If you operate any type of website, you have likely heard about SEO. Search engine optimization, or SEO, has a lot of moving parts and can seem overwhelming, as many elements contribute to it. I’m going to break down some of these strategies that signal a search engine in a series of blog posts, but before we get into those, let’s take a step back.
What is SEO?
Simply put, SEO is the practice of improving a website’s pages in an effort increase rank by search engines. That process is a combination of strategies that target a website’s relevance, speed, and usability through content, social media efforts, code, link-building, and so much more. But perhaps most importantly, you need to know that SEO is ongoing. To just create content around a desired keyword isn’t enough. It’s also worth noting that while SEO results aren’t guaranteed, an effective strategy will give you a leg up. Sometimes it can even feel like a trial-and-error process, especially as best practices, and even technology, change or as the competition amps up their own SEO efforts. The best approach to SEO is to learn the basics, keep yourself informed, and consistently look for areas of improvement in your SEO strategy.
Why is SEO Important?
Search engine optimization drives not only free, but also quality traffic to your site. If your site contains the answer to a user’s query, your site will appear at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages) and you will gain traction as the authority on the subject. A first-page (or even first listing) on the SERP is prime Google real estate because it’s the perfect place for users to learn about your website and business.
Think back to the last time you Googled something. Did you even go beyond the first page of results? I’m guessing that you didn’t. And you are not alone. Most people don’t advance beyond that first page, so improving your rank has never been more important if you want to get found. Your place on the SERP has a direct correlation to your SEO efforts, and employing an effective strategy will increase your chances of reaching your target audience.
Top SEO Ranking Factors to Consider
Not all ranking factors carry the same weight, but here are some good ones to know:
- Page experience: Google is rewarding websites that prioritize user experiences so think about how easy it is for the user to find relevant info in terms of not only the content but also from the perspective of navigation and page speed.
- High-quality content: High-quality content is about creating pages that increase a user’s time spent on the page (leading to a lower bounce rate), and provide the answer to the user’s original query.
- On-Page SEO: This is a bit of a compilation; it includes relevant keywords (one main and a couple supporting) and then using that keyword throughout the post and in the page’s URL. Don’t forget to include the keyword(s) in your title and meta descriptions (those blurbs that show up under the page title on the SERPs) as well as in headlines that use H tags. And of course, use images and appropriate alt text.
- Page speed: A simple one. How fast does the page load? Make it speedy!
- Mobile-first: A mobile-first or mobile-friendly approach focuses on design and speed, i.e., how well a website is formatted for mobile users and how a website performs on mobile devices.
- Engagement: Engagement includes how many users click around on your site and how long they remain on the site. Spending long periods of time on a website signals to the search engines that the site must be relevant.
- SSL Certificate/Security: In this day and age, you need an SSL certificate to secure your website. If you’re not using https in the URLs, Google is not happy.
- Off-Page SEO: This would include things outside of your website that can help boost your rankings, like social media and Google business profiles. Getting these setup and actively engaging on them (this part is key!) will add legitimacy to your business, not to mention clicks over to your website!
- Backlinks: Technically-speaking, backlinks are considered off-page SEO, but they are important so they get their own bullet point (ha!). Backlink is the term for an external link that leads back to your site. They help build authority in the eyes of the almighty Google. But remember, it’s quality over quantity! A variety of links from reputable sites, including those from relevant partners (via website or social media) is ideal.
This list is by no means exhaustive; there are other factors, many of which are more technical in nature (and where I come in!), so best to start with the least overwhelming of all the signals.
How to Get Started with SEO?
So, what can you do today to start an effective SEO strategy? Glad you asked.
Start with submitting your site to Google. While Google will find your site eventually, it could takes weeks or months if you don’t help Google along to speed up the process. To submit your website to Google, you can add a sitemap via Google Search Console.
Once that step is completed, take a look at your site from the user’s perspective. How fast does it load when you aren’t on wifi? Think about your user’s journey and what it is you want them to do on your site. Is it easy to follow that path and have them land where you’d like? A great way to test this is to ask a friend (bonus points if they are not super tech-savvy) to complete the end goal.
For example, let’s say you want to drive inquiries via your contact page. Ask your friend to contact you through your site and see how they do. Listen to their feedback and implement changes as necessary.
Driving someone to a particular piece of content? Choose the appropriate keyword then spend 20 minutes tweaking that content to include that keyword where applicable, à la on-page SEO tricks mentioned above.
SEO Should Help Your Audience
Don’t forget that, at the end of the day, SEO is meant to grow your business. This means a bunch of web traffic from anyone other than your ideal client is NOT going to further your efforts.
Stay tuned as we dig deeper into the ranking factors above so you can get the most relevant sets of eyes on your website!
Read the next post in the series: Getting Started with On-Page SEO