Having a stellar website is one thing (read: a gigantic thing), but having a stellar website people CAN FIND is way more important.
Yet, making a website more search-friendly is often a topic that causes confusion and overwhelm in website owners and managers far and wide. It doesn’t have to, though. We created this post to help you make sense of it all—and take the necessary steps to make sure the people who NEED you can FIND you!
What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the organic, unpaid traffic your site receives from search engines. When a prospective customer types in a search query for a product or service, the search engine generates results in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Amazon, Yahoo, YouTube, and Pinterest are all search engines with their own way of matching the best results to a query. But at 5.6 billion search queries a day, Google is the largest, controlling over 90% of all search traffic. When it comes to SEO for your website, Google is definitely the place to start.
Why SEO matters for your website
Search engines attempt to answer a user query with the best, most relevant websites. They do this through an algorithm that uses site and page-level cues to determine the best results. Site crawlers and bots sweep your website, assessing it for relevance, use, and trust signals.
If you understand those ranking cues, you can expand your reach by getting your site in front of new and highly motivated prospects. The traffic you receive–when targeted correctly–is higher quality because it directly answers your prospect’s query.
Another huge benefit? SEO traffic is free! You don’t need to shell out more money to your ad budget. Because search queries evolve over time, there are always fresh opportunities to connect with customers via search.
6 SEO tips to help you rank
Google is said to have over 200 ranking factors in its algorithm, and although we may never know each one for sure, we can make educated guesses about what’s important for ranking well.
Specifically, Google seems to value three things above all else:
It makes sense. Users need to find the best answer to their problem. Quickly. And if they trust the results, they’ll keep coming back to the search platform. It’s in Google’s best interest to invest in a search algorithm that keeps users coming back again and again.
These six SEO best practices will get you started with optimization while sending those important trust, relevance, and authority signals to Google:
Site speed matters to Google. A lot. Many SEO’ers think site speed may be the MOST (if not among the top 3) ranking factors. Oversized images, unclean or bulky code, and excessive plugins can bloat your site and weigh down page load speed. If you’re unsure if site speed is an issue for your website, Google provides free auditing tools like PageSpeed Insights and Mobile Site Speed to get you started.
Make sure your site is encrypted with HTTPS and SSL security. This adds a layer of privacy and peace of mind that both users and search engines will thank you for.
Roughly half your traffic now likely comes from mobile devices, and it’s more important than ever that your site is usable on mobile. Many current WordPress themes and site builders have built-in mobile responsiveness, but it’s still a good idea to test your site pages regularly on different devices. Pay close attention to readability and usability. Are images or videos cut off? Are your forms too long?
If you’ve heard anything about SEO, it’s likely something about using the most trafficked and in-demand keyword phrases to rank better. That was sort of the case a few years ago when you could often pick a high-volume phrase and stuff it throughout your page (and sometimes even in hidden meta keywords) and see results on that search term.
Today it’s a bit more complicated than that because Google wants to match relevant keywords phrases and solve the search intent of the user. That means you need to consider your page goal when choosing the best keywords for your page.
Here are the four most common types of page content:
- Informational: Searchers are looking to answer a question or to learn. These queries typically include words like “how to”, “where to”, or just the word/phrase they want to learn about (“SEO”).
- Navigational: Searchers are looking for a specific website and using branded keywords “Facebook login page”, “Reddit what do you think about…”, etc. to find it
- Transactional: These searchers are looking to buy. They know what they want but not necessarily where to find the product. “Adidas women’s white sneakers” is an example.
- Commercial Investigation: These searchers are specifically comparing products and want help making a decision. Search queries here include “best” (listicles), “product 1 vs. product 2”, or even “restaurants near me” and other local search queries.
By prioritizing a mix of low- and high-volume keywords on your page that match search intent, you’ll ultimately help Google surface your page at the right time and in front of the right prospects.
On-page SEO speaks to all page-level elements that bots and robots need to categorize content and sort your page. This means paying close attention to and using keyword phrases in these crucial elements:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Header elements (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- Alt image tags
- Outbound links, interlinks, and anchor text
Finally, every page of your website should lend standalone value to your audience. Your content needs to be both intentional and useful, and it needs to match whatever search intent and keyword strategy you’ve prioritized.
Google Analytics is a great way to assess your content to see how it’s being received. You can cut, merge, or redirect pages that have thin content, high bounce rates, and low dwell time. These pages are either mis-matched with your keyword strategy or don’t meet the expectations of your reader.
When in doubt, start with your reader
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by SEO, sink hours into optimizing your website, and still feel unsure that you’ve made the right choices. So if you’re just getting started with SEO, focus on the user. The elements of your website that make it easy to read and navigate, and that build trust for your readers are the same elements that Google wants to reward in the SERPs.
So when in doubt, make your website customer-centric and clear. When you do, the SEO will follow.
About The Author
Heather Dileepan is an SEO strategist, website copywriter, and contributing copy strategist at brandiD. As a lifelong nerd and literary aficionado, she loves to help business owners craft their perfect message and use the power of words to connect authentically with prospects.