What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is all about driving organic traffic to your site through practices that improve user experience. More simply put, it’s a collection of methods designed to appeal to both search engines and users alike.
Why is SEO Important?
When done correctly, SEO can improve your site’s ranking, user experience, and ability to retain consumers. Search engines are designed to cater to their customers, either by promoting sponsored content for paying businesses or relevant, high-quality content for readers.
In the case of unpaid, or organic, content, search engines present sites and pages based on a variety of metrics that attempt to measure how credible and useful they are. These sites are then ranked, with the first page of results drawing the most readers.
Organic, high-ranking content is longer-lasting and will appear more credible than paid advertisements, which will in turn drive quality consumers to your site.
5 Ways to Improve Search Engine Optimization
Understanding and Capitalizing on Search Intent
What was the exact search? Why was the search made in the way that it was? What was the reasoning behind the wording used? What are consumers actually looking for?
It can be easy to overlook search intent by assuming that you know what users are looking for and what keywords will attract search engine notice. But someone googling “flower delivery near me” is looking for information drastically different than a user googling “best flower for graduate.” Both initially seem as though they are looking to buy flowers, but these searchers are actually in different stages of intent.
The first user is in what we call the transactional stage – aware of what they want to buy and actively seeking that product. The second user is in the commercial stage – still determining what kind of product they would eventually like to purchase.
You need to know what your readers want, what intent your page will cater to, and use keywords and titles that accurately reflect that intent.
The four widely recognized types of search intent to be aware of are
- Commercial Investigation
- Informational – seeking specific information
- Navigational – seeking a specific site (Facebook, Google, etc)
Keyword Research for Reaching Target Audiences
Once you’ve figured out what search intent you are catering to, you can begin to research potential keywords. Keywords are relevant or related phrases that users might search to find your content. Therefore, including these keywords in your title and in your content will often help you rank higher in the search results.
On the other hand, if your keywords are misleading from what your page is actually about, search engines will often punish your site. Not only is the quality of your keywords important, but the quantity plays a role in SEO as well. Overusing keywords, or keyword stuffing, will be off-putting to search engines and users. This is why keyword research, planning, and execution are so imperative.
Implement your keyword strategy with the intent to draw in quality readers, not to outsmart search engines or as a short-cut to a higher ranking.
Page Design to Improve User Experience
Remember that even though you are trying to rank with search engines, the bottom line is always ensuring a smooth user experience that will encourage repeat visits to your page.
User experience will require regular maintenance to align with ever-changing trends and audience behaviors. However, there are a couple of easy ways to improve your site experience in the long-run.
Natural and Intuitive Navigation
- Customize your navigation menu
- Label content and pages clearly
- Create breadcrumb lists
Accurate and Varied Headings
- Create unique titles for each page
- Include relevant keywords
- Utilize heading tags
- Give insight into content
Optimize for Site Speed
- Compress image files
- Minify your code
- Reduce redirects
- Use browser caches
Linking and Getting Linked
One of the metrics that Google uses to determine your site’s worth is how many backlinks you are getting. Backlinks are essentially any time another site has included a link to your content. Search engines read backlinks as a signal that your content and page are legitimate. Additionally, users who are reading sites with backlinks to your page may be more likely to explore your content as well.
While backlinks are primarily out of your control, you can also utilize links within your content that will increase your SEO. Linking to credible websites will also win points with readers. Users are more likely to trust information from sources that they recognize and perceive as having a good reputation. A statistic taken from the World Health Organization website will largely be more positively received than a statistic quoted from an obscure blog.
You can also use internal links, or links that direct readers from one page of your site to another. This can increase how much time readers spend on your page, which is another metric that Google uses to determine search ranking.
No matter what type of link or combination of links you use, be careful to clearly differentiate linked content. Any included links should fit within the context of your page, as well as add to, not repeat, what you have already created. Use links sparingly for the most effective impact.
Meta Tags that Search Engines will Love
Meta tags can seem like a waste of time if you are new to SEO. These are pieces of information about site content included in the coding of the page, and they are largely invisible to site users. So why spend time and energy on a tag that users will never even see?
It is true that some meta tags may not be worth your time, but several categories of these tags will improve your page’s SEO. Below are two of the most important meta tags to start you off with.
Description Meta Tag
The description attribute is a summary of what the page is about. This is particularly useful if a search engine cannot find a relevant snippet from within your page to display in the search results. The search engine will then use this tag to tell users what to expect from your content.
The title tag will often be used both as the heading in the search result and as the given heading when your content is shared. Users with multiple tabs open will also commonly see this tag as the tab label for your page.