SEO 101: AN INTRODUCTION TO IMPROVING YOUR SEARCH ENGINE RANKING

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving. We think that’s a really good thing.

Google, and the other search engines are getting smarter about who they are ranking and why. The algorithms are more complex and sophisticated, making it harder to cheat the system using “black hat” SEO tactics, which was a little bit like buying snake oil that made your life better for a short time before really unpleasant chickens came home to roost and website traffic built on digital smoke and mirrors took a dump.

While a variety of companies which deserved better suffered the consequences of Google’s crackdown on black-hat SEO, the ever-improving algorithms are great news for every marketer or business interested in building digital properties the right way.

Unfortunately, of all digital marketing strategies, SEO is the most complex, but perhaps the most important.

Without investing a lot of time learning SEO strategies and keeping up with the changes at Google and other search firms, it can be extremely daunting trying to figure out where to even begin.

Maybe we can help.

Let’s take a high-level look at the state of SEO in 2022.

When thinking about SEO, I divide it into two categories:

  1. Best practices
  2. SEO strategy

Both are important and serve a unique purpose in search rankings. Let’s dive into both.


Best Practices

When I say “Best practices,” I mean all the tiny little details people may overlook. You might hear people in the industry describe this type of SEO as “dead” or “no longer important.” I think they’re wrong.

Meta data — Titles, descriptions and keywords for each page on your site. In the past, this was primarily what Google used to determined how to rank sites. Today, it’s important because it determines what your listing says when appearing in organic search results. If you do any Adwords (pay per click) marketing, this can factor into your quality score also. 

Sitemap — Sitemaps are necessary to help search engines navigate your site and index the content. It’s the thing that helps them understand how a particular website is structured.

It makes it easier for the search engines to understand who you are, what you offer, and where on your site the content lives which they will share with people searching for relevant information. I see way too many sites without a sitemap. It’s baffling.

Footer — Construct a clean, easy-to-read footer. It should help both users and search engines identify your site’s content, and is an opportunity to add internal links to your website.

Spelling and grammar — Spell things correctly. Check twice. Poor spelling and grammar will adversely affect SEO.

Webmaster Tools — Create an account and submit XML sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. (Bing will cover you on Yahoo as well.) This will help search engines index your site faster, and open up a ton of other beneficial features and reporting capabilities for your site’s SEO health.

In addition, link all you Google products together. Google Analytics should be connected to your webmaster accounts, your Google Ads account, and vise versa. 

Internal linking — Make sure you have internally linked everything that makes sense. If you mention SEO on a page and have a page designated for SEO, link to it. Make sure to use proper anchor text for links.

Example:

NOT awesome: “We specialize in SEO services. To read more, click here.”

Totally awesome: “We specialize in SEO services.”

You should not use the same anchor text for every keyword on your site.

URL structure — Make URLs clean and search-friendly. If you are selling a Samsung TV, model SAM-1234, make the product detail page www.electronicstore.com/tv/samsung/SAM-1234, or something along those lines. Just make sure it’s clean and identifies the page path and on-page content. This benefits both users and search engines. 

HTTPS – Secure your site with an SSL certificate, it matters.

Local search listing — If you have a physical retail location, or many physical retail locations, set up a Google My Business Listing and a Bing Places for Business Listing. This is critical. If you are not a retail business, this still applies. It applies even if you do not list a physical location on your listing. This will help you rank when someone is looking for you, or locally when they are searching for products or services you offer. 

There are other items as-well that could fall into this category, but this gives you an idea. 


SEO Strategy

Now let’s move into ranking strategy in 2021. The real meat and potatoes of organic search ranking.

Content marketing strategy — Building valuable, unique content is a key part of successful SEO strategies in 2021. Engaging users through compelling content through words, video and social media engagement holds a lot of weight.

This is more of a marathon than a sprint, and the juice is worth the squeeze. Invest in your site’s content. Update regularly because the search engines value and reward “freshness,” leverage social media to drive engagement and encourage social sharing, incorporate video on your website, solicit customer reviews, and own your niche.

It all boils down to this: BE HELPFUL. If you create content that helps people learn more about your business’ products or services that can help them make decisions or solve problems, then people will use it, people will share it, and the search engines will notice.

Link building strategy — Building a solid content marketing strategy and link building go hand in hand. The search engines look at how many links are pointing to your site and where they are coming from. Please don’t ever purchase links for SEO purposes. It falls squarely in the “black hat” SEO category, and search engines like Google will punish your site for it. Google is actually shutting sites down without warning for not “no following” paid links. If you receive money or other benefits for links on your site, “NoFollow” it. If you are paying to have links on someone else’s site, they should be “NoFollowing” it, meaning it holds no SEO weight. There are certain link building strategies you can take, but building engaging content people want to digest and share is the smart play. Focus on link quality over link quantity.

Optimize your local business listings — It goes beyond just having a listing on Google and Bing. You need to optimize it.

  • Capture reviews – Set up a strategy to proactively capture reviews. Good review and ratings drive more traffic, and build trust. In addition, reviews help Google understand what your site is about. 
  • Add services, images, and information about your business. This helps Google understand who you are and what you do, which helps ensure your listing shows up when it is supposed to.  

Invest in site speed – There are a lot of factors that contribute to site speed, for example where your site is hosted, how optimized the images are, caching, and many more. Use a tool like Google Page Speed to understand how you’re your site is, and continually improve the areas that need work. 

Keyword optimization — You should first identify the keywords that are most relevant and important to your business. Then you should identify what variations of those keywords or phrases drive the largest amount of search volume.

Example: If you’re selling house cleaning services, identify the most searched keywords relating to those services. You may refer to your business as a “house cleaning service,” but discover through keyword research that “maid service,” or “home cleaning business,” or “residential cleaning” have more search volume and hold much more potential for your business. There are some good tools out there which will help you find this information. I personally use and like Google Keyword Planner. Work those researched and optimized keywords into your meta data, content strategy and anchor links, and you’ll see your website traffic continue to climb.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

  • Don’t “keyword stuff” your site. Ever. Don’t just cram keywords into pages over and over again in an attempt to somehow “game” or “trick” Google into ranking your page higher. 1. Google is pretty much smarter than people now, and 2. Google will flag those page as spam, which totally defeats the purpose.
  • Don’t buy or place advertisements on your site without “NoFollow” tags on them.
  • Don’t steal content and try to pawn it off as your own. Be original and engaging. Share other compelling content and give credit to its creators.
  • Don’t overuse the same anchor text for your site’s keywords.

I hope this helps you better understand how to improve your website rankings for Google, Bing, and other search engines. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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