Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization can be a topic that sounds technical and complicated – all those acronyms and complex terms and opposing opinions. But really, there are two big truths you need to know about search engine optimization. The concepts are simple, and it’s absolutely essential to get it right to grow your business.
Let’s start with the concepts first. Search engine optimization is pretty much what it sounds like – optimizing the content you create on your website to be found by search engines. This isn’t an ad strategy – anyone can pay to get their ad at the top of the search results immediately. SEO is about creating content that gets found in organic search results, without you paying to be found. To do this, you need to align your content with the things people want to find – with what they’re searching for on Google or Bing.
This might sound like you’re writing the content for the search engines themselves. But that’s a big misconception. In the first few years of SEO, that’s exactly what happened – marketers wrote content stuffed with keywords whether or not the articles and web pages made sense to a human reading them. But search engines like Google are smart, and they adjusted to make sure searches were surfacing content that was helpful and engaging to their audience. After all, that’s what makes search engines popular with users.
SEO For Your Content
Creating content that search engines will find and trust today is a matter of a few elements. First, you need well-written content that answers questions the search audience is asking, or gives them information they find interesting. If you’re a cheese company, that could mean writing articles about the process of producing cheese, or a long FAQ blog post about the commonly asked questions on cheese-making.
Do Keyword Research
But writing great content on its own isn’t enough to get your content found by the people who are using search engines. You also need to use targeted keywords that will point the search engines to your content, and you need to find which keywords have a high volume of people searching for them but not much competition for those viewers. Finding trending search queries can give you an idea of what topics are gaining popularity right now so you can create relevant content.
That’s where keyword research becomes important. You can use online tools like SEMrush to find keywords with high search volume but low competition and write articles on those topics, adding in the keywords where they fit naturally. You don’t want to force anything, because your readers will notice if your writing sounds artificial.
Write Engaging Content
You also want the content to be engaging so readers spend more time on the page. Search engines are calculating how quickly your readers leave (also known as your bounce rate) because content that answers their questions will hold their attention for a while. If they’re leaving quickly, something is missing.
Search engines also prioritize recent content over older pages or posts. That means you need to be creating content on a regular and consistent basis – have a plan for publishing blog posts weekly (or at the minimum monthly). This is really important for SEO, but also for keeping your existing audience engaged. No one wants to read a four-year-old article on the best events in your city – it’s not relevant anymore.
Don’t be afraid to get specific in your keywords and your content. If your audience is searching for a granular topic (“best cheese-making tools for goat’s milk”) they have specific needs you can now fill. If you’re in a very niche business, this strategy can really work well for you. You can quickly become a trusted expert for your small but passionate target audience. And you can bring them in through your organic content.
Use Lots of Keywords
And don’t be shy about using more than one keyword in an article. One strategy that can pay dividends if you’re writing in an area that’s crowded with plenty of similar content, like digital marketing, is to choose one short keyword that has very high search volume but lots of competition. Then, choose several longer keywords with decent search volume and low competition and incorporate those in the article or blog post as well. Combining short and long keywords can allow search engines to comb what your blog post covers more quickly and thoroughly. It allows people who are searching for exactly what you’re writing about to find you easily.
What’s the most important thing to remember when writing SEO content? You’re writing for your audience of humans – not for the search engines. Of course, you’re making sure your content is easy for search engines to find, understand, and show to their users. But people are the ones who are reading the end product, not machines. Writing SEO content that performs well on Google and engages your very real audience is an art it can take a while to master. But it’s critical to get it right to see the best results.
SEO For Your Site
That covers search engine optimization for your content. But SEO isn’t just about making your articles and blog posts SEO-friendly. Your site as a whole is also critical to your search engine rankings. Search engines look for indications that your site is a reliable source of information.
This is often measured by how many other websites link to yours, called backlinks. If your content is helpful and valuable, it’s natural for other websites to link to it in related articles as a trusted source. This process can take a while, so often marketers will engage in linkbuilding tactics which can speed up the process. Some of those are above-board, but engaging in less honest methods can get you punished by search engines.
Link-building tactics that work well can be as simple as sharing your links with other local businesses in exchange for a link on their sites. Make sure you’re sharing your content on social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn to give others the opportunity to share it or link to it. Or consider writing guest blogs for businesses in similar industries in exchange for a link back to your site.
This might seem like a lot of work, but link-building is critical to getting search engines to recognize and respect your site. After all, other sites wouldn’t be sharing your work unless it was high-quality and informative.
Organizing Your Site Flow
SEO strategy for your site as a whole also involves organizing your content on your website into topics, which help search engines understand what a user’s intent is when they’re searching. A best practice is organizing your site around topics and then finding keywords related to those topics, so search engines see your site as an expert guide.
In the cheese company example above, they would be best served by focusing on cheese as a whole and then searching for cheese-related keywords to plan articles and pages around. For most businesses, your best bet is going to be writing about what you know and do every day. Write in an in-depth and accessible way that speaks to your target audience while naturally incorporating those keywords you’ve researched.
An underrated but important factor in site ranking is how fast your pages load. Search engines want to prioritize content that’s user-friendly. And if your blog posts have huge image files, they will take forever to load. That’s a frustrating experience for your readers.
How can you increase your site load speeds? The biggest culprit in site slowdowns is media or images that are too large. Very large images are usually more difficult for a browser to load. When you’re uploading any pictures or graphics to a specific blog post or your site as a whole, make sure to use a tool like TinyPNG or Squoosh to compress them. Small means fast, and fast means getting found.
Speed, topic clarity and authority, and backlinks are all rank factors for search engines. When your site ranks highly, so do your individual pieces of content – it’s all working together. Don’t neglect it.
Measuring Your Results
By now, you’ve got your site all set up with the best SEO practices, and your content is all optimized too. Your keywords are in order and your content is engaging your readers. You’ve spent a lot of time putting all the pieces in place.
With all that time invested, don’t let your work go to waste. You need a system for measuring your SEO results to keep track of what’s working well and tweaking what’s performing poorly. This is where webmaster tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console come into play.
These tools give you insight into how many people are seeing your content in searches, clicking through to it, and what they’re doing once they’re on your site. Are they making purchases? Are they getting lost in a particular topic and clicking away? Who is seeing your content – by age, location, and more? These webmaster tools have incredibly valuable data that you need to track your SEO efforts. Get them set up as soon as possible so you don’t miss out on this information.
Stay Up To Date
One last tip – things change quickly in the SEO world. Google and its kin are updating their algorithms constantly and best practices change alongside. Check in on blogs like Hubspot and Moz frequently for updates. This is especially important if you’ve noticed any big shifts in traffic lately – big drops or big jumps that aren’t tied directly to new posts.
And don’t just read about updates. Make them on your content and your pages too. Information goes out of date, priorities shift, and you want to be sure each piece of content is performing at its highest level. Mark your calendar once a month or a quarter to go in and tweak what’s old or just not working anymore. Your SEO rankings will thank you.
Don’t Go It Alone
Search engine optimization tactics will work differently for every business – just like any marketing technique. But the basics remain the same for everyone.
This SEO overview gives you the basics of this valuable digital marketing technique. But maybe you need more targeted guidance from experts who know exactly how SEO can work for you. That’s when you need to call ContentFirst.Marketing to schedule your free review. Learn how we can grow your business with great writing, consistent follow up, and measurable results.