If you’re like most new small businesses and startups, you want to get a website up and running quickly so that customers can find you right away and start buying your products and services, leaving you with nothing left to do but retire to a private island? Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but getting visitors to your site requires requires great SEO, and that’s hard work, not the “if I build it, they will come” that so many of us assume.The fact is that in order for your site to be found in the first place, you’ll need to achieve a decent ranking on Google, hopefully on the first page of results when people search for the product or service you offer—and the competition can be fierce. Chances are you’ll end up somewhere in Google’s results no matter what you do, but you should be aiming for nothing short of the first page (i.e. top ten), and after that, you should be clawing your way to #1.
To illustrate, let’s look at some numbers:
- First page rankings get over 90% of Google traffic. Most people simply don’t navigate beyond the first page when searching on Google.
- If you end up on the second page, you’ll be sharing just 5% of Google traffic with all the other sites on that page.
- If you’re unlucky enough to be on the third page, that number goes down to just 1%.
If you’ve made it to page one, congrats! But you’re work’s not done yet. Here are a few more numbers to chew on:
- Being number 1 get’s you 32% of Google traffic
- At number 2, that number drops to 17%
- Sites in the number 3 slot get just 11%
And so on. However, though these numbers may seem discouraging, the good news is that there’s a lot you can do to fly past the competition and into that coveted top slot on Google. Even if you’re new to the digital world, chances are you’ve heard the term SEO (which stands for search engine optimization) which is really nothing more than a set of practices, developed and honed over almost two decades, that present your site to Google’s “crawlers” (or Googlebots) in the way that will have maximum impact on your search ranking. The main word to keep in mind is: relevance. How relevant is your content to what your visitors were searching for? This single concept is the Rosetta Stone of good SEO and is the main factor Google uses to determine your ranking. And while Google does change its indexing algorithm from time-to-time, the SEO best practices we’ve outlined below have held true year after year, and are a great place to start optimizing your content for the best possible Google ranking.
Update your site regularly with fresh, original content.
Probably the best place to start when optimizing your site for search engine ranking is to make sure you are updating your content regularly with new content that is unique to your website. Google regularly gathers information from your website (how often depends on a number of factors) and likes to find new content when it does. Updating tells Google that you are providing people with new information that will encourage repeat visits, not just a tired, old “online brochure” that is never updated.
Equally important is the originality of your content. Google searchers want to find information that they can’t get anywhere else, as this is what gives your website its value. If you are simply reblogging other posts or syndicating content that can be found on multiple other sites, your visitors—and Google—will know it. If you don’t have a blog on your site, it’s something you may want to consider, as it’s a great way to keep your site fresh. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, the easiest way to blog is to simply write content on topics you’re familiar with and are related to your business. If you need a great primer on content writing for non-writers, we recommend Ann Handley’s excellent book: Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.
Use keywords related to the products or services you offer.
Keywords are words and phrases within your site content that align with the words and phrases people are searching for to find businesses like yours. Therefore, it’s important that you do your research to discover what people are actually searching for, not just what you think they’re searching for. Otherwise, you are giving this traffic right to your competition. Since this is such a fundamental practice for good SEO, it’s important that you do this research both early and often to make sure you are consistently keeping up-to-date on both current search trends, and the level of volume and competition for the keyword you’re using. So, how do you start this all-important research? Here are a few free resources that can help get you started:
- Wordstream offers a whole suite of free keyword tools designed to assist with suggestion, grouping, and analysis.
- Many people find that Google’s Keyword Planner is extremely useful in discovering effective keywords and finding the balance between relevance, search volume, and competition.
- Moz, an industry leader in SEO, also offers a free Keyword Explorer which is a helpful aid to discover and prioritize effective keywords.
Finally, we’re often asked how many keywords and phrases should be used in a typical article. The percentage of content consisting of keywords is known as keyword density, and the truth is that there is no right answer to this question. As mentioned earlier in this article, the key factor for Google is relevance, so as long as the keywords are being used in a way that is accurately and effectively describing your products and services, you should be on solid ground. Only when you start muddying your content by gratuitously adding keywords willy-nilly (called keyword stuffing) will your ranking be negatively affected.
Segment your content or posts into sections using H1 headers.
Another factor Google considers to be quite important when ranking your site is the way the information is organized on all your site’s pages, be they product descriptions, informational pages, or blog posts. Think about how you respond when you are looking for information on a web page— if you’re like the rest of us, you want to find what you’re looking for right away.
The average site visitor spends less than 15 seconds on a page, so if you can’t give them what they’re looking for within that timespan, you’re out of luck— your prospective customer has hit the “back” button or moved on to another site. An effective method for keeping your information organized so people can find it easily is to divide your topics into sections and give section each a title at the top describing the information contained within it.
For example, all the information on the page you’re reading right now is divided into five discrete sections for each SEO practice we’re describing, each beginning with an H1 header summarizing the content below. When Google crawls this page, it will see that the information is well-organized and has headers describing each section, and give us a little “Google Juice” as a reward. Finally, it’s important to note that we use the term “H1 headers” generically. It really doesn’t matter if you use H1, H2, or H3 headers (or even just larger, bold text), Google just wants to see that you’ve organized your content well.
Link to pages and sites both within your own site and to outside resources.
I’m assuming most people reading this know what links are, but what you might not know is that linking is an important practice for SEO. Both internal links (links to pages within your site) and external links (links to outside resources) are important, but for different reasons.
- Internal Links: Links to pages on your own website are effective for establishing site structure so that Google has a chance to crawl each link and discover all the pages on your website. Another function is that internal links help to spread “link juice” to other pages on your site. Every page that is linked to from another page, receives a certain amount of credibility from the fact that another page referenced it, and internal links can help establish this credibility.
- External Links: While having other websites link to your site is one of the most important factors in Google search rankings, it’s also important to link to others. For one thing, Google uses the sites you link to as a measure of the quality of your site. If you link to authoritative sites, a tiny bit of that authority may be applied back to you for linking to them. Also, the site you link to is bound to notice the link (if they are a professional site that tracks their inbound links) and may link back to you if they like what you have to say. Overall, it’s an excellent way to signal to Google that you are a resource participating in the overall web ecosystem, and not a self-contained community.
Use ALT text in your images.
Finally, one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO is including alt text in the images you use in your posts or on your pages. These keywords provide a description of your image when browsers do not display images, for the visually impaired and for others who use screen-readers to assist them in browsing the web. Therefore, the best strategy for creating alt text is to accurately describe the image. For SEO purposes, it’s important to remember that Googlebots also cannot see images, so this helps them to understand your site’s content. If you use your keywords in your alt text, it will also both assist in ranking for those keywords and allow your site to be found in Google Image Search, a frequently forgotten source of traffic.
And this is just the beginning. While there are many other SEO best practices that are not covered here, such as optimizing meta tags and Google Sitemaps, we hope this post has provided a good overview of how to create killer SEO-friendly blog posts and pages. And while this might all seem a bit overwhelming, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. LLD offers expert SEO services for your small business or startup, and we’re here to help