SEO. Search engine optimization. It’s a hot buzzword for web designers and content writers everywhere. It has been for some time.
Consequently, everyone under the sun seems to have written about it in one way or another. Why? Because it’s a buzzword for a reason – it matters. It can seriously hurt or help your web presence.
Most of the conversations center on how to optimize your site for search engines – the web’s lead-generation gatekeepers. It’s their algorithms which determine search results. The number one slot is so coveted some companies spend hours pouring over text, tweaking this and testing that, to earn it.
The thing is, visitors are your website’s main audience – not search engines. You can optimize for web crawlers until the cows come home, but if your website’s not user friendly you might as well dump it in the waste bin and start all over.
Users are the ones you talk to. They are your customers and prospects. Talk to them. Form relationships with them. They are your business contacts.
None of this is to say you shouldn’t pay attention to search engines. You should. You need to. But, search engines should not be your main focus.
Fortunately when SEO is done really well it creates a website that pleases both your visitors and search engines. In order to create this perfect symbiosis, it’s important to understand the basics of SEO. They can be broken down into five main components.
The 5 Most Important Components of Onsite SEO (For Your Website)
Who and What to Target
A big piece of the puzzle of onsite SEO is who and what are you going to target? It won’t be practical to rank #1 for everything your company offers. The web is too big. So, who and what do you target?
You target the most people who have never heard of your business in the space that is least competitive.People who know you already will search for you. People who have visited you already can be re-marketed to. The most efficient use of SEO is to present your business to people who do not know you, but need your services or products.
Once they find you, visit you, email you, call you, etc. - you can upsell all you do. The truth is when most people search, they’re trying to accomplish a goal. Help them accomplish that specific goal. Then introduce how much more you can help them.
Balance how you want to be found with how your prospects are actually searching for you. This requires a focus on keywords that have a good search volume (they are searched for often) and low competitiveness (they aren’t being used by other sites).
Why are these search terms key? It’s all about positioning. Fighting to win ground your competitor already claimed is an expensive battle. In comparison, laying claim to unclaimed territory is far easier.
When it comes to discovering these words, Google’s Keyword tool is invaluable to decipher. It will help you identify where, how, by what volume, and how competitive search terms and phrases are. You can then use this data to see if your competitors are ranking and how feasible it is for you to gain the #1 spot in organic (unpaid, non advertised) search results.
Just be prepared that there could be the situation where the space is too crowded or there are just not enough searches. If that happens, it’s time put on your thinking cap and re-evaluate your target. Or, you could also contact us :)
Metadata, in its most basic definition, is data about data. What this means for your site, is that metadata is the quick overview of what your site’s all about. For the most part visitors aren’t going to see your website’s metadata, or at least they’re not going to be aware of it.
For visitors, the most prominent pieces of metadata are the title tag (the 50-60 characters that name your page in search results) and the meta description (the 150 – 160 character blurb that appears in search results beneath the title).
Image alt tags and anchor (links) title tags that correctly describe content are subtle optimizations that can help visitors better navigate and search engines better understand content.
For the icing on the cake, schema data can give helpful insight to search engines on what additional content to display in results like: ratings, product prices, event times, etc.
All of this metadata helps contain the content of the page into a structure that gives meaning and purpose both visitors and search engines will appreciate.
Think of site structure like a map with directions. The more clear and direct the paths, the easier it is to get from Point A to Point B. By creating a simple directory structure you allow both visitors and search engines to easily find their way through your site. A simple structure also improves the speed of your site, as there are less twists and turns to reach any given destination.
These simple structures are created by developing a simple header tag hierarchy. Acting like a table of contents, on the front end a well-developed structure provides visitors easily scannable content. On the back end, it shows search engines how content relates to each section of the page.
Additionally, you’ll want to utilize words within your URLs. This further reinforces what each page is about.
We can’t stress this enough, original, high quality content is vital. On the search engine front, they don’t like to display websites with the same content side by side. On the visitor front, if you’re not delivering something of value, why would someone bother? There are only so many hours in a day. Getting someone to waste them on content you simply copied and pasted is going to be a tough sell.
You can read more about creating original content here.
Links are one of the easiest places for folks to run into trouble. They’re really important to your ranking. And, there are still a lot of places out there where you can buy inbound links.
Don’t. Please don’t.
The negative effect of these spammy inbound links is incredibly high. Rather than focusing your time of cultivating inbound links, spend the time creating something worth linking to. Put your energy into developing incredible content.
Good SEO is a process that takes time. Try, test, evaluate, implement, and repeat. There are great feedback tools. Google Analytics and Adwords can let you know how things are working. Don’t be discouraged if it takes weeks to see search result changes - Google will be Google.
We’ll be adding more insight in the coming weeks. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Your presence on Google+, Yelp, Local Listings, and more also play a big role in presenting a complete picture of your business. Get Ready.
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