SEO is search engine optimization and can feel like a complicated and technical field. But who uses those search engines? People do. So we are really optimizing for people and making our website as helpful and accessible as possible.

How search engines operate

  • In general, about 50-60% of web traffic comes from organic search, which means someone put keywords into google.com and clicked a resulting link to your website.
  • To serve up the best results, search engines do two things: crawl pages by following links and getting a lot of raw data, then looking at relevance and popularity in order to provide the best answers.

However, search engine spiders don’t see design and photos. They only see HTML and text. Try entering your own site at cachedview.com and look at “text-only version.”

 

Who Cares?

  • Worldwide, Google sends 90% of traffic
  • Eyes are drawn to top results — the #1 position in Google search results receives 18.2% of click-through traffic, then it drops off sharply.
  • We want to boost our rankings so searchers can find our content!
  • Making SEO-driven changes will also improve your web accessibility, usability, and mobile access.
web traffic acquisitions chart

How to Improve Rankings

Keywords

Jennifer LohWho are your users?

  • Build an audience persona. What is that person looking for?
  • Brainstorm some possible keywords. When they type keywords into a search box, will they be satisfied with results on your page?
  • Use tools like Google’s keyword planner to search for optimal keywords by landing page.
  • The more specific, the lower the competition.

“The point of using keywords is not to rank highly for all keywords, but to rank highly for the keywords that people are searching for when they want what your site provides.”

Use Keywords Strategically

  • Make sure keywords are prominently used in your page title, headers, the first paragraph of text, the alt tag for images, the URL, and the meta description.
  • The “title tag” can be different than your page title. Aim for 65-75 characters. Place important keywords close to the front. Should be descriptive and readable.
  • The page title, description, and featured image is also what social media uses.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing
Content

Optimize Your Content

Search engines favor websites that publish high-quality content, and keep that content fresh. Your web content should be useful, information-rich, and easy to skim.

  • Customize your page URL: The shorter is better, but it should be descriptive and be close to the page title. Use keywords. Use hyphens to separate words. (But be careful! If you edit an existing page’s URL, you may cause broken links on other pages.)
  • Write a meta description, which will be used in Google results and social media. It should be readable and compelling. Will cut off after 160 characters. If missing, Google will create from other elements.
  • Make page hierarchy clear. Use H2, H3, etc.
  • Write content for the user, not for your boss or for your office. Use a friendly, active voice.
  • Use image ALT attributes that are descriptive and accurate.
  • Make sure content is not buried inside images or rich media.
  • Delete or draft pages that are old
Links

Internal linking

Because search engines crawl sites based on links, it’s important to make those links both abundant and of high quality.

  • Link within your site. Links are like votes to increase rankings.
  • Never use “click here” in a link, because that doesn’t tell search engines anything about the content. Use descriptive keywords. Again, keywords!

Link building strategies

The most reliable way to get others to link to your site is to provide fresh, valuable content that participates in conversations across the web.

  • Create content that inspires social sharing and natural linking (“linkbait”). Be newsworthy. Writing fresh content will keep your site active, give you material to share on social media, and showcase what you’re doing.
  • Get other high-quality sites to link to your site. Are there other sites that could link to your content?
  • Look at competitor’s backlinks (other sites linking to your site), and do the same (Open Site Explorer tool)
  • Send out graphic icons/badges that link back to site.

Publishing your content

After writing great, newsworthy content, it’s important to get that content onto people’s screens. Use social media to share content. Look for highly influential people to share your links.

Analytics

To measure the success of your SEO efforts, we can look at Google analytics.

 Tools

 

*This post was originally written for Wagner’s marketing office. Much of this content is adapted from Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Thanks, Moz.