Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t a marketing buzz phrase anymore. It’s one of the most important pieces to ensuring that you have a Google-friendly site.
It’s the strategy required to connect your brand’s online presence with your intended audience, and it drives your site’s design choices as well as its content development.
There is no off-the-shelf solution to SEO; your strategy must adapt to your industry, market segments, and brand. Here’s what you need to know to put search engine optimization into context.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” SEO is the action of optimizing your website and its pages to make them rank higher within search results of Google or other search engines. Optimizing your website and its pages with SEO in mind will help you get more traffic and convert more sales. SEO is a very important piece of your marketing plan.
How Does SEO Work?
One thing you need to understand about Google and other search engines is that they want their users to have the best customer experience possible. This can mean many things. For one, Google wants you to have a well-built site that abides with their rules and criteria on how they crawl your site. In seeing how well your site is built and how much of an authority you are in your space, they want to deliver results on the search engine page that are relevant to what the searcher is looking for. Once the user clicks on your link, Google wants your website to be of the utmost quality and delivers a great experience.
Google and other search engines will scan, or crawl, your site to understand what your site is all about. It mainly reads lines of code, which is why it’s very important to make sure your website is up to par and your SEO is updated to Google’s standards. Those same crawlers bring all of that data back to the search engine to build an index. The index is then put through an algorithm that data with the query.
This will help Google and other search engines deliver more relevant results when users are searching for certain topics, keywords, or phrases. Google rewards those who have a user-friendly website that is optimized for a user’s experience.
Here Some Actionable Steps to Make Your site Google-friendly
Provide Quality Content
No matter your industry or business model, the content will always be king. If you’re like us, and you don’t want your revenue stream contingent on a social media platform, then we highly recommend writing quality content.
You have to understand that most people that are going online are either searching to buy something specific or wanting to learn about a topic to eventually buy something. If you’re just focused on the sale and not providing people with value, it’s going to be very hard for you to outrank your competition.
Google and other search engines want relevant pages coming in the SERPs when a user is searching for something. The more quality and niche-focused content pieces that you have on your site, the likelier your site is to rank higher on the search engine results page. This will also create a relationship of trust and relatability to the visitors engaging with your content. This could result in that visitor making a purchase down the road.
When creating content, you want to keep two things in mind. Write your content for humans reading it but also make sure it’s optimized properly for SEO. A good way of doing this is by providing many different types of content.
- Blog posts and articles
- Videos or Podcasts
You want to make sure you’re constantly updating new and fresh content. Google doesn’t want to rank a site that has 10-year-old articles that don’t have any relevance to the current date. You can also go through old posts and update the content to make it current.
One of the most important things when writing content is understanding SEO keywords and phrases. Now that you have the quality content that you know someone will want to read, you must make sure that the content has relevant words and phrases so that a search engine will pick it up. You should start the article with your keywords and phrases in mind, so you can write the content around them. This will result in a higher chance of ranking higher in the SERPs.
Site Easily Accessible
Google recently stated, “build your site with logical link structure.” Every page on your website should be reachable from at least one other link.
Google also wants your site to be built for everyone. Your website should be able to be accessed and learned by literally anyone. It’s important that users who may experience some type of impairment or disability can still access your site.
Quality On-page SEO
Title tags are extremely important for your on-page SEO. These tags have a drastic impact on your search rankings and are visible to the average user searching Google and other search engines. The words will appear at the top of each tab in your browser for both organic results and paid ads.
Title tags explain what the page is about. Google and other search engines look at the title tag and compare that to the rest of the content on the page.
If you’re working inside of WordPress, we highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin. The SEO plugin allows you to create a custom title tag within each page very easily. Make sure to keep your title tags descriptive and short.
Think of this as you standing outside next to your competitors with billboards in your hands. What would you say about your webpage versus your competition? Make sure to add in your relevant keywords and location if you’re a local business.
Google and other search engines determine the page’s topic and the audience that will find value through your meta description. The meta descriptions also explain what users will find on the page which is very important when you only have a split second of their time.
When writing meta descriptions, keep in mind quality is still king (or queen). A very well written meta description can generate higher rankings in the search results, which will create a higher click-through rate for the user.
We recommend keeping your description between 165 and 175 characters long.
Add in your brand’s name, a keyword or two and what users will find on the page. This could be the first interaction visitors will have with your brand. Make it a great experience.
Heading tags are important for on-page SEO success. Your landing pages and blog pages should include multiple heading tags, ranging from the H1 to the H6. The most important heading tag is the H1.
The H1 heading is usually the page title or name of the page or post, which should be used only once per page. On a category page, your H1 would be the name of that category. On a product page, your H1 would be the name of that product.
As you write your content, you can also use the H2 and H3 headings to introduce different sections of your page or content. An H2 heading is like a chapter in a book. The section you’re reading now is an H3 heading since it’s a sub-section of a chapter (H2).
It’s rare for typical content to get ‘deep’ enough to need the use of H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing extremely long or really technical content.
Internal Links & External Links
Links are extremely important to the success of your overall SEO. Earning high-quality links from authoritative domains will strengthen your SEO greatly. We’ll go into more detail when we talk about off-page SEO.
Internal links throughout your site and blogs will deliver a better user experience for your visitors and will also enhance your SEO.
Internal linking to other pages of your site will strengthen the keywords and have Google and other search engines determine where to rank a particular keyword. The crawlability of your site will improve drastically when you internally link your pages, products, categories, and blogs. This will result in Google and other search engines showing the site’s most important pages.
When you add a new link to your homepage, it becomes easier for Google to see that you’ve updated your site with new content instead of crawling the entire site again. The more you do this, the more Google realizes that you care about the user’s experience.
Internal links also provide a higher chance of your visitors staying on your website longer. Google takes notice when there is more engagement across your site and relevant pages.
When doing internal links to other pages in your website, we recommend staying between 4-6 links. You want to make sure that these links open in the same tab so the user can see the flow.
While doing internal links to external websites, we recommend staying between 2-5 links depending on the size of your content. When these links go to external websites, you want to make sure they open up in a new tab so the user doesn’t leave your site.
Make sure you’re using anchor text that relates to the URL that it’s pointing to so you don’t get penalized by Google.
Optimize Images (Alt Tags)
Make sure you don’t spend all of your juice on writing the content and then slack on providing high-quality images. When choosing what images to use with your website or post, make sure they are unique and page relevant. Users are much more likely to engage with an image before they begin reading a post.
With how popular Instagram is, our society is trained to look at images first and content second.
Same as social media, when using images on your site, make sure you’re using the highest quality images possible. Google and other search engines prefer higher resolution images.
You always want to keep page speed in the back of your mind when adding in images. Scale down your images below a 150KB file size to ensure that it doesn’t affect your website speed in a negative way.
When adding in an image, you want to make sure that you always add in the image alt-text. An optimized alt-text gives Google another clue on what your page is about. The alt tag should be used to describe what the image is about so it’s visible by Google’s crawlers.
Google now expects every website that wants to rank higher to have their website built properly with an amazing customer experience with quicker page speed.
Over 47% of users expect a website page to load in two seconds or less. Even worse, over 40% of users won’t wait more than three seconds before leaving the site. Everything is customer-centric and to win in a competitive market, you must focus on the customer and not the competition.
You can always get a FREE SEO Audit by our team to see what needs to be done to speed up your site.
Quality off-page SEO
Links and Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is extremely important for any brand that is wanting to dominate their industry.
One of the most important aspects of off-page SEO is building backlinks. Google and other search engines use backlinks to indicate the quality of the content that’s linked. A site with many high-quality backlinks will usually rank higher than the same site with fewer high-quality backlinks.
There are three main types of links for off-page SEO:
- Natural links are given from no action being done on your part. Once a brand or site has authority, other sites will want to link their content and pages to brand or site. Example: Entrepreneur.com is writing an article about an entrepreneur and they reference your company in their article backlinking it to your site.
- Self-created links are created by the business owner or marketing team when adding backlinks from sites like online directories, forums, blog comments, press releases, etc. Just make sure you stay away from black hat SEO techniques.
- Manual links are acquired through planned link-building initiatives. This can be done through a variety of third-party outlets. One major one is content syndication.
Links that have the most value are the ones that Google and other search engines will be ranking the highest in the SERPs. There are quite a few variables that define “value” to Google and other search engines. Some of those variables are:
- The authority of the linking site
- The relevance of the linking site’s topic to the topic of the site that created the link
- The “freshness” of the link
- The number of other links on the linking page
- The trustworthiness of the linking site
There is a lot of information to go over when thinking about the perfect SEO strategy or campaign to launch. Don’t get overwhelmed as there are a lot of great SEO agencies that can help you accomplish everything that we’ve gone over in this article. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an SEO audit, feel free to contact us.