Google is the number-one search engine. It’s the one people go to when they have a question they need to be answered or are looking for a business to serve their particular needs. Google, like the terms Kleenex and Clorox, has become part of our daily vernacular. When you search for something online, you’re “Googling” it.
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
It’s the multi-discipline process of optimizing a website to rank high in organic search results.
Organic search results are those you don’t pay for.
Typically, when people search for companies or information on Google, the first few results they get are those that a business has paid for. If they say “Sponsored” or “Ad” that means someone has paid for them to be ranked at the top.
If you don’t pay for an ad, you must practice good SEO to be listed near the top of a Google search.
What constitutes good SEO?
This is difficult to pin down because It’s often-changing and always updating. Google updates their algorithms and the way that they rate and rank content hundreds of times a year. It’s impossible to keep track of every single change. However, practicing good SEO strategies, in general, will result in better search rankings.
Although it’s easy to understand, SEO is challenging to execute effectively. Here’s some information that should help.
Optimize your entire website as a whole:
Increase the page speed and load times. Google will penalize your website if it loads slowly. Keep this in mind when purchasing web hosting. Make sure they have plenty of uptime, and you have enough bandwidth. If you don’t, Google will penalize you.
Ensure your site can be found using mobile devices. More people browse via mobile today than they do with desktop computers. Take this into account with every element of your website’s design. From your home page to your landing pages, to your contact page–Everything must be optimized for mobile searches. If your website looks great for desktop but isn’t accessible for mobile use, Google will penalize you in your search rankings.
Use HTTPS in your URL even if you’re not selling anything. Just having a secure website immediately gives you a boost in Google search rankings.
Include Social Sharing Links. Pick the social networks that are most relevant to your audience, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Use the icons for the links on your webpage so people can find you easily and share your content. The more people share your content, the more Google finds you relevant, and the higher they will rank your business in their search results.
Use tools like Woorank, Yoast to test your overall website performance. These and other tools like them will scrub your page much like Google will, and tell you what your results are based on your current level of search optimization. If there are things you need to improve, these tools will let you know what they are, so you can up your search ranking.
Know your keywords and how to use them:
Make a list of topics relevant to your business and your intended audience. These are called Head Terms–words that are used in your industry or line of business.
Get specific and use Long-Tail Keywords. Think of this as the problem you want your clients to bring to you that you can solve. If you’re an attorney, this might be, “How can I save money on a divorce?” or “How do I fight a traffic ticket?” etc.
Do your own search for other keywords and observe user intent. See what problems people are having and which ones you can solve. The more you can solve, the better chances you’ll be a credible authority in their eyes and Google’s.
Scope out the competitor’s keywords. There are some paid tools you can use to do this. Or, do this on your own by visiting your competition’s website and looking at what they’re promoting, what media they use, the headlines they use, and the phrasing they publish. By doing a search for your competition, you can also see where they rank.
Use your keywords within the first 100 words of any of your web pages, including blog posts and videos. The first 100 words are used most heavily when Google scrubs information from your webpage. This is where you want to include your specific long-tail keywords.
Don’t keyword-stuff. You want to use your Long-Tail Keywords throughout the rest of your web pages, but don’t overdo it. Keep your language natural-sounding. If you keyword-stuff, Google will penalize you.
Use headers correctly:
H1 headers are for article or page titles. These are most important for SEO because this tells Google what your page is about. This is where you want to use those well-constructed Long-Tail Keywords.
H2 headers are for your sections. You should use Long-Tail Keywords here as well but be creative with your phrasing. Don’t repeat phrases over and over.
Include your keywords here but be creative with phrasing
Label your images correctly:
Include your keywords in your image file names. These will be your shorter keywords and Head Terms–terms that are broad in scope.
Include your keywords in your image alt text. Include your specific Long-Tail terms here as well.
Think of questions that your target audience would ask. Think of what people will be searching for. Think of the problems that they are looking to you to resolve.
Let your keywords be your guide. Phrase them as a question, then write the authoritative answer.
Go the distance whenever you can:
Word count matters. Aim for at least 1,000 words as often as possible. This may not always be possible for things like video descriptions or info-graphics. Don’t worry. Do the best you can.
Don’t sacrifice quality for word count. If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, don’t just write a bunch of needless content. Google will pick this up and penalize you. Google wants quality content.
Some industries will need more quality content to compete online. If there’s a lot of competition for your service or product, you’ll need to step up your game to differentiate yourself from the others. You’ll need to come up with content that is better and more creative than what your competitors are posting.
Mix it up and keep it fresh:
Share more than just written articles. The broader your library, the more people you will appeal to. Blog posts are great but don’t neglect other options.
Repurpose your best old content:
Rework your old content that performed well into a new format like an infographic, video, e-book, and or blog. Take an e-book that was popular and write an article about it. Take an article and make a video from it, etc.
Don’t forget your Meta Descriptions:
Meta descriptions are the “flavor text” that shows beneath the link in a search result.
Google says that meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor. However, the text that shows in SERPs can compel people to select your search result. If it gives you an edge, why not use it.
Write conversationally and aim to catch the viewer’s attention. Use 300 words max for your meta descriptions.
Use them on every page of your website.
Try plugins like Yoast if you are using WordPress for assistance writing great meta descriptions. It will rank the meta description and tell you whether or not it will be a positive influence.
Links and How to Use Them
Link to other pages, articles, or media within your own site. If you are the authority in your area of expertise, one article you write will surely have relevance to others on your site.
Try to get 2-3 internal links per page. This gives people a reason to stay on your site. It will give them a reason to stay on your page and click thru to other pages. This is important for good ranking results.
Link to authoritative, quality pages outside your website that have relevant information. Use links to news articles, Wikipedia, or other well-known websites. Be selective. Don’t link to blogs. Remember, anything you link to reflects the quality of your website. If you link to reputable sources, Google will consider your site reputable as well.
Be selective as the links you choose as this will reflect on the quality of your site.
These are the “Holy Grail” of links, and the most difficult to obtain. Backlinks are where you link to an outside page, and they link back to you. Here are some of the things you can try to get quality backlinks:
Write case studies on the products or services you use, especially if you’ve had spectacular results. Share these with your vendors and partners.
Write reviews for the companies and products you would recommend to others.
Build genuine relationships online and off.
Become a resource for the media.
Volunteer to speak to groups in your area.
How to Gain an Edge
Reviews, Reviews, Reviews:
Positive user reviews influence SEO ranking. Google Business and Yelp are the most popular and widely used.
Search for your business type in your location to see what other review sites are used by your target audience. Some of these might include Nextdoor, Angie’s List or TripAdvisor.
It’s okay to ask happy clients to leave a positive review, but don’t overdo it.
Location, Location, Location Reviews (and other ways to be relevant):
Don’t forget to include your location in your keywords if you serve local clients. If people are searching for businesses like yours in your location, Google will be able to find you and post your information in their search. Even if the person doesn’t include your city in their search, Google knows where they are and can find you to answer their query.
Consider other ways to signify that your information is relevant and current. Include the year in your title when relevant. If you’re talking about products, consider using a title like “The 20 Best Products in 2018.” People will see your post as relevant, and Google will see that your posts are current and give you a better ranking.
Be the Expert in One Area:
If you find a keyword that gets lots of search action without a lot of competition go deep with your strategy. Be the authority on it and use your internal links to your advantage. When doing your research on your keywords, if you find one that gets a lot of search activity, but there’s not much competition, use those keywords and write in-depth on the subject. You’ll rise the top of Google searches very quickly.
Optimize for Mobile:
This is worth repeating because the percentage of non-desktop searching is going to continue to increase. If your site isn’t easy to navigate on mobile devices, you’ll lose business.
Optimize for Voice Search:
The #1 thing that will set websites apart in the future is the ability to have your web properties appear in voice searches. We are using more Artificial Intelligence functions on our computer devices like Siri and Cortana.
Think of the questions people will ask via voice search and answer them. Again, if you serve local clients or businesses, make sure that you list your location in your keywords.
Use These Great SEO Tools:
The Google Search Console provides great insight into how your site is performing in Google searches. You do have to take some steps to enable access, but it’s very user-friendly. You can see which keyword searches on Google were used most often that lead to your site, and what your click-thru rate was of these listings. It will tell you what people are searching for, when your site came up in their search and how often they are clicking on your link as opposed to others. (It’s free)
SpyFu spies on your competitors. Use this to see what keywords they are using and how well their site performs.
SEMrush provides valuable insight into the world of search. It will show your competitors’ best keywords, help you find competitors you didn’t know about, and reveal how much money your competitors are spending on search advertising. It’s one of the best resources for this.
Utilize Great Resources:
Neil Patel (neilpatel.com) provides great daily information on SEO and search in general.
MOZ (moz.com) has a wealth of great information for businesses that want more from their SEO.
Schema –The semantic web, is the next frontier for SEO. Schema.org defines the best-used terms to use for keywords. This is a definite list of codes that should be used for best practices. If Google sees you using old codes, this will hurt your ranking.
Rankings reviews, ratings, product descriptions, and schedules are now starting to influence rankings.
Speak with your website developer or SEO company to ensure schema.org elements are part of your website.
Rich Snippets are search results that include ratings, reviews, images, video content, and more.
They stand out from all other search results because the search engine has more data about the site. It uses images, ratings, and reviews that can be pulled into the search results.
Setup using structured data found in the Google Search Console.
People Also Ask:
This is often featured with popular search terms. If Google gets the same requests over and over again, they post additional sites with information. The more expert advice you provide for frequently asked questions, and your content answers these very specifically, Google will consider adding your site you to their “People Also Ask” prompt. So, again, think of the questions most people will ask about your product or service and answer these in your website content.
Searches can get immediate answers here and may never visit your site.
It reinforces the need to ensure your website and content solves people’s problems, answers, questions, and offers advice.
Social media does play a role in SEO, and social content will affect your ranking.
The more shares or “social indicators” found, the more relevant Google will consider your content. When someone shares an article from your website, this is called a social indicator. This tells Google where the poster found this information and how many times it’s been shared. The more you get shares, the more Google will find your website valid and increase your rankings.
Reviews from social sites matter.
Social media channels are their own search engines.
Extended reading: “Social is the New SEO” by Neil Patel. This will tell you more about SEO and how important it is in Google rankings.
The Most Important “Take Aways”
The days of a long list of your services are over. Optimize your page and your content for today’s audience.
Solve people’s challenges
Answer their questions. Use keywords intelligently and accurately, so you’re answering people’s question.