When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), it is absolutely essential to your business's online success. This is particularly true if you want to be successful in the online universe. So, here's the low down on SEO and nearly two dozen essentials for optimizing your website.
What Exactly Is SEO?
In case you didn't know, SEO is the term for the numerous methods that can be used to get your website seen on search engines, or more specifically SERPs (aka search engine result pages). These methods can vary dramatically from promotional tactics (such as off-page SEO like social media marketing and link building) to technical techniques (such as on-page SEO like keyword placement).
Throughout this article, we will mention visibility as it relates to the organic ranking in SERPs and not the paid sections (advertisements) of search engine results even though this is often a large part of an entrepreneur's marketing campaign.
Why Is SEO Necessary?
To be put simply, SEO is necessary so that search engines can locate and index your website easily and quickly. SEO helps to give users clear navigation and builds a strong website. This gives your users a good overall experience while on your website and encourages them to re-visit your site. With a positive user experience, you have a happy customer. And Google is always looking out for positive (and negative) user experiences.
Search engines drive a significant amount of traffic to websites, and the main reason for this is SEO. In fact, research from 2014 suggests that nearly 65% of web traffic comes directly from organic search, with a mere 2% and 6% coming from social and paid search respectively and 12% and 15% coming from direct and other referral sources respectively.
In 2015, it was determined that Google is responsible for over 90 percent of worldwide organic search traffic, which shows that you need a very strong presence in the search results on Google. In fact, further research has deemed that you really need to be within the first five results on Google's first SERP since they result in about 67 to 68 percent of all clicks.
So, how in the world can you achieve this? Here are 22 tips that will help you get there by focusing on what the search engines want and what they don't want.
What Do Search Engines Want?
What is a search engine's job? Its job is to provide a web user with the most relevant results to their query regardless of how simple or complex it may be. The way in which search engines will display these results will be related to their own algorithms, which none of us will ever really know; however, there are specific factors that will always influence the exact results. These factors all relate back to relevancy, such as a web user's location, their individual search history, the time of day and year it is, etc.
2. Content Quality
Do you publish content (articles, blogs, videos, or any other form of media) that is useful and helpful to your audience that tend to be popular? Do you focus on writing this content for readers instead of search engines? If you answered no to these questions, then you're in the wrong boat. Research shows that Google is looking for long-form content that wants to understand a web visitor's intention. Therefore, you shouldn't just focus on using keywords that are simply pulled out of a list that are based on popular industry searches. So, in other words, focus more on the user experience and less on the keywords.
3. User Experience
Speaking of the user experience, you wouldn't believe how many SEO benefits there are around this. Your website needs to be easy to navigate and search. It also needs to have related content and relevant internal links. Basically, your site needs to have anything and everything that keeps your visitors on your site, exploring it and coming back for more later.
A website that is trusted by the industry that it operates in, its users, search engines and other websites is known as an authority website. Links to your website from these sites can be very valuable. The more that you can get of these, especially with high quality content, the better the chances are that your site can become an authority site as well.
However, it is important to keep in mind that links may eventually become irrelevant to SEO, or at least not nearly as important as they are now and have been in the past. For now, though, they’re still working their magic.
5. Speed of Your Site
Websites are being distinguished from one another on search engines based on the speed of their sites. In fact, Google may start focusing on this by using the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP). That said, AMP pages require specific page structure and may not be within your existing website CMS capability. Page speed CAN be optimized through a variety of measures though. You can run a page speed test through Google. Also, for a more detailed report and analysis, which provides page speed optimization suggestions.
6. Cross-device Compatibility
Is your website currently optimized for any device and screen size? If not, it is time for it to be because Google and many other search engines are beginning to prefer that your website has a responsive design for mobile optimization.
7. Internal Linking
While it has already been mentioned that your site needs to be easy to maneuver, writers and editors can also help when publishing articles to lead to higher authority ratings with Google. This process is called internal linking. There are many benefits to internal linking, including the following:
- It offers the audience with more reading opportunities: This is true as long as the links are relevant and there is clear anchor text (which is the highlighted words that users can click on to take them to the link). This can help to reduce the overall number of bounce rates.
- It can help to give your ranking a boost for certain keywords: If you want an article to rank for a particular keyword, then you can start linking it to other posts by using variations of comparable anchor text. This informs Google and other search engines that the post is relevant to users searching for the keyword.
- It assists Google with the crawling and indexing of your website: Googlebots are sent out to get new information all the time from your website and they’ll have a better chance at seeing how trustworthy and useful your content since they will crawl the internal links.
8. Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
While you ranking on Google’s SERP won’t really improve if you have a meta description, it is something that you need to consider creating prior to publishing article since it can improve your chances of a web user clicking on your article. A meta description is a very short paragraph (usually just a couple of sentences) that will appear directly under the URL of your page in the search engine results.
It’s the same way with title tags. They’re not really there for improvement with rankings, but they can help with improving your article and the way that a reader sees it. However, when you put a keyword in a title tag, they will appear highlighted in the results in search engines if a web user searches for that particular keyword and they will also appear in the browser tab and with external sharing. Here’s how to write you own:
<title>This Is My Website Title</title>
Try to use your brand name and a couple of accurate and relevant keywords to describe your page. Keep in mind that you are formatting the page for search engines, but you are still writing for people that prefer to actually understand what they’re reading.
9. Tag Your Images Properly
When you upload images to any form of content, make sure you tag them properly, which means using the “alt attribute”. This is something that is often done incorrectly, and sometimes people don’t even do it at all. Either way, Google will be unable to see, or index, your images, which means that they’ll be overlooked. So, this is a very important step. Make sure that you very accurately describe your image within the alt text since this improves the odds of your image appearing within the Google Image search database. It also makes it easier for people who use a screen reader software.
Never, ever turn your comments systems off so that your followers and readers cannot leave your comments. When you have a community of commenters that comment on your posts on a regular basis, this shows that your website visitors are interested enough in your content to share their opinion about it -- whether in a positive or negative light. Either way, you at least know that they’re reading it and this is important.
Just make sure that you have a filter to keep out any spam comments and to watch for any that could slip through the cracks. It’s even a good idea to add a “nofollow value” to the comment section so that search engines, especially Google, will overlook any erroneous links that show up.
11. Headlines and Permalinks
When creating article headlines, make certain that you keep hem below 55 characters to make certain that they show up in SERPs. Keep them descriptive, attractive and catching; however, try to avoid clickbait headlines that don’t deliver what they promise.
For the permalink, which is the URL, remember that it does not have to exactly match your headline. Instead, utilize a few important keywords in the permalink and make sure to use the most important ones first.
12. Use of Evergreen Content
While many people will publish quality content regarding insightful news stories that are “hip” and “now,” it is often better to focus on more evergreen content that stays good forever. Articles that are focused around practical, helpful and thoughtful advice can lead to long-term success with traffic and SERP positions.
13. Schema Markup
If you’re interested in making your posts in the search results come off a bit more enticing, then you make want to try adding the Scheme markup to your page’s HTML. What this does is turn the search results into something that is much more attractive to the eye with customer ratings, star ratings, images and other helpful information. Many search engines actually prefer the Scheme Markup, including Google, and it is easy to use.
14. Domain Names
When it comes to the overall architecture of your website, it is recommended to use sub-directory root domains (www.webdetail.com/category/seo) as opposed to sub-domains (http://seo.webdetail.com). It is also a good idea to avoid hyphens (web-detail.com) and alternative domain names (.name, .biz, .info, etc.) since they are seen as spammy.
Keyword-rich domain names (aka Exact Match Domains) may cause Google to pay closer attention to your website and not necessarily in a good way, especially if it isn’t high quality in other aspects. However, it can still be beneficial to put a keyword in your site’s domain name. Just keep in mind that closer scrutiny from Google may be involved and it could result in a lower ranking in the search engines. Conversely, Bing still gives weight to exact match domains - domains that are exact match to the keyword being searched.
In addition, make certain that users will always be directed back to your website even if they don’t type in the www. prefix. If this doesn’t occur, then you may look visibility with search engines and customers since Google and other search engines will assume that they are two completely different websites.
15. Social Media
One of the fastest, easiest, obvious and non-technical ways to increase your website’s visibility is via social media marketing. To do this, you will need to ensure that you have an account on all of the top social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You also need to make sure that you are using it to do more than just make posts, as you also need to utilize it as a means of customer service and a communication channel. You can be helpful, friendly and entertaining with your customer base all at the same time.
16. Local SEO
Google, as well as other search engines, are becoming more and more aware of the popularity of location-based searches and are serving users based on this. This is important for businesses, as they need to catch the attention of searchers at any given moment, such as when they are driving down the road, walking down the street, looking for a restaurant while on their cell phone, etc.
With that being said, make sure your business is registered with Google My Business and that your information is current and accurate, including contact information, opening and closing times, industry category, etc.
What Search Engines Don’t Want
Just as there are things that search engines are looking for in particular, there are certain practices that search engines frown upon and can pull your site down drastically in the SERPs even though you may not realize it when you are doing it.
17. Keyword Stuffing
This refers to the overuse of keywords on the pages on your website. This is particularly true when it impacts the readability of said pages. At this time, it still isn’t for certain whether Google is even using keywords as a ranking factor or not.
18. Annoying Advertisements
One of the worst things for a web visitor to see is an annoying advertisement that pops up. It keeps them from enjoying what they are reading on your website. Plus, it slows down the overall speed of your website, and we already mentioned how important site speed may be to search engines. And not least of which, studies are showing alarming rates of people now using ad-blockers more and more. So, your ads are probably not reaching your audience like you might think.
19. Link Buying and/or Link Exchanging
If you are considering talking to a link farm, you may want to think again. Honestly, it is not worth it for the sake of your business. The best way to go about building links is to reach out to authority sites that are within your very own niche. Most link farms and the like actually have a "toxic-link" status associated with them now, with negatively affects your search engine ranking and your website authority.
20. Duplicate Content
Whether you have two pages on your website that are identical or someone stole your content and placed it on their own website trying to pass it off as their own, if it is found by Google or another search engine, then only one of those pages will be indexed.
21. Hidden Links and Text
Users may not see how rankings can be manipulated, but you can guarantee that Google and other search engines can and you won’t get away with it. So, try to avoid using white text with a white background, hiding links in single characters (like full-stops or commas), setting your font size to zero, and positioning some of your text off the screen. Quite frankly, it just does not work anymore.
22. Mobile App Interstitials
If you provide your mobile website visitors with a full screen advertisements to download your business app, search engines (or at least Google) will put you in a pile of websites that are not mobile-friendly any longer.
Now that you’re aware of what search engines are looking for and what they’re not looking for, you hopefully have a decent understanding of the SEO basics of how to get started with optimizing your website for success. If you still have questions or would simply like to hand off the job to a professional, feel free to contact us here at WebDetail with any questions that you may have or to request a quote.