Learning to properly optimise for SEO can feel like a lot of work. While it's very easy to get bogged down by the process, setting the foundations in place is beneficial for your site in the long-run as a higher ranking in Google means that more people will find your site, which in turn means more page views. However, since the process can be confusing to those starting out, it means that some site owners don't give it the attention it deserves. Granted, any SEO strategy has an eye on the medium to long-term, but if you put the work in now, the rewards will come.
As it's a concept that many people are still learning, here is a brief summary of the basics and what you need to know as well as some advice from a number of experts in the field.
General SEO Tips
As complex as SEO can be, the entire process can be broken down into three main sections. They are:
The first is rather self-explanatory as if you don't have good content, then people have no reason to visit your site. The second is how Google and other search engines will find your site and the third tells the same search engines that your site is worth prioritising over others. With this in mind, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Don't Use General Terms
If you're writing a post on Facebook, it's pointless to just use 'Facebook' as a tag as it will get lost among the other hundreds of thousands of entries that use the same search term. What you need to do is use more specific terms so while the previous example would see your search result buried, using something specific like "Facebook marketing tips" would provide a greater chance of being discovered.
Identify Your Site's Keywords
Every site has words to describe it and yours is no different. Ask yourself, when people visit your site, what are they looking for? What words would you use if you had to explain your site's content? Once you know this, you can choose the keywords that accurately describe your site.
Do Keyword Research
As well as analytics, you can research just how often certain keywords are searched for. One good place to start is Keyword Discovery
, which will list the most common terms relating to your search so you can identify useful keywords. Other tools that can help include Wordtracker and keyword search for Google AdWords.
Come Up With Unique Titles
When Google searches through your site, the first place it will look at are the titles of your post or site. If you don't have a blog or if each page doesn't have a title, then anything with a <h1> tag will be looked at. The second part, which is just as important, is the meta description which appears just underneath each search heading. Google might use these as snippets when your page appears in search if it's relevant to the search term used.
Optimise Your URL Titles
URL's will also contain keywords for you to use and while these tend to be generated automatically (normally using your heading), it's worth looking at them and inserting one or two keywords, if they aren't there already.
Check Your Analytics Regularly
Chances are if you have a website, you have analytics tools helping you out (if you don't, get one now!). If so, you should take a look at the search terms that people are using to find your site. While there are obvious ones such as your site name, there will be other search terms that will be appearing.
If you know what keywords people are using to find your site, you can adjust your content strategy to take advantage of this. The best way to do this is to create the type of content that visitors are looking for, but don't let it completely dictate your content plan as you'll just be chasing page views instead of writing quality content.
Make Sure Headings Are Brief
Not only do you have to worry about placing keywords into your heading, but you also need to make sure your heading is brief so Google will show all of it. As a general rule, a title should only be 70 characters long (including spaces). Any longer and Google will cut off the heading.
Although Google is constantly changing their PageRank algorithm, one part of it that's always been crucial are the links coming from other sites. The bigger the site linking to you, the better. Getting links is one of the hardest things that you can do without resorting to dodgy tactics, but there are a few things that you can do that will help build your site quickly.
Although it seems obvious, the best is producing amazing content which people link to as a resource. That is why we write so many posts like this so as people from other sites and their social media profiles all link back to us. You can also go out and buy links or create a strategy of approaching other sites, but that is far more time-consuming and doesn't always have the same results. Another focus is internal linking within your own site, which is something that you can control.
Link to deeper pages within your site as much as you can. We also wrote a piece recently on our piece about business blogging on producing content with other blogs in mind such as videos and that really is a great way of securing 100s of links from the biggest sites in the world. That works really well.
Download A SEO Plugin
If you're using a blogging site like Wordpress or Blogger, downloading a plugin will help take some of the work away from you. SEO plugins like Yoast
will certainly help you as you optimise your pages. However, only use one plugin for the job as using two or more could end up confusing Google and might even see it downgrade your site.
So we've covered the basics, but what else should you keep in mind? We asked four experts for their advice and what people should consider when developing an SEO strategy.
Paul Savage - IT Consultant at Blackdog.ie
Blackdog is an IT consultancy company based in Munich. It offers consultancy in all aspects of website development, including strategy, optimisation and marketing.
When approaching SEO there are lots of different factors to look at, SEO is all about picking these off the list.
I generally start with some site quality improvements, here we check spelling, and improving the copy for SEO. This involves adding formatting like heading tags, or it could also involve adding formal structured information (see www.schema.org for an example). The next step I would check to make sure that the HTTP header statuses on key pages are correct (i.e. home page, error pages, redirect pages, etc.). From there, I would have a look at the structure of the website to check if key areas were compartmentalised.
Joanne Casey - Owner of Glow | Metrics
Glow | Metrics helps businesses manage their web analytics data so they can identify trends and actionable insights which can be used to fuel and optimise business performance.
Creating unique and enticing content on a site that people will want to read and share is vital to any good SEO campaign, but what's the point in having great content if search engines can't find it?
According to StatCounter's recent Global Stats, Google has just over 94% of market share in Ireland so using Google's Webmaster Tools is central to a SEO campaign. This tool allows you to gather a wealth of information about how Google is accessing and viewing your site. Among many other things it allows you to:
- See when the Googlebot last accessed your site.
- View a list of error pages it found when it got there.
- Set a geographic target for your site.
- Submit an XML sitemap to make Google aware of all pages of your website.
- See a snapshot of pages crawled per day, how long it took for pages to download, a list of links to your site and what keywords were used to link to your site.
No SEO campaign would be complete without using the insights from this tool to and to top it all off, it's free!
Kieran Flanagan - EMEA Online Marketing Manager for Marketo
Marketo provides award winning Marketing Software that allows you to generate, nurture and qualify more high quality leads. Recently named the fastest growing Marketing Software vendor on the Inc 500, Marketo is helping companies of all sizes generate more revenue with less resources.
There have been a lot of changes in the world of SEO over the past year, caused in most part by updates like Panda, Penguin and the most recent one aimed at Exact Match Domains. But there are still a couple of core points that can make a big impact to your sites performance in the search engines.
1. Keyword Strategy: Still one of the most important parts of any SEO plan is your keyword strategy. Choose the right keywords for your business based on where they sit within the funnel (e.g. buying intent), how competitive they are (one of the most common mistakes is chasing keywords you don't have the budget to rank for) and suited to the content you have (of course, you can create new content to map against keywords if relevant).
Understanding how your keyword strategy is performing has become more difficult since Google introduced the dreaded (not provided) for people who are logged into Google and visiting your site. This means that instead of getting keyword data for these people, you see all their data aggregated under (not provided). But having a great keyword strategy at the center of your SEO plan is still crucial in getting things right.
2. Technical SEO: This part of your SEO plan is still important. You can get caught up in all the talk about social, content and links, but getting the on-site part right can still deliver big improvements. What should an SEO audit include? Well there is a lot, especially around accessibility and indexability, but there is an excellent post over on SEOMoz on how to conduct a full SEO audit.
3. Content Strategy: Content is really at the heart of a great SEO plan. Google wants you to earn links, shares and your authority and basically it want to reward brands. Although it's still not a perfect world and there are lots of examples where sites have manufactured their own links to acquire top spots, a strategy that earns you PR is the best way to create long-term results in Google. If you are concerned every time Google is about to release another update, chances are your SEO plan has been focused on quick wins, rather than the more difficult task of building a brand.
Developing a winning content strategy isn't something a lot of SEO's have experience in, but it's definitely something that's going to separate the great SEO agencies who can evolve and those who are stuck on building low-level links for pennies. I've really been inspired with Simon Sineks' TED talk on the Golden Circle, something I highly recommend watching before starting on your content journey.
Philip Boyle - Marketing Manager At WhatClinic.com
WhatClinic.com helps patients get treated by providing as much information as possible about clinics worldwide. The site provides information like treatment lists, reviews, testimonials, costs and contact details to help patents make informed choices when looking for a clinic.
Always think of your page's organic search result as an editable free ad, the purpose of which is to get the reader to click through to your website. Consequently, your page title and meta description should do more than just include a couple of important keywords, you should think of them as your ad's headline and body text. Include information that demonstrates how your page's content is unique and include a call to action.
By using the latest markup techniques (see Schema.org) you can make your search results more attractive than those of your competitors by including review star ratings, product pictures, pricing information, or even just the author's picture. Everyone will have these things in their search results eventually, but if you do it first, you'll get the extra clicks now while your competitors play catch up. (See: Rich Snippet Guidelines, Author Information In Search Results)
(Bonus Tip: The idea of getting people to link to your content might seem like it's on the way out, but links are still a core ranking factor for all the search engines. Concentrate on getting new websites to link to you rather than getting the same people to link time and time again. The number of different websites linking to you is a far better metric to be watching than the total number of inbound links you have).
There are many guides written on SEO that go into considerably more detail. Here are some of the best.
- If there was an award for explaining SEO in a stylish and easy to understand way then SEOmoz wins it hands down with its beginner's guide to SEO.
- Marketing Pilgrim decide to explain the basics of SEO in 7 minutes. Handy for those looking for a brief, but very useful guide to SEO.
- Google has its own SEO starter guide which also goes into detail about how the search engine works and offers tips for site owners.
- If you're a Wordpress user, iBlogZone offers a number of suggestions for plugins that you can use.
- Scurri.com also provides a list of tips and tricks to help improve your SEO rank.
- Search Engine Land also has a comprehensive guide to SEO, broken down into sections such as mobile, video, copy writing and blogs.
- Again, Google's Webmaster Central Blog is a great resource for anyone serious about SEO, alongside tips and tricks, it offers guides and advice to best practices with SEO. This video is one such example.