The Basics of SEO

Search engine optimization for beginners

05/11/2015

Having some level of search engine optimization (SEO) is fundamental for any business’ website. The foundation of SEO is to create a seamless customer experience that effectively communicates your intentions to search engines so they can recommend your website for relevant searches. SEO helps position your site so it’s found at the most critical points in the buying process. It is essential to have a working knowledge of SEO so as to build your website in a way that is functional and profitable, while still pleasing to the consumer’s eye.
 
As the Chicago Tribune/435 Digital’s Director of SEO, Carolyn Shelby once said: “Skipping the basics and spending all your time and money on social and 'fancy stuff' is the same as skipping brushing your teeth and showering, but buying white strips and wearing expensive cologne.”
 
All this technical talk may sound confusing, but SEO is really not as complicated as the jargon makes it sound. Read on.
 
Your website is a cake - Victoria Edwards of the award-winning search-engine analysis website Search Engine Watch, advised to think of your website like a cake. This analogy helps to understand the need for SEO in that your design, links, paid search and social media act as the icing — making it look pretty. On the other hand, without the proper ingredients — content, information architecture, content management system and infrastructure — your cake lacks the taste that makes cake desirable. You need both the icing and the correct cake mix to keep your dessert from being thrown in the trash.
 
What do search engines look for? In order to gain and retain credibility, search engines want to do the best possible job of referring websites that are most relevant to what the user is looking for. Relevancy is determined by the content; that is, the theme that is being emitted, the text on the page and the titles and descriptions given on the site. Another factor in relevancy is performance — or how fast and efficient is the website. Search engines also look for authority on web pages. Does your site link to good enough content, or do other authoritative sites use your website as a reference or cite the information that is available? Also, your site has to offer a good user experience to be considered more relevant. The page needs to be pleasing to the eye and easily navigable.
 
What aren’t they looking for? Believe it or not, computers think like humans. If you try to purchase links or overuse keywords on each of your pages, search engine spiders will know you are trying to trick them and thus lose trust in your page. Your shady tactics will only backfire on you, so focusing on a positive customer experience will be your best bet.
 
What are you looking for? Focusing on your goals and whom you want to attract are vital bridges to cross when making sure your page is SEO-friendly. Think of your business model and ask yourself what defines conversion for you, are you selling impressions or clicks and what are your assets and liabilities?
 
Be consistent - You need to be constant across multiple channels, platforms and media when it comes to wording and branding. Having the same terms used on your social media pages, website and advertising will train users to use those specific phrases when searching, increasing your SEO rank.
Additionally, keeping those same keywords in your domain name or URL will help in your overall efforts. Don’t forget to keep consistent domains, as well, i.e www.example.com versus just example.com. This confuses search engines.
 
Use rich content - Yes, you already know to play up your site’s content, but did you know that does not include just words? Including media like videos on a website will get your site a higher rank than plain text alone. Also, keep current on best practices for Flash or PDFs so you can gain credit for that content, too.
 
Don’t ignore the meta data - Search engines generally ignore meta keywords these days, but it never hurts to keep them around. If you do use them, make sure your tags talk specifically to that page and its content and that they are formatted correctly. Do not duplicate your meta descriptions; this is another attempt at cheating the system that will backfire. Your title tags should also be unique.
 
“Think of your title as a four to eight word ad, so do your best to entice the reader so they want to click and read more,” Edwards said.
 
See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? When you break SEO down to basics, the process is really very manageable. Just remember to always keep SEO in the forefront of your mind so your site can continuously allow you to maximize your revenue opportunities.

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