Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever changing field with a lot of misinformation out there. In a nutshell, SEO is the practice of ranking organically in a search, meaning the unpaid results online. Once a month, I receive an email from some unknown company promising to increase my rankings almost overnight. Unfortunately, some people find themselves working with unscrupulous companies like that because they desperately want that first page ranking. However, one thing that does stay the same with SEO is that it does not happen overnight so a word of caution about companies that promise that. The good news is that it is possible to improve one’s ranking over time. Here are some of the thing you need to know about SEO.
Technical SEO: The overall structure of your site still matters: title tag, meta description, H1, and Image Alt tags. These items were described in a previous post and still hold true, except for the last tip about authorship. Profile pictures are no longer displayed in search results.
Mobile Matters: Google’s Mobile Friendly update in April was referred to as “mobilegeddon” by many digital marketers. This impacted search on mobile devices only, but is an important change for website owners as the number of searches on mobile devices continues to rise. For those who may still be panicking, Google offers a free Mobile-Friendly Test to see whether a website is mobile friendly or not. If a site is not seen as mobile friendly in Google’s eyes, a list of suggestions are provided for improving the site.
Keywords: Keywords? Yes. Keyword stuffing? No. Keyword stuffing is the practice of loading up a site with keywords for the purpose of increasing a site’s ranking. Google can identify these irrelevant keywords and penalizes sites for using them. The keywords on a site should of course be related to the site and used in a natural context. Also make sure those keywords are terms your audience uses and stay away from internal lingo. For example, do your prospects search for “accountants” or “financial services”? Although you may refer to your business as a financial services provider, your prospects may lump all of that under “accountant”. An easy way to help with a keyword search is to type each of these phrases into Google and see how many results are displayed. Also use longer tail keywords which have less competition. For example, if some variation of financial is a popular search term, “small business financial services” or “family financial planning” would be a longer tail variation of that term, so prospects can find a business based on the exact service provided.
Content: Just as keywords should be used naturally, content should also be written for humans rather than trying to fool search engines with repetition. It needs to be engaging enough for people to stick around and read it and helpful enough that they want to do some of the work for you by sharing it with their connections. Content isn’t viral if you think it’s good, it’s only viral if your readers think it’s good!
Local listings: If you have a brick and mortar store, such as a restaurant, hair salon, or dry cleaning business, your local listings are especially important. If a searcher does not already have a specific brand in mind, their eyes will be drawn to complete listings on page one of the search results. At a minimum, businesses should create or update their Google My Business account, which they can do by visiting GYBO.com. Although Google My Business is tied to Google Plus, businesses do not have to be an active Google Plus user to have a Google My Business account. It’s important to be consistent with other listings, such as those on Yelp, with the business hours, business website address, contact information, etc.
Sitemaps: Submitting sitemaps is important to your SEO strategy. They are what search engines use to discover the pages on a website. The quickest way to determine if you already have one is to enter your website into the address bar followed by /sitemap.xml. If you don’t have one, there are a number of third party tools that can help you build one. If you do have one, you can test and submit it through the Search Console (formally known as Webmaster Tools).
There is a lot to SEO, but these are some good general principles to get you started.