Have you given your website a checkup lately? Once your website is up and running, the work isn’t finished. You must add, subtract and modify; this digital age doesn’t support a “set it and forget it” approach. Most importantly, you must add fresh, relevant content on a consistent and frequent basis. When web crawlers (the bots that comb the Internet and rank websites based on what they see) scrutinize your site, quality content is rewarded with a favorable site rankings and improved search engine optimization (SEO).
What is SEO? Chances are, you’ve heard this term and may have some understanding of what it’s all about. Let’s get a bit more specific on the definition of search engine optimization, what it does, and why you need it.
Search engine optimization is a series of methods one can employ to affect a website’s visibility in organic (non-sponsored) search engine results. SEO helps guide the web crawlers that comb the web and rank websites based on a variety of factors; you’ll want to make sure your site is “bot ready.” And if you’re questioning the true importance of where Google and other search engines rank your site in relationship to others, consider this: First-page search results receive more than 95% of user clicks, and the first search result gets more than 50% of those clicks. The first page is where you want to be.
This is Not Your Mother’s SEO
The landscape of SEO is always changing. Just a few years ago, the SEO industry was known for employing suspect methods such as link farms and content mills — web pages that were filled with senseless content intended to trick web surfers into clicking on them. Today, many ethical and competent pros are still working to create distance from that checkered past.
One popular SEO method that was favored for years was called keyword stuffing. By repeating keywords in a repetitious and irrelevant manner in meta tags or in the body of a website, site rankings could be artificially boosted. Today, Google has sophisticated algorithms in place, with names like Penguin and Panda. Don’t be fooled by their unthreatening monikers; defying the rules that Google has in place will land offending websites in a quarantine that will prohibit them from seeing the (search engine results) light of day for some time. A business website that doesn’t show up in Google search results is relatively useless.
How can your site climb up the search engine ladder? Here are a few suggestions to get you on your way:
Make sure that your website is neat and orderly. Ensure that you don’t have any broken hyperlinks; use a free link checker to make this task easier. The architecture, structure and hierarchy should make sense and be easy to navigate. Is your site responsive (mobile view option)? If your site is complicated or difficult to understand, that’s friction; web crawlers hate friction.
Title Tags and Descriptions
Title tags are important to your SEO status. They are the text that is displayed in three key places:
* the bar directly above your browser
* search engine results
* external websites (such as bookmarks, for example)
This is a valuable piece of the SEO equation that must be used, but keep it short and succinct; Google results are limited to displaying the first 70 characters.
Meta descriptions do not affect search engine ranking, but they are critical because they affect user click-through rates. Meta descriptions are the lines of text found under website links seen in search engine results. Make this text enticing, engaging and natural and relevant; this description is designed to compel web users to click on your site link. Typically, the first 150 characters will be visible in search returns.
The most crucial on-site element of SEO is your website’s content. It’s important to have premium, high-quality copy to achieve a professional ambience, but it’s also the vehicle to deliver relevant keywords in an organic way. It’s a balance: Deliver optimal content in a natural way and weave in the appropriate words that your target audience will search for. Also, keep updating content, establish and add to a blog or news feature on your site. By consistently adding fresh or dynamic content, web crawlers rank your site higher.
Google Authorship is a powerful feature of Google’s newest social media platform (Google+). The folks at Google have crafted an evolving framework of intelligence that identifies the experts in any field, based on authorship. As you guest blog, write and publish high-quality, content-rich articles on the Internet, your material is linked back to your site. You establish author ranking, and this all creates SEO for your website. If authoring is part of your marketing plan, and it should be, don’t miss out on this opportunity. For more information on how Google Authorship can help your business and how to get started, this Forbes article is a valuable resource.
Identify which social media platforms are most appropriate for your business. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the most populous. The more points of contact and visibility you create, the more SEO you create as well. Web crawlers see social media activity; online connection is valuable for sales and marketing, but it also boosts search engine rankings. (My opinion: LinkedIn is a great starting point for any social media neophyte.)
SEO is a sophisticated and essential marketing initiative that cannot be underestimated or overlooked. Clearly, there are functions that the average layperson can perform to participate in the effort. The more intensive tasks are complicated — and somewhat of an art form; they require the expertise of a professional. Keep up on current-day SEO happenings — the rules of SEO change frequently — by reading industry sites such as moz.com.
The best way to get your site SEO rolling? Share your smarts! Leverage your content, expertise, and online visibility in as many ways as possible. Your website traffic reports will thank you.