What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as “organic”) search engine results.
Despite the acronym, SEO is as much about people as it is about search engines themselves. It’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer.
If knowing your audience’s intent is one side of the SEO coin, delivering it in a way search engine crawlers can find and understand is the other.
Search engine basics
Search engines are answer machines. They scour billions of pieces of content and evaluate thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer your query.
Search engines do all of this by discovering and cataloging all available content on the Internet (web pages, PDFs, images, videos, etc.) via a process known as “crawling and indexing,” and then ordering it by how well it matches the query in a process we refer to as “ranking.”
Create High-Quality Content
Ultimately, the goal of any search engine, including Google, is to reward high quality content since that is what search engine users are ultimately looking for. So whatever your niche, focus on producing the highest quality content you can. When creating written content, such as blog posts, articles, and web page copy, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid extremely short posts. If you can’t write at least a few hundred words on a topic, consider making it a subtopic in a larger post. Opinions vary on how long posts should be, but most experts agree that anything shorter than 500 words is wasted effort, and that posts 1000 words long and longer tend to do better.
- Google and other search engines like it when you link to external content, and they really like it when your link text is short, descriptive, and natural.
- Use heading tags correctly to add structure and clarity to your content. Don’t overuse headings (such as dropping paragraphs of text into heading tags) and use them according to their natural hierarchy (use just one H1, followed by H2 subheadings, which are further broken up by H3 subheadings, and so forth).
Create an Accessible Website
Search engines prefer websites that are accessible to all types of visitors using all types of devices. There are three basic rules to creating an accessible website:
- Write semantic HTML.
- Make proper use of image alternative text.
- Make sure your website works well on all devices, Desktops, Tablets, iphones, use a theme that has this option.
Add a Page Title and Description
The first step to properly structuring your web page is to have a good page title in you web page head element. The page title is what appears when a user sees your web page listed on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and is indexed by search engines for use in this way. In addition to a good page title, you’ll want to add a page description using the meta tag in the page head element. The description is indexed and may be used by search engines as a summary of the contents of your page.
Structure Your Website Properly
Creating a solid search-engine-optimized foundation for your website is to make sure that the structure of your website is complete and logical. A properly structured website will help in two ways:
- Search engine web crawlers will do a better job of indexing a website that is well organized and includes all of the pieces the crawler is looking for.
- Search engine users will click on the results that appear to be the most meaningful, and structuring your website properly can affect how your page appears in SERPs.
Keep Your Website Organized
Good site navigation and a clear hierarchical website structure help search engine web crawlers and website users find their way around your website. Start from your homepage and build out the structure of your website logically.
As you define your website directory structure, make sure that when a visitor deletes part of a URL they land at a page that makes sense and not at a 404 Page Not Found error message.
You will also want to create an XML sitemap to submit to search engines to make sure they index the full breadth of your website. In addition, if your website is complex, add an HTML version of your sitemap to help visitors find their way to the content they’re looking for.
Guidelines to follow
- Don’t block your site
- Don’t confuse or annoy a website visitor
- Don’t block Google from crawling resources on your site or rendering specific elements on your page
- Have a responsive design that works on mobile and desktop
- Geotarget your site in Search Console AKA Google Webmaster Tools (unless you have a country specific domain)
- Avoid keyword stuffing main content
- Optimize your meta description to have a clickable useful SERP snippet
- Ensure the keywords you want to rank for are present on your site. The quality of competition for these rankings will determine how much effort you need to put in
- Add value to pages with ordered lists, images, videos and tables
- Keep important content on the site updated
- Trim outdated content from your site
- Avoid publishing and indexing content-poor pages (especially affiliate sites)
- Disclose page modification dates in a visible format
- Do not push the main content down a page unnecessarily with ads etc
- Link to related content on your site with useful and very relevant anchor text
- Use a simple navigation system on your site
- Create pages where the main content of the page is given priority, and remove annoying ads and pop-ups (especially on mobile)
- Ensure Fast delivery of web pages on mobile and desktop
- Provide clear disclosure of affiliate ads and non-intrusive advertising. Clear disclosure of everything, in fact, if you are focused on quality in all areas.
- Add high-quality and relevant external links (depending if the query is informational)
- Ensure on average all ‘Main Content’ blocks of all pages on the site are high-quality
- Ensure old SEO practices are cleaned up and removed from site
- Avoid implementing old-school SEO practices in new campaigns (Google is better at detecting sites with little value-add)
- Provide Clear website domain ownership, copyright and contact details on the site
- Share your content on the major social networks when it is good enough
- Pay attention to URL site security issues (implement https:// for example)
SEO can prove extremely complex, but knowing the basics will give you a running start.
Begin by collecting as much data as you can and conducting thorough research. Write content geared toward your audience, but make sure it’s better than your competitors’.
Create separate campaigns for on-page and off-page SEO. Make sure your site loads quickly on both desktop and mobile and that you’re attracting backlinks as much as possible.
Then figure out how to optimize your website for conversions so you don’t waste all that good traffic.
If you want to learn more about SEO, here are some additional great free resources to help you on your way: