A marketing colleague told me, “I save SEO for the millennials who can get into the code.”
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) includes a group of best practices that help the search engines (think “Google”) to crawl your page and rank it where people can find it–on page 1 of the search results. A good content management system (CMS) and content management processes will allow you to achieve excellent results without having to be an expert on html coding.
Here are 12 tips business owners and marketers should know.
SEO “tricks” don’t work.
Wear the white hat. “Black hat” practices, such as loading text with your key words or typing key words in white text, won’t help advance your ranking on search engines. Instead, your page will get penalized. This is old news but still applies for those in the internet dark ages of, say, seven to 10 years ago.
Key word phrases matter.
Before writing your content, start with a list of key words and key phrases. You don’t want to “stuff” these into your web page, but do use them naturally. The Google algorithm (the recipe for deciding who ranks highest) accounts for natural conversation and discounts those pages that overuse words and phrases in an attempt to optimize search results.
Don’t scatter keywords throughout numerous pages of your site. Do use them in a focused manner where specific pages hone in on key ideas or groups of key ideas.
Use keyword alt tags on images.
When you upload an image, your CMS gives you an opportunity to name the image. One Google trend is to put increasing importance on the alt tags. Make the name relevant to key words on your page, and use hyphens between words. Don’t label the image “head-shot” or “face.” For example, when I recently uploaded a profile photo, I typed “nancy-burgess.” Make sense?
Use your keyword phrase in your H1.
Best practices for optimization encourage the use of your keywords in your heads and some of your subheads–preferably at the beginning.
Structure your page with H1s, H2s and other subheads.
Header tags help the bots to crawl your site. While Google used to frown on the use of more than one H1 per page, that advice changed in 2017. Still, most SEO experts focus on a single H1. Other subheads should be used similar to an outline format.
Attend to your title tags.
Not to be confused with headers, title tags are the words you see between pipes. Pipes are vertical bars that look like this: |
Moz recommends keeping title tags approximately 50 to 60 characters in length. I try to keep mine in the 55 character range. Furthermore, it’s a best practice to put your website or company name as the final characters (or at the beginning). For example, an optimized title tag for this post page might read: SEO | Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing OR Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing – SEO.
Open external links in new windows.
Why create a page and then send people to another website? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if people are fleeing your site, Google will lessen your authority.
Get “Backlinks” from reputable sources.
So tricky. These are also known as inbound links. The goal here is to get highly reputable sites with clout to link back to your website. The more clout that a site or source has, the higher the vote of confidence in your site.
Create internal links.
Search engines (and users) love content that links between pages. Apply link text that describes the content itself. For example, don’t use “click here” or “in a previous blog….” as your anchor text for your link. Instead, link to key content. Below I link “SEO results” for a case study I generated in a situation where I applied SEO strategies.
Matt Cutts recommends using a “reasonable” amount of internal links. Uh-huh.
Slightly less vague, Google’s 2018 guidelines advise against deep linking (having to link too many times to get to the page you want) and intricate patterns of linking.
Best practices make… better.
Best practices may not make perfect, but the more you apply them, the better results you’ll see.