When I first started writing, the very concept of Search Engine Optimization sort of made my head spin. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t really know why I needed it. “I’m a writer,” I thought. “I’m here to write things, not market them!”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that those two basically amounted to the same thing. If you’re designing content – any content – for the web, you need to tweak it so it’ll show up in search engines. I can provide you with a bit of SEO advice – both on-page and off – to help you along in that regard.
Develop Content That’s Dressed To Impress; Use Keywords Sparingly
In 2014 and beyond, content is king. When designing content for your website, tailor it so that it’s easy to discuss and share. Whenever you’re creating new content, ask yourself: “is this worth talking about? Will people bring it up to friends or co-workers?”
Suffice it to say, you’ll need an understanding of what your target audience is looking for if you’re going to provide it.
A good test to see whether or not a piece of content is worth sharing is to find a friend or co-worker and bring up your page or article idea to them (but ensure they’d be interested in the topic in the first place). If they find it fascinating and ask for a link, you’ve very likely got a winner on your hands.
While content is important, keywords do still play a role in page discovery. That said, you need to be careful how many you use, and how often. As a general rule, you’re going to want to shoot for a keyword density of between 2-4%. Any higher, and you risk incurring the wrath of Google’s search algorithms.
Keep Your Site Looking Pretty
You could have the best, most shareable content on the world, but people aren’t going to be talking about it if your website design makes them claw their eyes out in frustration.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time on the web, it’s that people hate an ugly website. A site that isn’t visually appealing to its readers is far less likely to get links and shares, and as a result far less likely to rank high in Google search. Same deal if your site architecture is labyrinthine and confusing. Users need to be able to find what they’re looking for quick and clean.
Make sure your site loads fast, has clean code, and doesn’t feature any irritating advertisements. Make sure it sports a professional look and feel, and doesn’t annoy your users with unnecessary features like forced registration, multiple-page articles, or overly-long URLS.
The key here is making your website both user-friendly and link friendly.
Consider Long-Tail Keywords Rather Than Core Keywords
There’s a rather harsh truth about core keywords that I’m certain most of us don’t really want to face: it’s incredibly rare for them to actually yield high-value results. The reason for this is that, with core keywords, you’re facing a nigh incomprehensible level of competition. While you certainly shouldn’t neglect core keywords, it’s definitely worthwhile to consider interspersing a few long-tail keywords into your content.
See, they tend to be far more accurate than core keywords and have to deal with considerably less competition. As a result, most long-tail keywords actually enjoy a higher conversion rate than their shorter kin (assuming they’re actually relevant to the content on your site). One piece of advice, though?
Don’t try to simply force keywords into the copy on your site. That looks inorganic, unnatural, and spammy. People aren’t going to go for it, and your content won’t have any value because it’ll read like it was tossed together by a malfunctioning AI rather than a real person.
Use Crosslinks And Internal Links
If you’re running any sort of blog, there are two types of links you need to be aware of: crosslinks and internal links. Crosslinks refer to links between two separate websites, while internal links are just that – links that take you from one place on a site to another. For internal links; set up a search feature as well as an “Archive/Recent Posts” section for your blog. Not only will this allow users to better access content that might be relevant to them, it’ll get you more clcks in the process.
For crosslinks, it’s a bit trickier. Make sure you link primarily to the ‘authority’ sites for your particular industry. Google likes websites such as this, and using crosslinks – sparingly – can actually bring your ranking up a fair bit. Just make sure your anchor text is relevant, as well. If you’re linking, for example, to a page about the Road Runner’s repeated triumphs over Wile E. Coyote, you might want to use the text “The Roadrunner always wins,” or some variant thereof.
Know The Tools And Directories
If you’re going to truly excel in the world of SEO, you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with the tools and directories at your disposal. Make sure your site is ranking in directories such as JoeAnt and Yahoo!, and make use of Google’s analytics tools as well as utilities like the MozBar and Open Site Explorer. Next week, I’ll be writing a piece about some of the most invaluable SEO tools on the market – we’ll discuss this point in further detail then.
Never Stop Working
Now, I’ve got a bit of bad news for all of you. Search Engine Optimization is not easy. It’s practically a full-time job, on top of whatever else you might be doing. You’re going to want to constantly promote your website on social networks and the like. You’re going to need to occasionally go back to review, optimize, and fine-tune your content-rich pages in order to address any questions researchers might ask. While this is going on, you’re going to be frequently updating your site, as well.
Despite what the snake-oil salesman of the optimization world will tell you, there’s no shortcut to creating a great, popular website. There’s no easy, surefire way to get your site to the front page of Google, nor is there any way to get people talking about it without having to put in an effort. Success in organic search takes hard work
If nothing else, that’s the most important thing to remember about SEO: there’s no easy path.