What is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic to your site from the “free”, “organic”, “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.
Search engines like Google take various factors into account when generating results. Here are some ways you can adjust your online presence to improve your ranking on the search engine results page (a.k.a. SERP).
What are search engines looking for?
Meta descriptions and title tags
The meta description is the short paragraph of text that appears under your page’s URL in the search results. If you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you should have complete control over your meta descriptions.
Having a meta description won’t necessarily improve your ranking in search results, but it is something you should definitely use before publishing a blog post or webpage, as it can help increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result.
Title tags are used to tell search engines and visitors what your site is about in the most concise and accurate way possible. The keywords in your title tag show up highlighted in search engine results (if the query uses those keywords), as well as in your browser tab and when sharing your site externally.
The titles for your activity pages and blog posts should be under 55 characters to ensure their complete visibility in search results. Make sure they’re snappy, attractive and as descriptive as possible (this can often be an impossible balance!).
If you’re writing blog posts or articles, stay away from clickbait headlines; do not promise something that the content doesn’t deliver.
Properly tagged images
Many people forget to include alternative (or alt) text when they upload images to their pages, but this is not something to overlook. Google cannot “see” your images, but it can read the alt text.
By describing your image in the alt text as accurately as possible, it will increase the chances of your images appearing in Google Image search.
It will also improve the accessibility of your site for people using ‘screen reader’ software.
Instead of peppering the internet with a rash of “quick win” blog posts with little insight, consider publishing more evergreen content that’ll remain relevant over a longer period of time.
Thoughtful, helpful and practical advice-based content can lead to huge long-term wins in terms of driving traffic and occupying highly visible positions in search results.
Here’s a guide to planning and creating evergreen content.
The URL, which you can normally alter in your CMS even after it’s been set automatically, doesn’t necessarily have to match the title of your page or blog post exactly. Google has stated that you can use three to four keywords and that you should put the most important keywords first. We recommend removing any stop words (such as ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘with’) from the URL as well.
Increasingly, Google is serving results to users based on their location. This is particularly important to businesses in the real world who need to catch a searcher’s attention at just the right moment (for example, when a potential customer is a block away, searching on their phone for a nearby walking tour).
You should register with local business directories such as Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Whitepages, and Yellowpages, and ensure that all of your information is accurate and up to date, such as opening times, customer reviews, names, addresses, and phone numbers. You should also make sure that you are categorized correctly, in terms of what your business offers to customers.
The most obvious way that you can raise your site’s visibility through non-technical SEO means is through social media marketing.
Make sure you are present on all relevant social channels (wherever your audience may be). Instead of broadcasting your content in a faceless manner, use these channels to provide quality customer service and interact with people in a friendly, helpful and entertaining manner.
The actual correlation between social signals and search rankings is a much argued over topic, but here’s a good overview of the subject.
SEO: What not to do
Don’t overuse keywords on your pages, especially when they obviously affect the readability of your site. Plus, it’s debatable whether Google still uses keywords as a ranking factor anymore.
If Google finds two identical pieces of content, whether on your own site, or on another you’re not even aware of, it will only index one of those pages. You should be aware of scraper sites, stealing your content automatically and republishing as your own.
Here’s a thorough investigation on what to do if your content ends up working better for somebody else.
Link buying or excessive link exchanging
Thinking of approaching a link farm? Just don’t do it. It’s not even worth it. The most valuable links to your site are the ones that come from authority sites within your own niche.
Hidden text and links
There are ways to manipulate rankings that a user may not ever see, but Google will probably find and punish you for it.
Stay away from using white text on a white background, positioning text off-screen, setting font size to zero or hiding a link in a single character like a comma or a period.