If you’ve worked with a web designer or are looking into ways to improve your website, you’ve probably stumbled across the term “SEO,” or search engine optimization. SEO is about getting your website to appear higher in rankings on search engine result pages. The higher your website appears in the rankings, the more likely you are to get possible customers to your website.
There are many ways to optimize your search engine result, and they can be categorized into two categories: organic and paid. Paid SEO techniques include ads for your business placed across web pages and paying for a top listing on a search result page (Google normally has about one to three websites listed as “ads” at the top of a search result page). Organic refers to non-paid for SEO techniques that you and your web designer can employ to improve your ranking. In our SEO series, we will focus on organic methods to employ for your website.
DEFINE YOUR KEYWORDS
Keywords are the basis for SEO. Think of keywords as the search terms used by customers to find your website online. The more relevant these terms and phrases are to your business, the more likely customers will find your business online.
So how do you figure out keywords for your business?
- Start with the basics.
- What is your business’s name?
- Is there a shortened version or abbreviation for your business commonly used by you or your customers (i.e.: JCPenny’s is often abbreviated to JCP)? If so, include them on the keyword list.
- Where is your business located?
- Which areas does your business serve (i.e.: Raving Software is located in Pasadena, Maryland, but we serve the surrounding areas of Arnold, Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Annapolis, etc.).
- What industry is your business in?
- What does your business do? (Include major products and/or services.)
- Next, and this is where your knowledge of the business is key, you need a customer-term list.
- What are words or phrases commonly used by customers in relation your business, products, and services?
- What verbs are associated with your business? (i.e.: Raving Software verbs would be to design, to code, to develop whereas an outdoor business would have verbs such as to hike, to climb, etc.)
While your web designer can come up with a lot of keywords and phrases on their own, your knowledge of your customers and business can will help your designer curate a better list of keywords to use in your SEO strategy.
USE THE HEAD SECTION OF YOUR WEB PAGE TO IMPROVE YOUR SEO
When you enter a search query on a search engine, such as Google, the web sends out crawlers that read web pages. Pages that match the search query the best are returned on the search engine results page. There are techniques and elements your designer will use to improve your chances of ranking higher in the search result.
Meta data is invisible information that informs web crawlers what your website is and the information contained on your website. The many different types of meta data are kept in meta tags on your web page. While there is a lot of information that can be stored in a meta tag, you only need to worry about meta keywords and the meta description.
A meta description is a summary of your business’s website. The keyword list you created earlier will help you and your designer to come up with a strong description for your website. This description should accurately reflect your business and contain relevant key terms. It is often a good idea to include the physical location, such as the city name, in your description, as many people include their city in a search.
It varies by search engine, but it is common practice to keep your description to 160 characters or less. If you exceed this amount, it’s likely the crawlers won’t read the rest of the description and can keep you from being included in search results. Another reason to keep it short, is that the description is what is viewed under the large (often blue) page name link in search result. A short but accurate summary can improve your chances of being returned in search results and attracting more visitors. Plus, you can tailor the description for each page, which helps you highlight different aspects of your business.
The meta keyword tag is simply a list of key terms and phrases that users may use in a search query. You can use the terms you brainstormed earlier in your keyword list. We recommend starting with terms that are specific to your business and having the broader terms toward the end of the list. Again, it varies by search engine how far down the crawlers read, so you want to have the most relevant terms at the beginning of your list so they aren’t missed.
A final element in the header section that can help with your SEO ranking is the title tag. The title is what appears on a browser tab or at the top of a browser window. It often includes the name of the business and either its tagline or the name of the page you are currently on. This element helps visitors to know where they are and crawlers to find strong matches to search terms. While there is not an official max length, you should try to keep your title to less than 35 characters. Anything longer may be cut off in the browser, meaning your visitor won’t see the whole title, though the crawlers will still read the whole title.
Tip: Drop your tagline and include your location in your title tag instead. People often include their location or “near me” in their search queries. Having your location as part of your title can help you move up in rankings of relevant results.
IMPROVING YOUR SEO WITH THE BODY OF YOUR WEB PAGE
The section of your web page that holds content seen by visitors is called the body. There are many places throughout this section where you and your designer can apply techniques to improve your SEO. Like in the header section, you will be using keywords in strategic places.
- Headlines: Headlines are a great way to insert keywords into your page. They also help to break up content, making it easier for visitors and crawlers to scan the page.
- Links: While you can’t include keywords in your links, having both inbound and outbound links can help improve your SEO ranking as they help improve your website’s credibility. You can create outbound links by linking to your social media accounts and blog from your main website. Inbound links are usually created by other people linking to your website, so you will need to have content other people want to share or link to from their own websites.
- Body Content and Photo Captions:Keywords and phrases relevant to your business will appear throughout the content of your web pages. Be sure to use terms specific to your business.
- Image Tags: Images, both photos and graphics, have an “alt” attribute tag that web designers use to insert information about the image. This tag is usually used so that screen readers can “read” the photo to those who can’t see the content on the screen. Crawlers read the information here just as they do other elements on the page. You and your designer can include keywords in the “alt” attribute, but be sure the content is still relevant to the image and will make sense to people who use screen readers.
- Footer: The footer section is a subsection of the body. Here, you often find contact information, social media links, location information, business hours, copyright disclaimers, etc. While it is becoming more and more common to have contact information accessible within the main navigation, many users will still scroll to the bottom of the page to find business information, such as the hours, location, and contact information.
KEYWORDS ARE GOOD, BUT DON’T ABUSE THEM
While you do want to repeat keywords or phrases throughout your web pages, you don’t want to overuse them. Crawlers check the keyword density, or the frequency of how often a search term is used. If your density rate for a term is too high, it will hurt your ranking as the crawler sees a high keyword density as poor content quality. There’s not an ideal density to aim for, but it’s good practice to make sure your content fits the context of the page and is helpful to visitors. A high search result ranking doesn’t help if your website doesn’t have anything useful for visitors.
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