Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most divisive terms in content marketing and promotion. As a new marketer, it’s either your saving grace or the bane of your existence. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Whether you’re creating a new site for the first time or you’re updating your current one, you’ll want to make sure your site has a strong foundation. The following SEO concepts and tools will help you create an SEO-friendly website that will effortlessly attract your ideal customers.
Why is SEO important?
Every day, people use search engines, like Google, to find answers to their problems. Your website might solve your customers’ problems in an easy and affordable way, but you can’t help them if they never find your website. SEO helps grow your visibility and organic customer reach.
Search engines send out robots, also known as spiders, to crawl websites for content. The search engines then store and build an index out of this information. When someone enters a question or topic into a search box, search engines use algorithms to display results pulled from their databases. Where your content shows up on this results list is factored by its popularity, relevance and quality.
But writing consistent, relevant blog posts isn’t enough to get your website to the top of these lists. SEO helps boost your rankings so that your site is visible to the people you want to attract to your site and buy your products and services. By fine-tuning your SEO, you can increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your site through the search engine results.
Optimizing your website
The first place you want to focus when improving your SEO is your website. There are several tips and techniques you can use depending on which web platform you use. Here are a few highlights:
- SSL: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates indicate that your site is secure. Google marks sites without SSL as insecure, which can affect your ranking.
- Website speed: Google favors speed. Make sure you have good hosting, compress your images, and use simple web layouts and design.
- Simple URLs: Instead of using long URL slugs with random letters and numbers, keep yours simple: YourWebsite.com/about or YourWebsite.com/contact-us
- Avoid broken links: If Google finds broken links on your website, it will think your site is old and neglected. Always test links to make sure they take users to the right pages.
Keywords are the words and phrases users enter into search bars. A single keyword is a one-word phrase. It can be extremely hard to rank for words like meditation or bakery. It’s important to be specific about the kind of traffic you want to attract. Medium or long tail keywords are short phrases that help you get specific, like “Washington DC meditation meetup” or “vegan bakery in Chicago.” These keywords make it easier to rank with less competition.
Next, create your keyword list or roadmap. These are keywords that you will use to target the specific customers you want to bring to your website. Remember to get specific about your niche. You can do this with keyword research. By finding out the right keywords, you can help drive the right kind of traffic to your site over and over again.
Here are a few free tools you can use for keyword research:
- Google search bar: simply start typing a phrase and you’ll see a list of options display in the dropdown. You can also use Google Trends to suggest new keywords and related queries.
- KWFinder: This shows the average monthly search volume and the keyword difficulty. The higher the score, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.
- Moz Keyword Explorer: In addition to showing volume and difficulty, Moz incorporates opportunity, importance and potential to help you prioritize keywords.
- Keyword Tool: This tool is great for data mining and also helps you find long tail keywords for YouTube, Bing, Amazon and the App Store.
If you have a local business or storefront, you can use these tools to help with local keyword research and SEO.
SEO best practices
Now that you have your keyword list, you can use these keywords to create high quality, relevant content that your customers want to read. Use these best practices to improve your SEO.
Start with your headline. It’s important to create headlines that contain the keywords that you are trying to rank for. For example, if you want to rank for “Chicago vegan bakery” you could consider a headline like “Top 10 Vegan Bakeries in Chicago” or “The One Chicago Vegan Bakery You Have to Try.”
Next, add your keyword to your URL slug (YourWebsite.com/blog/slug) to make sure Google knows what you’re writing about. You can also add keywords to your subheadings and in the body of your article, but don’t go crazy. Don’t add a bunch of random keywords just for the sake of adding them, especially if it doesn’t make sense in the flow of your content.
You should also include several links inside the body of your content. Include links to data sources from outside your website using your keywords. Google favors data-driven content because it shows that you are serious about providing value to your customers. In addition, add links to your own relevant content. This shows Google that you are the authority on a specific subject and will help your rankings in the search results.
Finally, if you’re using images, make sure to use your keywords in both the image name and the alternative text that describes what the image is about.
Analyzing your SEO efforts
These are all great techniques to improve your SEO, but how do you know if it’s working?
You can use free tools like Google Analytics or Google Search Console to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in the Google search results.
One of the biggest pieces to successful SEO is monitoring your site. It’s important to be aware of changes to your site traffic and how your rank changes based on things you’ve done to your site. Use your website’s analytics or the tools above to stay on top of trends so you can make the necessary changes to boost your rankings.
Remember that SEO is an ongoing task. You can’t just set it and forget it. It’s important to check in on a regular basis and review your analytics to see what is driving traffic to your site, what you need to change, which keywords you should use and how to incorporate those keywords into your content.
When in doubt, outsource it, but make sure it gets done. If you’re writing content that no one sees, you can’t begin to build lasting customer relationships or grow your business. Whether you love it or hate it, SEO is a critical piece to content promotion and business growth.