What Is SEO?
The term SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is all over the business world. If you’re a small business owner, I would be willing to bet you receive at least a few emails per month promising to get you to the first page of Google (tomorrow, nonetheless!) with stellar SEO services. The goal of search engine optimized content is to give Google as many hints as you can as to what each page is about so that it can effectively connect that page with the folks searching for it (ideally, ahead of competitors offering something similar). It’s an iterative process of doing the right things over time and can take weeks to a few months to start seeing progress. My favorite way to think about SEO is that it’s like homemade soup- lots of mushy ingredients and no one has an exact recipe. The actual factors that go into cataloging and ranking content are updated constantly and are closely guarded by Google- we have some pretty good guesses on what they are based on research, but it’s not an exact science. Here are some of the best components we can use to produce optimized content:
Useful, Well-Written Content
Relevant, fresh content – this is kind of obvious, but Google has directly mentioned it several times and it is worth repeating. As we’ve mentioned before, writing for your audience is a top priority. Don’t worry about stuffing your content with as many keywords as possible, Google and its search engine competitors are very adept at figuring out your page’s topic the same way a person would.
Proper Use of Headings
Headings work like they would in an academic paper and they are one of the aspects that search engines use as a clue to your page’s content. Again, stuffing keywords isn’t the best practice here, but framing your main ideas in headings will help both search engines and your audience make sense of the page’s content.
Including alt text on images used throughout your site is important for two reasons. First and foremost, it’s what screen reading programs use as the image descriptor when browsing your website, making it a key part of accessibility. Google also uses it as a clue for deciphering the image and page content. This isn’t a place to add a ton of keywords that don’t contribute meaning, describe the image so all users can understand how it adds meaning to your page- the text will make your content more accessible while also giving more context to search engines.
The page URL should reflect your topic. It is another factor that Google and other search engines use as an indicator of page content, it can also help users navigate and understand your site.
Page Usability and Security
There is a lot involved in a good website’s framework but, in a nutshell, an outdated, unsecure, or less-than-user-friendly site is not going to do very well with search engines or your users. Google evaluates how well you are serving visitors with your content, while customers need indicators that they can trust your business and website. Basic best practices such as mobile-friendliness, a properly configured SSL certificate, reasonable page speeds, etc. will be very helpful!
Schema markups are code snippets that give Google clues about what your content is- there are many types of posts out there from services, articles, news, recipes, and others. Using schemas makes cataloging content just a little bit easier for search engines. You can include these manually or with the help of SEO tools.
Having a presence off of your actual website is important- in terms of relevance in standard search results and in local maps search results. External factors that make an impact can include backlinks, search engine business pages, and business directories.
In addition to these basic ingredients which primarily deal with search rankings, there are other important considerations that don’t directly factor into ranking, but can be influential in connecting with visitors and user experience (such as meta descriptions and social network sharing). Taking the time to optimize your site for both search engines and your audience can help you in both connecting with potential customers and converting. Relevant content, a secure and usable website, and an updated presence across the web are all key steps to growing your business online.