With the increase in the number of forms of social media and the use, by both consumer and business professionals, of mobile devices to access Web sites, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a more complex task than ever for marketers. Since 90+% of individuals conduct internet searches via Google, and Google regularly changes its algorithm for organically ranking Web sites, individuals charged with keeping their organization’s Web site at the top of search engine listings must regularly take courses, like the Basic SEO course from Yoast that we just completed, as well as read everything they can get their hands on, to ensure they are up-to-speed on optimizing their site for search.
We like how Yoast encourages marketers to take a “holistic approach” to SEO. Marketers need to keep in mind that both “on-site” and “off-site” activities influence results ranking. To help you in your quest to have your site appear before your key competitors in search engine results, and preferably on the first or second pages of listings, we’re sharing some of the less-complex-to-implement and less-technical takeaways from the recent “refresher” we underwent to ensure both our own and our clients’ Web sites are well-positioned for SEO.
- Link internally – Google’s “spiders” that search the internet and your site hop from link to link to link to index information and to determine the credibility of your site. Help the spiders take their journey by posting links throughout your site pages to appropriate content on other pages of the site. Share links frequently throughout your site to your most valuable internal content – what you want site visitors to be most aware of/know most about your organization, its services, and mission.
- Link externally – Share links to relevant external sites via your site, and most importantly, where appropriate, ask those external sites to share a link to your site on their site. This will reinforce the trustworthiness of your site with Google, and help improve both organizations’ rankings.
- Don’t overthink – Google recognizes when sites are overusing certain “keywords” (phrases or individual words) throughout their site because they are the search terms which they hope or think searchers will use to find their site. Google will actually penalize you if it believes you are trying to “game” them in this fashion, and it will take some time, even after you make adjustments to reduce the overuse of certain terms, for Google to re-index your site. Don’t try to beat Google at its own game.
- Do tag and title appropriately – While we mentioned above to not overuse “keywords”, you do want to make sure your pages are appropriately titled and tagged with relevant keywords. Just don’t tag a page with certain keywords if your page doesn’t contain content relevant to those keywords. Also, be cognizant to not “over-tag” or “under-tag”.
- Aim for the best site and user experience – By focusing on having the best Web site possible – one that makes it obvious to visitors what you do and why you do it – and on providing the best user experience (UX), your site should be well-positioned to receive higher search results rankings than competitors. Google wants internet searchers to land on the sites that best meet their needs and provide for the best possible experience. As Yoast shares, just make an “awesome” Web site, one with high-quality writing/content, and good, intuitive site structure and navigation.
- Be social – Be sure to have a strong presence on social media platforms like Twitter and Google+; while Google can’t “read” a lot of Facebook content, it can read the aforementioned social media sites, and does take your social media presence and content into consideration when indexing and ranking your site.
- Be responsive – “Responsive” sites respond to the vehicle on which they are being viewed, e.g., desktop, tablet, mobile phone, etc. If your site isn’t “mobile-ready” or “mobile-friendly”, Google isn’t going to rank it high in search results that it presents to a user entering relevant search terms on a mobile phone.
- Be authentic – In keeping with not “overthinking” and providing the best UX, be real and be honest about who your organization is and the services your offer. While, as mentioned, you want external organizations to link to your site, don’t offer compensation for sites to do so. Google recognizes when the connection between organizations is forced vs. real and natural. In addition, don’t just write for SEO. Tell a good story, get people talking about you, be newsworthy, etc. Write about the things that matter most to you and your customers.
- Be strong and be well – Regularly review your site to check for and fix “broken” links. “404” error messages that visitors receive when clicking on non-functional links to internal or external content send a red flag to visitors that your organization is not minding their Web site shop and/or doesn’t care enough or have the manpower to regularly make sure any site links still point to appropriate pages. Don’t let something so small and unnecessary as a broken link influence visitors’ first, second or tenth impression of you! In keeping with being viewed as “strong and well”, make sure the speed with which your site loads does not cause visitors to abandon it. If you need to eliminate large images or other media that may be contributing to slow site load, do so. Faster site load is more important to Google and your visitors than a pretty picture.
- Look outward – As you title and tag pages and content, and even write content, use terminology you believe prospective clients and clients would use and understand. That may differ significantly from the terms and acronyms you use within your organization.
We’ll continue to stay abreast of what’s new and different on the SEO front and provide our thoughts about how to improve your site’s ranking. We’re always welcome and ready for a conversation on immediate and longer-term steps to improve your site’s SEO.