If you’re looking to learn about or optimize your website’s SEO, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we will go over some basic steps you can take to get more organic visibility in search results for your website.
Before we dive into optimization techniques, it’s important to understand how search engines decide what to show in search results.
Search engines dispatch search bots called “web crawlers” to go through billions of websites every day. Websites are firstly crawled by bots to understand their contents, then assigned rankings to attribute their relevance to different search terms.
So, what does this all mean?
Essentially, the contents on your website ultimately dictate the terms and keywords they are attributed to. For example, if your website is for a flower shop in Astoria; then it will be moderately ranked for “florists” searches, and highly ranked for “florists in Astoria”.
The higher the search rankings, the greater chance your website will appear on the first page, and/or near the top of search results.
You might wonder, how could you rank higher and own generic search terms such as “florists”? Generic terms are generally dominated by websites that regularly upload new content and acquire high daily traffic. A few examples are news sites and popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon. Unless you have the infrastructure to publish hundreds or thousands of contents every day, it will be difficult to compete with these giants. Regardless, this shouldn’t stop you from optimizing your SEO.
Now that we understand how search rankings work, let’s explore how we can organize our websites to appease these online critters.
We’ve learned that having detailed website copy can help your search rankings (florists vs florists in Astoria). Any information you believe could be useful to your visitors should be placed on your website.
When drafting website copy, a good practice is to think about the search terms you'd like your website to appear under. Then appropriately weave in those terms into your copy.
Google offers a free tool called Keyword Planner, that you can use to view keywords with high search volume. Use this tool in your drafting process.
Bear in mind, however, this doesn't mean you should bloat your website with references of the same keyword. The goal of search engines is to provide users with useful results and websites. Web crawlers can pick up on “keyword stuffing”, and severely penalize you for it.
This is more on the technical side, and we highly recommend that you work with your webmaster to make the following optimizations.
Each webpage on websites is organized using HTML elements (the language used to create websites). Below, are the elements that web crawlers pay most attention to:
- Meta <meta>
- Title <title>
- Header <h1>
- Body (paragraph) <p>
- Image <img>
While all five elements are important, the first 3 are highly prioritized by web crawlers.
Going back to the flower shop example – the ideal HTML markup for the website would be:
<meta name="description" content="The Best Flower Shop in Astoria">
<title>The Best Flower Shop in Astoria</title>
<h1>The Best Flower Shop in Astoria</h1>
Let’s assume for a second, that “Astoria” isn’t in the first 3 elements, but rather in the body copy:
<meta name="description" content="The Best Flower Shop">
<title>The Best Flower Shop</title>
<h1>The Best Flower Shop</h1>
<p>We are the best florist in Astoria</p>
This will work too, but web crawlers will rank you higher with the first set up for searches under “florists in Astoria”, mainly because body copies aren’t as strongly valued as headers and titles.
You can also include words from your header and title into your body copy, just be sure to avoid keyword stuffing.
As for images, they must possess an “alt” (alternative) that describes the image. Web crawlers can’t comprehend images and rely on the “alt” attribute to understand them.
<img src=”flower.jpg” alt=”Blue Flower in a vase”/>
Reliable User Experience
Apart from gathering the most useful/informative websites, search engines also aim to provide users with informational, secured websites, with trusted user experience.
For example, if your online store has a shopping cart page but lacks the button or icon for it, the web crawlers will penalize you because it's pointless to suggest an online store that users can't checkout from.
With that said, ensure that there are no pages on your website that are stuck in limbo, and linger with no obvious path or navigation to reach them.
These are some of the precautionary measures that search engines take, to prevent web users from falling victim to fraudulent, and fake websites*. A good example is imposter online banking sites that look authentic, but only exist to steal your login information. Nothing happens when you submit your username and password; and by the time you realize the site is fake, the perpetrators have already started moving in on your online accounts and personal information.
Lastly, website load times also affect search rankings. Search engines will not suggest websites that won’t give users what they’re looking for promptly. Furthermore, users also generally bounce after 3 seconds of load time, so be sure to work with your webmaster to iron out any loading issues.
*Have necessary security protocols installed on your website so web crawlers will know it’s secured.
Social Media accounts and pages can also significantly improve your search rankings.
When posting on social media, be sure to include links leading back to your website. Doing this will create references to your site across both your website and your social media accounts. This allows web crawlers to index your content and website higher in search results.
Encourage users and followers to share, comment, and like. This way, your website will have references on your social media pages, as well as individual profile pages; improving your search rankings.
Lastly, be sure to use the appropriate hashtags so web crawlers can pick up on them. Plan this as you would your website’s copy, and use Google’s Keyword Planner to see keywords with high search volumes.
It’s important to note that SEO optimization is an ongoing process. It will take some time to get acclimated, but it will be easier once you’ve created a plan, and put the necessary systems in place.