Getting your site to rank on search engines is a major accomplishment that can pay serious dividends. A lot of planning, trial and error and patience go into ranking your site and once you earn that distinction you need to continue to work to hold on to your place. There are lots of tips and tricks to help your site rank, and your first major hurdle is mastering SEO. This sounds intimidating, but it’s really not that bad. Here’s what you need to know about SEO to help your site rank.
At a very basic level, search engines review all of the available websites and take inventory of what’s there. When a user types words into the search box of a search engine, that search engine returns pages that should be a good fit based on the search. Lots of factors, most of which involve proprietary algorithms, go into how a search engine selects one website over another. One of the major factors is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) text.
SEO text is content that is written for websites but designed to appeal to search engine algorithms in order to help your site rank and drive traffic to your site. In the early days of search engines, SEO text simply meant plugging in your keywords as many times as possible. As the algorithms have become more sophisticated, SEO strategies have had to keep up.
Benefits of a High Site Ranking
When search engines return a list of results those findings are ranked. The closer to the top your site ranks, the more likely it will be a good fit for users. Spots at the top of the list are also more visible. You want your site to rank high because this increases the odds of visitors going to your site. This is known as organic traffic and it can help customers find your site, learn more about your business and ultimately close sales.
How to Improve Your Site Through SEO
Gone are the days of loading up your website with keywords and waiting for visitors to flood your site. Now you need an entire strategy to help ensure search engines like your site, so they will in turn feature it high up in their results. These tips can help you create an effective SEO strategy to help your site rank.
1. Original Content
It’s hard to prioritize one tip over another because all of these tips are intended to really work together to help your site rank. However, if there was one tip that mattered above everything else, it’s this one: you must publish original content. This tip matters so much, because if you drop the ball on any of the other tips that just means your site will not rank. If you mess up this tip and use content from another source (i.e. plagiarise), you may end up being penalized.
Search engines prioritize new and original content. When a search engine stumbles across duplicate content, that means identical or near identical content on different sites, the repercussions will be swift and bad. Search engines may actually remove you from the ranking if they catch you with plagiarized content on your site.
Recovering from this sort of setback can take years, so be mindful of your content before tapping the publish button. The easy solution is to run content through a tool designed to zero in on plagiarism, like Copyscape.
Even if you are completely confident your content is original it’s still a good idea to double-check. It’s possible your content may have striking similarities to something already out there. Taking the time to re-work content before it goes
2. Simplify the Formatting
Lengthy paragraphs may inhibit readers and search engines know this, meaning poor formatting will not help your site rank. The solution is to write as clearly and concisely as possible, break things into small paragraphs and use bullet points to further streamline content.
Give your content visual interest by including photos, charts, GIFs and even videos. Including multimedia will break up long, imposing articles and give readers an engaging break.
3. Give Readers Value
The thing that’s tricky about really great SEO content, is it needs to provide value to both search engines and readers. Good content should inform readers and help them better understand your products or services and make purchasing decisions. At the same time, this content also needs to show search engines that it has value, so search engines will direct users to your site.
Figuring Out the Right Amount of Value
A particular challenge when writing blog posts and website content is landing on the right length. The post needs to be long enough to clearly explain the objective, but not too long so as to lose your readers’ attention. Search engines also need some substance in order to assign value. Short posts of just a couple hundred words won’t cut it. While search engines like to see posts that run well over 1,000 words, your readers may not be on board with that.
When it comes to determining the content length and even how often to post you need a customized approach. Ideally, you want lots of content, but you need to distribute this content in easy-to-manage posts that appeal to your demographic. If your readers are willing to stick with long posts then, by all means, go for it. If your readers are more apt to bail on long posts then you need to mix things up. Feature short posts that appeal to readers, but occasionally mix in some longer posts to give search engines something to work with.
Check and Double-Check Your Text
Proofreading can be boring, but taking the time to quickly read over your posts, double-check links and make sure everything is in order is definitely worth it. This content represents your brand, so make sure it’s high-quality like the products or services you provide for your customers.
Search engines also keep a digital eye peeled for grammatical mistakes. The occasional typo isn’t a big deal, but routine errors are a problem. The main objective of search engines is to provide useful content to their users. If a search engine deems your content to be of poor quality, they will not place it in their results.
4. Implementing Keywords
When people think of SEO, usually the first thing they think of is keywords or key phrases. These are certainly an important part of an SEO strategy, but as you can see there were a few other things to cover first.
Keywords and key phrases are terms included in your text that are likely to match up with what people type into search engines. For example, if you have a site and you sell running shoes, you want to write blog posts that include words like running, shoes, sneakers, apparel and so on. This way when users type those words into a search engine, if all goes according to plan, your site will show up close to the top of the results page.
For this to work, you need to figure out which keywords to use. You want keywords that align with your product offerings but also stand out from your competition. The less competition your keywords face, the easier it will be to drive organic traffic. The good news is that there are tools, like Keyword Explorer, to help you figure out which keywords to use.
Go with an Entire Key Phrase
Don’t feel compelled to limit yourself to a keyword when a whole phrase may be a better fit and help your site rank. Long-tail keywords are short phrases of three to four words. These phrases can give your content a boost when included in the text. Appropriate long-tail keywords using the running shoe example from earlier may include running shoes, women’s running shoes, waterproof running shoes and so on. These phrases provide more details to help users zero in on exactly what they want.
The Case for Stop Words
In programming and computing terms, stop words are words that do not provide value. Stop words do provide value in written and spoken communication. Examples of stop words include a, how, the, to, who and more. Early versions of search engines ignored these words. Programmers felt these words were so common that they offered no value and if search engines had to wade through all of these useless words it would slow down the entire process. For this reason, it became common practice to omit stop words from keyphrases since search engines ignored these words anyway.
As technologies have improved search engines have learned how to cope with stop words. Including stop words appear to have no impact on how search engines interpret and rank pages and sites. Sometimes, including stop words can help clarify the meaning. A great example of this is the movie, The Notebook. If you were to Google this title and omit the stop word (‘the’) the results would just include actual notebooks. By searching the full title, stop word and all, you can find the intended results.
There are a lot more SEO tips to cover, but including everything in one blog post can be intense. Come back soon and I’ll round out my list of SEO tips to help your site rank with part two in this series. Do you have questions about part one? Suggestions for part two? Or do you want to talk about how I can help your site rank and put these tips to work for you? Whatever the case may be, reach out and let me know what you need!