When you first launch a new website, it’s a blank slate in the eyes of Google and the other search engines. Sure, the search engine spiders are able to glean some information about your site from the content and keywords that are present, but at first, they aren’t able to effectively measure the authority of your site based on these words alone.

Over time, they’ll make this value determination based on a number of different factors, including the number and quality of sites linking to your page, the number of links and shares your site receives on social networking sites and the hundreds of other elements that go into the natural search algorithm. But when your site has been newly launched, you’ll have the unprecedented opportunity to control how the search engines value your site, based on the actions you take.

Search expert David Wood refers to this breaking point as the “trust barrier” between Google and your site:

Search engines like Google automatically put up a wall when they come into contact with new sites. It’s like a trust barrier you can only lower over a period of time… And once you’ve successfully lowered the barrier, you can go wild!

To maximize the potential of this evaluation period, consider the following tips on how to implement an appropriate SEO strategy for your new domain:

Step #1 – Start out strong

Before you even begin thinking about conducting a backlinking campaign, make sure that your site is set up as effectively as possible from an internal SEO standpoint. Here’s what to consider:

  • Choose the best possible domain name for your site. SEOBook offers a great tutorial on selecting this important piece of digital real estate, which relies on three crucial elements: branding potential, how likely people will be to link to your site and how easily you’ll be able to get your domain ranked.
  • Make sure your internal navigation system is structured so that every page can be reached within three clicks. This helps the search engines to crawl all of your pages and ensures that any authority that is assigned to your pages over time will be distributed evenly.
  • Add breadcrumb navigation to all pages. In addition to enhancing the structure of your internal navigation system, adding breadcrumbs to each of your pages improves the user experience – a big consideration for Google.
  • Optimize your existing content. At first, you may not have a lot of content on your site, but be sure that any existing pages that are present at your launch have been optimized to include important keywords in your title tags, headlines, URL permalinks and body copy.
  • Improve your site’s loading times. The amount of time it takes your site to load is playing an increasingly large role in its SERPs rankings, so take the necessary steps to create a fast-loading site from the beginning by compressing image files, combining Javascript functions into a single file and eliminating white space in your site’s code and CSS files.

At this stage in your site’s development, it’s more important to worry about making sure things are set up correctly “inside your house”. So in addition to the structural considerations listed above, it’s also important to take the keywords you’re using into account…

Step #2 – Put some effort into your keyword research

The web runs on keywords, so targeting the wrong keywords at the outset of your SEO campaign will make it difficult for you to see results. For this reason, it’s important to invest some time in ensuring that you’re building your site around the right target phrases.

Essentially, you want to find the “Goldilocks” of keywords – the words that get good search volume but that aren’t too competitive to rank for. Targeting the keyword “lose weight”, for example, would be a mistake. Even though the search volume is good, you’ll have to invest years of effort before you could even hope to get ranked well in the SERPs.

When it comes to specifics, the ideal search volume for your site will depend on your goals. If you’re planning a small niche-oriented site, keywords with as few as 500-1,000 exact match monthly searches might provide enough traffic to meet your earning expectations. Even if you anticipate growing your site to be much larger, it might still be a good idea to start with these long-tail keywords, as focusing on them will give you the confidence to tackle keywords with higher search volume and, consequently, higher competition.

Determining your ideal keyword competition is a bit trickier. Although many sites will suggest that you simply search Google for your exact-match target keyword and measure difficulty based on the number of competing pages that appear, this approach is naïve. Instead, it’s important to fully analyze the Top 10 results in Google for your target keyword, taking things like domain age, PageRank, page optimization and page backlinks into account.

Step #3 – Start small and be mindful of your link velocity

The goal of any good off-page SEO plan should be to create a backlink profile that’s as natural looking as possible, as Google likes to reward sites that appear natural versus those whose link profiles are cluttered with spam. So how do you think it looks in Google’s eyes when a new site with only five pages of content suddenly has thousands of low quality backlinks pointing at it? If you were Google, you’d penalize this site, as they’re obviously trying to game the system.

Of course, that’s an obvious example. The question of exactly how many links per day are acceptable is one that will never be really answered (unless Google suddenly decides to release their search algorithm), although most SEO experts recommend building no more than 20-100 links per day during your site’s first few months. But instead of worrying about this specific number, it’s a better idea to…

Step #4 – Focus on building high quality links first

Yes, I know you can go out and buy 10,000 links for just $10. But guess what? $10 is an extremely generous payment for what these links are worth…

When your site is first starting out, not only do you have the trust barrier to contend with, the search engines are still trying to puzzle out exactly what your site is about and where it should fall in the SERPs. Take advantage of this golden opportunity to pursue backlinks from authority sites in your specific niche to set your site up for maximum success in the search engines.

Step #5 – Plan for ongoing optimization

Finally, recognize that SEO isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of thing. Anyone who tells you that he “already did his SEO work” is sadly misinformed as to the ongoing nature of this work.

So for the first three months of your site’s existence, commit regular time to improving your site and courting the high quality backlinks that will help you to earn trust in Google’s eyes. Over time, you’ll find that your efforts are well worth the investment.