Top SEO Tips

Businesses – whether bricks & mortar or virtual – need their websites to be found and visited by existing and prospective Clients.  That means users need to be able to find you on search engines and internet gatekeepers like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and Aol.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of employing the most efficient and effective strategies, techniques and methods to get your website recognized, found – and loved.

Here are some of the best SEO tips being used today.  Enjoy!

Have great content that is up-to-date and helpful to users

Find the best keywords

Optimize keywords for your site

Take advantage of title tags and meta tags

Have a decent network of links that spiders can crawl through

Build quality links whenever possible

Make sure that your information is readable to search engines

Have a call to action

Make your site user-friendly

Put emphasis where it’s needed

Learn from the competition

Include viral elements

Assign a unique URL to each page

Keep URL’s short and simple

Avoid using canonical versions of your URL

Instruct search engine spiders on what to index

Include visuals (not too large)

Optimize images

Have a professional website

Track your progress

 

Have great content that is up-to-date and helpful to users

Search engine algorithms are exceedingly complex and the engineers working for Google and other search engines are thinking up new ways everyday to make it even harder for people to cheat the system.  However, the important thing is this: The main goal of search engines is to deliver people with the most accurate and useful results in relation to a query.  So if your website has useful, relevant and unique content, then it will probably show up more highly in searches.

Aside from that, great content gets the most backlinks (we’ll discuss this further later on) and the most shares.  And since Google considers high traffic sites as more relevant, sites that are visited often and shared often are ranked highly.

Search engines also give weight to information that has been recently updated so try to add fresh content to your website regularly.  However, if your website is one that has information that remains fairly stagnant, then consider having a blog that updates regularly.  This way, search engines can see that your website is not left unattended.

Of course, you must make sure that your content is geared towards your chosen audience and keywords, which brings us to our next tip.

Find the best keywords

It would be a complete waste of time to optimize your website for keywords that people don’t really search for.  It’s wise to research and analyze the right keywords for your website.  You could first find the different keywords most associated with your business, and then you could use Google Adwords (or other tools) to test the popularity / competitiveness of each keyword.

Google Adwords is a tool that’s used to find the popularity of certain keywords or key phrases.  It can tell you the number of searches that a keyword or key phrase gets, its competition, as well as other related keywords you could use.  Keywords or key phrases that yield high results and have low competition are the ones you should ideally pursue.

Optimize keywords for your site

It’s always been common knowledge that search engines match results to a query depending on the presence and frequency of certain keywords in a site’s content.  However, individuals have also been cheating the system with practices such as keyword stuffing and hidden texts.

Keyword stuffing is the practice of using keywords over and over in order to fool search engines into thinking that a site’s content contains more relevant information.  Sites like this are usually not very helpful to readers and are regarded as spam. Since Google aims to find relevant information for people, it has found ways to counter this by devaluing websites that use keywords too frequently.

On the other hand, the practice of hidden texts yields content that may be useful for users except that keywords are hidden in the background of the page to increase keyword density.  This was a commonly used method because it had a lower bounce rate than keyword stuffing (bounce rate is the number of users who click a site and then immediately leave it).  However, Google has also detected this practice and websites could get penalized for doing it.

The best way to optimize your chosen keywords is to use them strategically and sufficiently but not beyond a normal range.  Yes, it’s tricky and there are no steadfast answers as the algorithms are changing all the time.

Other than using keywords in content, it’s also good to use them in page titles, descriptions, image captions, and meta tags to help people and search engines find your content more easily.

This also applies to texts in links (these are called anchor texts).  Instead of using an image as a link or something generic like “Click me”, use keywords or useful words that describe what users will get when they click it.

Take advantage of title tags and meta tags

A title tag shows search engines and their users what they can expect from your webpage.  This is what shows up under the page link when you make a search.  Since only about 66 characters are shown on the results page, try to keep them short but accurately descriptive.

It also helps to create title tags for each page in your website because it lets search engines recognize each page as distinct from each other.

Meta tags on the other hand, direct spiders who crawl through the internet for search engines.  Meta tags are used to help search engines index a page.  Google has claimed that meta tags are no longer factored in the algorithms of ranking pages.  However, meta tags can still help people find your page when they search for variations of the keyword that your content is geared towards (for example, when people search “kitty” instead of “cat”).

Have a decent network of links that spiders can crawl through

Spiders that crawl the web for search engines do so by going through an interconnected network of links.  If the pages of your website don’t clearly connect with one another, it then becomes more difficult for spiders to locate all of your pages and a lot of good content could go to waste.  So make sure that your pages clearly link to each other.

Also, after you’ve created a clear network of links, put all relevant links in a sitemap or navigation bar on your homepage.  This makes it even easier for both search engines and its users to find links to access the different pages of your website.

Avoid overcrowding your page with links though.  Some people stuff links to all the pages to their other sites even though they aren’t related in hopes of increasing their rankings.  However, overcrowding a page with irrelevant links makes your page look like spam which would result in a higher bounce rate (which means lower rankings).  Also, spiders generally don’t look through more than 100 links per page so all your efforts would simply be in vain.

Build quality links whenever possible

One of the fastest ways to get your site noticed by Google and other search engines is by getting a backlink from a quality site.  Spiders recognize and frequent quality sites and can easily discover yours.  However, be sure to get backlinks only from good websites which have useful content because a backlink from a bad one might actually do you more harm than good.  Bad websites like spammers or link farms could become penalized and your site may be negatively associated with them as well.

One way to get backlinks is to link to other sites as well.  Websites that you link to may return the favor and link back.  This is mutually beneficial to both sites if you are both quality sites that provide relevant information.  Google also loves it when you include links to high quality, highly ranked websites on your pages and you can actually improve your rankings by doing so.

Another great way to get backlinks is by using social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other blogs.  These social media sites provide a venue for sharing information to a vast range of people in very little time.  If you have content that people would really want to read, then it’s easy for it to become viral via people’s sharing your page links to all of their contacts, friends, or followers.  Influential bloggers who link back to your website could also really help you out.  This is because the more clicks you get to your site, especially ones that don’t just bounce (or click your site then leave it right away), are regarded as more relevant by Google and thus gets ranked more highly.

Make sure that your information is readable to search engines

Search engines are not people and they can generally only read information that is stored in HTML form.  That means that any useful information you may have that is in image or video form generally cannot be read by search engines.  You can see how Google views a website by checking out the cached copy of it.

If you have a lot of images or videos, try transcribing them or creating captions for the images which preferably contain your chosen keywords.  This way, your images and videos won’t go to waste and the content can still be read by search engines.

Flash animation is also often employed by websites because they’re pretty and seem to give websites an air of hard work and professionalism.  However, whatever you may have embedded in these flash files are generally invisible to search engines.  In addition, some users find too many animations to be a hindrance to finding the information they need so flash images can actually lower user satisfaction.

Have a call to action

A call to action is anything that asks people to do something on your website.  This could be in the form of subscribing, liking, downloading, registering, buying, and many more.

At times (when the call to action is to buy something), this is the main goal of search engine optimization.  On other occasions (especially when what you’re offering is free), it is simply linkbait to get people interested enough in your website or business so that they could learn about what great products or services you have to offer.

Free trials of your actual services could also help people see the high quality services you offer and are probably more likely to purchase it after trying it.

Make your site user-friendly

Don’t make your website complicated to use.  Google seeks to improve the user’s experience so it counts for them when your site is user-friendly.  Consider putting all page links in a sitemap so that people can easily access your pages without having to scroll up and down.

Organize your content so that it’s broken up into neat chunks and easy to understand.  We recommend limiting the amount of content on your page by only one topic per page.  This helps readers digest the information better and it also makes it easier to search for specific information when it’s broken up that way.

Put emphasis where it’s needed

People read content based on the headings that capture their interests so make sure that you make yours stand out.  Great content can be completely ignored when a heading is not intriguing enough.  Be sure to include keywords in your headlines and employ tried and tested attention-grabbing headline formats such as questions, lists, or the who/what/why format.

After you’ve picked out a good headline for your content, then you have to organize it in the way that is preferred by search engines.  HTML has 6 headline formats ranging from H1 (which is usually the largest font and given the most emphasis) to H6 (which is given the least emphasis).

There should only be one H1 tag and it should be used in the main headline.  The H1 tag is immediately recognized by search engines as the main title and allows you to feed them with precise information of what your content is about.  The other tags could then be used to provide emphasis for sub-topics in a hierarchical manner from the most important to the least (H2 to H6).

Aside from emphasizing headlines or titles, it is also important to emphasize important words in your content by using bold, italics, or underlines.  Search engines assume that emphasized words in your content are probably what your content is about so they index your pages accordingly.

Take advantage of this by putting emphasis on your chosen keywords.  However, be careful not to emphasize words that are not so important for your content because it could confuse search engines and make them think that your content is geared towards something completely different.

Learn from the competition

A great way to improve on a website is to analyze what successful competitors are doing and learn from the techniques that seem to work for them.  Discover who your competitors are, find out how many incoming links they have, check out what keywords they’re using, and see what kind of content works in increasing rankings.

Include viral elements

Viral elements help spread your content to a lot of people and pique people’s interest.  Examples of viral elements are comments, ratings, and sharing options (like the Facebook “Like” button or Google “+1”).  People can be brought into a website simply because a lot of people contribute to a comment thread or because they saw a link shared on social media networking sites.

Assign a unique URL to each page

Giving each page a unique URL helps search engine spiders recognize each page as separate and unique from all others.  It also helps users later on when they want to return to a specific piece of information.

Keep URL’s short and simple

Avoid using dynamic URL’s which are ones that contain random letters and numbers.  Instead, change them to shorter versions that accurately describe the page it links to.  Make sure that words are separated by dashes instead of underscores though because search engines don’t recognize underscores as dividers of words.

Avoid using canonical versions of your URL

Canonical URL’s refers to the idea that there are different versions of a URL and that only one version should be used and should be authoritative.  For example, www.blah.com, http://blah.com are versions of each other.  Although they may appear to the User to be the same thing, they are not in the eyes of search engines.  It’s best to use the same URL consistently in your sitemap and when you give out links for your page so that everyone directs to one version of a URL.  (There are known and common ways to do ‘re-directs’.)

Instruct search engine spiders on what to index

Use robots.txt and upload it into your domain’s root directory.  This command will instruct spiders to crawl over your entire site.  You could also add “disallow” to your robots.txt to tell spiders to NOT crawl over content that isn’t relevant.

Include visuals (not too large)

Visuals don’t necessarily increase rankings on their own but they do improve user experience and attracts people to your site. And if more people visit your site, then Google ranks it more highly.  However, Google does not generally favor a site with a lot of images that are too large for their purpose so keep them a reasonable size.

Optimize images

Other than adding captions to all your photos, make sure you assign a good ALT description with keywords for each of the photos. Include the words “image”, “picture”, or “photo” in these ALT descriptions so that search engines can properly read what they are.  This way, when people search for images, they could be led to your website through your optimized photo.  An example of an HTML ALT description looks like this:

<img src=”filename.gif” alt=”Description”>

Have a professional website

There are several factors involved in having a professional-looking website.  It means having a look and layout that reflects your brand well and shows that you’re reliable.  It means having content that is well-written, informative and error-free.  And it means having a speed and design that shows it was not made by amateurs.  Make sure your website is something that people can trust when they see it.

Track your progress

Use tools like Google Analytics to track your progress and see whether all the hard work you’re putting in for SEO is working.  Google Analytics can help you analyze the traffic that flows into your site and show you what links people used to find your website (so you know which ones work and which ones you should scrap).  The best part is that Google Analytics, along with several other great tools, are free!

Please discuss these Top SEO Tips in our Forum.

Other great related content:

Thanks for visiting our Top SEO Tips page.  If you have a suggestion for inclusion on this list please let us know at suggestions@WireWalkersVA.com

Please visit our other Marketing, SEO and Social Media Resources for businesses – and, let us know what you think.


FREE Marketing, Social Media and Business White Paper Resources!

Download Here