5 Secrets of Dead Simple SEO
- July 17, 2013 5:00 pm
- Web Hosting
SEO experts spend months poring over SEO techniques. But there are plenty of small tweaks you can make in a fraction of the time.
The DIY approach will never replace the expertise of a dedicated analyst, but it could start you off on the right path, making it easier for an SEO consultant to take over in the future. In fact, these simple tweaks are the foundation of most small business websites.
Here are five easy optimization tips you may not have thought about yet. All of the advice is aimed at individuals and small businesses that don’t yet have the budget for an all-out professional SEO campaign.
1. Research Creatively
The first stage in any optimization project is to do valid research and set the foundations based on that data. Normally, this means identifying the keywords people are using in search.
The word “research” makes this task sound boring, lengthy, and uninteresting. In fact, research needn’t be a nightmare. Google has its own easy-to-use Keyword Tool, one of many similar tools on the web. But don’t neglect old-fashioned research methods as well:
● Ask customers how they found your site. Did they click a link? What did they search for? Try sending a survey.
● Ask friends what they’d search for if they were looking for a company in your niche. How do their ideas compare with yours? You may be surprised.
● Ask peers to describe your service in a single sentence. What are the common themes in their replies?
Research doesn’t have to be boring, costly, or time-consuming: you can be creative without cutting quality. Supplement your conversations with conventional keyword research and you’ll have a complete picture in no time.
2. Future-Proof: Use Structure
SEO is about user experience. Google is especially keen on making content easy to find. That means you have to make an effort to present your website properly and structure the data within.
Fortunately this isn’t really a big deal: it’s a case of getting your templates right from day one.
Once - if you were lucky - you could dump a good piece of content into a page and publish it. Now, the stakes are higher, and the techniques web developers use are more involved. With the advent of HTML 5, layout and structure are more important than ever. New tags and techniques are slowly creeping into web development, and soon, you’ll simply have to use these tags to get noticed.
Here’s an easy, quick structure action plan:
● Make sure every single element on your page can be understood by Google. Use alt tags for images, for example. (This also helps with accessibility.)
● Use headings properly. Your article should have one H1 tag - not three. Conventions are there for a reason, so take advantage of them and get into good habits.
● Create a site map. Use video site maps for multimedia sites or auto-generated site maps in CMS software.
● If relevant, use rich snippets on your site. Use rich snippets to augment your search engine listing with ratings, author information, and more.
3. Focus on Content
With the basics in place, it’s time to publish some content for Google to index. This is definitely one area where you can’t afford to cut corners, yet it’s often sidelined. But without content, there’s nothing to optimize, so it’s absolutely crucial to get it right.
By “content”, we normally mean regular blog posts or longer articles like the one you’re reading now. The approach you take will vary, depending on your own industry and the types of content you want to create. If text content isn’t enough, try adding video and audio to the mix.
To get Google’s attention, you’ll need to publish content that is crafted, informative, and unique.
● Whatever you do, don’t copy, don’t scrape, and don’t spin. Your readers will know what’s worth reading, and what isn’t.
● Spammy content is now well and truly out. Don’t listen to anyone who advises you to publish sub-standard articles.
● Keyword ratios are no longer important. Go for relevant phrasing and long tail keywords at a push.
● Write useful content. While word counts don’t matter, your content needs to be lengthy enough to impart a reasonable amount of information.
It’s crucial to publish as often as you can afford to so that you build up a readership and a positive reputation. While this may involve paying someone to help write or manage your content, it’s probably the best investment you’ll make in your optimization campaign.
4. Be Smart With Social Media
Having busy, well-maintained social media pages is great.
Quiet, neglected social media pages? Not so great.
Social media is a useful companion to optimization: it helps you to push content out, share it, get feedback, and generate traffic. But social media can also become something of a black hole, sucking in time and money and spreading limited resources too thinly to be useful.
Social media strategists have different views on the best way to handle the problem. We’d suggest being smart with your time. You don’t have to have an account on every social network; in fact, it may be best to actively avoid opening too many.
● Start off with a handful of accounts - the ones you find easier to manage. Watch your analytics and referral traffic to find out which social sites are generating visits and which ones are not.
● Measure the time you spend on each account. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted, and be aware of the “black hole” effect.
● Close down accounts that are not providing a good return on investment. Remember: investment can be time as well as money.
● Spend carefully. If social advertising isn’t working, don’t throw good money after bad.
In truth, there’s no one social networking strategy that suits everyone. It’s a matter of trial and error. But make sure social is supporting your optimization project, not hindering it or slowing it down.
As far as we’re concerned, the only must-have is a Google+ page (for the Authorship benefits). Everything else is optional.
5. Stay Up-to-Date
SEO information is abundant (and, naturally, easy to find since it’s optimized so well).
However, SEO is a constantly evolving industry. Information quickly goes out of date, and today’s recommended practices may become tomorrow’s penalty magnets.
Search engines are continually tweaking their ranking algorithms and penalizing sites that try to game the system. It’s up to you to stay one step ahead:
● Only refer to advice that’s new. If a piece is more than six months old, it may no longer apply.
● Never take a shortcut, even if it’s presented as a magic cure-all for your optimization project. If it feels like cheating, Google probably feels the same way.
● Beware of outdated practices. Things like buying links, hiding links, or stuffing keywords into content don’t work anymore.
● If in doubt, consult a pro. They know what they’re doing, and could save you a lot of time and money.
Conclusion: The Golden Rule
SEO is all about making your website appealing to search engines (machines, effectively). But SEO revolves around the needs of humans.
There’s a lot of information about optimization, but don’t be overwhelmed. It’s all based on one simple, golden rule:
Google’s aim is to present relevant information to human readers. SEO is the mechanism by which we make that information easier for Google to find.
Over-optimizing never did anyone any favours. Instead of concentrating solely on strategy and stats, know your audience, please them, and help Google understand where to find the content you’ve worked so hard on.
From there, the sky’s the limit.
Clair Broadley writes for WhoIsHostingThis.com.