SEO, like everything else in the digital world, is not an exact science. There is no formula. Not to mention, the algorithm that search engines use change constantly to provide a better experience for users by making sure that the search results received are relevant.
Anyone publishing a website wants to show up in search engine results. If you have a brand-new website, the process may take up to 6 months for search engines to index your site. Sure you can utilize someone who specializes in Search Engine Optimization to accelarate the process but that costs money.
If hiring an SEO or online marketing person is not in your budget, do not fret. There are still ways you can achieve SEO on your own. Here are some general guidelines for what is also known as organic SEO:
#1 Identify your keywords
Think about what your customers will be entering into search engines when looking for your business. These could be words or phrases, also known as "keywords." Create a list.
#2 Write effective content
First, ensure that your content includes as many of the keywords on your list as possible. Make sure it is on-topic with the subject of the page and flows with your content. Don't just add random keywords.
Second, consider your writing style. As much as you'd like to tell your entire story, the website may not be the place for it. Creating content for the web is not the same as writing an essay. Website content needs to be succinct. Studies have shown that website visitors browse rather than read. They look for the words or phrases that are of interest. Consider using short paragraphs and sentences. Utilize bullets and lists.
Third, put the summary of the content on the top of the page. This is what's called "inverted pyramid" style of writing usually used by journalists. This will help the "browsers" find the information they need at the top of the page and still provide the "readers" with more information.
Lastly, break up your content into sections. If a certain section is too long, consider giving it its own page and adding a link to that page. If this is not something you want to do, use headings to break up the content.
#3 Populate other web properties
There are other opportunities where you can use your keywords that may or may not be visible to the website visitor:
- page title
- hypertext link title
- alt and title tags in images
If you are using a content management system (CMS), these fields should be available to you. If not, provide this information to whomever is creating your website.
NOTE: Do not just copy and paste your meta-keywords and meta-descriptions to all your pages. Keywords need to be relevant to the particular page that it is on, and to the images and links. Overlaps cannot be avoided but duplicates are a big no-no.
#4 Use links
Links are key to SEO. Some experts believe that it is only links going to your site that are important. That is no longer true. Following are the types links you should use:
- Back links to your website - these are webpages that link back to your website, also known as inbound links. This is significant because inbound links mean that people perceive your site to have quality content, imparting important information.
Reciprocal linking is something that you would like to achieve. That means that you link to a website that links back to you. This also means there is a relationship between their website and yours, and a mutual understanding that the relationship is mutually beneficial.
- Link to other sites - if you have content that can be further explained by another person, site, etc., link to that person's or organization's site. This helps you develop a relationship with the other website, and puts you on their "radar." It also helps establish your credibility.
- Link within your website - these links also count to show that your content is connected but not duplicated.
There are a couple of factors that search engines use when analyzing links:
- Quality vs. Quantity - Quality websites are those that have an existing high ranking with the search engines. These sites are perceived to be trusted sources and provide authority on a particular subject.
Don't fall for the SEO tactic of just soliciting inbound links to your website from any place on the web or even creating multiple landing pages that are directed to your website. One other popular tactic is adding irrelevant keywords or "invisible" content (content that has the same color as the background so it is not visible to a site visitor). Search engines are now aware of these tricks and it may be detrimental to your ranking.
- Relevance - Inbound and outbound links have to be relevant and/or adds value to the topic. If someone links to a particular page on your site, it should mean that they think your content reinforces their idea. Use the same thinking when linking to pages outside of your website.
#5 Social Media
The popularity of social media has increased in the last few years because of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Do you know what social media means? It is the interaction of individuals in a more "public" setting within the digital world. It started with bulletin boards back in the 1990's. Aside from the popular sites we know today, blogs and forums are also social media outlets.
Participating in social media helps you establish your credibility and expertise; provide better customer service; and participate in conversations about your own business or your industry in general.
First thing you have to do is be a part of this still-growing phenomenon. Think about what outlets your customers frequent. Create a Facebook Page, a LinkedIn company profile, a Twitter account for your business, a YouTube channel. You don't have to be everywhere, use only the outlets that are useful to achieving your goals.
Add links to your social media outlets on your website. It is another way for your customers to contact you or for potential customers to learn about you.
Add your URL to your signature when you participate in forums/groups that are relevant to your business. If you are a CPA and are participating in a computer technical support forum, this is obviously not relevant.
#6 Check yourself online
Make sure that information on the web is consistent and correct. Do you know what shows up on search results when someone searches for your business? Is the information correct? If you have moved, does it come up with the correct address and phone number?
If you find any errors in the information, contact the website that has the incorrect information and ask them nicely to change it. Some sites will allow you to do that yourself.
This is also a good way to find out what is out in the digital world about your business. Who is linking to you? Did someone write something about your company?
#7 Make changes to content regularly
Changing your website's content regularly is also important. The change(s) need to be meaningful. Do you have any specials? Offering a discount? Hired a new employee? Looking to add to your staff? Were you in the news? Did someone write a review? Put this on your home page. Assign a space on your home page to feature some kind of dynamic information that you would like your website guests to know about. The home page does not need to have all the information, it just needs to have the "headline" and a link to more information.
If your website remains static, search engines will look at it less and this could very well affect your ranking.
Are you overwhelmed? Don't be. Take it one step at a time. Some of these points can be done after you've launched your site. If you did your homework with regards to content, you could see traffic from search engines within a couple of weeks.