Search engine optimization is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic/visitors and the purchase of paid placement.
Basic SEO Issues
What is SEO?
It is an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization and usually refers to the unpaid results that a search engine serves a user who enters a query. SEO is important because improves the online presence and traffic for a website.
Publishing a website is not enough. The search engines have crawlers or robots that scan the websites and store the data in a database called an index. If someone types in a search query into the browser, the most relevant answer will be provided. The way that the search engines decide which website should feature is determined by a mathematical algorithm that takes multiple factors into account. Most of this information is not shared with us. However, there is some information that is made public and it is these parameters that we attempt to comply with in order to rank better.
Generally speaking we need to bear two factors in mind. The people visiting the site are humans and we should make it as easy as possible for them to navigate the website and find what they are searching for. We need to give them the best user experience possible. The search engines are robots and they understand our website as code. There are specific markers that they are looking for that are intended to make it easier for a human to find our website. If we give the search engine what it is looking for, we have a better chance of showing up in the results. The search engines are also looking to provide a better user experience, so as the algorithms improve, the sites that are less spammy and provide more valuable information are more likely to be promoted.
Google search engine has made it very clear that they reward sites with higher search engine rankings when you provide users with a better overall experience.
If your business offers products or services, then your potential clients also need help finding answers to questions about those products and services. Anticipating those questions and providing content to help answer them can help you to establish an ongoing relationship with your target audience.
Irrespective of the nature of your website, the visitor is there to seek information. Lars Erik Larson of Serp.co provides valuable insight into how the content should be structured and the different content elements.
Once you understand these elements, you can easily optimize any webpage.
— Lars Erik Larson
Fixing Duplicate Content
Many sites suffer in their rankings because they are attempting to feature for certain terms and publish duplicate content. Sometimes there is good intention, but the search engines do not understand that in a human manner and they see it as a form of plagiarism. If you intentionally have duplicate content, then mark one of the duplicate pages as the original content. That way you acknowledge that it is duplicated and that this duplicate should not be indexed. Check your site regularly and if you have duplicate keywords or articles, fix it.
Short, yet descriptive URLs
Sometimes people forget to set up the url of their blog post correctly and it comes out with an id number instead of a title or title and date. A short descriptive url is easy to remember and easy for search engines to find.
Page or Product Titles
One of the most important aspects of on-site optimization is the title of the page, blog post or product. The key words should be included in the page title.
Description and keyword meta tags
The meta tags are messages to the search engine relaying a short description and topic about your page. This description is used to display the snippet that is displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). I think of it as an elevator pitch because frequently this will determine whether the user will click on the link or not.
For certain industries where the data in the website follows a uniform structure, it is worthwhile to research and implement the proper schema markup. Schema is a data markup tagging mechanism developed by a consortium of search engines to help them better understand complicated data. Examples include bed and breakfast properties with markup for a title, description, price, amenities. There is a standard structure to this data that is repeated by all vendors in this market.
Complex and non search engine friendly navigation
Make it easy to navigate your web site and find what you offer with a simple and logical structure. The rule of thumb is to not have more than 7 navigation tabs across the top and that each tab should not be more than 3 levels deep. If you have a large website you might like to have a Site Map page. If it is small, then a site map in the footer will suffice. In general do not use animations for the navigation menu that increases the time the user has to wait until the page loads. Make it easy for search engine spiders and humans to find the content.
The higher a website ranks for keywords, the more traffic it will receive. The more keywords your website ranks for and the higher they rank, the more often your brand is visible to potential customers.
Before performing any SEO it is necessary for your SEO professional to help you to set goals for the site. The most basic goal is to rank for a set of keywords. Ranking for the most popular keywords in your industry is probably challenging because it is highly competitive. Secondly, we are aiming at providing quality to the user and therefore if we aim towards a specific niche we are more likely to provide what the user is looking for, and also more likely to perform in the search engine results page. Attempting to rank for a more specific set of keywords is more likely to create a conversion for your website. When starting out a mixed set of keywords that are low, mid-level and highly competitive, is recommended. It may take several months to get ranked for any of these. Initially, the proportion of highly competitive words should be smaller.
Optimize your site structure in order to gain traffic for the more competitive keywords.
There are SEO tools that check the keywords and the likelihood that you would be able to compete for these. The first stop is the search engine that provides information. For example here is a search that I ran for Mars:
The era of no-click search results
Often people find the information that they are looking for in the rich featured results provided by the search engine and do not click through. For example when I searched for Mars moon, the search engine told me that they were called Phobos and Deimos. That was all that I needed to know, so I did not click through.
Internal link structure (in-line links)
A part of the ranking in search engines is designated to internal links within your own site. The question is whether a piece of content that you are writing or keyword refers to something that you wrote in the past? That is the ideal case to provide an internal link. The idea here is to be helpful to the user in order to enable her to elaborate on a topic if she chooses. In some cases, it may be worth writing new content to facilitate this process.
Remember that search engines follow links. You can provide these links in order for additional content to be found on your website.
Do you have content that is worth linking to? If you have something that is unique, helpful and informative that is not found on millions of other websites, it may be worthwhile to link to your content.
Check whether there are professional organizations, directories or industry related sites that might benefit from having a link.
Research similar organizations that you can approach to add a link to your content.
Consider paid directories that will publish your link.
Organizations like Chambers of Commerce will publish your url along with the other members and that provides a quality link.
Lastly, if you are an industry expert, you could write original articles for other organizations that will provide a link to your website.
Optimizing your website
1. The url’s, titles, meta descriptions and keywords should be included in every page, blog post or product.
2. Use Headings and sub-headings on your pages. Headings (H1-H6) can and should be thought of as titles and subtitles (or headings and subheadings), and should be used appropriately. The title is always H1 and there should only be one H1 per page. The other heading levels should only be used in sequence. An H4 header should not be used before an H3 header is used on the page.
3. Provide well written, user-centric content
When writing content, the most important thing is to make sure it is of high quality, unique, useful and entertaining. There should be something that sets it apart from the other pages on the Internet that cover the same topic. If your content is not unique it will not feature in search results. Avoid overstuffing keywords and focus on the quality of the content provided.
4. Use lists with numbers and bullet points. Many people do not read the text. They read the headings and bullets.
5. Include internal links. If you link to external content, message the author of that content and let him know that you have provided a link.
Website SEO Audit
An SEO audit can come in varying levels of detail and complexity. It is a report of the organic SEO health of the website using multiple analysis tools. It includes topics that have been addressed and topics that need to be tackled. A simple website audit can be as short as a few pages long, and would address glaring on-page issues such as missing titles, and lack of content. On the other end of the spectrum, a comprehensive website SEO audit will be comprised of dozens of pages (for most larger sites it will be over one hundred pages) and address even the smallest details of website elements which may be potentially detrimental to the ranking-ability of a website.
Preparing the audit and implementing the recommendations are two separate projects.
It is important to realize that once the recommendations in the audit have been implemented, there is no guarantee that the website will appear in the first page of search results. Search engine optimization results take time, and require ongoing maintenance in order to produce reliable, and stable rankings.
The SEO audit should be based on white hat (in compliance with Google and Bing guidelines) techniques and provide users with guidance that will help make their website a step closer to being search engine friendly.
Implementing the guidelines is not a magic solution to ranking issues. In order for a website to rank it is necessary to have professional ongoing work performed and to track the data consistently.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
SERP : Search Engine Results Page
Meta desription: a short summary of your web page that shows up in the Search Engine Results Page. I compare it to an elevator pitch because often this is what determines whether the user will click on your link.
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