A great website isn’t so great if no one visits it. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an absolute must-have for any website strategy, but it takes consistent hard work when aiming for the #1 spot. These essential tips will help get you on your way to increasing your organic (non-paid) search engine rankings.
Every website has the goal of reaching the top position on the search engine results page (SERP), but because there is only one top spot per keyword, not everyone can make it. So what gets a first place ranking? Off-page search engine optimization is the most important factor to increasing your ranking results.
Off-Page SEO is about building inbound links, essentially getting other quality websites to link back to you. Search engines call this authority or “link juice.” The more inbound links you have, the more important your site is perceived by the search engine and the higher you’ll rank.
The thing is, link building, when done right, isn’t easy since adding links to other websites is pretty much out of your control. Here are some tips to building inbound links:
- Create content that people actually crave. High-quality, educational or entertaining content is the key. If people like your content, they will naturally want to link to it. There’s no illusive formula here, so don’t be discouraged if your first few (or several) piece of content don’t go viral.
- Submit your website to online directories. This is an easy way to start, and a must. Make sure that your site if properly indexed with Google and Bing as soon as it’s launched (see XML Sitemap below).
- Write guest posts for other blogs. This is a win-win for both parties. People will want extra (quality) content from others and in exchange, it’s a great way to build inbound links. Likewise, offer to let some of the thought leaders from other sites write blogs for yours.
- Research link building opportunities with other websites, but always check the authority of the websites that you are trying to get links from. There are many tools online that allow you to check domain or page authority, including HubSpot’s link grader tool.
On-page SEO consists of placing your most important keywords within the content elements of your actual pages. These on-page elements include Headlines, Subheadings, Body Content, Image Tags, and Links. On-page SEO is often referred to as “keyword density.”
It used to be common that businesses would do too little on-page optimization or far too much (keyword stuffing). While it’s important to include your keyword as many times as necessary within a page, you don’t want to go overboard with it either.
For on-page SEO done right: pick a primary keyword for each page and focus on optimizing that page for that word. If you oversaturate a page with too many keywords on one page, the page will lose its importance and authority because search engines won’t have a clear idea of what the page is about. This can be common on home pages, in particular, where too many keywords are used.
- Place your primary keywords in your headline and subheader. These areas of content are weighted higher in search engines.
- Include the keywords in the body content but don’t use them out of context. Make sure they are relevant with the rest of your content.
- Include keywords in the file name of images (e.g. mykeyword.jpg) and/or use them in the ALT tag.
- Include the keywords in the page URL and keep the URL clean (and simple).
- And lastly, write for humans first and search engines second. Always prepare your content for your audience and then look to optimize it for search. Content written in the other order won’t read naturally and your visitors will recognize it (as will Google’s ever-evolving algorithm).
Title & Meta Tags
A Meta Tag is a line of code that is contained in the background of a web page. Search engines look at meta tags to learn what the page is about.
Meta tags don’t quite have the level of SEO importance that they used to but are still very important. Waaaay back (in the oughts), websites abused meta tags to increase their rankings by including far too many keywords. Now search engines are smarter and instead give more weight to inbound links and page content for ranking. However, the tags and titles still play an important role in your SEO strategy. Make sure to use these on all of your pages.
The general incentive behind an XML sitemap is to help search engine crawlers (or “spiders”) sift through your pages more efficiently. An XML sitemap is simply an .xml file containing a listing of all your pages and when they were updated. It’s a lot like a subway map – it shows the structure of your website and where all your pages reside.
If your website is updated regularly, make it a good practice to update your XML file at least once a month so the search engines have the freshest data.
Nothing says “frustration” like clicking a link that’s broken, typically displaying a “404 message” or “Page Not Found.” A lot of times this is caused when a page is moved to a new URL and the old link hasn’t been directed to the new page. Think about the lost opportunity when your potential customers want information that they can’t locate. If you choose to move a page on your website, make certain that you use a permanent 301 Redirect, a method used to send an old URL to a new one.
In addition to keeping visitors happy when navigating your website, permanent 301 redirects are also important for SEO. When a user can’t find a new page, neither can a search engine, and you’ll lose any SEO status the old page once had. To keep your well-earned search engine equity, set up a 301 redirect for pages that have been moved so search engines know where to find it.
No matter how effective your website is at generating leads, your conversions are going to be low if you’re not attracting enough of the right kind of visitors. Add these SEO must-haves throughout your website to up your traffic and boost your overall results.