Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is more commonly known, has a shroud of mystery about it. Marketers will agree it is important, but few understand the dynamics that make SEO so beneficial to your online efforts.
According to figures from an Interactive Annual Global Study by Fleishman-Hillard and Harris, “The buying process begins online for 89% of the world’s customers.” This and many other figures have marketers convinced of the need for online dominance in their online strategies.
But for some reason, many marketers are STILL unsure of SEO as well as how and why it works.
Search Engine Optimization — Demystified
Let’s start at square 1: Why is SEO so important?
There are two reasons for this; the first is well known. Where do people go these days when they have a big question, you would probably agree with me that Google is the preferred choice for most people.
And we would both be correct; the Google Search Engine handles no less than 100 BILLION searches in a single month. And all this traffic is being directed to results across the web, some of that traffic is looking for you and your options individually. Once they can find your choices, all these searches can be converted into profits.
The second reason is economical; online marketing is free
Ok, it can be free; in most cases, however, especially cases where effective results are needed, the expertise of a professional web designer can be applied for a price.
But this does not change the fact that SEO is the most economical form of publicity in existence, with the best ROI ever. Furthermore, the efforts and investments made today will continue to pay off in the future. Even if you hire the most expensive SEO expert, you will still be getting the best ROI you could desire.
The SEO Caveats
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s Deep!”. But hold on. SEO is not as simple as calling up the fix-it man and boom, top of the SERPs and multitudes lining around the block for your product or service. SEO has certain downsides that a marketer should be aware of if they are to expect the best ROI as promised.
The first thing to know about SEO is that effective optimization will bring results in time. From my experience, most companies that launch their SEO campaign will have to wait at least a few months to half a year before they begin to see results.
That’s Right! Everyone else in the world is doing this too. Your competition is probably ahead of you, meaning the ‘buyer keywords’, or the words that will drive traffic to your site, are in short supply.
Lack of Experts
Oh and everyone is still learning. Search engine optimization is like champagne; it wasn’t exactly invented, it just happened. Those with the most knowledge and experience in SEO learned most of what they know by experience on the job.
“So, what about all these overseas ‘SEO experts’ who flood my email inbox with their offers to update your page, increase your traffic, get you on the no. 1 spot on Google and all for $99.99?”
In my experience, the chances that you will come out on top from any of those offers are not good, to say the least. As an expert, I would strongly suggest that you keep your dealings local, at least stateside until you have garnered more experience in SEO.
Why is this? Most often these SEO experts and agencies will attract attention by overpromising and under-delivering. One way they will do this is by ranking your site with some obscure search terms that no one will ever find, and is effectively a scam. These are the types of services that will do no good.
Already your SEO prowess is growing, you know more about what it does, why it works and what to avoid. Now, let’s get into the practical side, things you can do yourself.
On Page SEO: All the Things You Can Optimize Right Now
All of the basic advice that you will see posted online will describe methods of ‘on-page SEO.’ Advice like this is simple stuff, most of the things you will see are the famous “have to’s” like “make sure you have keywords on the page” or “make sure you have proper tags and descriptions.”
I think it is important to look a little bit deeper and understand the principles behind these pointers so that they can be applied with a bit of finesse.
Keyword Research — Selecting the Most Effective Keywords
A rule of thumb would be to have a new keyword for each page you will create.
Because the home page will be the most prominent page on your site, it is smart to save your most valuable keywords for this page. For example, if you have a business that sells transcription software to hospitals and doctors, you might want to include the keywords ‘medical transcription software’ on your home page.
Well, consider the keyword. The most likely reason anyone would search for ‘medical transcription software’ would be because that person is a potential customer looking for this solution and could probably be convinced to make a purchase.
Then, this keyword is searched for 200 times each month.
Finally, Google is not some two-bit calculator; it is highly sophisticated and one of the closest things to an AI we have. As you rise closer to the first spot on the search results, you will also begin to rank for many variations of this keyword. Being higher in the rankings could mean much more than merely 200 searches directed to your option — probably thousands.
Keyword Research Tools:
If you are beginning a new site, try using long-tail keywords. They may have less volume, but they will also be considerably easier to rank for. As long-tail keywords are highly specific, the traffic from them is usually easier to convert than that generated by less precise keywords.
Optimizing Your Site
In the most basic of terms, you need to find one main keyword for your website and then optimize your content around it. You can’t just stuff it in unnaturally, however. You need to be very careful and employ the keyword in a strategic way that’s peppered in just enough to get the point across without it coming across as spam.
A lot of people will tell you that all you need to do is write high-quality content, and the traffic will just pour in from there. While it’s certainly important, that’s still quite an oversimplification of what it takes to get consistently growing hits. All of your most successful competitors are surely doing their best to make sure they’re offering the best content possible, possibly even with paid contributors, so you’re setting yourself up with quite a mountain to climb if the likes of snappy writing are your only focus.
One easy way to understand the whole point of this is to think of a chocolate chip cookie recipe. There have to be about a million different people publishing their unique spin on that, right? It’s not as if search engines have someone in place to scour the internet and try every single one to see how good they taste (although that would surely be a fantastic job!). The reality is that the Googles and Yahoos of the world are only taking clues from around the web to help them determine how the highest quality recipes might look. Those “clues” are often found in the following:
1 – The Length Of Your Content
Here’s an instance where size genuinely does matter! Long content almost always ranks more highly with search engines, and indicates more authority, as if there’s more substantial information being shared. Some thought surely must have gone into an article provided it’s original. If it happens to have citations, then that’s also a high mark of quality since it shows that there was actual research, as well as a willingness to provide credit.
With all of that in mind, aim to generate as much long-form content as you can. It can be difficult, but 1,000 words is a fantastic goal. That word length will also give you ample opportunity to sprinkle your keyword in a time or two naturally. Once or twice will do, provided it’s not thrown in haphazardly or in a robotic manner. Content with overstuffed keywords won’t get you very far these days since the current Google algorithm is designed to skip over sites employing those practices.
2 – Optimize Your H1 Tags
It’s best if each of your pages only has one H1 tag. If you’re optimizing something like a blog post, the H1 tag will naturally be your title. However, this is another case where you don’t want to be too robotic. If your keyword is something like “best cookie recipes” but you can’t work it into your titles naturally, just break it down in a way that makes. Even something like “10 Of The Best Homemade Cookie Recipes” can help work towards improving your ranking for that basic keyword.
3 – Optimize Your URLs
Here’s one a lot of people don’t consider. You should personalize the URL of every single page and post of your site. Shorter permalinks that happen to have your target keyword are generally for the best. Content Management Systems (meaning the platform you use to post content with) will generate URLs automatically, leaving many publishers and bloggers to not to think much about it. A well-optimized title will usually lead to a decent generated permalink, but you should always double check, and choose a carefully selected URL whenever possible.
For an example of what you need to do: YourSite.com/homemade-cookie-recipes will rank better than YourSite.com/10-of-the-best-homemade-cookie-recipes. Why one would be favored over the other is plain to see.