Virtually anyone who uses the Internet to find products and services does so by firstly using a search engine. Most business owners understand the value of ranking first and the effect this can have on their business. Yet how to get there can often be seen as a mystery. As web designers we work with small businesses who have heard they need to do this “SEO stuff” to get higher rankings, but they aren’t really sure what it all means.
SEO means ‘search engine optimization’, and it serves a very important purpose in helping your customers find your website among the millions of other sites out there. Most people know about SEO in terms of using specific keywords for the sole purpose of accommodating Google’s algorithm. While that is an important piece of it, there is much more to it than that. As Google’s algorithm becomes more advanced, SEO is becoming more about pleasing the user and engaging with them in an organic way (if you’ve ever read a page stuffed with keywords, you know how unnatural that can appear).
When you embark on an SEO strategy, keep in mind that Google’s fundamental goal is to deliver the most valuable and appropriate content for each search query. These 10 tips touch on some of the essential aspects of SEO. Understanding them will help you develop a successful SEO strategy. Keep in mind though, when it comes to SEO there is such a thing as too much. In fact, over optimising can be just as bad as, or even worse than, not doing enough. Always ask: “Does this feel natural and organic? Is this enhancing my user’s experience?” because the Google algorithm will base its ranking of your website on these questions.
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Keywords are the words and phrases your users enter to find you. Keyword research and selection lie at the very core of any SEO strategy. You want to select words and phrases that have high traffic volume, strong commercial intent and at the same time are achievable given the current state of your website’s rankings and authority—information you can easily find with Google’s keyword tools. Commit to the keywords you choose and help them rank successfully.
Google looks at the backend of your site too—the platform and code that was used to build the site. It must be SEO friendly. This means Google bots can easily crawl and index it and it is easy to optimise the URLs and other SEO elements of the website. SEO even factors into page URLs—they need to follow best practices, be customisable, and not duplicated anywhere else. If you have old pages from a site with URL’s that are still valuable, create a 301 redirect to their new location.
Choosing a specific page within the site to direct the ad to will get you the best value. Called landing pages, this is where you can focus on a specific set of 2 or 3 keywords and phrases. For example, a dentist may have a target page focused on children’s dentistry, one focused on teeth whitening, or one focused periodontal disease. SEO is like any marketing practice—you must target and focus your message to the audience.
The content of your page isn’t the only place the Google bots will look to assess your relevance. They will also look in your page URL, title tags, H1 tags, emphasis (bold/strong) CSS tags; images and image alt attributes, and the meta description. CMS platforms like WordPress make it easy to customize all of these attributes, so make sure you are incorporating the primary keyword for your page into these elements.
Google is specific about how much content it thinks is necessary for a page to relevant, and that is in the vicinity of 400 to 600 words. In addition, it needs to contain the target keywords at least twice and include any appropriate semantically or topically related keywords and phrases. The challenge is that the content also needs to be unique and valuable—Google doesn’t like blatantly self-promotional copy. One measure of relevance for Google is that the visitor stays on the page and does not go “back” to the search results to select another, more relevant result. Another measure is whether visitors find it valuable enough to share via social share buttons or to link back to it.
Site Wide Content
Not every page on the site will be a target page—the home page, about us, contact, and other generic pages should also contain the primary keywords for the company. These keywords should be placed directly in the content and in the title tags. If you want to create valuable and useful content, it should feel natural and authentic. Any secondary or ‘site wide’ content pages should serve to establish your credibility and address the intrinsic needs and questions of your target market relative to your products and services.
Another thing the Google bots like are high-quality internal links to specific page. Those links, and the anchor text used in those links, play a role in determining the authority of that page relative to the other pages within the website. It not only builds the authority on that page, it helps Google decide which page it delivers in search results for particular queries. Ideally each of the pages you’re specifically targeting should have a direct link from the home page and the footer.
Content marketing is a broad subject. But from the perspective of SEO it relates to the process of producing content that is so valuable and resourceful that people will naturally share it and link to it- therefore increasing its page authority. It may be blog posts, videos, infographics, or other ‘shareable’ content. Whatever it is, chances are it is not going to be particularly self-promotional. Rather, it’s informative and educational as this is what users will naturally find more credible and interesting.
Google also assess the user experience—especially in relation to how your site performs on mobile devices. You need to develop your site so that it loads and views well on all devices and any browser your user may have. With the majority of people now using mobile devices to access the Internet, this is now just best practice – regardless of the SEO benefit.
Social is the name of the game these days. The more you can create loyal followers who share your content, the more your SEO rankings will soar. Google reads ‘social signals’ from increased social activity surrounding your businesses shared content and social pages. Creating useful, relevant content encourages users to share it via social media. It also builds followers and engagement to further increase to reach of your messaging.
These are just some of the fundamental SEO strategies and factors that will make your SEO successful. While they alone won’t guarantee you get the number one spot in searches, being mindful about how you incorporate SEO into your website will put you well ahead of your competition.
This article was contributed by Magicdust, a full service digital agency specialising in small business websites, with some of the best web designers Sydney has to offer.