So, you finally decided to start a business. Congratulations! However, now you are getting to a point where you would like to expand your presence on the internet beyond Twitter and Facebook. You have a cool new website and you want it to rank on Google. Let’s look at what SEO is, and some strategies you can use to improve yours.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the implementation of various strategies, tactics, and techniques to obtain higher positions on search engines. Both in theory and in practice, higher search engine rankings will lead to greater traffic and by extension, more business. Remember Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Bing and many others reflect very similar missions.
As we move forward there are a number of general terms that will be referenced that may be useful for you to know.
SERPs: Stands for Search Engine Results Pages. This is the pages of results that are displayed when you search with search engines.
(De)Indexing: Indexing refers to a search engine listing your page(s) on their SERPs. Deindexing is when they remove your page(s) from their SERPs. Typically, deindexing is a result of an algorithm penalty.
Crawl: When a search engine is indexing websites, they send their programs to your website and “crawl it”. This is the process where they collect all the code and links within your website. They use the links within your website to find all of the site’s pages.\
On Page SEO
Content: Content is king. If you haven’t heard this phrase before prepare to hear it all the time. High-quality content is praised as the end all be all by search engines, and yes, it’s true. Keep in mind certain types of content are prioritized. For example, if you search for “business startup” on Google, the first several pages will all consist of startup ideas, and the 20 apps you will need to run a successful startup. They are all informational pages, and it is not a coincidence. Many search engines won’t prioritize sales content. As a result, the person looking for business bank accounts or business cards will not find what they are looking for when searching “business startup.” Try to find a balance between informational and sales on your pages.
Keywords: Adding keywords to your text is a fundamental practice of SEO. It is how search engines know what the page and your website is about. Let’s look at a practical example. You have a website that sells Excel to college students. The average college student wants this software for a class and wants it as cheap as possible. They might search “Microsoft Excel student discount,” or “Excel for business students.” Knowing this you may want to add keywords such as Excel, business, analysis, spreadsheets, and student discount. Always remember to add in the topic you are discussing, “Excel” in this example, as well as periphery words.
Design: Google, as well as many other search engines, have made public denouncements of certain SEO strategies. One of which includes hiding content. This may be unintentional, like being in clickable tabs or intentional, like white text on a white background. When search engines crawl a site with hidden content they believe you are trying to “trick” them. Google will rank them lower or in the worst case deindex them entirely. Avoid this as much as possible. A good rule of thumb is if you have to click on something to see it, it’s considered hidden.
Engagement: One of the key metrics in web analytics is bounce rate. A website’s bounce rate is the percent of visits that leave the site after only visiting one page. There is a strong negative relationship between your bounce and conversion rate. Therefore, a low bounce rate should be a goal of yours. To keep it low one of the best strategies is to keep visitors engaged in your site. Let’s look at Facebook for an example. You stay engaged by clicking on links, liking and sharing posts, and watching videos. By doing this you end up spending much more time on Facebook. Some ways to engage your audience include simple quizzes in the sidebar, adding videos to your content, adding social media share buttons to your blog, and creating interactive widgets (like a calculator or build your car).
Off Page SEO
Backlinks: If content is king, backlinks are the crown. A backlink is when a website other than your own links back to yours. Backlinks are what give your site authority and are widely considered to be one of the most important factors in search engine positioning. When other websites link to yours, it sends Google a signal that your website is worthwhile, which ultimately helps improve your rank. Even within the backlink pool, there are links considered better than others. It’s intuitive to think that a link from the New York Times will be worth more than one from the Onion.
Social Media: Social media signals are one of the most controversial topics in SEO. Many claim that it is one of the least effective methods while others claim that if utilized properly can work wonders. The reasoning behind this can be described in one word “buzz.” Those in favor believe that social media buzz can be the cause of high rankings in search engines due to the signaling of popularity. Those who oppose the ideas believe that the social media buzz is just buzz and doesn’t affect SEO outside of a few days. Whether you believe it or not, social media can create buzz around your company or product and should be utilized. A good rule of thumb would be to at least have social media pages and share relevant blog posts on them.
Googlers: Believe it or not Google and Bing want to help you succeed. With tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, finding your niche and your weaknesses are as easy as ever. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are free services that helps you monitor and maintain your websites rankings. They are intended to help you answer more technical questions like “is my site getting crawled and indexed?” They can also find common errors that arise when creating a new website so you know to fix them. Google Analytics, on the other hand, is exactly what the name implies, analytics. From metrics such as bounce rate and visits to real-time users on site, this service helps you find and target your audience. Although adding these to your site may require some amount of technical know-how, the benefits are well worth it.
Bringing it all Together
Over the years, the mathematicians and computer scientists at these search engines have built algorithms to find and rank the best content available on the web. With a solid strategy, anyone can reach rank 1 for any query. Be smart about your decisions moving forward as they are all important. For more resources check out Google Webmaster Central Blog, Search Engine Land, and GT Metrix.
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