There is great mystery surrounding search engine optimization, or SEO. That’s because there is so much misleading information out there and way too many not-so-honest search marketing companies dialing for your dollars.
Optimizing a website is not a one-time deal; it’s a continuous process that you must commit to doing on a regular (at least quarterly) basis, especially if you want to maintain or improve your current search engine ranking. SEO should be a high priority line item in your marketing budget, and you should never put it off “until later.” Once you get off-track with SEO, rankings quickly slip and it takes more work to gain them back. But remember – no single SEO factor will guarantee search engine rankings.
Let’s boil SEO down to the basics so you can have a better grasp of exactly what it is, why it matters, and what you need to be doing.
What is SEO?
According to Webopedia, search engine optimization is a “methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine – including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. SEO helps to ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine.”
Why is this so important? Think about how you search for information on the Web. In most cases, Internet users won’t click through pages and pages of search results, so they gravitate to those websites and pages that show up toward the top of any search display. Where your website ranks in a search is “essential for directing more traffic toward the site,” Webopedia says. “The higher a website naturally ranks in organic results of a search, the greater the chance that site will be visited by a user.”
On-page search ranking factors are those that are entirely within the website publisher’s control. In other words, it’s the content you place on your webpages.
Content: You must keep your content fresh with regular updates on all pages.
“Evergreen content” was a trendy term in the SEO world for a while, which meant certain content can be relevant and timely year after year, so you can utilize it over and over. For example, every winter you likely post information about your winter tire specials and vehicle winterization services, so why not just flip the same information up there and be done with it?
This is a lazy approach to marketing. Put some thought and effort into all of the information that goes onto your website and you will see the results, such as longer page visits and more page views.
Follow these best practices to create quality online content:
• Content should be at least 500 words in length.
• The target search phrase should be included in the page headline.
• The target search phrase should be repeated three to five times within body copy.
• Content should include relevant images and/or graphics with ALT tags that describe the target search phrase.
• Your post shouldn’t have any misspellings or poor grammar. Search engines penalize you for both of these offenses.
• Your content should include social media links and/or user reviews.
HTML: HTML is just a fancy name for the code that makes your site function. Within this code are page titles, descriptions and tags that search engines look for when they rank your site. It’s likely your website platform provider allows you to view and update this information in your administrative panel; therefore, you should be reviewing and updating this information quarterly. If you don’t have access to these fields, ask your website provider if you can submit updated information for them to code into the site.
Architecture: Website architecture is crucial to SEO success. An example of architecture that is clearly visible is your website URL or address. The ideal URL clearly describes the page content. For example: www.thomastire.com/showroom_2013.
A non optimized URL might look like: www.thomastire/shrm.asp?year=2013.
See the difference? Google does. So do Yahoo, Bing and others.
Characters such as question marks and equal signs are unreadable by search engines. Your page URL shouldn’t include abbreviations, either. Inventory your non-optimized URLs and address the list with your website provider.
Publishers cannot directly control off-page ranking factors. These factors include inbound links, social channel activity and online customer reviews.
Inbound Links: When other sites link to yours, your website shows up higher in search results. You can measure how many inbound links you currently have at www.opensiteexplorer.org.
Once you collect this data, consider taking these actions:
• Scan your highest-authority inbound links for opportunities to create more similar links.
• Scan your competitors’ highest-authority inbound links. Can you get those links too, or do they provide ideas for getting similar links?
• Inbound links from non-profit (.org) and education (.edu) sites are especially valuable. Do you have any? Should you have more from your friends and partners in these realms?
Build your inbound links gradually. Google algorithms will notice a quick accumulation of links and may penalize you.
Get your staff on board with the idea of “thinking links” – always keep an eye out for opportunities to request an inbound link.
For a complete list of SEO best practice guidelines, look to Google Webmaster Tools. The platform will show you how your website is performing before you put your SEO strategy in motion.
For more information, go here: http://bit.ly/1azzEf6.
Heather Blessington, CEO of Duo Web Solutions, is an accomplished blogger receiving press from CNN, USA Today, BBC and Forbes. Her companyspecializes in creating and managing blogs for powersports dealers. Contact Heather at [email protected].