Business owners, bloggers, and anyone who wants to drive traffic to their website has probably spent time perusing the web for tips on how to optimize their website for search results. Search Engine Optimization a.k.a. SEO is a fast-changing field with the search engines themselves updating their algorithms without warning. What was once effective may no longer be relevant. That’s why staying up-to-date on what works and what doesn’t is of the utmost importance for those who want to see a return on their SEO efforts. Here’s the scoop on the current SEO state of affairs and some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
SEO has evolved immensely over the years and correspondingly, search engines have done the same. Gone are the days of optimizing content around a single keyword or flooding your content with keywords in an effort to get the search engine’s attention. Actually, if you go that route search engines will take notice, however it won’t aid your SEO efforts. In fact, they’ll consider your keyword-heavy content spam and penalize you accordingly.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm sought to effectively place greater importance to context and meaning behind a query, rather than just specific keywords. Thus, as a content creator you’ll want to think about how it is your ideal web visitors/clients/customers will pose their questions to Google and create content that responds to such. The (key)words you use, should naturally flow from whatever it is you’re writing about.
Although it has been overstated, it still bears repeating - content is king. A well-written article will contain synonyms and keyword phrases because they are warranted in what is being discussed – not just thrown in there for the sake of SEO. Your web visitors will thank you for creating compelling content that is informative, conversational and written for them – not for the search engines.
Your website analytics are a window into how your website visitors view and use your website. By ignoring this data, you are missing out on the opportunity to see what actually works and what doesn’t. Your marketing efforts are informed when you take the time to analyze your analytics because you can improve on those areas where your users seem to fall off. You can track this information!
For those that don’t have analytics installed on their website, know that Google Analytics is completely free. There are numerous tutorials online that’ll teach you how to navigate through your analytics so you can see what is going on when web visitors are on your website. You can then make the necessary tweaks to your content or page layouts to keep your web visitors from clicking away from your site.
Internal linking is a plus for search engines as it helps them see how your content relates to other information on your website. Not only does this help your SEO efforts, it also helps you retain the attention of your web visitors. By linking to other information on your site, you are directing your audience to additional content that may include a more in-depth explanation or context for the topic that they are on the lookout for.
External linking is another way to increase your credibility to search engines and to website visitors. By providing external links to information that either supports your argument or includes info you’ve cited in your own article, you are doing your due diligence as a content creator and giving credit where credit is due. In addition, you are helping your readers find useful information that may aid them in their research.
Be sure that when you do link to external websites, that you do so in a new window so that your web visitors aren’t directed off your website immediately. They can continue reading what you’ve written and when they are ready they can navigate to the link you’ve cited.
Large blocks of text are scary for readers visiting your website because the information overload looks daunting to tackle for someone just perusing the web. This is why numerous studies have shown that reading on the web is totally different then reading print. Meaning, writing for the web is an entirely different beast then writing for print.
You want to keep your text short and concise. Although this may not seem related to SEO – it is because if forces you to think in terms of headings and sub-headings to break up text and create better formatting.
Visual elements are key for attracting the eyes and attention of your website visitors. A good image can make or break a landing page which is the front door of your website. In your articles, the images you select can help to tell your story and break up content so it isn’t just words on words on words. This falls in line with our previous mention about formatting.
Images help to break up text heavy pages and create visual appeal. When inserting images into your content be sure that they are optimized. This means creating good image final names and adding relevant ALT text that contains keywords describing your image so that the search bots can ‘see it’.
Writing takes effort and work and thus, content doesn’t create itself. Using the same content across different web pages on your website is the easy thing to do however, search engines view this duplicate content in a negative light. They favor original, unique, well-written content.
Take the time to go through your web pages and ensure that you’re not repeating yourself over and over again on different pages. If you are, think about consolidating the information into one web page or re-write the content altogether so that it is in fact different and useful.
With businesses pushing out content faster than ever, it can seem tempting to out-create your competition. However, sacrificing quality in the name of quantity just makes for crappy reading material that people will quickly escape from. When search engines see that a web page has a high bounce rate or exit rate, they file the page lower in their index so it doesn’t do you any good to produce more, if what you’re producing isn’t worth reading.
Take the time to create a content strategy that addresses questions your ideal audience would want to find the answers to. Research what your competition is doing to uncover information gaps that you can supply the info for. Create quality pieces that inform and engage.
Local SEO is a great way for small businesses to leverage their location to show up in search results when potential customers are using their mobile phones to find services within their vicinity. By focusing on the fact that their offering is available within “x” city limits, businesses that make use of local SEO hone in on finding customers who are most likely to use their services. Optimizing your website for local search is pertinent for those hoping to gain traffic both on the web and in their doors (supposing you own a brick and mortar location.)