SEO companies don’t want you to know this. At least 90 percent of your Google page ranking is based on backlinks (incoming hyperlinks), domain names, and web page titles. That means SEO firms are asking you to spend a small (or large) fortune trying to improve search engine optimization by less than 10 percent. In certain circumstances, eight or nine percent might be the difference between page one and page eight in search results, but it is rare in the additive manufacturing sector. Aside from brand names and trademarks, everyone is using the same keywords. Ask yourself, which is the better investment to draw desirable traffic to your website. A company advising you to use the H2-tagged word combination, “3D printer,” more frequently? Or, making your brand more famous, so consumers search specifically for your company and products? In a perfect world, you could afford to spend on both SEO and branding. In this market, few companies can, particularly businesses serving the prosumer and enthusiast segments. If you are going to hire an SEO organization, hire one with a reputation for safely building backlinks, not one that is going to tell you which words to highlight. If you are not going to hire someone to help you with SEO, you should know the basics. 1. Unique and original content – Google loves it. 20 retail store sites each using the same product description on their product pages are duplicating copy. This mistake is rampant in the 3D printing industry where resellers merely steal product descriptions from manufacturers word for word. The result is a reduction in site ranking for both the manufacturers and resellers. 2. Don’t try to cheat. Old gimmicks like building twenty fake blogs with links to your site or filling innocent blogger’s comments sections with reference links will be recognized and penalized by Google. 3. Word cloud keyword strategies (word-pimping menus, bolding, italicizing, increasing font size, word repetition) are for the most part worthless. Filling your 3D printing materials pages with “Britney Spears” in H1, H2, H3, italics, strong tags (bolding), isn’t going to get you a bunch of Britney Spears traffic. Google isn’t that stupid. 4. Metadata is ignored except for the page title and description. The meta-description is what appears in search results, but it has no bearing on SEO unless it is illegible, in which case, the impact would be detrimental. 5. Google can now tell the difference between poorly written content and well-written content. If your website is in English, make it sound English. 6. Taxonomy (categorization) can aid your cause. Breaking your website into sections helps Google understand that your site is about more than just one thing. If you want to be associated with both 3D printing and education, create a page on your site with a list of case studies or other information about education. It should have a page title and URL that includes the word, “education.” 7. Use Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Once you know how to use them, you’ll understand why you must use them. 8. When changing your site’s domain, report the change to Google through Google Search Console, don’t forget the 301 redirect and understand that it only lasts six months. Any backlinks from other sites that haven’t been fixed and pointed to your new domain in a half year will die in the search ranking database. Changing an established domain name is a serious challenge that should only be undertaken when your business has a branding problem. 9. Don’t buy a bunch of domains for the purpose of redirecting them to your real domain. Google has penalized companies for doing it. 10. Know that Google changes its ranking algorithm typically twice a year, so it quickly discovers any secret trick someone learns and often ends up penalizing sites doing it. Google has been doing what they do for a long time. There aren’t any ways left to game the system. 11. Do not duplicate content across multiple sites, even if the other site is yours. You need precisely one website unless your company has multiple brands selling to different audiences. Don’t create your own SEO competition. 12. Before creating a brand, check to see if the .com domain is available. Do it even before you check for trademarks and competing product names because you don’t want a brand that can’t have a matching domain name. It is often best to invent a new word because it is virtually impossible to rank well for a common word. Ideally, your brand and domain names are directly related to what it is your company offers. Largefishnews.com is an excellent domain name if you want to get traffic from people looking for information about big fish. Your domain name is a huge factor in SEO, only surpassed by backlinks. 13. URLs (complete web addresses) are considered by Google’s algorithm. You want your URLs to look like http://www.domain.com/what-this-page-is-really-about/ (minus stop words). These are “search friendly URLs” or “clean URLs” in SEO parlance. Note that most CMS website installation packages do not install with this ability enabled. 14. Page titles matter and should match the page’s URL. In the example above, the page should be titled, “What This Page Is Really About.” 15. A relatively recent development in the SEO world, Google wants your website to be secured with an SSL certificate even if you don’t do online transactions. To put it plainly, your URLs should begin with https:// instead of http://. 16. Redirect www.domain.com to domain.com or vice versa. If you don’t, search engines can see your site as two different sites competing with each other for ranking. 17. Google is looking for the authority on a subject. Domain names, page titles, content uniqueness and backlinks all indicate a site or page is an information authority. Why do you think so many Wikipedia pages rank highly? 18. Quality backlinks are crucial. The greater the ranking of the site sending you a backlink, the better it is for your site. External authorities are what designate you as an authority. 19. Manufacturers, don’t let anyone, including your channel partners, operate domains that sound like your brand, no matter where they do business. If the name of your company is MyBrand 3D Solutions, your domain should be mybrand.com or mybrand3d.com. There should be no mybrand3d.uk.co or mybrand3duk.com. These sites would compete against you for SEO ranking. Perhaps just as bad, allowing a reseller to do it is not going to make other resellers happy, and good resellers are in short supply these days. 20. If you have a retail site, make sure your content marketing (case studies, how-to/tips & tricks/tutorials, news/blogging) is all on the same domain as the retail store, with the same menu system and page branding. Half the reason you do content marketing is to increase traffic by creating information search engines appreciate. Don’t dissociate the money machine from the traffic generators. 21. Be aware of the online media outlets serving our industry – including YouTube channels – and know which ones cover your segment best. Send them products to review only when you believe the review will be positive and they agree to link to your site in the review. One bad review will sit on the first page of search results before 30 good reviews because it is unique and original compared to the other reviews. 22. Your website should have a Press page. It should include high and low-res versions of brand logos, product shots, and press releases. You want to make it easy for reporters to write stories about you. Stories mean backlinks. 23. The current trend is that paying an SEO professional or firm for Organic SEO is worse ROI than PPC marketing via AdWords or Facebook Page Likes advertising (audience building), and good newsletter list building. 24. If you are going to do content marketing, make it interesting. If the subject isn’t genuinely compelling to an essential group of people, don’t do it. Good web content gets good rankings. Dull content gets bad rankings. 25. Successful forums are good general traffic generators and inexpensive SEO. They involve strangers creating free content marketing for you and frequently providing potential leads for case studies. However, the forums must be managed professionally. If you don’t plan to appease whiners and put out fires, your forums are a ticking time bomb unless you set them up so search engine spiders can’t crawl them, which would defeat the SEO benefit. 26. A company’s reputation is its number one asset. Pay someone to watch social media and forums to ensure all negatives are turned into positives. When a complaint is made, a company representative should respond promptly, positively and apologetically. Impress the consumer base with your willingness to “make it right,” and most importantly, get the conversation off the internet and onto the phone. Phone complaints become invisible. Internet complaints last forever.