April 9, 2016

Breakdown: What is SEO?

SEO: Search Engine Optimization – Where your website ranks in the list of search engine results when relevant keywords are searched.

In website design SEO is a little bit of everything. It used to be that you set your keywords, title, and description in small section in the header of your page and you were good to go. The problem with such a simplistic system though is that it was easy to exploit and made it so the search results were not exactly relevant to your search terms.

Today’s SEO practices still include setting your keywords, however if that’s all you to do optimize your website you will likely not appear in the first 30 results of a search engine. So if you’re looking to improve your on-site SEO take a look below and learn what aspects (in no particular order) are affecting your website.

 

Keywords – Setting keywords for each of your pages is still a pretty big deal. Search engines have programs (called bots) that search through your pages and catalog the content it finds. If you don’t establish your keywords it then becomes the bot’s job to try and figure out what your page is all about. This can lead to incorrect information and a low search ranking. When you establish keywords on your page a bot will view them first and then scan your content to see if it matches your keyword. If your content matches the keyword it will positively affect your ranking and if it doesn’t it will negatively affect your ranking. For best results, choose anywhere between 2 & 5 keywords and make sure they are relevant to the page you are optimizing.

Title – The title of your page is what appears on the tab at the top of your browser. It is also what will show up in search results when your keyword has been searched. A good page title is between 35~65 characters with your most relevant keyword within the first 5 words.

Description – The description of your page will show up in the search results below the title and tells the viewer what your page is about. Your description should be between 150~160 words and should contain your most relevant keyword.

URL – The url is the link users will click to reach your page. Include your keyword in your url and separate words with a hyphen for best results. Example: www.yoursite.com/relevant-keywords.html

Sitemaps and Errors – An XML sitemap is a complete index of your website’s urls in a specific format. I won’t go into the specifics of how to create a sitemap, however I will go over it’s importance on your SEO. The first thing a sitemap does for you is ensures that all of your pages are being indexed by search engines, if a page is not indexed it has no chance of turning up in search results. The second thing it does is allows you to view errors. When you upload your website to Google or Bing you can use their dashboard to view dead or missing pages – which can negatively affect your SEO.

Domain Age – While you can’t necessarily change the age of your domain, it’s still a factor that will affect your SEO. The longer a domain name has been around the more credibility it has in the eyes of search engines. This will naturally improve in time, but it’s important to understand this if you are ever thinking about changing your domain name.

Site Speed – This is a more recent implementation with search engines. Essentially the slower your website is the worse the user experience. So it stands to reason that the faster the website is the better the user experience. Search engines want to provide it’s users the best experience with the most relevant results.

Mobile Compatability – Again, this is a more recent practice with search engines that goes back to user experience. The number of people using smartphones and tablets to search/view websites is growing and websites that can accommodate their smaller screen sizes will do better in search results.

Link Building – This is arguably the most complex area of SEO. To break it down, the more websites that include a link to your website from theirs the better. But it’s not that simple, you want to make sure that the website linking to yours is credible, relevant, and popular. Links from highly trusted websites will boost your credibility (universities, government websites and non-profit organizations). Links from websites similar to yours will increase your relevancy. Links from popular websites will increase your popularity.

Accurate Information – Search engines want to provide it’s users with accurate information. It stands to reason that if your company is displayed on 10 websites and the address or phone number is wrong on 5 of them the search engine can no longer provide the user accurate information, therefore negatively affecting your ranking. If any facet of your business changes (from your logo to your address) it is important to update third party listing pages (Yelp, Angie’s List ect). The easiest way to find these pages is perform a search of your business or domain name and click all results.

Competition – Last but not least is the amount of competition your website has for any particular search terms. Think of it in terms of a pond and an ocean. The pond represents your town or city and the ocean represents the country. If you are a goldfish, people in your pond are more likely to find you when looking for you. It’s best to start building your website for a small area and then eventually branching out to larger areas.

 

Useful Tools

Google Adwords Keyword Planner – You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, see how a list of keywords might perform, and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together. https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner

Meta Tag Analyzer & Keyword Density – You can check your meta tags and their relevancy as well as your keyword density. http://www.seocentro.com/

Site Speed & Mobile Compatability Check – View how your site performs and how to improve. http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ & https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Backlink Check – Check who’s linking to you. http://www.webseoanalytics.com/free/seo-tools/backlink-analysis.php

 

 

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Date

April 9, 2016

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Staci