What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your website ranked in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
If you have a website about “dog training”, for example, and you type into Google, Yahoo, or Bing “how to train my dog” … where does your website appear?
The list of results on page one of Google, followed by the next page, and the next, are called the Search Engine Results Pages. Ideally, you want your “dog training” website to be on the first or front page of Google for a search like “how to train my dog”. To be honest, you’d like it in the first position of the first page.
But how are you going to do that? For a simple search like “how to train my dog”, there are more than 7 million results in Google. To be honest, I’m surprised there are that few. How are you going to get your website on the front page?
Broadly there are three boxes to tick, to get the best possible result .
- Keywords – finding the keywords people would use who are searching for your topic, and who are ideally ready to buy something, or consume your content
- On-Page Optimization – the various elements in your site which make your site most visible, and your topic most understandable to the search engines like Google
- Off-Page Optimization – how to build the authority of your site in the “eyes” of Google, so that it thinks your site is the best one to answer these questions by searchers.
On top of this, Google especially will from time to time change how they recognize each of these elements. These are called “Google Updates”, on of the most recent and famous was the “Panda” update, where some well-seasoned websites simply vanished from the SERPs.
Mastering SEO can men endless amounts of free traffic as web searchers discover your site as they search for content, products, or answers to their problems. It is worth trying to master SEO to get hold some of the estimated 3.5 Billion web searches per day.
Try to understand the mind of your prospective customer or client. Some people refer to this as a Customer Avatar, or a Buyer’s Persona. Either way, you are trying to think like your customer, and especially what they might type into a search engine to get to a resource like your webite.
Try to think in terms of “buyer’s keywords” or “long tail” keywords. If you are selling dog training, it might be difficult to compete for a keyword like, “how to train my dog”.
However, you might be able to compete for “how to train my dog to heel”, “how to train my alsatian to sit”, or “pekinese dog tricks guide”. The interesting thing about webs searches is that many fewer people type into a search engine “how to train my dog” than type in a more specific or long-tail keyword search.
You can check how many searches and how competitive the searches are using Google Keyword Planner, for which you need to open a free account. There are also various paid solutions to find these long-tail buyer’s keywords.
Once you have the keywords, use them in your content, headlines, as well as page and post titles. This leads into …
Having found your keywords, general practice is to focus one piece of content, a page or post, say, on one specific keyword.
Every page of your website should have a “title” tag. Use your keywords in these tags as they show up in the SERPs. Also use the keywords in the resulting URLs for the page/post/content.
Website pages also have “meta descriptions”. If you check your competitor’s pages, you should be able to write a more attractive description of your site incorporating your keywords. The “Yoast” SEO plugin for WordPress, as well as other WordPress SEO plugins, can help isoltae and update these tags.
You can also include these keywords in your Headings, paragraph headings and sub-headings. In html, these are highlighted to the search engines.
Write longer content to attract the search engines which love new and fresh content. For long-tail keywords, you might need an article of up to 1500 words.
Google recognizes a website’s authority the same way a university recognizes a good research paper. If lots of other university professors refer to a paper, it must be a good paper. And for Google, if lots of other websites link to your website, it must be a valuable website.
There are lots of ways to get links from other websites. You can pay for them, but Google frowns on this, and is these kind of practices that Google tries to wipe out with updates like Panda.
The best way to get links, is to write such excellent content that other websites naturally want to let their readers know about your information. You could also write Guest Posts on other blogs to link back to your website, or comment in relevant forums and link back to your website.
While there’s lots more detail on this topic, this is an overall outline of how to optimize your website for better rankings in the search engines.