in getting people to my site from searches.

While you are tweaking those pages, make sure that in the content, you are looking for places where you can refer to other places in your site for more, or related, information and link to those. The backlinks help get your other pages up higher on the search engines. You also want to try to get other sites to link to you as well, including by writing content on their sites, but backlink strategies are beyond the scope of this blog post. Here we will stick to the words and the message.

After you have tweaked the content on your pages, go into the Title and Description tags in the backgrounds of all of those major pages on your site. Make sure that some of the key words and phrases that are on your newly worked pages are in those two tags, especially in the title. It is very important to ensure that the key words and phrases in your page content are reinforced in the key words and phrases in these tags, and vice-versa.

Give yourself a few weeks and then go out and try your key baseline phrases and see how you are doing. If you have done the work that I explained above you will very likely notice a big difference in your positioning. If you are low in the results on page 1 of the search returns, or heaven forbid, you are a few pages down, go back and tweak your pages again, and try to be creative in how you make the same point or slightly change wording. Also try adding pages or articles to improve your positioning. Also link content from your LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms.

About one-third of my new writing, ghostwriting, photography and editorial management business comes from referrals by existing clients. The other two-thirds comes from people searching relevant search terms, like the ones above, on the search engines. After my initial work on my sites, maintaining the kind of results you see above takes me minimal effort in keeping content fresh, which every organization should be doing constantly anyway, regardless of search engine optimization considerations.

I have been performing search engine optimization services for a diverse range of clients since 1997. Getting to the top of the search engines and maintaining your ranking on Google and other major engines need not be expensive or complicated. Words matter.

Note: Be sure to see the second installment of this search engine optimization series titled, SEO Part 2: Social Linking Made Easy, in which I show how to make it easy for people to share content from your website on social media, while ensuring this shared content presents a compelling, professional look.

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