Search engine optimization (SEO) is often sold as an expensive and time-consuming service, but many websites can easily improve their search engine results by following a few basic tips.
The first thing to do is figure out your unique value proposition. What does your website or webpage offer that cannot be found elsewhere? The unique value proposition should be communicated so clearly that a visit to the home page can understand it within the first few seconds.
When crafting your site, it can be very useful to look at historical search trends to see what people are looking for. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trends can give you this sort of data. Once you have decided what makes your website unique and found the relevant keyword phrases that people actually use, the next step is to integrate them into the site.
Search engine rankings are determined by hundreds of factors, but there are three important ones that are within the webmaster’s control:
- The search phrase needs to appear somewhere in the text of the page. It is not a good idea to overdo it with excessive repetition. The content of the page should focus on its most essential search phrases. It’s a good idea to include variations of the keyword such as plurals or stems (i.e., fish, fishing, fishes). You can also use synonyms. Google has developed the ability to understand the meaning of words, so the exact word choice is less important than it used to be. Therefore, write naturally.
- The search phrase should appear in the HTML title tag at the top of the code. Most browsers allow you to view the source code by pressing CTRL-U. Look for the title and make sure it is descriptive: <title>Cape Cod Fishing Trips – Wellfleet, MA</title>.
- The website should have links pointing to it. Links within the website are good, as are links from outside the site. Any sort of promotion that helps increase the digital footprint of a website will tend to attract more links. Having the target search phrases present within the linked text is more helpful than having a link with nondescriptive text like “click here.” The only type of links to avoid are what Google calls “unnatural links”. These are links you might acquire or purchase primarily to influence Google, rather than to draw in visitors.
Once the content of a website has been changed to include the right keywords, it is also a good idea to perform a technical review of the site to make sure search engines can successfully access all the pages, and to learn whether they have found any problems. Both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools provide comprehensive diagnostics. Simply log in and check each screen, and then follow any tips provided.
A frequent issue with un-optimized websites is a lack of unique meta descriptions. Meta descriptions do not directly influence rankings, but they may appear on the search results page and could influence whether people click your listing or some other listing. Having good meta descriptions, and a different one on every page rather than the same one repeated throughout the site, helps Google understand that all your pages are unique, rather than duplicates.
SEO for New Sites
If your website is new, it may take several or many months before your site will rank for anything other than its name. You should focus on attracting high-quality links from other trustworthy websites.
Submitting your home page to Google Webmaster Tools may speed up indexing. Sign up, register your site, and then navigate to Google Search Console > (your site) > Diagnostics > Fetch as Googlebot. Leave the input box blank, and click “Fetch.” Once the page has been fetched, click the link to submit the page and all pages linked from it to the index.
Registering for Google Webmaster Tools allows Google to email you helpful advice from time to time or a warning if they discover something wrong with your site. If you receive a warning email, be sure to investigate what might be causing the problem.
Finally, you should install a tool such as Google Analytics to measure results. This will allow you to identify which pages are most interesting to your audience and produce more content that is relevant to their needs.
About the Author
After graduating from Yale with two degrees in Computer Science, Jonathan Hochman set up his own consulting company in 1990. He has been an Internet marketer since 1994.