SEO (Search engine optimization) has grown beyond simply building links, writing comments and optimizing tags. It now involves the entire website experience.
There are 10 basic rules that need to be employed on any website to give it a better ranking on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo – from a 2000 page ecommerce site to a 10 page Blog. These ten SEO tips are the very least that you should be doing. They will not put you on top of a SERP (Search engine results page) but it will go a long way to getting you there.
(1) Content is King
You will never get top ranking on any page if the content on your site is not relevant. Google, when asked about SEO have always started their list with “good content”. Content should be well written and be free from typos and grammatical errors. Every page should be written to entertain, inform, and entice the reader.
(2) Links are Queen
Links have always served as a stand-in for votes on the Internet – it is the way that search engines decide which pages are important and popular. Link Building is very time-intensive but ultimately it is still the trump card for higher rankings. Search Engines give more credit to websites that have a large number of quality backlinks (links that come from an external site to yours) and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query.
Having said that, it is important to remember not all links are created equal. Links from high page rank websites, are more preferable to low page rank websites. Higher the relevance of the site linking back to your website, the better the quality of the backlink. For example if you have a car widget selling site servicing North America and have a backlink from a Malaysia travel site, Google is not going to give this backlink as much weight as one coming from a Car manufacturer that uses your Widget from Detroit.
There are a plethora of tutorials on building these backlinks and is a list all onto itself. The only suggestions when you do this is:
(1) Try to control what the link looks like and use appropriate keywords in the text of the hyperlink (also called the anchor text) Links that say “click here” do very little for your search engine visibility.
(2) Remember you run the risk of blacklisting your website and ruining a good SEO campaign by either purchasing links or blogging on unrelated sites and linking back to your site. There are loads of other SEO techniques available so don’t go down this route.
You need to know how people on the web are looking for the products, services or information that you offer. Which words are they putting into the search box on Google, Bing and Yahoo. These terms are called “Keywords”. I prefer “keyphrase “as your site is often found when the user types in “widgets in Toronto“as opposed to “widgets”. It is next to impossible to achieve constant top ratings for a one-word search string, however achieving constant top ratings for two-word or three-word search strings is a more realistic goal.
Choosing the right keyphrases is a crucial step to a successful SEO campaign and gives the highest return to search results than most of the SEO tools you employ
Once you have found the keyphrases that pertain most to your product or service then you need to decide where to use these phrases. A common mistake is the notion of using them only in the copy that appears to humans on the page is enough. Ironically, that is perhaps the least important place. SEO best practices dictate that you include relevant keyphrases in a number of prominent areas on your site: in the URL (e.g., www.mysite.com/plant-section/roses/grandiflora), the page title, the headings and the first paragraphs of the copy. And let’s not forget the Backlinks we are building – using keywords in those links is very important.
(4) The Social Web
The single biggest thing you can do outside of your website to boost SEO is to have a social media presence. Sites like Twitter, Flickr and Facebook, Google Plus and now Pinterest are sending more referral traffic to sites than ever before, and the number grows every year. Besides connecting your brand with new audiences, search engines like Google started to pay attention to social media and use data from social networks to rank signals. If Links to your site is Queen then Social bookmarking is now making it very easy for people to create these links on their networks with a single click. A site, nay page, without a like, stumbleupon, Google Plus or in some cases Pinterest button – is not a fully optimized page. Allow your users to instantly Tweet a link from your page, or “like” your content on Facebook. Strive to create content that will win shares.
(5) Navigation, and sitemaps
Besides improving user experience and web usability, site navigation is the only means by which a search engine or a visitor can find the important parts of your website. Always consider that if a page cannot be directly accessed from the website’s home page (the page where most spiders will start their crawling) it is less likely to be indexed by the search engines.
I am not an advocate of adding a sitemap to your website to help user experience, if they need to go to a separate page just to see what your site offers, then your site navigation is broken. Having said that, I am a huge proponent of sitemap creation with a goal of ‘helping’ search engines find all the pages of a site. A sitemap can be of tremendous help for this purpose, it can help guide and direct search bots around your site and to important content. While a search bot will crawl through your pages, it is much easier and more effective to have a sitemap available for the bots to quickly reference.
(6) Analytics and Tracking
Although there is a school of thought that Analytics does not pertain to SEO. I contend that without analytics how do you measure SEO, and more importantly, how do you improve on SEO without Analytics to point to your strengths and flaws. You should have clearly defined goals for your SEO efforts, and you’ll need web analytics software in place so you can track if those goals are been converted.
Once you have implemented your SEO strategy then Analytics will quantify how it is working. There are three basic metrics that are crucial in your SEO plan, Search Traffic, Search Engine Keywords and Page Performance.
How much traffic is coming from organic search terms, and more importantly, how has this improved since you implemented your strategy? Analytics can also give you metrics on which terms are bringing the most traffic and affecting conversions, meaning which search terms are selling the most widgets.
Lastly, there is not better tool available for looking at your full site and seeing which pages are performing well and which pages have a large drop-off of visitors. Knowing where your traffic is coming from and how your audience behaves, will help you shape your site into something that more people will want to visit.
(7) Update Your Website on a daily basis
Search engines love good content. The only thing they like more than good content is good content that is current and constantly updated. If you can add content to your website on a daily or bi-daily basis, it will have a positive effect on your search results. Conversely – if you have a page that has not been updated in five years – that page’s SEO will be negatively affected.
Updating the content forces you to change the keywords that appear on your pages on a regular basis. The positive effect this has is it will help your site rank more highly for a good selection of keywords and eventually the majority of keywords related to your site’s topic.
Content creation for your site, over and above the updating of the company website can be easily accomplished by adding a Blog to the site. By linking to pages within your site and writing content that others may link to will also help grow your authority on the subject. On-going content creation is one of the easiest SEO techniques to master and one that will improve your Google rank over time and it’s most easily achieved through a Blog.
(8) Analyze your competitor’s efforts
If you want to get to the top of a SERP then you need to look at who is there now and why. Remember to use all three big search engines to do this. Use highly targeted phrases and look at the top three sites that come up – these are the sites you want to analyze.
Analyze the full sites, but most importantly their landing pages and keywords which are driving traffic to those pages. A good start is looking at the Page Title and meta tags.
Just remember when you do this that they could be “stacking the deck” by utilizing PPC (Pay per click or also called Cost per click) campaigns as an additional marketing method.
(9) HTML5 and the Semantic Web
Search engines constantly update their ranking methods, such as the load speed factor, so updating your website is important to ensure your rankings are maintained. Converting your site to HTML5 is a forward-thinking way to increase page rankings with search engines by demonstrating that you take your content seriously.
Search engines love and thrive on the dedication to rich, well-formed content. Structuring your content with HTML5 tags makes it easier to find in Web searches and more relevant to what your users are seeking. There is a groundswell of activity in the SEO world around microdata right now. This is just one HTML5 issue that Google is now rewarding sites for using.
(10) Constantly upgrade your technology
Remember that Twitter was not around in 2005 and today is a major player in referring visitors to sites. Now Pinterest is becoming a major player in referring people to sites. Also mobile website was not necessary 5 years ago. Today these are not only relevant but “must haves” for any site.
It is understandable that you don’t have a Pinterest button on your website as it has only been around a very short period of time. It is understandable that you don’t have a Pinterest pinboard(you don’t even know what that is), but not having a “like” a “tweet” a Google Plus button, and now that you know about Pinterest, a Pinterest button on your site – is unacceptable.
You do not know what technology is going to take over the web tomorrow, but when it comes – be aware of it – take advantage of it – own it – because if you’re not doing it … you know your competition is.