What’s SEO all about?
These days it’s important to optimize your content for search engines. Everyone talks about SEO (search engine optimization), but what is it and how can it help you? A good SEO strategy takes effort and requires long-term commitment. But let’s start with the basics!
Search engines want to know which sites offer the best value to users based on their search queries, so they use spiders to crawl billions of sites to index key phrases and better present accurate results to the user.
SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your website and content so that it is more easily found by users who are searching for the content you provide. It’s about enhancing your chances of discoverability and not just leaving it up to chance!
There are two types of traffic that can lead visitors to your site: organic traffic and paid traffic. In this article I’ll mostly focus on organic traffic, which are the results search engines offer up when a user searches for content similar to yours.
First off, it’s important that all pages on your site be optimized for SEO. This means that you need the following at least:
- Every page needs its own title (in the content you should provide ALT attributes to images, and links as these are very useful for SEO)
- Think about your URLs (use relevant keywords in your URLs, instead of www.example.com/blog/postid=23, use www.example.com/why-seo-matters)
- SEO Description (you should have an SEO description for at least the key pages of your site, in some instances it is better to leave this area blank as Google will create its own description after crawling the site)
- SEO Keywords (these are the SEO bread and butter!)
Meta tags are important because they show up as your search engine snippet:
Digging a little deeper
There are other items that have a significant affect on SEO that you might want to think about, you can take care of these items while you are still in the web development process, don’t wait until all is said and done to then worry about SEO! The earlier you start thinking about it in conjunction with your site design and development phase, the better off you’ll be.
Items that should not be overlooked:
- Social Media: mentions and links on social media promote your content, increasing your ranking
- Laying out your content correctly and using proper <h1> tags and <p> tags where required
- Provide relevant, fresh content, do not just throw a bunch of keywords throughout your text! Think about your content!
- Be thorough and detail oriented: use image captions and ALT text.
- Try to avoid linking to words like Click Here, instead be descriptive and include a call to action such as: To read more, visit our site.
- Link building: link to other trust-worthy sites that have relevant content to yours
WordPress and SEO
Google loves WordPress and WordPress has a host of features to help you with SEO. There are countless SEO plugins that make optimizing your site easily.
Here is what I consider to be the best SEO plugins for WordPress at the moment:
Once you install and activate these plugins, they will add custom areas for you to update your SEO information.
Here is the overview of a post in a WordPress site with the All-in-One-SEO pack installed
Here’s a more detailed view of the SEO section inside the post page:
Here’s an overview of a post in a WordPress site with the WordPress SEO plugin:
It forces you to chose a focus keywords and it will guide you on where to place those keywords so that you can appear higher on search results.
Using an SEO plugin will save you time in optimizing your site.
Ideally, you should keep up with your SEO strategy and review keywords every 6 months or so to make sure they’re still on target with your content or service. There are several tools available to help monitor your SEO rankings. But of all the tools out there if you only have time for one, use Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is a robust tool that will help you track key characteristics of your site data, such as:
- Audience demographic (new and return users)
- How many users come to your site via a mobile device or a desktop
- Bounce rate of your site (why users leave and which specific page they bounce off of)
There’s just one caveat: as of September 2013 Google has started to encrypt organic search tracking. So unless you want to pay to get your keyword data (with Google Adwords and other tools), if you want to find out the search terms that drive organic traffic to your site, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
- Look at the top landing pages of your site in Google Analytics
- Consider using Google Webmaster Tools for more refined analytics
- Use other SEO tools, mentioned below
In case you want to do some more in-depth SEO research check out these tools/services:
HubSpot – With HubsSpot you can track your competition, research keywords and review your analytics data via a user-friendly interface.
cognitiveSEO – cognitiveSEO lets you analyze your links data, guides you in optimizing your link-building, and let’s you “spy on your competitors and get insights on their link building strategies”
SEMRush – SEMRush is a powerful tool for tracking your competitor’s organic’s positions, performing keywords and ad research
Additional Tools for your SEO arsenal
Wordtracker – Discover high-performing keywords
SEOQuake – A Firefox add-on that collects search engine statistics
Google Webmaster Tools – Google Webmaster Tools provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google.
HitTail – HitTail has a powerful algorithm that reveals real-time keywords used in searches
Search engine optimization is a critical component of any website project. These tips can help you get a head start.