Search Engine Optimization (or simply SEO) is crucial for your business on the web. Without good SEO practices and rankings, no one will find you when searching for your product or service. You don’t need a marketing degree in order to understand the techniques you should be using in order to make your ranking the absolute best it can be. You do, however, need to do a little bit of research so that you can tackle the basics head-on.
When beginning your foray into the world of SEO, make sure that you are researching properly. Just because a site ranks highest in a Google search doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. There are sadly ways that companies and individuals can “scam” their results although Google is getting much better at putting a stop to these nefarious people. When looking for someone to get SEO advice from, take a look at their following on social sites. Do they have a lot of Twitter followers who regularly engage with them? Does the “expert” spend a lot of time practicing what they preach on their blog, or are they simply Tweeting out cat videos? Little things like this can be a very good way to judge for yourself if someone truly knows what they’re talking about – or if they’re just blowing smoke up a tree.
Spend some time reading various blogs and articles. The SEO rules are changing and evolving constantly… so make sure not to rely on articles that were written back in 2009. Again, these may be ranked high in a Google search because they were very relevant when written. However, what worked back then may not necessarily help you today.
The basics of SEO, though, are largely the same. Let’s take a look at ten of the top tricks and tips you need to become intimately acquainted with, shall we?
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1. Remember that Content is King
You may find those naysayers who claim that SEO has nothing to do with content, but they are most definitely wrong. Content is crucial – even on a landing page. If your potential customer isn’t happy with what they see/read, they aren’t buying. Put your visitors first, and the metrics will always follow. Even if search bots rank you well, your site still is no good if visits don’t translate into sales due to having a bad user experience.
Content in this case doesn’t only apply to blog posts or landing page text – it also encompasses your social presence. If you don’t exist on social media where your customers are at, then you don’t truly exist at all. Plan your social presence carefully. Never simply Tweet or FB links to your products and services… TALK to people. Make them your focus. Ask them questions. Give feedback to their suggestions. Engage with them.
2. Make Navigation Simple
We cannot stress enough how important this is. Make every link on your site nice and clear. The search engine bots cannot follow photo links or silly Flash animations. They want to keep it simple – and so do the people who come to visit you. Keep an active eye out for any broken links anywhere on your site and fix/replace them quickly.
Pages need to load right now. Ask yourself when the last time was that you sat around waiting on a website to load so that you could buy something. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Whenever we come across sites that are slow and time-consuming, we simply move onto another service or store. We are all busy – and we want what we’re looking for instantaneously. In this day and age of website optimization tools, there is zero excuse for slow load times.
Site visitors shouldn’t have to click multiple times to find what they’re searching for. Make sure that various departments and features are easy to find without having to figure out where something may be located. Keep your titles and subtitles short and straightforward.
3. Know Your Target Audience
Let’s face it: you aren’t Facebook. Very few companies will appeal to everyone and their brother. As much as we would all love to be able to bring in the entire world and help them out with what we’re offering, we have to be realistic. Figure out who will benefit most from your company and go after them. You don’t have to *only* stick with that sector, no. It’s important, though, to know which types of people simply will never be interested so you don’t waste your time and money trying to get them to buy.
When figuring out who your potential patrons are, there are several things to think about. What type of work do they do? Where might they hang out online? Where do they read their news and what types of news are they interested in? Where (and who!) are their partners, spouses, friends and family? The information you gather about this target group will correlate to the type of marketing campaign you create – and the ways in which you keep people on your website once they hit your landing page.
According to a recent study by eMarketer: “Social media’s influence on driving business via the web is expected to surpass search engine optimization in 2013.” Read that sentence again – social is becoming more important than practicing any of the tips we’ve given you today. Keep in mind that SEO will still be very important to your overall plan, but you have got to also focus on the social side of the game.
4. Define Your Company
This may seem like a no-brainer. After all, you’re going to sell shoes, right? Or perhaps you have developed the hottest new way to communicate online. Maybe – just maybe – you are the best web designer on the planet. Defining your brand isn’t just about knowing what you sell – it’s about figuring out how to create and truly understand your social media AND search engine strategy. Anyone on your team who may create some type of content – whether it comes in the form of a blog post, social media pushes, press releases or marketing campaigns – must all be on the same page. Decide early on what your message is going to be and implement it across the board.
Once you have defined your message and given it to everyone involved, make sure that the team understands ways in which the message should be leveraged. Identify key people who understand how to use social media and give them access or permission to interact with your audience. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done on the “official” Twitter or Facebook page – your employees can (and will!) talk about you from their personal accounts. Many people do this and it’s proven very successful at times. Make sure the employees understand that they need to stay within your guidelines and turn them loose. After all, they have just as much to gain as you do from your brand’s success.
5. Proper Usage of Keywords
You already know that finding the right keywords are important. Equally as vital is knowing how and when to use them. Please don’t be one of those people who sprinkle every keyword they can think of into every single post or release. You’re going to drive away customers – and search crawlers – faster than you can imagine if you do this. People can easily tell when they’re being handed a “hard-sell” and most don’t appreciate it. Back off a little, would you? Use the most relevant words which will best describe you, your website and your product or service, but do so sparingly. You honestly need only a small handful of these sprinkled gently through your posting and title in order to achieve your goal.
6. Use the Proper Tools
Most SEO experts will loudly tell you to use WordPress for your website – with good reason. It is chock-full of beautiful optimization that you don’t have to think about much in order to take advantage of its goodness. There are many excellent plugins you can add to your pages which turn into time savers and money makers. Research them carefully – use ones which have good feedback and solid success rates. If you see one that “might” work but seems to have a lot of bug reports, you might want to rethink your position – at least until it’s more stable.
Additionally, there are literally millions of different themes available – both free and paid iterations. Many of these can be customized to include components you need if they don’t include them out of the box. Alternatively, you can have things removed which make zero sense for your plan. Choosing the way your site LOOKS is nearly as important as the things you say to your audience. This goes hand-in-hand with other tips: your customer is your main focus and content is king. Make your site appealing to look at and people will naturally want to stick around.
7. Spread the Link Love
Linking to others IS still a good thing – it builds your “link karma” – a term many SEO experts are fond of using. Don’t stuff links into your content that you feel may be popular if they don’t apply. Use ones which are relevant to your customer. Take the time to search out posts which may have a lot of traction and further explain or enhance your concept. Your audience will actually appreciate YOU more when you give them more resources to accomplish their goals.
8. Handle Images Properly
Photographs are still worth a thousand words. This is especially true within online content. It’s important that you do things the “right” way, though. Be sure your image tags and titles are clear and appropriate. Search engine spiders can and do crawl all over those areas, so it’s critical for them to be categorized in a way that drives eyeballs to your site.
Whenever possible, use a description or caption for those pictures. This is another wonderful way to get a keyword involved while giving the customer an idea as to why you chose that particular snapshot. Don’t forget to ONLY use either original work or make proper use of creative commons material.
9. Take Yourself Mobile
Mobile is huge – and still growing daily. You absolutely can NOT just make your website smaller and expect people to be happy with the way it renders on a mobile device. Take the time (and/or spend the cash) to build a truly mobile site. Just as with a regular page, there are many ways to sprinkle various SEO practices throughout. Believe it or not, it’s important to have excellent versions of both mobile and full web presence in order to rank highly within search engines these days. Make it easy for people to find and obtain the mobile version or app, and when possible make the dang thing free. No one is going to want to use the application – or your service – if they have to pay just to download an app needed to make a purchase.
10. Last but NOT Least
Don’t let yourself get so caught up in worrying about SEO practices that you have nightmares. Have fun with it! Yes, it will take a bit of work to learn the ropes, but once you do you’ll be able to do these things in your sleep. The most important thing to remember is not even on the list – at the end of the day, your community is your first priority. All of the SEO in the world won’t help you if you aren’t focused 100% on the wants and needs of your target audience. Tune into them. Talk to them. Get to know them!
What other methods have you read about – or used yourself – to successfully up your SEO game? Leave us a comment and let’s have a great discussion about best methods and practices.
This article originally appeared on Lander Blog and has been republished with permission.