SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be a confounding topic for newcomers. Ironically, searching the Internet for information on SEO often leaves one feeling more confused than ever. With a vast array of vague and often contradictory information, the World Wide Web, which is what SEO is all about, is sometimes the last place that a business owner who is new to online marketing can find what they need to know.
In this 4th installation of my 5 part series about online marketing, I am going to talk about the fundamentals of SEO. I’ll give you the basics, and hopefully diffuse some of the mystery and complexity of the subject.
Having a beautiful website is terrific, but it doesn’t help you if no one finds it when they go online to search for services and products like yours.
I’ve helped a number of small business owners who believed it was time for a whole new website, because the one they had wasn’t performing. While lack of performance may have been the case, it wasn’t always necessary to “throw the baby out with the bath water”; a good QA of your current site, and some fixes both onsite and off, may be all that is needed, as was the case with many of my clients.
Of course, if it has been a few years it may be best to build a new site, as the code on your current site may not be search engine or mobile friendly, given its age.
You can legitimately, and easily (if not quickly) influence your website’s ranking in the search engines.
I use the world “legitimately” because while there are tactics to help you cheat your way to the top (often referred to “black hat” SEO), I can’t stress enough that you will get caught and you will get penalized; so keep it clean and legit.
I say “not quickly” because the reality is that good, legitimate SEO takes time and diligence.
Here are some best practice tips for functional, honest (white hat) organic SEO.
- Do a thorough keyword search for your business and industry. Ideally this should be done before you ever build your website. However, many business owners find that they built a website before anyone ever told them they would need to do some work to get it ranked, so it is then a matter of going back and fixing what was overlooked.
- Create your website content around the keywords and keyword phrases you have chosen. Make sure it is good, valuable, relevant, and well written, and make sure there is LOTS of it.
Don’t forget to use latent semantic indexing (LSI) or latent semantic keywords (just a fancy way of saying use synonyms; search engines like that!) and avoid over doing it. You should include your keyword or keyword phrase in your title, your header tag and within the body of your text but not too often. You want to sound normal, not like you’re trying to get your keyword in as many times as possible. I think a good rule of thumb is once per each one hundred words.
- Design your website to convert. Make it easy for visitors to know where to go to get the information they are looking for, make an inquiry, give you their contact information or make a purchase. Many experts
suggest that visitors move in a backwards Z down your webpage, starting with the upper right hand corner, moving toward the middle left and back to the right again. Put your most important information above the fold (the part of the screen you can see before you scroll down) and position your Calls to action according to where your visitors might see them and act.
- Create calls to action and site scenarios that invite your visitors to move around within the site, interact with it and stay on the pages a little longer.
- Design your website so that it is easy to read for both humans and search engines. I discussed this at length in my first article in this series.
- Handle your due diligence with your onsite SEO. That means meta data such as alt tags, page titles, h1 and h2 tags for your content, descriptions; all those little, “under the hood” details that the search engines see and read, but humans don’t necessarily.
- Create a list of relevant websites in your industry that you might be able to approach for a link back to your site, or for a guest blogging opportunity.
- Utilize press releases to generate buzz both online and off.
- Create social media pages for your company and link back to your site.
- Utilize forums and blogs to comment and link back to your site- but do so legitimately. You must actually read and participate – don’t spam!
- Keep in mind that YouTube is very powerful for SEO. Create short videos for your company and link back to your page. Use your keywords in the description on your video.
A good practice that helps people see the videos in your feed, rather than a bunch of random videos that are similar to yours (but not yours), is to use a code of some kind at the beginning of every video description you write. It doesn’t matter what you put; just any few letters or combination of letters and numbers is fine but it should always be the exact same one. Let’s say your business is a Bed and Breakfast in Tanzania. You could put something like “BnBTan” at the beginning of each video description.
That’s it for organic SEO best practices and tips. Watch out for more in the series as I will next talk about the instant gratification of paid search results or PPC, both for search engines and for social media platforms.
Lynette Garet is a copywriter with over 20 years of experience and proficiency in traditional marketing, digital marketing, copy writing, editing, optimized content creation, SEO, project management, voice-over work, narration, script writing, and production.