The key to search engine optimization (SEO) success in the Google Hummingbird era can be defined in two words: quality content. Creating quality, context-driven content for your readers, prospects and customers will ultimately help you have a good search engine ranking.

SEO Search Engine Optimization

Being authentic and putting your audience first, instead of keywords, will not only help your search engine rankings, but it will ultimately help your website or blog’s mission. We have compiled 7 steps to help you improve your search engine rankings starting today.

1. Build an audience with valuable, quality content

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” but the truth is content for the sake of content is nothing more than digital noise. Quality, relevant content is king. Content is the most important aspect of your online marketing efforts, so it is essential to focus on quality over quantity. You are never going to attract prospects and engage customers with poor, irrelevant content, and you won’t fool the search engines either. And the fact is, why would you want to?

Your end goal is to attract an audience and have your content consumed and shared by prospects and customers alike. Sonia Simone, co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media, put it simply, “you know you can make the search engine robots very, very happy, but if you’re not doing something for your audience, it has absolutely no business value.” By providing valuable content, you build an audience of people that pay attention to what you have to say and value your opinions.

One of the best ways to boost your website traffic and improve your SEO is through blogging. Writing in-depth content on niche topics provides a better ROI than just writing short, general blog posts. Blogging gives you something to talk about and promote on social media, and it provides you the best avenue to create keyword-rich, context-driven content (and lots of it.)

2. Find your niche and cover it on your website

Be the expert in your industry. Find the niche within your industry that you are most passionate about and that ultimately sets you apart from the rest of the pack. It may limit your audience, but it limits your competition as well. You will be more confident writing about subjects you are familiar with, which will lead to a better reputation and a loyal following online.

It is really important to research the keywords most searched for in your niche. A great tool to use is Google Keyword Planner. As seen in the picture below, “SEO” was searched more than “search engine optimization,” which is why we used SEO in our blog post title.

SEO Keywords for Google

3. Use SEO-friendly URLs and title tags for your website and blog pages

All of your website pages should be optimized at the most basic level. Make sure that your page title tags are optimized. Instead of your company name and the section title, give a brief, keyword-sensitive description of what the page is focused on. But keep in mind, you should be writing to humans, not robots.

Also, every page of your website should have a unique, SEO-friendly URL that describes what the page is about in a few key words. Instead using the convention of , convert your URL into something descriptive like . If you are using WordPress, this is a simple change in your dashboard settings. Simply go to “Permalink Settings” and select the “post name” option. Other CMS platforms offer similar options as well.

4. Create image tags and name image files with keywords

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of simple SEO. The images on your website or blog are most likely relevant to the content around them. Although Google’s search spiders can’t analyze images, they do consider the ALT tag and the name of the image file. Instead of “sidebar-image.jpg,” consider changing the image file name to “social-media-infographic.jpg.” Adding a descriptive ALT tag and a brief description under the image can’t hurt either.

Making sure your website is well organized and contains a strong link structure can optimize your site on search engines. Internal link building is the process of having the pages of your website connect with each other. For example, having your “About Us” page connect with your “Contact” page is an internal link. This works really well in blog posts and other areas of your site that contain very specific subject matter.

Building external links is a much more difficult task, but the payoff is also much greater. In a nutshell, you need to encourage the creation of links to your site from other, quality websites. Google’s Hummingbird update really cracked down on external links from poor quality websites, so backlinks should come from good sources if you expect to get any SEO value from them. This can be accomplished in many ways:

  • Posting links to your content and blog posts on social sites
  • Guest blogging on reputable sites
  • Leaving quality, informative comments on reputable sites

The takeaway is that the days of Black Hat SEO tactics are over.

6. Publish Your Content on Quality Sources

I hinted at this in the previous tip, but I want to go into more detail. Google has virtually eliminated the value of content published on untrusted or low-quality websites. So what constitutes an untrusted website? Content-aggregate sites, fake websites created for selling links, low-quality website link networks, many free PR websites and websites that are poor quality in general are all considered untrusted websites.

Aaron Aders from Slingshot SEO puts it like this, “showing up in a Google search is a lot like getting a job—it’s your references that make the difference. Concentrate on earning references from high-quality and trusted industry websites.” Focus on publishing your content on industry blogs, reputable PR sites such as PR Web and active online communities.

7. Integrate social media and add social media sharing options

Install buttons for all of your major social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, onto your website. If you have a blog, make sure each blog post can be easily shared using social sharing buttons at the top and bottom on the post. When readers start spreading the word about your content onto other websites, it will lead to quality backlinks and help with your SEO.

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Figuring out the best way to optimize your website on Google or other search engines can be confusing, especially when the algorithms keep changing! SEO is and always has been a moving target, but by doing these 7 steps and continuing to put quality content first, your website will be ahead of the curve.