SEO always seems like a bad game that one could never win. Seriously! SEO, or search engine optimization, appears complicated due to several various factors. How can anybody possibly win?
Well, let me be the first to say that winning SEO requires the right strategy. There are actually over 200 factors of SEO–factors that tell visitors you are trustworthy, reliable and secure. It is an organic way to get traffic from the search engines to your website. Organic traffic is your free traffic wherein you can only target a specific keyword or keyword phrase instead of paid traffic where you have the power to target a specific audience.
HOW DOES SEO WORK?
When a website visitor searches “Life Coaches in Illinois”, Google crawls the first website indexes that have the keyword phrase “Life Coach”, and then into local listings in Illinois. As this occurs, each listing is ranked based on the mentioned 200 factors within the algorithm, then the listings are displayed in the order of accuracy.
Now, your job as a business owner is to hit as many of the positive factors without spamming your website. Sounds easy, right? It will surely be after we finish breaking it down. I promise.
Firstly, the factors are classified into 2 main groups: On-page SEO + Off-page SEO.
With 13 factors to focus on for your on-page SEO, the first to work on is your keyword research. You want to make sure that it targets the correct keyword and keyword phrase based on your business type and your intended audience. Most visitors today use a phrase to search for information instead of a specific keyword; don’t miss out by placing just a keyword.
Apply this crucial step on each page of your website: each page should target a specific keyword and keyword phrase. On most platforms, this may be adjusted on the page settings. Each page should be keyword-rich (but not spammy), meaning that it should include the keyword or keyword phrase throughout the page but still be readable. Make sure your keywords are on your page title, page description, and, ultimately, in your quality, properly-structured content. Use your headings when separating your content, especially headings (h1 and h2 tags). Another thing to keep in mind is to craft your content with your audience and the search engines in mind; you can’t just write for the search engines or vice versa.
Next, update your blog posts. Give your blog post updated keyword-rich titles and descriptions. Keeping your blog posts SEO up to date, and posting regularly helps build your ranking. This practice informs search engines that your website is still active.
Once you have completely updated your page title and descriptions, you would want to have Google crawl your website. All you have to do is send a request to Google via your Google Search Console. If you haven’t yet set up your website on the Google Search Console, you only need a Gmail account which you can set in just about 5 minutes. I usually connect my Google Search Console to my Gsuite account, if you need a branded email address, get started with a 14-day trial and for only $5/ month. Get started here.
Always be reminded that having Google crawl your website helps keep your information updated and reliable. You always want to have your best foot forward!
Next is your website structure. Google ranks your website based on its mobile responsiveness, speed, security, and your permalinks or URLs. Every website should have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate and regular malware scanning in place. This helps your ranking and protects your visitors and your valuable business. Without this, your website is prone to infections, and when Google crawls it, your website will be labeled unsafe. The last thing a small business needs is for its visitors to get a warning that their website is unsafe. I suggest you invest in malware scanners which will prevent this from happening. Again, an SSL certificate protects your visitors and your business by securing and encrypting your customers’ credit card details and banking information.
Afterward, test your website for responsiveness. This can easily be done by resizing your browser, and seeing how your website adapts to the varying screen size, or you may opt to use an online tool such as ami.responsivedesign.is which instantly shows how your website looks on a tablet, phone, laptop, and desktop screen. If your website fails to adapt, you know then that your website is not yet mobile-responsive.
Meanwhile, checking your website speed can be done by visiting Google Page Insights. This is a free tool to check its speed.
Off-page SEO, a mix of link building, social media, social bookmarking and offline efforts, is not as simple as on-page SEO wherein you can control the keywords, keyword phrases, and everything SEO-related. In contrast, off-page SEO gives you little control over those. Now, I’m not saying that off-page does not matter. Its actually has a greater weight on the different factors of off-page SEO. But they factor more on social, and the trust and authority your audience has.
Off-page SEO breaks down into 4 parts: trust, links, social and personal.
Establishing yourself as an authority in your industry not only helps you build authority with your audience but also with your SEO. You want to make sure your website presents your authority through the information found on your website such as your blog posts. This, in turn, will help your engagement with your audience. If you are familiar with your website analytics, then you will know about your bounce rate, time on page, and the behavior of your visitors. If you do not have analytics set up on your website, check out this post. These are the ways the search engines “see” if your site is engaging and of quality.
You may have heard of link building: some good things and some bad. What we want to ensure is that you are using the “good” type of link building.
Search engines are factored in the links you have on your website: ones that travel within your website, and the ones that travel outside. Each one is rated based on quality and trust factors, both from your website and the website the link connects to. Quality links from respectable and relevant websites are “weighted” more than just any old link going nowhere.
On top of where the link comes from, SEO also factors in the link text and the anchor text. Lastly, the number of links is important but not the spammy, clickbait type (warning: you can actually be blacklisted by Google if you take that route). Make sure to include only relevant links from outside resources or other quality and reputable websites.
Search engines, no matter the search term, never really show the same results, and that’s because of the personalization factor. Search engines factor in your location, impressions, and loyalty. Personalizing your search results based on where you live helps show you the information most relevant to you, especially if you are looking for something “near you”.
Your social profiles also play a part in your search engine optimization: your likes, shares, and engagement all help search engines factor your ranking. Social shares are like your website links, such that the more times it’s shared and viewed, the more the search engines tend to factor in your engagement. Having a Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest page and being active on them help you to not only build engagement and gain exposure on social media but also help raise your SEO ranking.
Now that we have covered the positive effects of SEO, we now recognize its downsides. There are a couple of points to make sure you don’t receive a negative impact.
Shallow content: In part one, I pointed out the importance of creating valuable and quality content. Doing the opposite, of course, will cause a negative effect.
Cloaking: Having a different website show up to your visitor, and another show up to search engines is common when sites try to scam search engines to gain a higher ranking. Avoid doing this.
Keyword stuffing: Just how it sounds, stuffing your website pages with keywords and keyword phrases not only brings the readability of your page down but also causes a negative impact on your ranking.
Hidden text: Search engines hate anything hidden, hiding text or images is frowned upon by search engines.
Ads overload: Exactly how it sounds, having advertisements placed literally everywhere on a website page is not only horrible for search engines, but also for your valuable website visitors.
Most people fear that they will spam their site unknowingly, but this rarely happens. Having just the basic understanding of SEO helps you steer clear of the negative impacts, and provides a healthy ecosystem to your blog posts and additional pages on your website.
Don’t forget to grab your SEO Resource guide! Hope this helps!