Search Engine Optimization For Dummies
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important things to consider when building or updating web pages. Why? Because it drives traffic to your site. And traffic drives sales. What good is a carefully thought-out, painstakingly designed website if no one visits it?
The main function of SEO is to help people find your services on the internet. It’s the link between you and your potential clients and customers. If you have a business that uses the internet to sell merchandise, increase memberships or share offers, you need to pay attention to how SEO works.
All major search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo – shift through a seemingly infinite amount of stuff, rank it, and then list webpage links. Ever wonder why certain webpages come up at the top of your google search, while others fall to page 4, or 9, or 27? The ones at the top have the best Search Engine Optimization. Now, think back to the last time you googled something. Did you click beyond what came up on the first page? Did you even scroll down to what was beneath the fold, or the visible part of your screen? Exactly. That’s why SEO matters.
How To Use SEO To Increase Traffic To Your Site
The internet travels at the speed of light. Okay, well not really. But it does move pretty dang fast. It can be hard to keep up with the continual changes and technological advances that happen everyday. To give you a quick idea of just how often things shift online, Google changes its search engine algorithms hundreds of times a year.
But don’t worry, you won’t need to stay on top of every technical shift to execute an effective SEO strategy. Honestly, you probably shouldn’t even try. You’re better off focusing on the products and services you’re passionate about selling. But you should have a solid understanding of what SEO is, and the fundamentals of search engine optimization. Here’s an overview on how you can raise your ranking on the world wide web to drive more traffic to your site. These basics won’t ever go out of style.
Did You Know Search Engines Scan For Keywords?
When search engines scan your content, there are a few places in particular they look for clues about exactly what it is you’re trying to communicate to a reader. They search for keywords, markers that highlight your main message or offering. Search engine analytics look at everything from the body of the text to your page titles, headlines and meta descriptions. That means you should make sure both the words you write for your reader and the code you use to build your site match-up and include clear, strategic descriptions.
Be creative and original, but don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Spend some time researching what’s already working out there. Don’t forget to look at what your competition is doing, too. Knowledge is power. Poke around like minded sites to give you ideas on what – and what not – to do.
Learn Your Audience’s Lingo
So, how do you know what keywords will work best for your webpages? First things first, you need to to really know your audience.
And I don’t mean know them like you know that lady you get stuck behind at the coffee shop every morning who orders a regular coffee then dumps a little out and asks the barista to add more cream. Every. Single. Time. Yes, she’s predictable. Yes, you can spot her from the parking lot. And yes, you’ll always scratch your head and wonder why she doesn’t just order her coffee light. But you don’t really know her. You just know that one thing about her.
I mean get to know your audience the way you knew your first highschool crush: their class schedule, which movie theatre they went to on Friday nights, who their favorite Beatle was and that they hated cilantro. If there’s a time when obsession is smart, not creepy, its when you are trying to get into the mind of your target audience. When you understand how they think and what they are really looking for, you can figure out what they’ll type into their search engine and what content will make them click your links.
Fine-Tune SEO with The Right Tools and Related Searches
Once you have an idea what your target audience wants – and how they might ask for it – start playing around with related questions. A good way to widen your research net is to get on google yourself. Plug in what you think is the most obvious search then put your Sherlock Holmes hat on. What comes up? What information is listed that you didn’t think of? And, what are some of the related searches listed at the bottom of the page? Go down the rabbit hole a bit and see what you find.
There are also TONS of SEO software you can use to make sure you’re hitting your mark. Some are free, like Google Analytics, and other software programs like Semrush offer various subscription plans.
Avoid Fluff and Never, Ever Stuff
Whatever you do, don’t stuff! “Stuffing” is just shoving a bunch of keywords into your content to try to get better SEO. It won’t work. In fact, it will backfire. There is too much of a good thing when it comes to SEO. Search engines have gotten very hip to sites that abuse keywords, and you’ll be penalize for gratuitously adding them in just to try to inch your way closer to the top.
Make sure your keywords work organically in your copy and align with your messaging. You’ll be rewarded for smart, strategic, honest content. For example, are you a local business with ties to a particular city, or even a certain neighborhood? Those are appropriate, organic keywords to add into your messaging. Don’t overlook the local angle! Your location can be a really effective keyword, so if you do a lot of business around town, think local when you write your tags.
To Increase Search Engine Optimization, Content is Still King
Another reason not to stuff your site with catch phrases you think a computer program wants to hear? High quality content is the real foundation of successful SEO. Always make benefiting your reader the top priority, and you’ll go far. After all, some computer program running analytics isn’t the one who’ll be buying and using your product. A real live human will. So, always put the human first and worry about the rankings after. Not sure how to do that? Go back to the part about knowing your audience. What do they want to hear? What is relevant to their lives, their needs, their desires? What is going to help them solve whatever problem brought them to your site in the first place? You did the research and you know them in and out, right? So give them that playlist of songs their favorite Beatle raved about or the best cilantro-free guacamole recipe around.
Keep your Site Relevant with Fresh, Updated Material
Not only does your content need to be high quality, it needs to be fresh. It doesn’t matter how great that webpage you created back in 2008 was – it’s old news by now. Current, regularly updated content is a must for good SEO rankings. If you offer new information, special promotions, and the latest products your industry offers, you’ll constantly bring traffic to your site. Add a bi-monthly blog or weekly video series to keep visitors coming back to your page. Engagement metrics help Search Engine Optimization, so someone who visits your site and actually hangs out long enough to read that new article will raise your SEO rankings.
Link and Share Your Way to Increased Web Traffic
Strategic links, both internal and with other reputable websites, will get you better search results. Think about companies or experts that make sense to team up with, and share information on each other’s sites. It will help both of you! Say you’re selling bone broth. Find a trusted, well-followed nutritionist and ask her to write a blog for you. See if she’ll let you write a blog about how collegen is an essential protein to post on her site. The more cross traffic with other quality products and respected leaders the better.
Keep in mind that Search Engine Optimization is based on pages, not sites, so linking internally to your own site will also help. Don’t spend so much time thinking about outside partnerships that ignore your own value! Make sure your website and social media channels link back to your blogs, landing pages, video promotions, and any other great content you feature.
So, have you mastered SEO for dummies? Yes, it’s true that the big search engines will keep changing their algorithms. Don’t worry about that. It’s actually to your benefit since it shuts down robots and lazy marketers. Keep doing you: make products and give services you are proud to share with the world. Know who will benefit from what you have to give, and continually engage those people with interesting, helpful content on your site.
There’s nothing dumb about that!