Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is the process of improving a websites ranking within search engines. After a user enters a search into Google, a list of results are displayed which the search engine feels are relevant to the users query. Using SEO, your website can appear at the top of the list for relevant searches.
Already know the theory and don’t need to have SEO Explained? Check out our article ‘On Page SEO Techniques‘ to help you get started.
Website owners have tried to shortcut their way to top rankings, however the objective of foundational SEO is not to cheat or “game” search engines. The goal of SEO is to:
- Communicate to the search engines your intentions so they can suggest your web site for relevant searches.
- Build a great, seamless user experience.
- Your Website is Like a Cake
Your links, paid search, and social media act as the icing, while your content, information structure, content management system, and infrastructure acts as the cake mix. Without it, your cake is tasteless, boring, and gets thrown in the trash.
- What Search Engines Are Looking For
Search engines require doing their jobs as best as possible by referring users to websites and content that is the most relevant to what the user is looking for. So how is relevancy determined?
Content: Is determined by the theme that is being given, the text on the page, and the titles and descriptions that are given.
Performance: How fast is your site and does it work properly?
Authority: Does your site have good enough content to link to or do other authoritative site use your website as a reference or cite the information that’s available?
User Experience: How does the site look? Is it easy to navigate around? Does it look safe? Does it have a high bounce rate?
- What Search Engines Are NOT Looking For
Search engine spiders only have a certain amount of data storage, so if you’re performing shady tactics or trying to trick them, chances are you’re going to hurt yourself in the long run. Items the search engines don’t want are:
Keyword Stuffing: Overuse of keywords on your pages.
Purchased Links: Buying links will get you nowhere when it comes to SEO, so be warned.
Poor User Experience: Make it easy for the user to get around. Too many ads and making it too difficult for people to find the content they’re looking for will only increase your bounce rate. If you know your bounce rate, it will help determine other information about your site. For example, if it’s 80 percent or higher and you have content on your website, chances are something wrong.
- Know Your Business Model
While this is pretty obvious, so many people tend not to sit down and just focus on what their primary goals are. Some questions you need to ask yourself are:
- What defines a conversion for you?
- Are you selling eyeballs (impressions) or what people click on?
- What are your goals?
- Do you know your assets and liabilities?
- Don’t Forget to Optimize for Multi-Channels
Keyword strategy is not only important to implement on-site, but should extend to other off-site platforms, which is why you should also be thinking about multi-channel optimization. These multi-channel platforms include:
- Offline, such as radio and TV ads
Being consistent with keyword phrases within these platforms will not only help your branding efforts but also train users to use specific phrases you’re optimizing for.
- Be Consistent With Domain Names
Domain naming is so important to your overall foundation, so as a best practice you’re better off using sub-directory root domains (example.com/awesome) versus sub-domains (awesome.example.com). Some other best practices with domain names are:
Consistent Domains: If you type in www.example.com, but then your type in just example.com and the “www” does not redirect to www.example.com, that means the search engines are seeing two different sites. This isn’t sufficient for your overall SEO efforts as it will dilute your inbound links, as external sites will be linking to www.example.com and example.com.
Keep it Old School: Old domains are better than new ones, but if you’re buying an old domain, make sure that the previous owner didn’t do anything shady to cause the domain to get penalized.
Keywords in URL: Having keywords you’re trying to rank for in your domain will only help your overall efforts.
- Optimizing for Different Types of Results
In addition to optimizing for the desktop experience, make sure to focus on mobile and tablet optimization as well as other media.
- Create rich media content like video, as it’s easier to get a video to rank on the first page than it is to get a plain text page to rank.
- Optimize your non-text content so that search engines can see it. If your site uses Flash or PDFs, make sure you read up on the latest best practices, so search engines can crawl that content and give your site credit for it.
- Focus on Your Meta Data Too
Your content on your site should have title tags and meta descriptions.
- Meta keywords are pretty much ignored by search engines nowadays, but if you still use them, make sure it talks specifically to that page and that it is also formatted correctly.
- Your meta description should be unique and also speak to that particular page. Duplicate meta descriptions from page to page will not get you anywhere.
Title tags should also be unique! Think your title as a 4-8 word ad, so do your best to entice the reader, so they want to click and read more.
The algorithms used by Google and Microsoft to determine the order of their results are subject to tweaks and improvements as they attempt to deliver more accurate search results ever. As a result, SEO is something of a moving feast, and it pays to stay up to date. That said, these basic principles are unlikely to change significantly as they are key determinants of your ranking. SEO is almost an art: some websites have mastered this art and consistently rank highly in search engine results. However, some websites continue to struggle with this concept, and even when a customer searches for a key phrase that directly relates to their business, their website will not even come up in the top 100.
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