SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of optimizing websites and website content in hopes of ranking as high as possible in relevant search engine results. Search engines, like Google, have developed complex and highly protected algorithms that determine the relevance of a website in relation to all similar websites available on the Internet. In order to be found in relevant searches, many steps must be taken in order for search engines to find and properly index the information we want them to have. These steps allow search engines to read and understand what we want them to understand, but in no way guarantees that a website will show up at the top of search results for any/all keyword searches.
Proper SEO Practices can only make websites visible and easy for search engines to read/understand. But, the public’s actual interaction with the site determines how high it stays in search engine results. If the site does not interest people, meaning they perform a search, visit a site (or the site is seen in search results often and never/rarely chosen), do not really interact with the site or its content, and leave without returning, it will begin to drop as a relevant search result for those particular terms used for the searches. Therefore, a periodic SEO review is an important step in maintaining and augmenting website traffic over time.
General Rules We Go By
- No one technique or rule will make or break your SEO efforts. Instead, addressing as many considerations as time/budget permits in a holistic manner wins the race.
- If an approach/someone promises/claims to "guarantee" top 5 results, then be wary. There are no promises in SEO given the volume of variation that exists.
- SEO efforts are never complete. It all depends on how much time/effort/cost you want to invest AND what the value is of the return on your efforts.
- Organic SEO is a must. Paid advertising (such as through Google AdWords) can supplement traffic for sites that are in a highly competitive market and have very diverse geographic audiences and/or have not reached their organic SEO goals (which for some may never happen).
A) Meta titles
Creating a highly relevant, keyword dense title provides search engines with the most important information used for categorization. This is also what appears as the blue link on search results pages, and keywords that match with a user's search will appear in bold. Titles should not exceed 69 characters.
B) Meta descriptions
In addition to website copy, meta-descriptions should contain highly relevant terms related to the website/webpage. Adding these keywords into the meta-description field, which is shown as the black text on search results pages, will help users decide if the search result is relevant to their query. If keywords that they searched appear in the meta-description, they will show up as bold on the search results pages. The meta-description should be very direct and concise, about the length of a Tweet. The copy found in meta-descriptions should be highly related to the copy on the website and keyword fields, but should aim to draw users into the website. Having consistency throughout the webpage title, copy, meta-descriptions and keyword fields will aid in the website being as pleasing to search engine crawlers as possible. Meta Descriptions should not exceed 160 characters.
C) Image captions
There are text fields in the SpaceCraft CMS to provide images with captions. Captions provide additional, relevant information that is readable by search engine crawlers. They should always be used to provide additional information to search engines about what is on a website/image. They should be very concise (Between 5 – 15 words).
When performing a Google search for your particular brand name, you may be found on the front page, right at the top. Being found for a company name may not be very beneficial unless your brand is very well known or contains at least one somewhat SEO friendly term. So, when writing copy for the website, an attempt should always be made to find ways to combine the brand name with highly relevant search terms.
Researching and adding relevant, highly searched keywords to the website copy will aid in triggering the website in searches. Website content is one of the most important aspects of SEO, and augmenting copy with SEO friendly terms provides search engines with the specific information we want them to have. In addition, adding these keywords into the meta description field, which is shown as the black text on search results pages, will help users decide if the search result is relevant to their query. If keywords that they searched appear in the meta description, they will show up as bold on the search results pages.
A good tool to use for keyword research is Google's Keyword Planner. This tool is meant for Google AdWords users, but can be used even if you do not have an AdWords campaign (a standard Google account will be required to start an AdWords account – you can skip billing info – once your AdWords account is set up, click 'Tools' on the toolbar and proceed to the 'Keyword Planner'). This tool lets you find the average monthly searches for certain terms and the competition for those terms (as far as how popular are they for paid search – High, Medium, or Low competition). This can give you an idea of how much traffic certain keywords could hope to garner. You will want to include a combination of both high and low search volumes.
E) Call to action
In future blogs, news, articles, or social media posts, the focus should be on celebrating your brand’s involvement with a project or event and should provide a Call-To-Action prompting a visitor to view a related blog, connect through social media, or contact your company. This doesn't have to be an opportunity to brag, but all posts should have your involvement front-and-center in order to appropriately place credit, and to improve search engine value.
F) Social media
Social media, when used properly, can be a great referral source for a website/business to help generate traction and visibility, regardless of its current standings. Social media posts should always engage the viewer to respond, like/comment/share, or visit an article or page (Responding to positive social media traffic creates a conversation that makes a social media page (Facebook) appear more relevant, aids in boosting social media analytics, and helps boost how often posts from your business are shown to your followers and their friends). It should be used to provide easy access to new, digestible information, yet stimulating enough to 'like' and share with others. Having content shared and 'liked' is the point of using social media as a business. Similar to all website copy, the point of social media content should be to celebrate your brand. All links should direct social traffic to the website. Even if an article is from another source, a short article should be written about it on the website (with a link) and that should be shared on social media - never direct links that do not go through the website first. The 'Like', share, and comment for a chance to win' approach can work if you have a tangible reward. A contest offering free or significantly discounted services for social sharing can bring in a huge flux of social traffic. It can be an undertaking to create and implement a reward program on social media, but even once-a-year contests for sharing, commenting, and liking content can increase traffic and followers over time. Simply tagging the end of posts with, 'Like, comment, and share for chances to win…' can greatly increase visibility. Social media is a great way to show off charity involvement, as well. Offering $1 for every 'like' gets in a particular month/time period (up to a pre-determined amount) or offering to match donations looks good and works, especially if you plan to give to charity anyway.
G) Blog posts/Articles
Blogs should contain keyword-rich terms that may help elevate the page’s relevance to readers and search engines. Blog titles should be engaging and contain at least one solid keyword/keyword phrase. Here is a list of important factors to consider when attempting to create engaging blog posts or articles:
- Tell a story – rather than just posting informative information, turn the blog post into a narrative
- Always pose a question
- Focus on emotion – make an emotional connection with readers
- Request that people add to the provided information, such as lists
- Make it easy as possible to comment
- Comment/Add to the conversation on other related blogs and link your blog in their comment section
- Ask for feedback from social media followers
- Create a post around a subject talked about in comment sections of all blogs
- Engage with those who do comment to keep the conversation going
- Link to other blogs in your blogs and click links – this double checks that links are working and places our blog on a related blog’s analytics data under 'Referrers'