Most of us understand how to search online. For more than a decade, we have relied on websites like Google and Yahoo to sift through the billions of web pages and present a list of contenders that, according to the search engines, most accurately relate to our search query.
Search Engines for President
We understand how to search. What we don’t always understand is how to be found. (How to be found by humans, that is. Google will find you. Oh yes, it will.) Search engines, after all, are merely indexes of the many websites that the Google or Bing bots discover – or as we say, crawl. Without these search engines, your readers/customers/etc. would only be able to find your site (1) by typing in the exact URL in the address bar or (2) by clicking on a link to your site from another site. Without search engines, we would be so lost. Thank goodness for those bots that crawl all over HTML to understand the quality of a website as well as for which terms it should rank organically.
SEO at its core
It’s critical to understand the workings of search engines as much as possible because they control how many users will be exposed to your website. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is really all about enhancing a website so that the search bots can find it more easily and, as mentioned, identify which terms it should rank for.
Ultimately, it comes down to making a website more user-friendly – not only within the navigation, but also in the sense that it answers questions for users and does so in a refreshing way. Of course, it’s not easy to accomplish a task like that. I mean, really. Who wants to spend all that time writing creative, helpful content? Who wants to take the effort to fill out unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions for each page?
Do Good SEO
Well, the truth is that YOU should. Good SEO is all about transforming a website into a digital entity that deserves links. Don’t be tempted to pursue shady, sneaky tactics that may temporarily boost rankings (but can also potentially result in your website getting pulled from Google’s index entirely!) Below are a few tips that you should habitually put into practice:
1. SEO as you write.
I’ve found that it helps to get into the habit of incorporating SEO as you write. You should know for which keywords you are trying to rank. Check out the list and choose one or two that you can spin a certain way. Also, remember that Title Tags and Meta Descriptions play a huge part in whether or not users click on particular pages from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
2. It’s not 2001 anymore. Enough with the keyword stuffing.
I don’t think it’s any big secret that keyword stuffing is completely out of style. Google really cracked down last year with the Panda Update, which devalued websites that add no real substance to the WWW, but only produce keyword-saturated articles. Keywords are still vital to determining how you rank for certain queries, but remember to adapt your content to fit the term. If they don’t flow naturally or make complete sense to the reader, search engines will perceive them to be shady.
3. Break it up.
Large chunks of text aren’t captivating to Internet users. We scan articles instead of carefully digesting each line. By breaking up an article into sections (like this one) or steps, the reader can more easily skim the information and determine which parts are applicable and worth further investigating.
4. Add visuals if relevant.
It’s also important to note that articles enhanced with images or even embedded videos typically engage the readers more effectively. If the visual applies to the content, the reader is likely to remember the messaging. If it doesn’t apply to the content… remove it! I’m always impressed by bloggers who can relate their posts to seemingly irrelevant images, like Dan Schure’s post in SEOmoz.
5. Practice makes perfect.
The best bloggers I know are writing constantly. They have a library of articles in draft mode, ensuring that they are pushing out content perpetually, even through the inevitable droughts of writer’s block. This constant activity proves to search engines that your website is generating content at a steady pace. Search engines (and users) like well-manicured sites with fresh content.
Search engines are becoming more efficient every year, and with each update to their algorithms, it’s becoming clearer that they recommend websites that house valuable, current content. If your interest is piqued and you’d like to dive a little deeper into the world of SEO, check out this free SEO Guide for Beginners, which offers a more elaborate, but easy-to-digest, rundown of SEO and how you can apply the recommended practices to your own site.
Photo Credit: Beatriz