Type in “SEO” into the search bar of Google, and you’ll get a plethora of sites ready to “optimize your website’s SEO for ‘X’ amount of dollars”! But is SEO really something you need to pay for, or can you do it yourself? We’ve got some tips to get you started so that you can make an informed decision on whether to take it on or hand it off.
What is SEO? Why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it is the process of developing your website with the intent of increasing visibility and ranking on search engine results pages, or SERPs. With strategically planned and data backed optimization, you will drive traffic to your website and generate quality leads and sales for your business. Maintaining your SEO can be done in numerous ways, but we will show you the top 7 most effective ones. Of course, the best SEO practices include a combination of these.
- Keyword Research
All SEO leads back to keywords. Keywords can be presented in the form of words, phrases, or questions added to provide value and improve search engine rankings. Keywords can be grouped into these 4 categories based on the intent:
- Informational: users want to find out information
- Navigational: users are looking for a specific site or page
- Commercial: users are interested in brands, products, or services
- Transactional: users are wanting to complete an action such as making a purchase
To create a successful campaign, you need to establish a list of keywords, pertaining to your business, that customers are searching for to find your product or service. A keyword search can be accomplished by using Google’s Keyword Planner. While the planner is free, it does require you to have a Google Ads account.
For a more customized approach, try a research tool like Semrush. Semrush allows you to not only search for your related keywords, but provides competitor keywords and keyword gap opportunities (we’ll discuss later on). There is a cost associated with this tool, but they do offer a free trial period.
Google loves useful websites! Why? It proves you have something valuable to offer, which means more people are going to search your brand. As you are searching for keywords, make sure you create content based around providing value and meeting the needs of your searchers. An easy way to get blacklisted on Google is keyword stuffing, which is the practice of attempting to manipulate your position in search results by abnormally distributing keywords throughout the text or in the meta tags. To avoid keyword stuffing, use long-tail keywords to associated with your content and provide useful information, which can be in the form of blogs or answering search query questions. Ensure you are updating your content, as Google uses this to determine your relevancy.
- Optimize Keyword Gaps
Identify keywords that your competitors are successfully targeting that you are not. In order to accomplish this, you will need to identify your competitors (if you haven’t already) that have a strong presence in the organic traffic field. This is an important strategy because it will alert you to other opportunities to increase your SEO performance, while also finding various topics and content to use in order to generate more organic traffic. Once you identify your competitors and their keywords, analyze the keyword gaps, according to your strategy. You may choose to do this by search volume, topic, or intent. Once you get this list together and organized, prioritize them. You will want to consider the difficulty and cost against the keywords that can bring the most revenue. Once you have prioritized them, create your content strategy around these words with quality and relevant information. Track the performance of your keywords to measure results and compare your ROI.
- Build up Backlinks
You know what’s better than high-quality content? More high-quality content from a reputable source! Backlinks are just links from other sites to your website through an anchor text. Links are another determining factor Google uses to verify if your site is a quality resource that can be shared. In essence, the more reputable backlinks, the higher your ranking can be. It’s great to have backlinks to other sites, but even better to have other websites backlink your content. For best practices, your links need to have anchor text that also includes your target keyword.
Keep in mind, your backlinks and content need to be relevant. Google uses a tool called “Google Penguin” to filter out sites that have random backlinks from those that are exact matches. Basically, Google wants to ensure that the sites are related and supply relevant information for the content.
To build up your backlinks, create content worth linking to. For an in-depth guide on how to accomplish this, check out this site.
- Optimize Title Tags
First impressions are everything. This is equally important in your title tags, as this is what draws your searchers in. A title tag is info on your page that relays information and helps search engines as well as readers know what they are looking at. It also helps search engines decide what titles to use for a particular page on the SERPs. Plainly put, it’s the blurb of text you see after searching for something. Changing this does involve a bit of HTML coding experience, but most website builders have an option that allows you to edit the title tag. To optimize your site’s title tag, here are a few rules:
- Keep it between 50-60 characters so the search engine doesn’t cut it off. If it is longer, put the important information first.
- Unique tags are the way to go. Provide an accurate description so the search engine understands what the page is about. This is the time to make your title stand out amongst the generic titles.
- Spelling, formatting and punctuation matter! Misspelled words are a sore point for readers and Google both, especially when you have access to spellcheck. Using correct punctuation and even adding vertical lines help break up monotonous text and add separation to the page and can help differentiate your brand. Make good use of correct capitalization not only in your titles, but across your site.
- Honesty is key. No one likes to be tricked. Google feels the same way and will lower your rankings because of it. Make sure your title is applicable to the content on your page. If your title is “How to Complete An Oil Change”, your content shouldn’t be about cutting grass.
- Your title tag is a great place to use your keywords. Placing the main keyword near the beginning to will ensure the search engine can crawl it, and that it does not get cut. It still needs to flow naturally, or Google could take it as keyword stuffing and that is the last thing you want. You could use a long-tail keyword, reformatted grammatically, in order to redirect search traffic to your page.
- On-page SEO
Optimizing particular parts of your website so that they rank higher on search engines is called on-page SEO. Google crawls your page to verify that it aligns with a searchers’ intent. If Google determines that your page is useful, you rank higher in the search results. On-page SEO includes images, user engagement, headers, internal and external links, page speed, site content, meta descriptions, URLs, featured snippets, and your schema markup. Remember, Google is looking for sites that provide relevant content to its users, so it will always prioritize sites that are catering to this experience.
Metadata is what search engines use to find information out about your page. A search engine uses a database obtained by crawling pages for specific information that tells the search engine if and where to rank the content of that page. Metadata includes information such as the author, date of creation, any modifications, and file sizes. This information can be used in the form of meta tags, with the intent of making tracking and gathering data easier. The three main types of metadata are
- Descriptive: used for identification (titles, authors, dates, or keywords describing the content of the data on the page)
- Administrative: provides information related to preservation, security, and technical data (Creative Commons license, camera model used for photos, rights of use)
- Structural: describes how a digital asset is organized; the structure, type, and relationship between two or more pieces of content (think the chapters of a book)
This list by no means is exhaustive, but it is a good starting point! Google has billions of pages to sort through in order to present the best options in the blink of an eye. That’s a huge job. Making the process easier for Google in turn, can get you higher in the ranks. Keep track of where you are ranking, what keywords you are ranking for, and add additional keywords to get a clearer picture of how Google views your content. This can be done in your Google Search Console.
For help setting up your Google Search Console, interpreting your ranking data, or to set up your SEO, contact our Quartz and Clay team!