SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of optimizing websites and website content in hopes of ranking as high as possible in relevant search engine results. Search engines, like Google, have developed complex and highly protected algorithms that determine the relevance of a website in relation to all similar websites available on the Internet. In order to be found in relevant searches, many steps must be taken in order for search engines to find and properly index the information we want them to have. These steps allow search engines to read and understand what we want them to understand, but in no way guarantees that a website will show up at the top of search results for any/all keyword searches.
Proper SEO Practices can make websites visible and easy for search engines to read/understand, but the public’s actual interaction with the site determines how high it stays in search engine results. If the site does not interest people, meaning they perform a search, visit a site (or the site is seen in search results often and never/rarely chosen), do not really interact with the site or its content, and leave without returning, it will begin to drop as a relevant search result for those particular terms used for the searches. Therefore, a periodic SEO review is an important step in maintaining and augmenting website traffic over time.
General Rules We Go By
- No one technique or rule will make or break your SEO efforts. Instead, addressing as many considerations as time/budget permits in a holistic manner wins the race.
- If an approach/someone promises/claims to "guarantee" top 5 results, then be wary. There are no promises in SEO given the volume of variation that exists.
- SEO efforts are never complete. It all depends on how much time/effort/cost you want to invest AND what the value is of the return on your efforts.
- Organic SEO is a must. Paid advertising (such as through Google AdWords) can supplement traffic for sites that are in a highly competitive market and have very diverse geographic audiences and/or have not reached their organic SEO goals (which for some may never happen).
A) Meta titles
Creating a highly relevant, keyword dense title provides search engines with the most important information used for categorization. This is also what appears as the blue link on search results pages, and keywords that match with a user's search will appear in bold. Titles should not exceed 69 characters.
B) Meta descriptions
In addition to website copy, meta-descriptions should contain highly relevant terms related to the website/webpage. Adding these keywords into the meta-description field, which is shown as the black text on search results pages, will help users decide if the search result is relevant to their query. If keywords that they searched for appear in the meta-description, they will show up as bold on the search results pages. The meta-description should be very direct and concise, about the length of a Tweet. The copy found in meta-descriptions should be highly related to the copy on the website and keyword fields, but should aim to draw users into the website. Having consistency throughout the webpage title, copy, meta-descriptions, and keyword fields will aid in the website being as pleasing to search engine crawlers as possible. Meta Descriptions should not exceed 160 characters.
C) Image captions
There are text fields in the CMS to provide images with captions. Captions provide additional, relevant information that is readable by search engine crawlers. They should always be used to provide additional information to search engines about what is on a website/image. They should be very concise (Between 5 – 15 words).
When performing a Google search for your particular brand name, you may be found on the front page, right at the top. Being found for a company name may not be very beneficial unless your brand is very well known or contains at least one somewhat SEO friendly term. So, when writing copy for the website, an attempt should always be made to find ways to combine the brand name with highly relevant search terms.
Researching and adding relevant, highly searched keywords to the website copy will aid in triggering the website in searches. Website content is one of the most important aspects of SEO, and augmenting copy with SEO friendly terms provides search engines with the specific information we want them to have. In addition, adding these keywords into the meta description field, which is shown as the black text on search results pages, will help users decide if the search result is relevant to their query. If keywords that they searched appear in the meta description, they will show up as bold on the search results pages.
A good tool to use for keyword research is Google's Keyword Planner. This tool is meant for Google AdWords users, but can be used even if you do not have an AdWords campaign (a standard Google account will be required to start an AdWords account – you can skip billing info – once your AdWords account is set up, click 'Tools' on the toolbar and proceed to the 'Keyword Planner'). This tool lets you find the average monthly searches for certain terms and the competition for those terms (as far as how popular are they for paid search – High, Medium, or Low competition). This can give you an idea of how much traffic certain keywords could hope to garner. You will want to include a combination of both high and low search volumes.
E) Call to action
In future blogs, news, articles, or social media posts, the focus should be on celebrating your brand’s involvement with a project or event and should provide a Call-To-Action prompting a visitor to view a related blog, connect through social media, or contact your company. This doesn't have to be an opportunity to brag, but all posts should have your involvement front-and-center in order to appropriately place credit, and to improve search engine value.
F) Social media
Social media, when used properly, can be a great referral source for a website/business to help generate traction and visibility, regardless of its current standings. Social media posts should always engage the viewer to respond, like/comment/share, or visit an article or page (Responding to positive social media traffic creates a conversation that makes a social media page (Facebook) appear more relevant, aids in boosting social media analytics, and helps boost how often posts from your business are shown to your followers and their friends). It should be used to provide easy access to new, digestible information, yet stimulating enough to 'like' and share with others. Having content shared and 'liked' is the point of using social media as a business. Similar to all website copy, the point of social media content should be to celebrate your brand. All links should direct social traffic to the website. Even if an article is from another source, a short article should be written about it on the website (with a link) and that should be shared on social media - never direct links that do not go through the website first. The 'Like', share, and comment for a chance to win' approach can work if you have a tangible reward. A contest offering free or significantly discounted services for social sharing can bring in a huge flux of social traffic. It can be an undertaking to create and implement a reward program on social media, but even once-a-year contests for sharing, commenting, and liking content can increase traffic and followers over time. Simply tagging the end of posts with, 'Like, comment, and share for chances to win…' can greatly increase visibility. Social media is a great way to show off charity involvement, as well. Offering $1 for every 'like' gets in a particular month/time period (up to a pre-determined amount) or offering to match donations looks good and works, especially if you plan to give to charity anyway.
G) Blog posts/Articles
Blogs should contain keyword-rich terms that may help elevate the page’s relevance to readers and search engines. Blog titles should be engaging and contain at least one solid keyword/keyword phrase. Here is a list of important factors to consider when attempting to create engaging blog posts or articles:
- Tell a story – rather than just posting informative information, turn the blog post into a narrative
- Always pose a question
- Focus on emotion – make an emotional connection with readers
- Request that people add to the provided information, such as lists
- Make it easy as possible to comment
- Comment/Add to the conversation on other related blogs and link your blog in their comment section
- Ask for feedback from social media followers
- Create a post around a subject talked about in comment sections of all blogs
- Engage with those who do comment to keep the conversation going
- Link to other blogs in your blogs and click links – this double checks that links are working and places your blog on a related blog’s analytics data under 'Referrers'
Below are six critical SEO actions to take before you launch your new site, or as soon as possible afterwards, to give your website the best chance to rank against the competition.
Action 1: Redirect Old URLs
If you have an existing website, don't give up on all of that ranking power you've built up! A permanent 301 redirect will pass on the majority of your former page’s SEO value to your new site. The stronger the rankings for the older URL, the faster you can improve your search rankings on the new site by using these kinds of redirects. Web developers sometimes recommend other options, such as 404 errors or canonical tags, because 301 redirects can be difficult and require intensive testing. However, our simple Legacy URL Tool has simplified and streamlined the redirecting process, so you can give your new website a better chance of ranking from the start. See how to use our Legacy URL Tool here.
Action 2: Add Metadata
You wouldn't buy a book without reading its title, and search algorithms feel the same way. Page titles and meta descriptions help search engines understand how relevant a page is for specific keywords, and also help searchers determine if a page will provide the information they're looking for. People also tend to rely on pictures to relay a great deal of this information, but site crawlers can't see images (yet). That's why "ALT" tags for all of your images are necessary to help crawlers understand the content of your pages. With our platform, our SEO tools make it easy to add titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags to your website's pages, so users and search engines can quickly see what your website is all about. See step-by-step instructions on how to do this in our SEO support articles.
Action 3: Verify With Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools gives you the ability to see your website as Google does. When you sign up for Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools), you're telling Google that your site is legitimate and open for business. Once you establish your website ownership, it’s easier for you or your webmaster to maintain the health and wellness of your site for the long term. Keep tabs on broken links, missing pages, and larger errors or issues that can occur on your website such as DNS and Server Errors. Make sure you verify your site with Bing, Yahoo and Google to keep an extra set of eyes on your website's health.
Action 4: Index Your Sitemap
Indexing your sitemap is another important way that Google Webmaster Tools helps search engines understand the structure of your site. Sitemaps have become even more important after changes to the Google algorithm, such as the Panda update, tried to eliminate a great deal of duplicate content on the Web. Submit your sitemap to Google through your new Search Console account so that Google is made aware of each and every page on your website. This helps establish yourself as the originator of your own content.
Action 5: Integrate Google Analytics
An important part of SEO is monitoring how your website traffic has changed over time. While it's easy to get lost in the numbers, setting up Google Analytics will help you measure how visitors are interacting with your site, how long they spend there, how often they come back and how many end up converting into customers. Diving into your website's user data can help you make changes to your website that increase conversions, and can provide valuable insight about what content users find useful, and what sections of the site aren't performing well. Google Analytics provides great training resources if you're interested in learning how to navigate analytics yourself, or let our Marketing Experts dive into the nitty-gritty details by signing up for one of our Marketing packages.
Action 6: Manage Your Local Profile
Ultimately, you want your website to convert visitors into customers. You want to raise awareness, answer their questions and bring them to the point of sale. For businesses that have a brick and mortar location, this means bringing visitors to the physical store, so having correct business information across the web is critically important. However, maintaining your local profiles can be a time-consuming task. We recommend using a location management platform such as Yext to ensure your local profiles have up to date information about your business at all times. This is especially important if you’re doing any traditional media such as radio or TV. What’s worse than a potential customer hearing your name only to search online and find incorrect business information? Having correct business information not only helps users contact and find your business, but can also increases your credibility in the eyes of search engines. Help web users and search engines find you on the web by signing up for one of our Marketing packages, and we'll provide location management services for you, so you can focus on running your business.
We want your new website to not only look beautiful, but also be a source of new clients. We offer ongoing Marketing packages that will help your website get found in search results. Whether you just want to get your feet wet in the sea of SEO knowledge or your business is ready to kick your marketing efforts into full gear, we'll make it happen. From metrics to content, we have everything you'll need to attract and engage your preferred audience. From a hyperlocal to a global reach and all points in between, it all starts with the right SEO to spotlight your new website.