S. E. O. To some, these letters might as well be UFO, considering the level of mystery and elusiveness that surrounds the entire concept of SEO and what it means to optimize your website. Let’s peel back the curtain a little bit, though, and hopefully tear down the scary façade that SEO presents to so many people trying to make a name for themselves in the crazy world of web.
First things first: What does SEO even mean? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is a set of activities both on-site and off-site that attempt to improve a website’s ranking in search engine results.
But what are those activities, you ask? Well, that’s a great question, and the answer to it is ever changing, and ever mysterious. There is no published list out there that gives a definitive and complete checklist of all the activities that can be done to optimize your website and improve your search engine rankings. There are, however, a lot of activities that are known to be effective SEO boosters, and those are the activities that agencies perform for their SEO clients. While it’s best to leave hardcore SEO work to web professionals, there are a few things that you can do on your own website that can help give you a little boost in SEO, without dishing out cash for a full-blown SEO campaign.
Here is a short checklist of action items you can take to get started self-optimizing your website:
1. Determine Target Keywords
When thinking of the keywords you want to target, you need to get into the mind of your customer base. Think to yourself, “If I were searching for my goods/services, what would I type into Google?”
If you sell tractor parts, your keyword may need to be “tractor parts” or “tractor repair.” If you provide plumbing, you may want your keywords to be “plumbing services” or “toilet emergency please help.” Okay just kidding about that last one, but you get the idea. Whatever you think your customers might be typing into Google, you want to optimize your website for those words.
2. Use Keywords Strategically
It used to be that SEO was determined primarily by your heavy usage of the targeted keywords. Over time, search engines like Google realized that by rewarding sites for “keyword stuffing” and simply cramming their keywords into the content as much as possible, they were allowing sites to show up high in the rankings that weren’t actually all that helpful to site visitors.
Google has changed their approach and now values relevant, useful, authoritative, and user-friendly websites far more than the sites that simply throw their keyword in every chance they get. It’s important to still make a concerted effort to use your exact keyword, but don’t use it excessively. Making your pages readable and useful for humans is much a more effective approach to optimize your website, rather than trying to write for the sake of search engines.
3. Include Links Throughout Content
One important factor for SEO is having your on-site content linking to other pages. These links can be internal (meaning they lead to other pages on your website) as well as external (meaning they lead to other websites).
When writing your content, try to include links to other relevant pages on your site. Links connect your website to other, related content, which helps establish credibility and trustworthiness. When Google sees your page linked to other high-quality and helpful webpages, it begins to see your site as an authoritative resource for the given subject and in turn it will optimize your website for the given topics and keywords.
4. Include Images Throughout Content
Including images on your website pages is really helpful for SEO, but it also simply makes your site easier to read. Especially on text-heavy pages, it’s important to break up the monotony with relevant images that help convey your message.
When you upload these images to insert into your site, make sure you name the image file with your keywords included. If the page is optimized for the word “emergency plumbing,” then perhaps upload an image of your plumbing truck or your plumber working on a sink and title the image “emergency-plumbing.jpg,” as opposed to “img475362.jpg” because, yes, Google even pays attention to small things like that! Optimize your website for the desired keywords in the big things AND the little things – as sometimes those little things will make a big difference in your rankings.
5. Include Target Keywords in URL’s
On most website content management systems, you have control over the contents of each webpage’s URL. It’s really important to include your keywords in your URL’s, as it’s one of the first components of your website that Google sees as it crawls through the web looking for relevant search results.
For instance, you don’t want your URL to read: www.example.com/a3x7yth9058
Instead, you want it to read something like: www.example.com/emergency-plumbing-iowa-city
You can already tell just from reading the URL what that page is about and whether or not it’s relevant to your search term (which, if your search term was “emergency plumbing iowa city,” then it is clearly relevant).
We at Big Imprint put this to practice across our website also. For instance, links like www.bigimprint.com/website-design-work-iowa-city-portfolio/ and www.bigimprint.com/web-design-marketing-team-big-imprint/ tell you what exactly you’ll be seeing on the page, while also utilizing the keywords we wish to target.
There are a plethora of other activities and steps that you can take on your website to continue to make it as optimized as possible, but this short list is a good place to start if you’re just getting into it for the first time and it don’t want to spend a ton of time and money.
If you are looking to take a major leap in SEO, you may want to hire professional help. While the steps listed above are a good starting place, you may want to bring in professionals if you’re in a competitive market and really need to try and stand out. There are a lot of things that agencies can do on-site and off-site that will help you increase in the rankings more quickly, plus they typically track your keywords and make adjustments accordingly so you are able to see that the campaign is working.