A Starter Guide to Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of methods aimed at improving the ranking of a website in search engine listings, and is a subset of search engine marketing. SEO can be intimidating if you don’t have any experience with it. No matter how great your website’s content is, or how amazing your services or products are, if you don’t optimize certain factors properly, your site will attract far less traffic than it should. These adjustments might seem minor, but together, they can make a big difference. So let’s jump right into it.
On-Page SEO plays an important role in any SEO campaign you run, but the real key to succeed online is your Off-Page SEO efforts. On Page SEO factors are relevant to the content that is on your web page. The quality of your content is very important because this is what is important to search engines. While On-Page SEO is a one-time thing, Off-Page SEO deals almost exclusively with building links to your website. This is how you get into the top spots of the search engine results and get huge traffic to your website.
Some of the major On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO factors include:
On-Page SEO factors:
- Page Layout
- Title and Content
- Meta Tags
- Categories and Tags
Off-Page SEO Factors:
- Social Media Networking and Marketing
- Blog Posting
- Article Writing
- Forum Discussions
- Social Bookmarking
- Press Releases
Content is of very high importance in SEO. Google’s methodology does its best to place quality content and services at the top of their search. The way this started was mainly seeing which and how many weblinks lead to a site, but it has since evolved. Here are a few of the guidelines Google advises we implement to rank highly:
- Break your content into logical chunks
- Write easy-to-read text (text that has proper spelling and grammar)
- Create content primarily to serve your visitors, not to rank highly in search engines
- Publish fresh, original content
Following these guidelines will incline your visitors to link back to you or share your site on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more, which Google does still like.
Keywords are one of the most important ways that Google connects online visitors with content. The concept is simple enough; having users’ common search terms in your content helps to ensure that they find your website.
Keywords should be included at a natural frequency in your site’s content. They shouldn’t be “stuffed” as to appear forced, but they should be regular enough that it’s clear what you want to be found for. Consider “long tail” keywords as a supplement to the obvious ones: A combination of many lower traffic keywords can often bring you more traffic than a few high traffic keywords.
Make sure your website is user-friendly and specifically mobile-friendly, meaning that it resizes to display uniformly and appropriately on any size browser from any device. A large portion of web traffic these days comes from phones and tablets, so Google has made this criterion directly correlated to how high your site ranks in its search engine — pay attention to it if you don’t want to be left behind.
Effective Images, Videos and Infographics:
Images are often essential to spice up websites by stopping them from becoming big chunks of text, but they have to be used in the right ways. Here are some guidelines to do so:
- Use alt tags (the portion of your code which is read for the visually disabled and used for browsers that can’t display images) and filenames that concisely and accurately describe your image.
- Seldom use images as opposed to text for links
- Use the most commonly supported image file formats (BMP, JPG, GIF, and PNG)
- Consider using stock images
Infographics are images such as diagrams or a a charts with text used to represent data or information. Infographics are a great way to communicate ideas because a picture is worth a thousand words. When you combine words and pictures, the effect is long lasting and instantaneous.
There are scores of videos online, but a good video can be made to communicate your message concisely and remarkably well. If done well, a video can reach thousands and even millions of people. Whatever be the subject of your video, make sure the script is right. Remember the words are as important as the moving picture.
Intelligent Use of Headings:
Heading tags are HTML elements which control (along with corresponding CSS code) the size and styling of headlines and sub-headlines. Proper use of headings makes a page easy to quickly skim/digest. Too few headings, and the page becomes a block of text. Too many, and headings lose their significance. Google knows to look for headings in the way that users like, so use them properly, and you are one step closer to search engine prominence.
The Meta Description Tags:
These descriptions provide summaries of what people can expect to find on your pages. They are especially important because when your pages come up in search results as they are likely to appear as snippets describing your website (unless Google finds a snippet on your page that it thinks is more appropriate based on the user’s searched query).
Thought-out Page Titles:
Page titles (represented in code as title tags) should:
- Accurately describe the content of the page
- Be helpful to users, not “keyword stuffed”
- Be unique, i.e. no two pages on your site should have the same title
- Finally, they should be brief but descriptive because Google trims long ones for its search results.
Gone are the days when URLs (the strings of text you type into the address bar to find websites) don’t make any sense to human readers. These days, users and Google demand these specifications from URLs:
- Make sure your URLs contain English language words instead of strange code
- For example, avoid URLs like http://www.yoursite.com/?=39395949?jkdkfl
- Use simple, shallow folder structures to contain your website’s pages
- For example, www.yoursite.com/folder1/page/ instead ofwww.yoursite.com/folder1/folder2/folder3/folder4/page/
- Make sure that there is either one page corresponding to each URL on your website or that you tell Google in the preferred ways which URLs refer to the same page.
Navigation does exactly what the word actually means. It consists of links and menus to help your visitors navigate your site. A few good navigation practices are:
- Use “breadcrumb” lists at the top of your pages to let visitors navigate backwards easily
- When people type a short part of a longer URL into the address bar, let that shortened version lead to a real page
- Let your site’s navigation lead people from more general to more specific content on your site
Promote Your Site in the Right Ways:
In the past, people purchased links from other sites to theirs to raise their rankings. Google has tightened up on this, and can ban anyone whom they catch practicing link buying. However, the following methods of promotion can still raise your rankings in Google:
- Be social. When you put something new and great on your site, share it on social media. Announce it on your blog as well!
- Reach out to related sites and ask them if they would link to your website. Links from sites that rank in the top 100 sites for a keyword you want to rank for are especially helpful.
- Get your site listed in directories for your field.
These methods of promotion are normal ways for people to let others know about their content (which Google understands we must do) so they are acceptable.
We hope this guide has helped you to understand the basics of SEO.