Search engine optimization, or SEO, is such a loaded term that causes confusion, anxiety and heartache for a lot of businesses.
Businesses want to rank well on Google search results, but they don’t know how to make that happen. They are mystified by the concept of SEO because it can be rather technical.
But, SEO doesn’t have to be quite so complicated.
In fact, last week I shared the stage at a conference with my good friend and colleague, Ross Jones at 2theTop Design. We both talked about blogging and the power of content marketing. But what I loved about Ross’ presentation is that he broke down SEO in a way that was easy to understand.
He asked the audience:
“Does your content deserve to rank?”
It’s an important question that many businesses fail to ask. Businesses want to rank on the first page of Google, but they don’t give much thought about whether their content is worthy of being there in the first place.
Google’s SEO Advice
Did you know that Google actually tells you how to create a “Google-friendly” site?
Ross suggested that if you want to optimize your website, you should pay attention to the SEO tips that Google provides.
To determine whether your content deserves to rank, you should make sure you follow these three tips from Google:
1. Give visitors the information they’re looking for.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s an important consideration that often gets lost on people. Far too often we want to write what it’s important to us. However, if you want to be found on Google, you have to focus on providing content that your audience wants.
After all, Google’s number one job is to deliver the most relevant information when someone conducts a search.
This does not mean stuffing your website
with keywords. In fact, Google will penalize you if you do that. Instead, you must deliver high-quality content that is useful, valuable and answers the questions that people have.
How do you do this? Here are some ideas:
- Write a blog. It’s harder and harder for a website to stand out and get found without generating regularly updated content. A blog is the best way to do that. If you’re not blogging, start now.
- Answer your customer’s questions. I talked a lot about this in our recent post about blog topics.
Focusing on answering the top questions people have in your industry is a great way to make sure your content gets found.
- Conduct keyword research. There are a number of tools you can use to conduct research on the words and phrases people are using to search Google. Or, you can use Google’s autocomplete tool as a clue for the most popular search terms around a topic.
- Create in-depth content on your topic. Google suggests creating a “helpful, information-rich site.” So, make sure your content is thorough and comprehensive. How can you make your website or blog the go-to resource in your industry? Doing that will help you rank well.
2. Make sure other sites link to yours.
Sadly, this is where most businesses and “SEO gurus” get in trouble. You see, the problem is that many people take this idea too far and will go to great lengths to get as many links as possible to their website.
And, sometimes, in an effort to get lots of links, they engage in some pretty spammy SEO practices to make it happen.
Ever seen poorly written blog comments that sound like a kindergartner or robot wrote them?
This is a black-hat SEO practice geared to juice your rankings on Google.
But, that is a big no-no. In fact, Google can recognize when people are using these practices and tell the difference between someone legitimately linking to a website and someone who is placing links in lots of weird places.
If you read Google’s tips, they suggest creating “natural links” to your website instead.
Here are some ideas about how to do this:
- Start with valuable content. Before you can get links, you must create valuable content that people want to share and reference.
- Ask for links when appropriate. Think about natural ways you can ask for links. For instance, if you speak at an event, ask if the organization can link to your website.
- Write guest content. Guest posting or contributing to other publications is a great way to expand your reach and create natural opportunities for other sites to link to yours.
- Use media relations. Getting press coverage can also create opportunities for snagging powerful links. For example, Ross talked about a client who had an interview with the BBC. Because they had created some strong content that went along with the interview topic, the BBC was willing to link to it.
3. Make your site easily accessible.
According to Ross, this tip is about making sure that your website’s Architecture has the proper infrastructure to help your content rank where it deserves. By default, architecture is a little more technical in nature and might require some assistance.
But, here’s the premise:
Build your website in a way that’s easy for Google and your visitors to understand.
Google reads websites in text. So, it’s important that all of your content has text associated with it so it can read and index your content appropriately.
Although a multimedia flash introduction on your homepage might seem cool, Google can’t read that because it is not text. Likewise, if your site is just a bunch of images, Google will struggle with that as well.
It’s important to make sure your website is built in a way that makes it easy for Google to crawl it.
Another component to this is creating a logical link structure that both Google and users understand. The idea is to make your content easy for everyone to find.
Although this isn’t mentioned in this section of Google’s tips, it’s also important to make sure your website is mobile friendly. As you may know, Google recently announced that they reward sites that are optimized for the mobile experience.
In other words, if someone is conducting a search on a mobile device, websites that are optimized for phones and tablets will rank higher on Google.
If you’re not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool to check.
Optimizing Your Website for Search
Is there more to optimizing your website than this?
But, these three basic tenets should be the foundation of your efforts and it’s a great place to get started. After all, if you want to rank well on Google, it pays to listen to Google
to make sure you get it right.
What questions do you have about search engine optimization?