Look, I get it. You have 400,000 things going on and trying to figure out SEO (That's Search Engine Optimization - by the way) is like trying to teach an elephant to shake hands. But SEO is vital to growing your online presence and ensuring potential customers can find you. Remember when you first started your business, and everyone said how difficult it would be? Learning SEO is going to be so much easier - so let's show Dumbo a secret handshake.
The internet is just a big library, but instead of books, it's filled with webpages. Remember libraries? You know, what we had before Google? The rows and rows of books? Okay - great, Here's another blast from the past. Remember the Dewey Decimal System; your middle school librarian tried to teach you while you were spitting spitballs at your friends?
The Dewey Decimal System is a system libraries use to organize all of the books. Without the Dewey Decimal System, libraries would look like the junk drawer in your kitchen. Things would be scattered around, and you would never know where to find anything. SEO is the internet's Dewey Decimal System. It organizes, sorts, and optimizes the vast information that is on the interne
So if you were going to sort millions of webpages into a single search query, what are some of the things you would start prioritizing? Well, I'm not sure about you, but I would start with Titles. A well-written title will tell you what the book contains. If you know where titles are, you know where the information is.
Now, let's imagine you were a wizard.
Scratch that. You are a wizard. But let's say you were a wizard in a library.
Using your magical wizard powers, you can scan and digitize all of the information. Now the entire library is cataloged and sorted based on titles. With your new digital library, you can now search by titles and by details in the books as well.
Let's say you wanted to look for information on gardening. You type in "gardening" and push enter. Your screen fills with thousands of books that have the word "gardening" in the title or has "gardening" anywhere the entire text.
That is how Google scans the web for information. Some of us call this "crawling" the internet. Google's computers browse the web for relevant words periodically. From there, the information found will be indexed just like we did with the library books. Now, If you type in "gardening" in the search bar, Google will give you millions of results within a fraction of a second.
On-Page SEO is the information on your website that Google is going to pull that information.
Title<title>: The title on my page is invisible, so I can't point to it. But it's there. I opted to have a pretty logo instead of text. However, your title is what you would put on the cover of your book. My title is Small Business Mentor.
Header <H1>: For this article, the header is that pretty bold text at the top that says, "Why You Needed to Start Focusing on SEO Last Week." If this were a book, your header would be the title of a chapter.
Body<body>: The body of this webpage is what you're reading right now. It is the bulk of the writing and would be the text on the pages of a book. It's where the majority of the information is.
Meta-Description: Think of this as the book summary on the back cover. When you Google something, you will see a description of the page or website underneath the link. While this doesn't directly affect SEO, humans judge a book by its cover, and it's essential to make it look pretty if you want people to click on your site.
Let's go back to the library and your fancy search queue. We have an organized list of books on "gardening." Unfortunately, Some of the books are outdated, have ripped pages, and are barely readable. Even if these books had beneficial information, they would take too long to read, and you wouldn't get very far. Not to mention, some of the books aren't even about gardening! There is also a couple of duplicate books with the same information. This list sucks - what kind of system is this?
To fix this issue, we can have the system prioritize books with high-quality content that is well organized and digestible. All books with easy to read titles, headings, and that also have descriptive paragraphs to the front of the line. If pages are missing, ripped, and are generally difficult to read can leave. What is left is a list of readable books, AND the information is what we are trying to find.
Google does the same thing with websites. If your site has broken links, pictures the size of the moon, and a generally disorganized mess of information, it's going to prioritize other sites over yours. Just like a library wouldn't be successful with a bunch of books that were in shambles, Google wants to provide the best experience for its users.
The biggest thing you can do to make your site readable and accessible is to simplify things or get rid of all of the “fluff.” Now, I'm not saying you have to get rid of all of your hard work, images, and videos. But just like you were packing for a vacation, start with the necessities and add on from there.
Clear Titles: I know you have a minor in Latin, but don't get cute. Your titles should clearly state what the webpage contains. Computer algorithms don't understand metaphors.
Formatted paragraphs: Have you ever read a paper or piece of writing that has paragraphs that seem to go on forever? It's exhausting. Your goal is to make things easier for the reader.
Keywords: We call keywords, keywords because they are essential to your success. Remember when we used our magician powers to search all of the library book's content? We don't want search engines to think we titled a book, "How to make Pasta," and don't mention pasta once in the book. Scatter keywords throughout your SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING text, so search engines know your content is relevant. But as you can see, overdoing it will make you look a little silly.
Make it Fast: One of the most common mistakes people make with websites is putting too much content on them and slowing them down. Search Engines don't care how great the video your cousin made you is if it slows down your site. Pictures are great but watch their size. Videos can be great, but don't overdo it. Animation is possible but isn't going to do you any favors if you want to decrease page loading time.
Remember, this also includes mobile speed. If your website isn't optimized for mobile devices, you'll need to make some adjustments. Popular website hosting services will do this for you. However, you'll want to double-check to make sure things are loading correctly on mobile.
Text is more valuable than pictures: I love infographics, and I love photography. However, search engines have a tough time deciphering infographics and photos. Screen readers, devices that visually impaired people use to read webpages also have a tough time. It's an excellent idea to pair infographics and photographs with text that explains what the visual is. It will make your site accessible to all and keep your website "crawl-able" on search engines.
Remember that fancy list of books we were working on at the library. There is another problem - we still have hundreds of choices about gardening. They are all great, but you only want to choose the best options instead of reading everything. We need to rank the choices somehow to make our decision easier. After all, you are a busy wizard, and you have places to be.
One way to further sort the books is by putting the books with the most citations and prestige to the front. If two dozen books are citing "Gardening 101", you probably want to read the book they are citing before reading those summarizing it. Publications with a lot of citations are usually well written and respected, so this would also work in our favor.
If we wanted to nail down our search, even more, we could factor in how often people are reading the books. If a book is accessible, people must be finding it valuable. While we're at it, we could look at if someone read the entire book or just flipped through the pages for a couple of seconds. Our search query is a curated list of high-quality, respected, easy to digest books, on the exact topic we want.
Damn, we are GOOD.
Now, if you haven't guessed yet, this is what search engines do. However, the word the industry likes to use for citations are "links" or "backlinks."
Backlinks are what they sound like. They are links that "link back" to a specific site. You see them every single day, and they are even in this article. When an article, blog, or website links back to your site, they are giving your website a nod of approval. Not all links are created equal; the higher the prestige and relevance of the site linking back to you, the bigger the nod of approval. In other words, you'd rather have a backlink from Animal Plant than your neighbor's blog about unicorns.
You also want to make sure you are creating something that people are receiving value from. We sorted our library not only on how often people read your book, but also how long they flipped through the pages. If someone goes to your website, sticks up their nose, and moves on, Search engines are going to take notice and start steering people away from your content.
Bounce rate, or the percentage of people that immediately move on from your site, is also why people may put videos or images on a webpage. People have short attention spans, and giving them something pretty to look at will keep them on a web page longer. However, your best bet is always to create content and webpages that provide value to your customers, not just pretty things.
In summary, Titles, headers, and the body of your website is essential. The accessibility of your site is vital. The number of citations and the quality of your content is going to make or break you. While there are 100s of factors that influence a website's SEO ranking, those are the basics.
I told you - Search Engine Optimizations isn't that difficult - at least not for a wizard.
Now, if you want things broken down even more...
Content is King. Content is critical when it comes to SEO. After all, the goal of optimizing a search engine is to provide users high quality and relevant content. There are a couple of different ways you can optimize your content:
When talking about SEO, you will hear the term "Keyword" more often than any other. The reason is that the keywords are what people are putting into the search bar to find content. If you aren't writing about exactly what people are searching for, they won't be able to find you.
For example, if someone is looking for "Gardening Tools" and your blog speaks about several different gardening tools without explicitly mentioning the phrase, "Gardening Tools" you won't show up in search results. Even though you are technically providing the information the user asked for, you didn't follow the rules of the game.
The number of keywords you use is also essential. After all, would you instead read a blog that mentions gardening tools once, or throughout the piece? The blog that indicates what you are searching for throughout is more likely to have more information about your specific topic.
On that note, have you ever wondered why websites generally have the same structure? Well, it is in part because people have gotten used to the names associated with individual pages. If you want to learn more about an organization, you're likely going to their "About" page rather than a page titled "More Stuff."
Additionally, search engines also prefer a particular structure and cohesiveness to websites. If a site is challenging to navigate and disorganized, users are not going to find it useful. Information that isn't useful doesn't get much love from Google.
The same applies to web pages and pieces of writing. If you don't have a title to your page or your writing is just a mass of text, it's going to be challenging to digest.
Your goal is to create content that people are going to find useful and follow SEO guidelines. If users don't see your content as valuable and informational, they won't stick around for long.
A mistake made often is writing content for the sole purpose of appearing in search results. Trying to cheat the system may work initially, but once search engines realize consumers are quickly moving on from your site, your site will plummet in search rankings. Without providing any real value, your audience will always continue to search for more efficient uses of their time, and search engines will follow suit.
Proper grammar and spelling, page layout, and up to date, accurate information is also essential.
We have heard it since we were in school, plagiarism isn't a good thing. Now, search engines won't necessarily punish you like your English teacher did, but plagiarizing won't benefit you. If you copy content from other sites, it isn't valuable to users. If you aren't providing additional value by providing a different opinion, answer, or perspective, Google isn't going to put you right next to content that has already proven to be valuable to users.
Blogs are one of the most popular ways sites use to boost their SEO. Blogging used to be how your Aunt Sandra updated you on her cat. Today, blogs are a great way to increase the content on your site as well as highlight specific keywords you want your website to show up for.
Product Pages :
Product pages are also standard, particularly for those selling products and services. Much like a blog, these pages can help you target specific keywords related to that product, as well as give customers a breakdown of what the product or service provides.
Similar to product pages, reviews dedicate their content to giving an overview of a product, describing use cases, and providing feedback on the product(s). These usually include more than one product and sometimes rank products based on how well they perform and the writer's valuation. Review pages often perform well because they show up for keywords and in searches for multiple products that people are searching for.
Case Studies and Original Research:
Case studies and original research can help boost your site's authority because others will hopefully reference your research. As we talked about before, creating unique content that people find valuable enough to link back to on their site is vital. Case studies and research is a great way to provide that information.
Infographics are also an excellent tool for getting backlinks and references to your site. A helpful and well-crafted infographic, paired with an equally well-crafted blog description, can be useful to others writing about similar topics.
Pieces written as a Guide or How-To are usually step by step directions answering a question. These can you appear in "answer boxes" that search engines have been using on an increasing basis. Ideally, you want to create a piece that gives step by step directions and a thorough answer to a question.
Lists are popular because you don't have to give a lot of detail to be effective. A writer can provide a broad overview of several different topics, provide valuable information, and appear in search results.
Videos are great to keep readers on your web page longer, communicate complicated topics, and help you show up in search results for those specifically looking for video. People are searching for information on Youtube more and more, and creating useful content through multiple platforms can help you get your name out there.
Ebooks can be some of the most challenging content pieces to create because of how much information is needed. Ebooks are a deep dive into a topic, and often, the only difference in quality from a physical book and an ebook is the medium someone is reading it on. For this reason, creators usually charge for the ability to read their ebooks.
Making your site user friendly and accessible is right up there with content in making sure you show up high in search results. You can have the best content in the world with all the right keywords, but if people can’t access your content or your site isn’t set up in a digestible way, you’re out of luck.
The Clickthrough rate of a site is the number of people who see your website's result in a search, compared to the number of people who click on the site. The goal of measuring the click-through rate is to measure the engagement of content.
Google and other search engines take this into account when deciding search rankings. Specifically, for SEO, you can improve your click-through rate by optimizing Meta-descriptions and Titles. Don't overthink this, if you're providing accurate information and summarizing that information in titles and metatags, people will click on your links.
The bounce rate is very similar to the way it sounds. If someone comes to your website and immediately clicks (or bounces) away from it, that is going to increase your bounce rate.
The theory behind this is that if someone immediately leaves your site, it means they didn't find what they are looking for. It could also say that your website took too long to load, so the user decided to look elsewhere. Either way, the more people who leave immediately, the more likely Google is to deem your site invaluable.
To improve your bounce rates, you can improve your content, make sure you're showing up for search results for keywords that are relevant to your content, and reduce your site loading time.
Dwell time is how much time users are on your site. If searchers go to your website and stay there longer than others, search engines are going to consider your site more valuable as a result.
The longer someone is on your site, the more pages they visit, and the more they engage with your website are direct representations of how they feel about your content.
You can increase dwell time by doing many of the same strategies as you would improve your bounce rates. By improving bounce rates, you are also improving dwell time.
Inbound links or "backlinks" are critical because it signifies to Google that the information you created is valuable enough for other people to reference. If you write a research paper, you want other researchers to cite your article in their own. If you are an author, you want other books to reference your research. If you are a content creator, you want people to share your content on different channels.
Create quality content, and the links will come.
Valuable pieces of content usually refer to other useful pieces of content. Search Engines prioritize content that helps the user find what they are looking for. If your site references other sites and information but makes them go back to the search engine to look for that information, your website isn't as useful as it could be.
Being a resource means being a resource. Don't be selfish and try and keep users on your site by limiting outside links. If your content is excellent as you say it is, it shouldn't be a problem.
Internal links help with the usability and accessibility of your site. If you reference a subject, another article, or just think other resources would be helpful to your reader, make sure you are providing an easy way to access that information. Internal links will also keep your readers on your site longer as they follow various links throughout your site.
The bottom line is that it is called the world wide web for a reason. You want to participate in the network of information online and allow others to do the same. If you try and create your spider web, and not connect to others, you are limiting your reach.
Voice search is a relatively new feature that is starting to pick up speed. Users are speaking questions and search terms into their phones and smart devices differently than they would type it into a computer. Consequently, organizations and websites are having to adjust their content to provide answers to spoken questions, not just written.
1.Use Conversational Keywords
When people are searching using their voice and a smart device, they are asking questions as if they were talking to an assistant with a limited understanding of social queue and language.
For example, if you were on Google searching for somewhere to eat for dinner, you may search, "Restaurants near me." You know Google will show you what restaurants are open and closed, and may even offer popular menu items.
Alternatively, if you were speaking to a smart device, you may ask, "Restaurants open for dinner near me" or "Restaurants open near me." You have to be slightly more specific as a general question will give you a general answer.
To increase the likelihood of showing up in voice search results, simply modify or add conversational keywords. A site with "We are open for dinner!" is more likely to be given to a user than one that only gives their hours of operation.
The best way to create conversational keywords is to include an FAQ page on your website. Frequently asked questions are an easy way to highlight a conversational tone while giving answers that users are looking for.
2. Mobile Friendly
If someone is using a voice search to find information, they are more than likely on a mobile device. Therefore, if someone wants more information, they are going to use that mobile device to visit your site. You must have a mobile-friendly website, so when users do want more information, and they can find it.
How to Show Up In Local Search Results
Apart from the SEO strategies that we have outlined above, local businesses can utilize a few approaches to appear at the top of local search results.
1. Local Keywords
If you think about what people are searching for locally, they are usually putting "Best Restaurant in Jackson" or "Top Oil Change in Sacramento." So, if the local newspaper recognizes you as being voted the best, or you specialize in a specific area, you should put this on your website. Additionally, if you don't explicitly state your location and the areas you service, you need to do that as well.
2. Optimize Online Profiles
Accurate information is vital. Claiming your Google My Business and Yelp profiles will help you keep the information up to date. The more profiles you can keep up to date and accurate, the better. You want all of your online visibility to align with the information on your website perfectly.
3. Increase Reviews
As you probably already know, reviews can spell life and death for a local business. The more positive reviews you have, the more social proof and relevance you will have when people are looking for your services. One thing we recommend, apart from providing excellent customer service, is encouraging those to leave a review in a follow-up email. Google reviews are king because highly rated businesses are more likely to show in local search results first. However, Yelp and Facebook reviews can also help drive in more customers.
Just like starting a business, think about what people who will visit your site want and what they will find valuable. Before you start typing, make sure your first intent is to provide helpful information and resources to your audience. There are thousands of articles online promising that if scour the internet for backlinks, publish thousands of articles, or just generally focus on SEO keywords instead of quality content that you will be successful. If it were that easy, everyone would do it. The bottom line is that quality content will always result in a higher return on investment, more top search results, and long term growth.
SEO isn't as complicated as everyone makes it out to be, and you likely won't need to spend thousands of dollars, hiring someone, to optimize your content for you. However, you do need to be intentional with your content and ask yourself the right questions. The only thing worse than not showing up in search results is spending hours optimizing a site for the wrong keywords and audience.
Content is king, but you're a magical wizard that now knows just about everything there is to get started with search engine optimization. See you at the top of the search results.