Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. Quality SEO results in what is known as “organic” web traffic, and it can help get you on that coveted first page of search results when done correctly. Here are 12 tips for optimal SEO you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Site Layout and Structure fuels SEO
Grabbing a pen and a piece of paper (or your favorite CMS) and drawing out your site as a pyramid may be the best way to think of site structure. Planning your info hierarchy into something that is simple and makes sense will dictate your navigation and your URL structure. If you make your hierarchy logical and easy to follow then your users – and web crawlers – will find it easy too. Make each main category unique and distinctive and make sure each subcategory relates to the category it is linked to. It’s how people look at sites and it makes sense to them.
Unless you are a huge company (with a huge range of products and inventory), try to keep between two and seven main categories. Pick sensible section names that don’t confuse the user – a confused user is a user that clicks away.
2. Keyword Research (pick relevant keywords to focus on)
Some marketers argue that the foundation of SEO is keyword research. Keywords help you to get the pulse of what your target audience is thinking – they are a window into how your audience lives and what they desire. It can be easy to fall into the trap of selecting keywords that are too obvious and competitive, though. To avoid this, think of how you search for what you need on Google. You’ll see that keywords that are not so directly linked to your market can be very profitable.
Identifying your market through the usual keyword finders is fine, but to get into the heads of your targets you’ve got to hit that sweet spot called a “niche.” If you start by finding the biggest websites in your niche and then find the biggest influencers and bloggers online you’ll unlock a wealth of keywords that really sing.
For example, the keyword “How to throw a perfect spiral” is part of the niche market “Throwing a spiral.” It’s not as simple as the keyword “American Football” but it’ll target just who you need.
3. Research the Competition
Any research of the competition should always begin with a simple Google search. Look at your competitor’s web page; what makes them get so many hits? There are also a ton of other tools that can give you insights into your competition but remember it’s free to plug into their social network too.
So many companies use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as marketing outlets – just tune in. It’s cost-effective and provides incredibly valuable (real time) info on what your competitors are up to. You can get a temperature gauge on what’s working or not working for them. Does your competition have a newsletter that you can sign up for? Sign up – it’s a cheap and easy way to track industry trends and stay one step ahead.
4. Title Tags
Title tags are that all important part of the meta tags that appear at the top of your HTML right inside the < head> area. If you think of your title tags like the titles of chapters in a textbook you’re on the right track. Title tags tell your users (and search engines) what your page is about.
Writing good title tags is an art. Try to find the balance between including important keywords and writing for human beings. Title tags look like this:
<title>Important Words Go Here </title>
A title tag is probably the single most important element in your page. Make it a maximum of 70 characters long (including spaces). Put your most important keywords first, and you’ll be on to a winner.
5. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are those short, sweet paragraphs of HTML text that describe content. They appear under your page’s URL in search results. To write meta descriptions that are descriptive, interesting and relevant, keep them between 150 -160 characters. It’s the only way to show your user a complete statement on their screen that they understand and want to click.
Make it welcoming, fun and maybe incorporate a call to action; it’ll boost your click-through rate and can make you stand out in the ever-increasing crowd.
6. Header Tags
The header tag is ideally the title of a post, but it can be some other text on the page. Header tags are usually the largest text on the page, so it helps to put your header tag <h1> </h1> at the top of the page. From an SEO point of view, it’s vitally important to include the keywords you wish to target in the header tags and place your primary keyword in the h1 tag. Search spiders (and users) do pay attention to the words used in the h1 tag; it gives them a clear and authentic idea of what the page content is actually about. They’ll be more likely to click if the info seems clear and relevant.
7. Alt Tags
Alt tags are a little bit of HTML code that describes an image that is on your web page. So why do Alt tags exist? It’s so the user will know what the image represents even if they are visually impaired. Try to mention the topic of the page in alt text as doing so can attract traffic through Google Images.
8. Use the keyword in your URL
Using the keywords you’re targeting in your URLs is a good idea because keywords in your URL helps users know that what they’re getting is what they want and expect. It also won’t hurt your ranking.
9. The Content (focus on keyword placement and authority)
The optimal keyword placement density for a web page to rank well is not an exact science. Some folks say 2% others 20%. In reality, it changes.
A keyword needs to be on the page in order to rank well for that term, and using the keyword in a variety of (non stuffing) ways throughout a page greatly increases the chances of your content showing up higher in the rankings. The placement of keywords is also contingent on the length of the post. One keyword per 200/250 words is a rough number to keep in mind.
If you are using natural language your content will naturally include the keywords and people will enjoy reading and be more likely to share. When your content focuses on authority or the authenticity of the message it hits another mark that is harder to quantify. Insightful, relevant information beats overstuffed broken English every time.
10. Social Sharing
What to share is the question. Most people are busier than they want to be and don’t have time for frivolous or irrelevant info. Ask yourself:
- Is the content useful enough that somebody would thank you for providing it?
- Would you be wowed to find it in your feed?
- Would you email it to a friend?
Placing social sharing widgets on your web or mobile pages can also offer a simple way for your users to quickly share your content within their social networks. At an unscientific count, there are over 50 popular sharing networks to choose from and transforming your customers into brand ambassadors is an easy way to ramp up referral traffic.
The world’s most popular social networking sites right now are:
Keep in mind, though, old social networks die, popular ones evolve and new ones are appearing all the time. Go with the ones that your users use the most. Knowing when to share is the flip side of the coin. Knowing what the best times of day or night to reach your target is just as important. There are many tools out there to help you nail that sweet spot down – use them.
11. Internal Link Building
An internal link is a link from one page on your website to another. Internal linking is golden because:
- It passes solid authority from one page to another within your site
- Guides visitors to relevant pages with high conversion rates
- Gently prompts your users into calls-to-action
It’s a given that some of your pages will contain more authority than others. Your home page should have multiple links pointed at it for example.
Internal linking can be a way to give a needed boost to an underperforming page. Just like industry leaders, style makers or social media influencers have more clout in swaying opinion – your links from these pages to other pages will deliver more authority and garner more SEO value.
12. External Linking
An external link is a link from another site to your site. External linking is very important because it tells Google (and other search engines) that your content is good enough to be shared. External linking drives traffic to your website and brings you that all important exposure.
Obtaining external links are perhaps the most important objective to maintain high rankings. They are technically one of the hardest metrics to manipulate and they offer a relatively unbiased way for search engines to determine the popularity of your web page.
All the major search engines use different metrics to assess the value of your external links. Some of these metrics include:
- Trustworthiness of the origin link page
- Overall popularity of the linking page
- The anchor text written in the link
The anchor text that was written is of particular importance. These links are typically written by a human and therefore the web page content has been thoroughly vetted. This leads to a more reflective and accurate portrayal of the content therein. Whether the anchor text is a short phrase (e.g., “best marketing article ever”) or the URL of the page itself – it’s a metric that is the gold standard in SEO.
If you are able to include all of these elements in your SEO campaigns, you will find that your rankings will gradually rise and you’ll see more traffic arriving on your website.