It’s a common, and understandable, question: “What is SEO?”
Professionals, artists, writers, business owners – they all seem to know that it’s important, but when you can’t explain SEO in a soundbite, it’s hard to know why it matters.
If you are searching for a one-word answer, I say that SEO = “findability.” Everyone wants to be found online for the right reasons – to market their services, market their book, or promote their charity, for example. SEO – search engine optimization – helps people find you through search engines. That’s important, because everyone “googles it” these days.
How Do You Improve Your SEO?
SEO is not a one-time act. And it is not a one-size-fits-all scheme. But it is something that should be a core feature of your website. Here are a few key items that will help your SEO, and therefore help your clients and customers find you:
1. Strategic Content: Think and Write Like Your Customers
Organizations and companies are used to speaking their own language, oftentimes based on acronyms or on how their organization is internally structured. But most of the time, that’s not how people search for you or your products and services. You might call your service “white collar defense” but someone who needs your services might type “keep me out of jail SEO investigation” into Google!
This means that your page headlines and body copy and your blog posts, for example, should include wording that your customers use. What’s more, it’s important to regularly update your website content, since search engines tend to give higher search rankings to websites that are updated regularly.
2. Pay Attention to Metadata
“Meta” is a Greek reflexive word – the “meta” refers to the thing in question. In this case, metadata is data – words – that refer to your own website. This “hidden” content is important when you are marketing yourself within the cardiovascular system of the internet. There are a few types of metadata you should particularly pay attention to:
Bring your search results alive: The page Title and Description are those important items that appear in search engine results. Let’s say someone finds one of your web pages via Google and your webpage. Congratulations! But if your title and description are not compelling and the searcher doesn’t click, then your ranking is worth nothing.
Make your images talk: Search engines such as Google crawl your website. But they don’t know what images and photos are. Therefore, every image on your website – including your logo – should have its “alt data” metadata defined so that search engines can identify the images. Also, properly naming your image files is important too: mysite.com/rooftop-winebar.jpg is much better than mysite.com/image4.jpg.
Go social: Social preview metadata. Ever seen a Facebook or Twitter post that features a link, with nothing else? No image, no headline. We’ve all seen them, and chances are, we are less likely to click on those links. Every page of your website should have predefined social preview metadata (e.g., Open Graph and Twitter Cards) so that when others kindly share your website links, people immediately understand what is on the page.
In summary, while Google has stated that meta keywords have no impact on ranking, the fact is that website owners need to make their sites and pages appealing to potential viewers and customers, and metadata plays an important role in conversions and click-through rates.
3. Pay Attention to Your Site Infrastructure
Wherever you live, you expect that the underlying infrastructure of your house or apartment will work – masonry, carpentry, HVAC systems, and the like. Likewise, there are a few things you can do to improve your search engine rankings and the probability that clients and customers will engage with you:
Go secure with http: When you visit major websites, your browser’s web address bar usually will feature a little green lock. This lock shows that the website is running on a secure certificate which enables a secure (i.e., non-hackable) connection between the site visitor’s computer and the website. This secure “https” connection – as opposed to “http” – not only shows visitors that the website owner takes their security seriously, it also plays a role in improving your search engine ranking.
Brand thyself: Your web browser’s tab not only shows the Title metadata information, helping visitors know what to expect from your web page, it is also a good place to extend your brand. This can be done by using a favicon – a little icon of your logo or brand mark that should appear in the tab, too.
Get your message across early: When search engines like Google crawl your website, they tend to focus on particular content more than others – in particular, in your headline and intro copy. So, headline HTML tags like the trusty <h1> tag can be a valuable piece of content real estate on your site.
Is your site registered? It’s hard to believe, but there are some beautiful websites that have never been registered with search engines like Google or Bing. What does that mean? It means that when someone googles your brand name, the only links they will find are ones to other sites, such as Facebook, news pages, and other websites. Imagine someone not being able to find your own website, where all your best information such as blog posts, coupons, and event listings, exist. While Google may eventually find and crawl your site on their own, why not let them know you exist right away?
4. The Holy Grail: Backlinks
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google’s search engine, they theorized that the major reason to give a website a high ranking was if other, important websites linked to the website. While no one knows exactly how Google ranks sites, their initial theory still holds true: If more high-ranking sites link to your site compared to your competitors, then you will achieve a high ranking.
As you can imagine, getting CNN or Fox News (take your pick!), for example, to link to your website will help you rank high. Obtaining great backlinks is a matter of strategic marketing, and takes time. But any discussion of SEO would be remiss without mentioning backlinks. And, while links from quality sites are important, such links should always be paired with producing your own high-quality content. In fact, good backlinks are a sign that you are handling your content and SEO correctly.