Basic SEO Elements
Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is the systematic, and the neverending, improvement of your website's signals to allow search engines to better understand the content on your site, and why they should recommend your page's content on the search engine's results page(SERP). SEO is the ongoing competition for the highest-ranking spot on the SERP that can be attained, then defended. For many of your sites, your competition is watching their SERP position and working hard to improve and maintain their location. This means you must be doing the same, or better, to keep up.
The practice of SEO is conducted in three parts, technical, on-site signals, and offsite signals. Let's tackle these one at a time.
Technical Website Optimization refers to how your website is built and its ability to send the right signals to users and crawlers. This is not what content is on your site but rather how it is sent and interacted with. Some examples of technical optimizations would be: how fast does your page load for a user? Can you easily navigate through your site, on desktop and mobile screens? Are you sending images that are the right size for the window they are served in? Is the language you intend your users to read your page provided to the browser? These are just a few optimizations you can do, and there are many more.
On-Site Signals refer to optimizing the content on your site, the what of your site. You need to make sure you are sending all the right signals, to the right users, in ways that can be easily interpreted by both users and crawlers. You need to make your content relatable, scannable, user friendly, and appropriate for your target audiance. Do you know your target audience for each page on your website? You will need to when it comes to doing SEO.
Off-Site Signals refer to optimizing the links coming into your site from other referral websites. Gaining clout through other sites referring to your site content is called backlinking. Working to create a network of backlinks to your site from reputable websites allows you to gain trust of users and the search engine. Example: If a peer-reviewed scientific paper refers to your site, that link has more clout than a small blog created last week. The more reputable websites that link to the different pages on your website, the more clout you gain with search engines, and they will be more willing to serve up your content higher on the SERP.
Let's break these down a bit further for you.
Creating an XML sitemap of your website allows search engines to see all the pages available to them for crawling. This is important, especially if you are short on internal linking between all of your pages (something you should correct).
Robots.txt and Meta Robots directives
You can use the robots.txt file to give instructions about your web site to web crawling robots. This file tells the robots which pages to include in a crawl and which to exclude.
There are two important considerations when using robots.txt
1) the robots.txt file is a publicly available file that anyone can see what sections of your server you don’t want robots to use.
2) crawlers can ignore your requests in the file.
This is especially true of malware robots that scan the web for security vulnerabilities and email address harvesters used by spammers. What this means; don’t try to use robots.txt to hide information.
Some search engines ignore Robots.txt file, looking at you Google, and some still listen to those directives. In most cases, search engines default to the on page meta robots tag. This tag allows you to tell search engines, page by page, to noindex or index that page. Robot's can ignore this directive, but in most cases they do follow it.
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 rules to follow with headers. The largest and 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 has only one H1 tag. All other tags should be H2, H3, and so on.
Using properly compressed and sized images on your website will help you to create the fastest site for your users, creating faster load times and access to your content faster. Just because you have the fastest download speeds in your office does not mean your users have the same luxury. Check out this Guide on compressing your website images, and speed up your website in 5 easy steps.
Be sure you link within your pages to your own content. This may be as simple as a menu item or on-page sitemap or as complex as links to the text within your pages to other content on your site. These internal links show how your content is linked and provides value to search engines trying to help their searchers find content that you provide.
Creating links to other reputable websites is just as important as linking to content from within your site. Outbound links are links that you use to show people more about something you are writing about. These links should always open in a new window or tab but should be used whenever possible to show reputable sources for your content.
Define Your SEO Objectives
Define your SEO objectives & develop a realistic strategy. Understanding that everyone wants to be #1 on Google's SERP, think about targeting a #1 spot that will not only have your webpage 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
Solid keyword & market research helps guide your SEO strategy towards your goals. 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. By researching what words your clients use, 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 Google’s Keyword Planner to help discover opportunities.
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 300 words of content on each page. Less is fine if that is all you have to say, but understand that it may not be valuable content for the search engine to return. 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 a no-no. Don’t copy information from another site or another area of your website. If you do, the search engines will see it and may downgrade some of 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.
Your URL is the first thing a search engine and visitor sees. 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.
URL’s include the entire address of the page you are creating and not just the “.com”. 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-page.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Title tags 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 its 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. If there is room to add your website name feel free to do so, but it is not necessary. Learn More: Understand your title tag.
Meta descriptions are the descriptors used by the search engine to provide more information to the searcher about your page’s content. If a meta description is not available, search engines will utilize the first available content on your page. Meta descriptions should contain the keywords and focus of the page’s content. The length of the descriptions is limited, so make sure you focus your description on the most important part of your page's content. Meta descriptions don’t actually figure into search engine rankings, but they do help users to decide to visit your web page. The goal of your meta description is to entice searchers to click on your page’s link.
Before loading any images to your website, make sure the name of the image you are loading describes, briefly, the contents of the image. Make sure to replace that IMG_1092.jpg with words, like SeeMeMediaLogo.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 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.
Speaking of images, alt and title text are used to describe images in your pages to search engines. Search engines can’t look at the images on your page to determine the contents of the image. By providing an Alt text 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.
Part of how your results show up in search engines is based on your domain and page’s online reputation. Search engines determine your reputation by looking at the other sites that link to you as a reference for information. Search engines will determine your authority based on the sites that link back to you for relevant content. If you are able to get other reputable websites to link to your page, you can gain valuable backlinks to your site and improve your site's reputation. Not just any backlinks will do. They have to be quality content links to your page. Building good content for others to link to will help you create great backlinks to your page. Check out ahrefs.com for all your backlinking research.
Having a tool to capture and review your site’s visitors will help you to see how people are finding your website. Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics are just a few of the various tools available to allow you or your SEO team to review the content that is being consumed by your visitors. SEMRush is another SEO based analytics tool that will allow you to see opportunities to improve your site compared to other sites like yours.
Social Media Profiles
Setting up Social Media Profiles allows you to distribute your content as well as provide you will with valuable backlinks. Be sure to capture all the Social Media Profiles that you can to make sure you are the one distributing your message and not someone else. The most popular are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and Yelp.
Just Scratching the Surface
Congratulations! You have just scratched the surface of Search Engine Optimization. This SEO well is a deep one 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 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. Here at SeeMe Media, we are here to help you navigate your site’s SEO and provide you with advice and help in whipping your site into shape and bringing visitors to your website. 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: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184