SEO Illustration As a business owner, you know you want to be found on the first search engine results page (SERP). You have been trying hard to be found but it seems like you need some type of black magic to get to the top of the first page, right? Truth is, there are lots of factors that go into being found through search. Some are out of your control, like the age of your URL, but others are completely in your control. The truth is, being found online is all about reputation management. You must have content that is relevant, up to date content, that is easy to understand and compelling. Easy right?  Yeah right.

There is a lot that goes into SEO from a technical perspective, but for most small business owners, there are only a few parts of SEO that you can affect without a deep knowledge of SEO. The rest should be left to your SEO professional. Here is a list of items you can do, without a lot of technical expertise. If you can take care of these, you are setting your page up to be found more easily.

Basic SEO Page Elements

Step 1: Define your SEO Objectives

Define your SEO objectives & develop a realistic strategy for landing at the top of the SERP. Understanding that everyone wants to be #1 on Google, think about targeting a #1 spot that will not only have your site come up in the top search results but also accomplishes your goal of brand recognition, a contact from the client, a client visiting your physical location or an online sale.

Keyword and Market Research

Keywords are the words on your website that search engines use to determine the content on your website and return relevant content to their searchers. The words you use in your copy matter to your readers, so they should matter to you. By researching what words your clients use in a search, even if they are not the words you use, when looking up your company will help you to modify and create content that your customers are looking for. Learn More…

Market Research, Niche Research, and Competitor Research are all very important parts of your SEO Strategy. You need to know what the marketplace needs from your business before you are able to capture the traffic you are hoping to drive to your site. Also, consider using Adwords Keyword Planner to help discover opportunities.

Step 2: Content is King

The content on each of your pages is the most vital part of your website. You need words for the search engine to read on each of your pages and posts. It is recommended to have at least 400 words of content on each page you want found through a search. Less is fine if that is all you have to say, but this content may not be valuable to search engines and therefore not show up in the SERPs. Content must also be compelling, with images and readable content. Most people read at an 8th-grade reading level. To reach the largest demographics, shooting for this mark is a good place to start. If you are running a more technical site, with your readers having a higher reading level, then use more technical content.

DO NOT DUPLICATE CONTENT! This is the biggest no-no out there. Don’t copy information from another site or another area of your website. If you do, the search engines will see it and downgrade your content. Your content should be unique to your page for the best performance.

Content also includes the visual content on your site. Make sure you make your site’s content compelling with images, videos, links, and written words. Do not rely solely on pictures, or words. You need a combination to make your content compelling enough to read.

New Content is also very important. Refreshing the content of your current pages and new posts and pages all help create content that can be searched and targetted towards your keywords. Most site content should be refreshed at least every two years, as your business grows, and new posts should be added monthly or more often to stay relevant.

Step 3: Editing your Content (Slightly technical)

Header Tags

Search engines look for headers/headings in your written content to determine what you believe to be the important information is quickly on each page. There are a few simple rule to follow with headers. The most important information you should utilize is the Heading 1 “<h1>” tag. Use only one h1 per page, usually, your page or post title should be your only H1 title. Subtitles and secondary content should utilize the Heading 2 “<h2>” tag. These tags will help you organize your content and help a search engine review your site for relevant content. Don’t forget to use keywords in your headings to help out the search engine. It is suggested that every page of content have only one H1 tag. All other tags should be H2, H3 and so on.

Please, for your own good, never make a title a header tag that is based on how it looks out of the box. Using an H2 tag instead of H1 or H3 because of the size of the text or font is different, is not the right way to build a page. Same goes for bolded text as headers vs true header tags. Ask your developer to restyle your headers to match the look you are wanting vs using the wrong header tag is always the right way to build.

Before loading any images to your website, make sure the rename of the image you are loading describes, briefly, the contents of the image. Make sure to replace that IMG_1092.jpg with words, like LittleDogLogo.jpg. Search engines are reading the code of your site, and when they see the file name, they are able to pull the words out of the image file names, to help with image searches. If you use the name given to an image by your camera, you are not telling the search engine what the picture is.  Imagine how many images are named IMG_0001.jpg on the internet and do you have any clue, by the name what is in the image?

Alt Text with images

Speaking of images, alt and title text are used to describe images in your pages to search engines. “Alt = Alternate” as in use this text as an alternate for the image. Search engines can’t look at the images on your page to determine the contents of the image. By providing an Alt text tag for every one of the images on your page you are able to tell the search engine the content of each of your pictures. This will also help your images to be found in the image search area of a search engine, helping to lead people to your page.

Picking the right URL for each page or article

When we say URL we mean the entire link in the browser, not just your “.com”. What that in mind, your URL is the first thing a search engine and visitors read. Try to avoid URL’s that are cryptic or contain information that only a computer can read. Your URLs should contain your keywords from your research and allow users to have confidence that the page they are visiting will have the content they are looking for.

Once you have started to get your pages indexed by search engines, try to not change those URLs. This will set you back and will require additional redirects to keep your visitors from visiting your 404 error page.

Title and Meta Descriptions

Title and meta descriptions are utilized by search engines to return the content on your pages. Title tags are the first thing a search engine returns in their results. They are the clickable link in the search that brings people to your site. Using keywords and maximizing the visible title without being too long, allows searchers to see what a page is about. Title tags should target the content on each individual page and no two titles on one website should have the same title tag. Be careful not to start your title tags with your site name. The start of your title tag should be about the content on your page.

Meta descriptions are the descriptors used by the search engine to provide more information to the searcher about your page’s content. In reality, meta descriptions are the clickbait for people to click on the link. If a meta description is not available, search engines will utilize the first available content on your page (Bad Idea). Meta descriptions should contain content that focuses on the page’s content. The length of the descriptions are limited, so make sure you focus your description on the most important part of your page’s content. Entice people to visit your page with your page description.

Just Scratching the Surface

Congratulations! You have just scratched the surface of Search Engine Optimization. The SEO well is deep and is ever-changing. As you work to make your site more desirable to search engines, so do your competitors. There are so much more you and your SEO professional can do to create the best search content for your site, but really it all comes down to having the best content for your visitors. If you can make your visitors happy they will return over and over to your site. Keep up the great work you are doing and let us know if there is anything we can do to help you.

The essential SEO Guide from Google