Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps people find your content in search engines, leading to free organic visitors to your site relevant to your niche. For an online business to succeed today, it is dependent on ranking high in these engines. But what do they look for? How can you maximize your organic website traffic, and how should you build your content to increase your visibility in search engines?
If you google “SEO tips”, you’ll find tons of websites, books, and guides to the basics, philosophy and art of web optimization. This free knowledge is very valuable, but for a beginner it can also be very confusing, overwhelming and time-consuming.
To stay on the simple side: what the search engines actually want, is to make sure their users are getting the most relevant results to what they’re looking for.
To provide these results, they must figure out the best websites to list for every searched query, and then identify the most “popular” ones to give them the right order. By properly optimizing your website and pages, you help the engines do their job, as well as make sure that your content gets on the first page of search on your topic(s).
How to improve your SEO ranking
The rules of the “search game” are complex and constantly changing. In fact, this year only Google has made 9 algorithm updates until this day, – To be certain that your website is well optimized and way ahead of any feature changes, your content needs to be:
- Easy for the engines to understand,
- Easy for your target audience to find, and
- Easy for people to read.
Here are the ten (plus a bonus) most basic SEO tips to help improve your business’ web presence:
Content Is King. But High Quality Content Is Queen!
Quality, original, and regularly updated content is the primary reason why people will be visiting your website. Since Google wants what searchers want, great content is an absolute must!
If you want your website to get listed and rank well in their search results, you must offer content that is valuable to readers. Good, interesting and informative posts that answer their questions and needs, and appeal to the audience that your business targets.
Interesting and valuable content attracts incoming links from other websites and blogs as well (more on backlinks below), and the search engines will push your pages up in their rankings once they notice that other relevant and high-authority websites also link to you.
Also, make sure that you’re only posting original contenton your website. The search engines are getting smarter when it comes to identifying plagiarized and duplicate content, and there’s no chance of winning by scrapping and not crediting other people’s work.
If Google, or any other major search engine, catch you violating their quality guidelines they’ll decrease your website’s authority, hurt your business’ credibility, and ultimately push you down in their search results ranking pages (SERPs).
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Your keywords are the search terms people might use to get to your pages.
What keywords are you targeting? Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and go over your finished content to identify the words they can type in the search box to find you. Make sure to include those primary keywords in your titles, content, your URLs and image tags.
This is to help search engines understand what your content is about so they can offer it to their users when your content is appropriate. You can increase your site’s search rank by analyzing the terms and phrases that bring you visitors, and creating quality and unique content around them.
Jaaxy is a fantastic tool to find the best keywords for your website content.
Also, be strategic in your keywords use, and keep in mind that the search engines are trained to ignore websites overstuffed with keywords. They will punish you and label you as a spammer if you rely on this old SEO tactic.
Recommended reading: Keyword Research and Getting Ranked for the Right Words and Phrases
Write Strong and Inciting Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Providing meta data, – information about information, – is a crucial step in optimizing your webpages for search, and a very important part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Title tags and meta descriptions tell the engines, AND readers, what the content of a page is about.
You should write a unique title tag that’s less than 70 characters long for every page on your website, and the limit for the meta descriptions is 160 characters. The engines will cut snippets that are longer than these limits.
Meta descriptions are displayed below the links on the result pages with bolded search keywords, and they’re not a direct SEO ranking factor, but rather serve as a marketing tool to help draw attention and attract more clicks and traffic from the search results. Your primary keyword should be mentioned at the beginning of both, title tags and meta descriptions, but not more than once.
If the platform you use for your company website and blog doesn’t provide space for meta information, you can use All in One SEO Pack, or WordPress SEO by Yoast in WordPress. Also look up the Web for plugins that add such fields to your website management platform of choice.
Make Your URLs Search Engine-Friendly
An optimized URL is one of the simplest on-page SEO elements; still webmasters often overlook it. It’s a lot easier for the search engines to understand the content of a web page with an address:
website.com/SEO-title-with-clear-keyword – vs. – website.com/2014/post1179/s402.htm
Optimized URLs are easier for readers as well to understand and remember, if they want to look up your page again.
Build a Sitemap
Sitemap is a list (a document or separate webpage) of all the links and major pages on your website, typically organized in hierarchial order. They make it easier for the search engine spiders to crawl and index your website.
You need a solid internal linking structure, ensuring that every page that you want to be indexed is linked-to from another page on your site with the least possible clicks. If the spiders can’t reach it, to them it’s like it doesn’t even exist.
Link to Others, and Back to Yourself
Integration of internal links back to your archives is one of the easiest ways to boost SEO and traffic to individual pages on a website. Whenever you create new content, make sure to include links to other pages on your site; still, do not overdo it, as too many internal links will only get your readers annoyed.
The anchor text should also be search-engine-friendly and include relevant keywords to both linked pages to help increase their rankings, instead of just placing the link on a ‘click here’ phrase.
External links are links to content on other blogs and websites. These not only provide relevant and valuable information for your site visitors and customers, but can help create more incoming links for your website as well.
The bloggers and web owners are notified when you mention them, and in turn, they may decide to return the favor and link to one of your pages, or even offer to guest blog if they see potential audience in your readership. Be sure that the websites you link to have good online reputation, otherwise their bad SEO could bring you down as well.
Increase Your Backlinks
Google and other major search engines highly value backlinks from reputable blogs and websites relevant to the business and industry you work in. Their number and quality influence your website’s authority and the importance of your content to the search engines.
Only a decade ago, link building used to be a numbers game, a matter of who could afford to spend more time and money exchanging links, listing their websites in various article directories, linking to their pages from comments on other sites and forums, instead of producing value to their readers. These techniques don’t apply anymore.
Your “goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.”, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team reveals in an interview for Stone Temple Consulting.
Guest blogging, promoting on social websites, commenting on relevant blogs and websites, and doing directory submissions are just few ways you can build quality incoming links loved by your readers and Google.
Optimize Your Images Too
The search engines can only read textual content; not text on your images. That’s why, if you aim for the traffic coming from Google Images, you must optimize the photos you use on your website as well, making the words associated with them as descriptive as possible.
Start by including your keywords in the ALT Tags and image names, include them in the descriptions and captions, and reduce images’ size as much as you can without compromising their quality.
Social Media Distribution
Social media doesn’t influence your search rankings directly, but the engines do take into account the important social signals like mentions, your content and brand engagement, linked content with Google Plus, backlinks coming from popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
Distributing your fresh content across social media, posting on your company profiles, or recommended, shared, re-tweeted, and re-distributed content by your customers are great ways to increase the visibility of your links.
Know Where You Stand. Analyze and Revise Using Google Webmaster and Analytics
You can’t know if your SEO efforts are successful if you don’t monitor and analyze your standings and progress. In Google Analytics you can get valuable information about the number of visitors to your website, track where they come from, what they read, or how long they stay on your pages.
The Webmaster Tools can help you get the search terms people use to find your business, see what other blogs and websites link to your content, as well as remove bad, broken links, submit sitemaps, or create sitelinks.
Only by analyzing your data would you be able to understand how the search engines see your website and business, and on that base improve your pages for better positioning, or test other keywords to boost search rank and drive greater traffic.
Bonus SEO Tip: How Fast Is Your Website?
Page load speed is an important ranking factor for search engines. The faster your pages load, the better their ranking in SERPs are compared to their slower counterparts. According to KISSmetrics, “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load”.
Go to GTmetrix to measure your site speed, and to improve the numbers, try using less multimedia, make sure your images are optimized, reconsider the hosting service, and use caching plugins like Advanced lazy load, W3 Total Cache, or similar.
SEO should always be in the forefront of your mind when building and developing your company and website. Otherwise, you’re only blocking your business from reaching its full potentials and income opportunities.
This guide covers the basics and SEO best practices needed to increase websites’ visibility to the engines and searchers so businesses would be able to receive more of the sweet organic traffic juices.
Hope you find it helpful and feel it’s worth sharing with other young and striving entrepreneurs. Please feel free to enlighten me with your feedback and share your thoughts in the comment field below.