SEO 101 – understanding Search Engine Optimization
If you search Google for the phrase SEO, a definition is; “The process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” Immediately, it must be pointed out that SEO refers to organic (non-paid) search engine visibility. SEO 101 in a nutshell – the rest takes a lot of work.
In most instances, as there are millions of websites out there, the competition to rank highly in the search engines is fierce. Sure, everyone wants to be on page 1 of Google, but for most that is pie-in-the-sky. It’s not impossible though. I have achieved page 1 results with a lot of effort, determination and patience. That’s what it takes.
Achieving high search engine rankings is a marathon, not a race
When consulting with clients, I always inform them that SEO is a marathon. It is totally unrealistic and impossible to publish your masterpiece creation and expect the website to be on page 1 the next day, week, month…and the phone ringing non-stop as a result. It just doesn’t happen. With that being said, you can set realistic targets to get noticed if the hard work of SEO is done right from the outset. That means, as each page and post is added to your website they have been optimized for specific keywords and phrases from the get go. Many a webmaster has been lazy in this regard, failing to implement basic SEO best practice. Yes, it does take a fair amount of behind-the-scenes work. For example, your website may have fantastic images but there are no ALT tags to tell the search engine what the image is about. Sounds simple enough, and it is simple to do (though time consuming). Yet, it can make significant gains to your search visibility rankings. This being one example of many things that needs to be done.
The wise old owl always does his homework!
Common sense goes a long way
Search engines, and especially Google, look for fresh, original and compelling content. Great content is key to getting good results – the more the better. More than often, instead of getting swept up in panic inducing geek-speak and techno-gobbledygook, simple logic does wonders. From a well defined page title to balanced content that clearly defines what the title is about, will serve you well in the SEO marathon.
By balance, I mean don’t try and game the algorithm – you will get caught, penalized and only hurt yourself in the rankings. For example, if you over-use your keyword or phrase the search engines will not be happy. If you have a gazillion useless link-swapping schemes, Google will dump you! I mention Google mainly because 80% of all search is done through them.
Keep it simple but consistent. Ask yourself (as a law abiding, good citizen), what would and wouldn’t make me mad as the search schoolmaster?
Finally, and it needs to be mentioned, there is a lot of great software available to help you achieve the perfect (or almost perfect) SEO balance. I make sure I use professional software on every project I undertake.
SEO 101 checklist
- The page title (very important) describes the content and is ideally between 35 and 65 characters. If you hover your mouse over the browser tab you can see the full page title. This is also very useful to see highly ranked competitor titles.
- The keyword or phrase has been researched and well-defined and not been used on other pages in your website.
- The keyword or phrase appears in the first paragraph of the copy.
- The keyword or phrase has the correct page density (balance).
- The keyword is found in the meta description. Does the meta description compare well to high ranking competitors?
- The page has useful links to other websites and your own site.
- Page images have an ALT tag with the keyword or phrase.
- Ideally, although not always possible, the recommended minimum text should be 300 words. For minimalist design home pages (which I prefer) in particular, this is hard to apply. The rest of the website should be packed with good, relevant and on-topic information.
If you follow the rules of SEO 101, you can achieve good ranking results without driving yourself crazy. Again, and I stress, you have to keep working at it.