What is SEO?
A website has no value if nobody ever visits it. The quick solution is to run some pay per click advertising to get traffic. This is fine in the short term but organic (free) traffic is what is needed to succeed online long term. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a combination of actions taken both on and off of a website which provide signals to search engines. These signals determine the ranking a page is given. Effective SEO is key to achieving high search engine rankings and gaining organic traffic.
In order to see how your SEO efforts are performing a good place to start is with Google Analytics. With this tool you can see how your organic traffic is growing and what happens to those users on your site. Look for your most popular landing pages to see what type of content is working best for you.
Search engines want to provide users with quality content that will be useful to them. The more information you can give a search engine about your content the better it will understand it. On-Page SEO relates to the structure of the site. Depending on your programming capabilities and the platform your website runs on you may be able to perform your own on page SEO or you may need a developer. The following are key points to ensure search engines can understand your site.
- Each page is focused on a keyword / key phrase.
- Every page has a unique title which includes the keyword.
- All pages should have a keyword, a description and social meta data.
- The keyword is in the main header.
- Images have alt tags which contain or relate to the keyword.
- Do not over use the keyword in the main text of the page.
- Internal links to the page should contain the keyword.
There is also a markup language that has been created specifically to help search engines understand what your page is about. There are many ways this can be implemented on a site, I recommend asking your developer about adding Schema markup to your site.
There are many factors that search engines take into account when deciding a pages rank. The algorithms used are closely guarded secrets so no-one knows for certain exactly what they are. We know certain factors are part of it as the search engines tell us but we dont know how much weight they give to each factor. There are lots of actions you can take to run your own SEO campaigns and there are lots of companies who offer this service.
Before I explain some actions you can take please be aware that no results are guaranteed if you follow this advice. Any company who promises to get you to the top of the first page of Google is lying. No one can state that they can do that as every keyword in every niche in every market is different. Some can rank very easily, some are incredibly difficult as there is so much competition. Off-Page SEO does not happen overnight, it can take several months for improvements to show. Be prepared to be patient!
The easiest place to start an SEO campaign is with citations. A citation is basically a mention of your website on a different website. The key 3 elements for citations are Name, Address and Phone Number, known as NAP. When you hear someone talk about consistent NAP citations they just mean to make sure that these three elements are the same on every website they appear on.
It is probably no surprise that the best place to start is Googles own citation generator, Google My Business. If you are a home based business and dont want to advertise your home address check out my guide on how to set up a home based business.
The more times a search engine sees a citation with matching NAP the more convinced it becomes the details are accurate and rankings improve. Make sure your Facebook page shows the same NAP. Claim your Yelp listing and submit your site to business listing services like yp.com. All of these actions will generate citations and improve your ranking.
Probably the cornerstone of SEO is links. As a general rule, the more links to your site the higher it will rank. It is assumed your site adds value or other sites would not link to it. Links have different ratings, the more legitimate the linking from site is the higher rated the link will be. The higher the link rating the more influence it will have on your search position.
For example, a link from a government site is highly rated as they are a trusted source. Links from Schools also carry a high rating as it is assumed they have verified the information they are linking to. If the New York Times linked to your site it would add much more value than a link from your local newspaper. When you create your citations if you include a link to your website you are creating a link, this is a low rated link as anyone can create it. Some business listing sites go through a validation process to confirm that your business is legitimate, links from these sites carry a higher rating.
Getting other sites to link to your site is a challenge. One common recommendation is to offer to guest blog for other websites and have a link to your website in the bio. Another technique is to join forums within your niche, create a bio with a link to your website. Every time you reply to a discussion thread you will be creating a link. While these may be low ranked links the volume you can leave can boost your ranking. If nothing else other commenters in these forums may visit your site and could become a customer!
Content is King
The truth is content is the key to your success. The best way to build backlinks to your site is to create content people want to share. You should make your website content as easy as possible to share. Use social media sharing buttons, configure what is displayed when shared and make it enticing!
Promote your content. Reach out to influencers in your market, comment on their content and send them a link to your relevant content suggesting they may find it useful or interesting. If these people link to or mention you your content gets exposed to a much wider audience. There are also content promotion services you can pay for.
Most social media sites do not create backlinks to websites, they default to ‘nofollow’ links. That means when you post a link to your website and it is shared 100 times you do not get 100 links as far as search engines are concerned. But, it is believed that shared content provides value or it would not be shared and as such search engines do consider this signal in the ranking algorithm.
Customer reviews are awesome! There more reviews you have and the better your rating the higher your site will rank. Also people like to see other people have had a good experience with your business. Good reviews promote confidence and make people more likely to choose you over your competition. In fact even a bad review if handled well can provide positive customer feelings about your business.
SEO campaigns are a long term strategy for online success. The last point I want to make is don’t take shortcuts. If you search online you will find companies offering to sell you links to boost your rankings. Don’t do it, search engines are getting better at spotting these bought links all the time. If you get caught best case scenario the links are disavowed and worth nothing to you and you have wasted your money. Worst case scenario your site is blacklisted and you will no longer appear in search engine results. If you would like help with SEO for your website feel free to contact me.