One of the most profound online marketing techniques is search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly is it? More importantly, how can it increase your online exposure and …
One of the most profound online marketing techniques is search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly is it? More importantly, how can it increase your online exposure and increase your business growth using proper SEO techniques?
Specifically, this article refers to SEO as helping your website appear higher in the organic listings of the search engines as opposed to the sidebar listings which are paid for ideal listings.
SEO isn’t new. Actually, it’s been around since early 2000. However, in its infancy, SEO was very different than it is today. For nearly a decade, millions of companies and business owners could rank their website on the first pages of Google, Yahoo and Bing by building links from other websites to yours.
Think of links as endorsements from other websites of your site’s value, trust and credibility. But the problem is that up until 2012, anyone with automated backlinking software could generate tens of thousands of spam links from sites around the world pointing to yours. So there was a benefit to deceive the search engines by simply hiring freelancers or SEO companies to generate enormous amounts of spam backlinks for you to rank well.
The industry changed drastically beginning in October of 2012 when Google launched their algorithm called Penguin. Their update drastically reduced the value of spam backlinks and for millions of site owners, they were devastated by lost search engine rankings overnight. In fact, many sites that had been engaged in producing spam backlinks were penalized and in some cases were delisted from the search engines meaning they would not appear anywhere in search results.
Genuine SEO for 2015 that complies with Google’s terms and conditions is far different than it has ever been. It’s more about relevancy standards than merely backlinks. For example, if your company provides IT services, the search engines will analyze a combination of elements on your website such as:
- The depth of meaningful text content on your site which relates to your core business, products and services compared to keywords being searched.
- Formatting enhancements of your content such as H1-3 tags and rich anchor links navigating to other parts of your site.
- Image alt-tags which allow you to tag your photographs and graphics as relevant to your target keywords.
- The density of your target keywords and how these phrases are displayed throughout your website.
- Your engagement across social media channels such as G+, Facebook, YouTube as well as Twitter.
- The amount of time people spend on your site from the second they arrive until they leave (called bounced rate).
- What type of sitemap you have coded into your website.
- Whether or not your content (text and video) provides original, relevant information related to your core business and keywords.
- Authority site links pointing to your site.
Now that you have the basic understanding what the search engines use to evaluate your site’s worthiness to rank well, we’ll focus on each of these elements in more detail. Remember, SEO is about proving your website’s credibility and content value. So as you read through the rest of this article, always keep in mind that your end-goal is to build your search engine rankings naturally rather than through automated, deceptive practices.
Meaningful Text Content
Since the inception of search engine technology dating as far back as 1996, the value of rich text has always been the foundation proving your site’s relevancy to your product and services.
For instance, if you specialize in computer networking, the search engines scan your site to look for text indicators which relate to keyword phrases which are searched throughout the world. Keywords are terms that people search every month across Google, Yahoo and Bing. Remember, your goal is to pinpoint queries consumers and business are searching for and also offer sizable volume (the number of times people search for a topic online). Therefore, your site content should be drafted around keyword topics for which hundreds and thousands of queries are made.
Below is a graphic of search volume on Google every month for ‘computer networking’ related keywords…
As you can see, the phrase ‘computer networking’ is searched 4,400 times per month. Thus, it’s a topic that is highly relevant to the marketplace. You can search online for ‘google keyword tool’ to discover their free phrase finder to do research on the best keywords to target.
But what is meaningful text content and how do you develop it on your site? Think about meaningful text content as nothing more than rich, lengthy information about the phrase. We recommend approaching content by drafting articles or blog posts which contain at least 500-1000 words. Although it should be well-written and offer valuable information about the topic rather than merely framed to persuade readers to buy your products and services.
Next, it’s advisable to develop one article per target keyword phrase. Too many companies and SEO professionals make the assumption they can optimize their text content to target multiple keywords. Although the attraction of efficiency is hard to resist, the search engines prefer to find genuine content on your site that is focused.
Formatting Enhancements of Your Text Content
Now that you’ve written a dozen or more articles about your core target keywords, your next step is to format them to match what search engines look for in regard to relevancy. It’s not difficult and the following guidelines are best practices to optimize your text:
- Use your keyword in the title of your article.
- Insert your keyword in the first sentence of your content.
- Apply headline tags throughout your article.
- For example, the first headline should include your keyword and possess tag formatting called an H1 tag. This helps the search engines identify your articles are relevant to your core target keyword.
- Next, add two more headlines with the keyword in each of them as well as format those as H2 and H3 tags.
- Aim for a keyword density of at least 2-2.5% in your article. One mention per 100 words equals 1% so adjust your mentions accordingly.
- Add an anchor link to one of your keyword mentions and have it navigate to another part of your site. An anchor link is nothing more than highlighting your keyword and having it hyperlink to another post, article or page on your website.
- Lastly, include your target keyword in the last sentence as well as tag one of your images or graphics as an image-alt tag.
It’s vital you maintain a conservative approach to your key phrase densities. In fact, over-optimizing your densities can trigger alarms for the search engines to consider your site as trying to keyword stuff your content.
The concept of keyword stuffing is adding your keyword to many times throughout your content. For instance, if your article is 500 words in length, having your keyword mentioned more than twenty times would equal a keyword density of 4%. This type of density is far too enhanced and will not help your site grow organic rankings on the search engines because it’s considered a deceptive practice.
Therefore, aim for between 2-2.5% keyword density of your content. Beware. It may take a few days or weeks for the search engines to notice your new content. So increasing your keyword density may seem like a good idea but it will not help your rankings.
Social Media Engagement
Although not entirely proven, how you engage with your social media users may impact your organic search engine rankings. Ideally, social media is a method to share and syndicate valuable content. However, it requires an investment of time and topics. If you’re not involved with social media, we recommend you begin by targeting a few of the more popular channels such as G+, Facebook and YouTube. Once you have added at least 2-3 pieces of content across each of these channels, add Twitter into the mix.
What types of content should you share in your social media? News, tips and advice which add value to your prospects is the best place to start. However, be conservative how much self-promotion you include in your content. Social users are turned off by too much marketing messaging so embrace a formula that balances 80% of genuine content and 20% self-promotion.
Once your site content has been developed, it is critical you are running Google Analytics on your website. Doing so allows you to pinpoint and track how people find your site as well how they navigate through your content.
Don’t forget, Google Analytics (GA) is a free software product so you should invest time confirming your site is using it. One of the most important features of GA is the metric called bounce rate. It’s a simple equation Google uses to evaluate the relevancy of your site content. For example, if people visit your site but leave quickly because your content is not relevant to their search, your bounce rate is high and is calculated as a percentage. A low bounce rate (under 40%) means your site offers rich, genuine content which is relevant to your visitors.
The secret that many companies don’t realize is that by having a lower bounce rate you prove to the search engines your content is relevant to your core business and services. Therefore, as your bounce rate decreases, your relevancy scores improve and so do your organic search engine rankings.
HTML & XML Sitemaps
If you ask a dozen SEO professionals how to grow your organic rankings, chances are good you’ll receive twelve different answers. We recommend you learn as much about the process as possible because there are varying degrees of credible search engine experts in the market. Some companies with exceptional track records helping clients rank their websites do very credible work. However, the expense can run into thousands of dollars per month in service fees.
Another mission-critical part of your efforts is to confirm your website has a current XML sitemap. Think of a sitemap as nothing more than an electronic outline of your site which streamlines how the search engines evaluate your site content. For years the industry supported the use of HTML sitemaps. However, since 2009, they now look for an XML sitemap format.
When built properly, XML sitemaps not only update new changes to your site instantly, but they allow the search engines to scan your site in seconds. So don’t ignore the power of confirming your site contains an XML sitemap.
One of the mistakes we see companies make is in the types of content they publish. For instance, if your company sells website and email hosting, it’s imperative your site content display valuable related content about website hosting and email support. The problem website managers suffer with is sometimes trying to cross-promote unrelated content. The search engines view these types of content as a deceptive practice and will penalize your organic search engine rankings. Thus, we urge you to stay focused by adding rich, genuine and original text and video content related to your core products and services.
For the last few years, the search engines have been giving sites with relevant content premium rankings so be certain you develop a content approach which adds value to your website.
Authority Site Links
In the beginning of this article, we mentioned how backlinks prove how your site is worthy of ranking high on the search engines. The concept is still a vital way to growing your online exposure yet it needs to be done through credible sources.
Authority sites come in all forms. For example, some high-authority sites are news and media sites, social networks and press release networks. These types of entities have millions of users and therefore are considered by the search engines as trustworthy. Google evaluates the authority of a site using many factors. One that has been publicized for years is called page rank (PR).
The PR formula is based on a scale from 0-10. A site with a PR 2 has a decent amount of credibility, rich content and relevancy for it’s intended audience. Sites with a PR7-9 (i.e. nytimes.com; google.com) are powerful sites with billions of users. Conversely, a site with a PR0 has no valuable authority and will often suffer in organic rankings.
But how do you build high PR? It’s an excellent question. Although Google doesn’t publish their exact formula, there are some things which contribute to building your PR which include:
- At least 20+ pages, posts and articles.
- Text length of at least 10,000 words on your website.
- The amount of visitors your site sees everyday.
- How relevant your content is for your core target business.
Another factor which can increase your PR authority and organic search engine rankings is by obtaining genuine backlinks from other high PR sites pointing to your site. Although the practice involves syndicating and publishing relevant content on high PR sites, the process requires a systematic time investment. For instance, sharing content on social media networks is a great place to start.
In closing, consistency is the most important part of your SEO efforts. Think less about short-term growth and more about developing a content plan your company and staff can commit to growing over years. As you begin to add more text and video content on your site and social networks, you will notice your organic rankings beginning to grow. The secret is to be vigilant about adding rich content to your site at least 2-3 times per week. Then add new layers of engagement on your site so that your visitors spend time learning about your products and services.
Lastly, avoid any types of automated softwares which offer easy-button optimization techniques. Although they suggest their products can get you ranked on Google, Yahoo and Bing, they always come with the risk of appearing deceitful in your online footprint. Instead, approach your SEO by using honest, genuine practices with the goal of giving your site visitors value and genuine content.