When you’re running a business, you know that to be successful you have to get your product out into the world. Then you have to figure out how to attract the right viewers. In order to accomplish that goal, you likely have a website, social media accounts, and email lists as part of your digital marketing strategy. Clear SEO principles will allow your website to be discovered more easily by potential customers and clients.
To make your website as visible as possible, you’ll need a solid SEO strategy to help drive search traffic to your door.
But do you know the best ways to leverage SEO principles to increase your reach?
How search engine optimization works
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to helping search engines understand and present content. Google and other search engines utilize bots to view, categorize, and index content across the internet.
The information they gather as they “crawl” through your pages helps them know where to place your content in the vast internet library.
You can think of these bots as librarians (who have their own multi-faceted and complex way of ranking content) and the search results they provide as the card catalog.
Search engine optimization is a critical first step in guiding customers to your website. Using curated SEO keywords relevant to your topic will influence your search engine ranking. It can ultimately determine where your webpage ends up in the search results.
A solid grasp of these basic SEO principles will help you develop a digital marketing plan so that you show up in an organic search. In turn, this will drive more valuable traffic to your site.
The higher your ranking, the better (obviously) and the more relevant traffic you will receive.
Search engine optimization is a complex puzzle that requires patience and persistence.
What factors influence Google search engine rankings?
Experts agree that there’s no sure-fire, silver bullet way to rank first on the Google search results. But learning about these SEO fundamentals and best practices will help improve your odds and help you get you there over time.
Google is the most popular search engine worldwide and holds a market share of 85%.
To get organic traffic, you’ll want to cater to Google’s search engine algorithms.
Following their standard SEO principles can help your page make it into the rankings.
Google’s algorithm is a complex, ever-changing beast that often frustrates even the savviest of SEO know-it-alls. It’s a long game that requires patience, persistence, and consistency.
Cracking Google’s algorithm
When Google uses its bots “crawl” your web page content, they are looking for a few things that will help their algorithm determine how relevant your page is to search queries.
- Is the content you provide high quality?
- Is your content unique? Or do you have multiple pages with low-value and duplicate content?
- Have you worked on link building?
- Is your page linked to other trusted websites? And how many?
- Does it contain keywords that meet the search intent.
These things, along with your
- website’s loading speed,
- your mobile version’s optimization, and
- how people interact with your page (do they stay, or do they bounce and look for something more relevant to their needs?)
will all factor into how Google ranks your content.
You want to make your site as easy to navigate as possible. Designing your site structure so it is flat, which means your navigation and web pages are all on one level instead of buried two or three links deep, will help search engines (and visitors) navigate it.
Make sure the site structure you implement clearly leads visitors to where they want to go. If a visitor has a hard time understanding how to navigate through your website, chances are that search engines will too.
Meta descriptions are another good opportunity to increase your SEO. A meta description provides the text that populates under your listing in the Google search engine results.
While meta descriptions can be any length, most search results will limit the snippet to 160 characters, so it’s best to keep them that short and to the point and make sure to utilize the SEO keyword you’ve chosen for that page.
A meta description is a valuable opportunity to generate organic traffic because it gives viewers a chance to understand the purpose of your website and see if your content matches their search intent.
In the image below, you can see that the meta description is displayed below the web page link and describes what the page is about.
Metadata is prime real estate in search engine results. You want to make sure you utilize it well and include your keyword for optimal visibility.
Consider how your title tags come into play when you create pages.
Search engine algorithms will analyze your headlines to detect the subject and then use that information to categorize your content and determine your place in the search rankings. Keywords play a major role in that respect.
You can use internal links can keep visitors on your page longer and reduce your bounce rate. Longer visits to your page show Google and other search engines that you have valuable content that visitors like to engage with.
Linking internally helps your audience find other web pages that you’ve created that will further increase their knowledge on a topic that they’re already interested in learning.
Not only are internal links beneficial to your visitors, but they also allow Google’s web crawlers to move from page to page on your website and discover the site structure.
If it’s difficult to navigate through your site, it won’t just mean poor rankings — it could mean your pages get left out of Google search results altogether.
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink and must be relevant to the page to which your link directs.
While phrases like “Click now” and “Read more” are commonly used, they are terrible for search engine optimization. They are nonspecific and don’t give search engines the context they need.
Instead, for example, if you’re writing about SEO principles, then you should use a specific keyword related to that topic as your anchor text. This way your reader (and the search engines) know what kind of page you are linking to your site.
Pay attention to your URL structure
Even how you compose your URL can affect your positioning within the search results. URL structure should be simple and keyword-rich.
You’ll want to include your primary keyword in the URL, so be specific when naming your webpage and creating your URL. The URL, just like the title tag, should reflect and reveal the content of the page.
Create content based on keyword research
Utilizing the right keywords for your content is necessary to connect with users in their buyer’s journey. Before creating your content, it is a great idea to research your topic before you start.
You’ll be able to see:
- what keywords other websites are using to rank for your topic, and
- discover keywords that you might not have considered that will improve your search engine optimization.
Taking advantage of keyword tools will help you analyze the competition level and intent for your chosen keywords. It will enable you to find longer, more specific long tail keywords.
These longtail keywords have a better chance to increase your organic search results because of their specificity. Often these longer keywords will also be less competitive, making it easier to rank for them.
Here are plenty of free and paid keyword tools on the market.
Semrush, Moz, Wordstream, and even Google let you look at how your competitors are ranking. This will allow you to see how competitive it will be for you to throw your hat in the ring for that word or phrase.
Solid keyword research can not only help you determine what users are searching for but can also give you insight into what will influence someone to click on your link when it appears in the search results.
Effective keyword research
There are lots of keyword tools that can help you find the best way to reach your visitors. Knowing the semantics of how someone actually searches for your topic and what words they are using in the search box can make all the difference in how you rank in the search engines.
Search intent plays a large role in how they approach the subject.
Are they in the informational stage, where they just want to know about a topic?
Or have they moved forward into the commercial exploration of the subject, where they are seeking to understand and compare products or services?
Maybe they are ready to make a purchase and follow through with a transaction.
The words they search with can clue you in to their overall intent and help you create content tailored for that purpose to meet their needs.
Having a blog post that is informational, such as a “how to” post will attract a different user because of its keyword intent than one that is designed for a reader who is investigating in order to make a purchase and looking for reviews and opinions.
According to Statista, 61% of Google searches are done via mobile devices. So ensuring the mobile version of your website is responsive and adheres to SEO principles should be another essential part of your SEO strategy.
Keep in mind that your mobile users want to have the same experience on their phones that they experience when visiting your web page from a computer. Your web pages should appear the same on your desktop and mobile device.
Their experience on your website, on whatever platform they use to access it, factors into how Google ranks it in the search results.
You don’t want to be stuck on page 6 because your mobile site is slow to load.
There are tools, like Google’s mobile-friendly test, that can help ensure that your mobile site is up to par. Performing these tests will help you identify areas that need improvement for your mobile visitors and improve your on page SEO.
Size matters when you use image files on your web page.
Upload image files that are optimized for the web so that they do not impede how quickly your page loads. Larger images can cause search engines to view your page negatively because of a slow response time.
Alt attributes are important accessibility tools that will keep your page ADA compliant and also improve your SEO.
When implemented, alt tags are displayed when a visitor hovers over an image.
Providing alt tags for an image allows visitors using screen readers to “see” the image and understand its context in the content, thanks to the assistance of accessibility tools. You should provide an accurate, readable description and include relevant keywords.
Implementing these basic SEO principles will increase your chances of being found in an organic search and help your site find favor with search engines. When used cumulatively, you’ll start to see a benefit from your SEO efforts.