So you just got a shiny new website ready for the visitors to stop by, and hopefully do business with you.
Not so fast though. First, you need to make sure your prospects are easily able to find and visit your website. In other words, you need targeted traffic (people likely to be interested in your business).
So you do some research, ask your web designer or maybe discuss with a friend. And you come across this vague term: SEO.
Put simply, SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization) is an ongoing set of steps to make sure search engines (like Google and Bing) show pages from your website in their search results, preferably near the top.
Why would you want to do this? Because you want to get found by people who are searching for your product or service, or the topics you write about.
If you can get search engines to suggest pages from your website (above other websites on the same topic), you’ll get targeted traffic to your website, because the traffic consists of people who are looking for what you offer.
When someone searches for a keyword in Google, the place where a page of your website appears is known as rank. So if your webpage is the first result people see, it’s rank for the keyword is 1. If it’s on the 5th spot, rank is 5, and so on.
And the maximum number of results Google or Bing show on the first page by default is 10. If your webpage ranks anywhere from 1 to 10, this means it’ll show up on the first page.
This is important because very few people ever click through the 2nd page. Most find what they’re looking for on the front page itself. So obviously, the better you rank, the more traffic you’ll get.
How To Improve Your Ranking?
Landing near the top in search engine results for common keywords (words or phrases) is not easy. And the top spots cannot be bought by money.
Because the money that you may pay the search engine is nothing compared to what they make in the long term by keeping people loyal to the search engine.
Imagine what will happen if search engines started listing websites based on who pays them the most. The quality of the results will suffer and people will stop using the search engine.
So the best way to rank high in search engines is to understand what search engines want and help them meet their goals, through your website.
What Do Search Engines Want?
Search engines like Google determine which results to show upon search of a keyword based on a lot of factors. Some of these factors are well-known, while others are kept secret to prevent their misuse.
The factors also change from time to time as the search engines improve and become more intelligent in figuring out searchers’ needs and preferences.
But broadly speaking, the most important factors are
#1. Quality of your content
For instance, does your page offer correct and in-depth information on the keyword that the user searched?
#2. The kind of experience you deliver to visitors
For example, is your website easy to navigate, does it load fast, is it free of annoying flashy pop-up banners etc.
#3. Your online presence elsewhere (i.e. excluding your website)
For example, have you been mentioned in news media, yellow pages, social media, blogs and websites other than your own?
When another website includes a link to your website in its content, it is giving you a backlink. And the number of backlinks pointing towards your website is an indication to search engines of the quality of your website.
Also, some backlinks carry more weight than others. In SEO terms, a website which already ranks high for a lot of keywords in search engines is known as an authority website.
When an authority website links to content on your website, that backlink contributes more to your ranking than a backlink by a non-authority website.
I know it’s all very overwhelming at first. So let’s stick to the basics for now.
The first thing is to make sure that at least the search engines know your site exists. So they include the pages of your website in their database.
It’s only then they can decide on where to show the pages. When this happens, we say that the search engine has indexed your website pages.
So What Is SEO?
At the very basic level, SEO means making sure that the pages of your website are being correctly indexed by search engines. If your website is easy to navigate, loads fast and is well-planned, it’ll be easier for the search engines to index its pages.
And after they have been successfully indexed, SEO is all about making your website as attractive as possible to search engines.
A search engine’s goal is to send the searcher to the best possible website or content regarding the keyword which was searched.
So if you can help the search engine meet that goal, you’ll rank high for the keyword.
This means making sure that your website/content is the best possible resource for the keyword. And then communicating this to the search engines in a language they understand, the language of backlinks.
5 Effective SEO Tips
Here are some basic SEO tips that’ll help you improve your website and rank higher in search engines.
#1. Make Your Website Responsive
Responsive is just a fancy term for being adaptable to all devices. An increasing number of prospects now use tablets and mobile phones in addition to desktop computers and laptops to browse the web.
So you need to make sure your website looks and functions well on these devices.
Most wordpress themes today have responsiveness built in. You can use this tool to check if your current theme is responsive.
If not, you may need to hire someone to make it responsive, or purchase a new responsive theme.
#2. Speed Up Your Website
Make your website load fast by getting rid of factors that are slowing it down. Use a high quality wordpress theme.
Having too many plugins, widgets, apps or gadgets installed in your website is a big no. Always make sure you’ve compressed any images that you upload to your website.
#3. Use Keywords (Especially Long Tail Keywords)
Keywords are words or phrases that people search in Google or Bing to find what they’re looking for. So in most cases, keywords sum up what a piece of content is about.
For instance, to make sure that a portion of people interested in SEO find this post easily, I may target one of the keywords they search for often.
A bit of research, using a keyword research tool such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner, tells me that people search a lot for SEO Tools, SEO Tips, SEO Tutorial and more.
I’ll target one of these keywords, let’s say SEO Tips, for my content. So I’ll make sure that this keyword is included in my title and it appears frequently (to the extent that it reads well and makes sense) in the content of my page.
Don’t put the keyword in your content so many times that it becomes weird to read. Search engines will penalise your website if you’re caught with this behavior, called “keyword stuffing.”
If you write normally as you would for the readers to understand, there won’t be a problem. Also keep in mind that it’s better to target long tail keywords than generic keywords that I mentioned above.
Long tail keywords are made up of 3 or more words. Although they are searched less frequently than general keywords, the upside is that these are more targeted and have less competition.
For example, instead of targeting “SEO Tips,” I may choose to target “SEO Tips For 2017” or “SEO Tips For Beginners.”
#4. Tag Your Content + Use Yoast SEO
Make sure each page or post that you want to be discoverable has appropriate title and description tags including the keyword that you are targeting. The easiest way to do this is the Yoast SEO plugin.
Also, any image that you use in your content should have alt tag describing what the image is about.
The Yoast SEO plugin gives you a lot of additional functionality without having to think about it. Not only is it a solid plugin, but also free.
#5. Get Authority Backlinks
As discussed above, a backlink is an incoming link to one of your site’s pages. And the number of backlinks you get impact your search engine ranking.
Although you can’t always control when and who links to your website, but there are steps you can take to get high-quality backlinks.
A great idea is to guest post on websites which have been around for a while and are well known for publishing high quality content on a regular basis.
Another thing you can do is building good relationships with other website owners and bloggers. This will give you a good chance of getting exposure for your content. And if your content is great, they’ll often link to it.
Also, once you’ve published a page, don’t change your permalinks, especially without redirecting old URLs. Because if you change a URL, anywhere that link was shared, it’ll cease to work since it has changed.
#6. Write Excellent Content
Great content is the only factor that has remained constant no matter how much SEO has changed over the years. You can’t ever go wrong with publishing and regularly updating original, high quality content.
Write content that informs, entertains and inspires. Write content that’s helpful and shows personality. Build genuine relationships and let your content reach as many eyeballs as possible.