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How To Optimize Your Website For The Search Engines

Most website and business owners have heard about search engine optimization (SEO). But for businesses of all sizes, from sole business owners to large corporations, SEO can seem like an impenetrable mystery. Businesses are in real danger of simply leaving SEO to chance, or even worse, accidentally doing something that will get them on Google's bad side. Others yet might give up and hire an SEO consultant, which is great if the budget is there, but can turn into a large expense that simply isn't sustainable for some businesses.

 

The fact is that businesses can't afford to ignore SEO. But what exactly is it, and how can business owners use it to make sure they get the traffic they want to their websites?

 

This video from Search Engine Land does a wonderful job of explaining SEO by using a library analogy. If web browsers are library patrons, then SEO is the indexing system that lets the search engines (or librarians) find the information the patrons are looking for.

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To put it in simple terms, search engine optimization is a way of helping search engines to catalogue a site and understand what it's about as well as how popular it is and how relevant it is to the topic at hand. Keeping this in mind is helpful for businesses who may feel lost in the sea of SEO advice out there. At heart, the aim of SEO is always to make a website attractive to search engines and help them understand what to do with it.

 

Given that Google has a huge share of the search engine market

Google Stats

making a site attractive to Google is a smart move for any business who wants to succeed. Google regularly update its search algorithms, and for business onwers it's worth taking the time to stay abreast of any changes. The effort is worth it in terms of finding out any changes that could affect how Google sees the business' website.

 

But just why does all this matter so much? Why do businesses need to focus on keeping Google happy? The simple fact of the matter is that customers who find a business via their Google rankings are just the kind of customers businesses are looking for. Statistics show that customers who find a business by organic searches on Google have a 14.6% close rate, compared to just 1.7% for leads found by outbound marketing methods such as advertising. Not only are leads from organic searches more likely to convert, businesses have also found that their highest spending customers tend to turn to organic search to find what they want.

 

At the end of the day, driving traffic from search engines is a profitable marketing tactic. That means businesses need to pay attention to SEO to make sure search engines, and especially Google, understand and index their sites in a way that will boost their rankings.

How To Optimize For Search Engines

 

Search engine optimization takes time and dedication but it doesn't need to be overly complicated. By following the nine points below, businesses can make a start on SEO that really works.

 

1. Focus On Content

 

It's been said over and over that “creating great content” is the key to effective SEO. The reason that mantra is repeated so often is because it is, quite frankly, the truth. In fact, 53% of marketers rank content creation as the most effective SEO tactic.

SEO Traffic

Organic search – where someone finds a website by uisng a search engine and then clicks through – accounts for 51% of traffic to websites. Creating great content is a powerful way to drive traffic from search engines. Relevant content helps a business rank higher in the search engines.

Natural Backlinks

Gone are the days when businesses could add the right keywords to their text and assume search engines would pick it up – and that's a good thing. Search engines these days are looking for useful and relevant content. What does that mean? It means content that is highly relevant to the business' customers and market. For example, a web design business might publish blog posts and ebooks on why good design is important when it comes to making a sale.

 

When a business publishes relevant content, visitors like it. When they like it, they share it, link back to it, and stay on the site looking for more. Google notices all of these things and catalogues the website as being a useful resource for customers in that niche, which in turn helps its rankings.

 

2. Do Keyword Research

 

Keyword stuffing (flooding a page with keywords in the hope a search engine will pick it up) is a big no. In fact that ranks as a black hat SEO technique (see point 8 below). However, keywords to still matter and here's why.

 

Search Engine Journal reports that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. That means that businesses need to ensure that when their potential customers search, the business gets found. That means doing keyword research to better understand what customers are searching for, and making sure content is created that fits will with those searches.

 

This also helps search engines to see the site as relevant.

 

3. Build Strong Backlinks

 

Search engines pay attention to backlinks when they're indexing a web site. Good quality backlinks count in a site's favor, while low quality backlinks can become a black mark against the site.

No Link Farms

Link farms, where web site owners can submit their link to be displayed with hundreds or thousands of others, used to be all the rage. These days, search engines frown on link farm links and using them can affect a business' ranking.

Quality Backlinks

Good quality links, on the other hand, boost rankings. What are good quality links? They're natural, organic sharing across the web as customers find, like and share good content. Links from other sites in the same niche or well-ranked sites also count.

 

Building strong backlinks this way takes longer as more effort is needed for both networking and content creation, but at the end of the day it benefits the business.

 

4. Make The Most Of Social

Social Media Supports SEO

Social media is fast becoming known as a powerful way to boost SEO. In fact, 76% of marketers now use social media to boost their SEO performance.

 

While social mediat activity doesn't count as much as organic search results, data from social media is still used by search engines and does have an effect on how a business ranks.

 

The key to using social media successfully for SEO lies in creating quality content (notice a theme?) that followers will want to interact with by liking, sharing and linking to. This boosts relevance and also counts when building quality backlinks

 

5. Embrace Mobile Users

Mobile Search Increase

Making a website mobile-friendly might not seem like an important SEO technique, but in fact appealing to mobile users is a must for businesses who want to rank well.

 

The reason? Mobile search is on the increase. That means that more customers are using mobile devices to search for businesses online. Once those customers click through to a business' website, it's vital that the site displays well on their mobile device.

 

If the site displays well and is easy to navigate on mobile, the customer will stay and interact with the site, and might also share content from in. This activity will be noticed by search engines who will mark the site as relevant. If the site is hard to view on mobile and the customers click away, that will count against the website when it comes to rankings.

6. Write For People Not Search Engines

 

It sounds counter intuitive, but one of the most important SEO tricks is to write natural content that will appeal to site visitors. It's a positive cycle: When visitors like what they find, they interact more, which the search engines notice. This helps boost rankings, which helps more people find the site.

 

This is also cost effective for businesses, as inbound leads (those that find the business via search, links and contents) typically cost a business 61% less money than outbound leads (those found through advertising and outreach).

White Hat SEO Examples

Writing with people in mind gives businesses many different routes through which to reach customers who will then visit, interact with and link to their site, boosting SEO performance. In fact, research shows that browsers ignore things like paid Google ads in favor of naturally found content.

 

7. Avoid Black Hat SEO

Avoid Black Hat SEO

So-called black hat SEO techniques are all techniques which businesses have used to try and boost SEO and rankings. Not all black hat users are out to pull the wool over the search engines' eyes: Sometimes well meaning website owners can use these techniques without realising they're frowned upon by search engines.

 

All of the techniques listed above are a big no for business who want to do well with SEO. Using black hat SEO techniques can lead to a lack of positive attention from search engines at the best, and penalties such as being pushed down the rankings at the worse.

 

8. Make Your Site Easy To Index

SEO Leads Close Rate

SEO's importance to a business can't be overlooked. In fact, 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page of search engine results. That means that businesses need to make sure search engine crawlers can easily index their sites.

 

Some ways business can do that include:

 

•Having a logical link structure that makes it easy to navigate from page to page.

•Always using alt text labels for images – search engines can't index images and need text to tell them what is there.

•Making sure that important information is always put in text and not in images only.

•Ensuring there are no duplicate pages.

•Make sure all content makes sense in the context of the site's main subject.

 

These simple steps can go a long way towards helping search engines index a business' site.

 

9. Be Aware Of Geographical Location

 

Last but not least, businesses need to be aware of geographical location when carrying out SEO. This is especially important for businesses that have a corresponding physical store or office, but it does also count for purely online businesses to some degree.

 

Web users pay attention to where sites and businesses are located. For example, 67% of smartphone users want ads customized via city and ZIP code, and 61% want ads customized to their immediate surroundings. 

 

Website owners need to make sure their content makes clear where they are located, and that the content is suitable for the geographic audience. For example, a Russian web page should not be in Japanese, or a British site shouldn't have its prices displayed in dollars. This is partly for the search engines, and partly in pursuit of providing highly relevant content, which in turn is liked by the search engines.

 

CONCLUSION

 

SEO can seem baffling to business website owners, but in fact it's not as complicated as it might first appear. The heart of good SEO is creating useful and relevant content that matches well with the keywords customers use when searching for a business. Another key part of SEO is building up natural backlinks from customers and other people in the same niche, rather than relying on link farms.

 

Learning SEO and keeping abreast of changes in search engines' algorithms is a learning curve, but an important one for businesses everywhere. At the end of the day, customers who find a business via organic search results tend to spend more and be worth more to the business than any other kind.

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