Where Do You Start?
Now that we have the basics of the search engine process out of the way, we can start talking about how to get started with your own optimization.
It all begins with creating your website. This is the part that requires the most technical knowledge to perfect, and might even take the most time to understand. That said, the foundations of your website don’t require too much maintenance if they’re established correctly.
Additionally, there’s a key principle that can guide you through without getting snagged on too many particulars. That principle is the fact that Google rewards websites that are useful and intuitive.
If you can design your site in a way that makes it easy for users to understand and use, you will be doing something right. Fancy bells and whistles, pop-ups, chat boxes, and flashy designs are useful in some instances, but the main thing is that your site works.
You Don’t Have to Build Your Own Website
Our suggestion is that you don’t divest too much of your energy into creating your website from scratch. It’s a complicated process and people spend years studying to master it. The time you spend learning how to make your website will be more costly than the investment of working with a professional.
As you do construct your site, with or without the help of a professional or service, keep the following questions in mind. If you can comfortably address these questions, your back-end optimization is probably doing just fine.
1. Is Load Time Fast?
How quickly your page loads is very important to Google. This is because it plays directly into the user experience. You’re more apt to enjoy a site that moves fast than one that doesn’t.
Load time also helps your business. A customer who’s interested in buying something could get turned off by a page that’s not loading fast enough. Something about slow pages decreases credibility, and it also hints at the possibility that there’s something wrong with the page.
Google says that the acceptable load time for an e-commerce site is somewhere under 2 seconds. It also matters that all of the content on the page loads quickly.
You might have a fast load time but the images other data on the site might not pick up right away.
Most website platforms you use will have a dashboard of some kind that allows you to look at load time, troubleshoot potential issues, and work to solve them.
2. Is Your Site Organized?
The next piece of the back-end puzzle is something called site architecture. The term “site architecture” refers to how well organized the content on your site is.
There should be a general logic to the way pages get distributed. You shouldn’t have to go through a particular blog post in order to get to the contact page, for example.
The best way to gauge whether you’re organized is to write out a few tasks and have a friend or colleague try to complete them. Have them make an order, find a particular blog post, and reach the contact page.
See how their experience with the site is and make adjustments as needed.
3. Is Your Purpose Clear?
What is it that you do and what do you want the main function of your website to be? Is your brand voice clear through the content on your home page?
Is it immediately clear to users what your business does and why it should matter to them?
These questions are important because a direct and concise website is one that will bring results. Additionally, the more straightforward things are, the easier they tend to be. Remember that Google’s aim is to reward direct, useful, and intuitive sites.
Getting overly complicated or cryptic with your approach to site design can get in the way of all of those things. Try to take an objective look at the site for a minute and forget the fact that you’re optimizing.
As a general user, how is the experience? Can you tell what’s going on with the site and is the brand voice clear? If you strip yourself of the particulars of optimization, you can just look at how useful the site seems to be.
When the site is useful, it tends to rank better regardless of whether it fits into particular optimization categories or not. This is because Google tends to be ahead of SEO knowledge, so there are factors that we don’t understand yet which work in play. A good SEO agency can keep your site adjusting to take advantage of the algorithm changes as well as continue to increase the overall user experience.
Those unknown updates are always angled at making things more useful and intuitive for users. So, as long as you’re working toward being better for your customers, you’re working toward better optimization as well.
4. Does Everything Work Well?
Do regular sweeps of your website to make sure everything is working properly. Check for dead links, hiccups in the e-commerce function, typos, links that go to the wrong pages, and anything else that prevents the site from running smoothly.
If you can notice it, you can bet that Google’s super artificial intelligence will notice it too.
You can liken this practice to tidying up your room when it gets messy, or checking on the state of the appliances in your home. It’s just something to look after and ensure that it’s working because things can and do go wrong sometimes.
When those things go wrong, your rankings might suffer a little bit.
Now, let’s get to the piece of the puzzle that’s most packed with opportunities to optimize: Content.
The In’s and Outs of Content Creation
Once you’re situated with a quality website and an understanding of how the search engine works, it’s time to start producing content that will rank in searches.
“Content” sort of encompasses all of the digital information that you put out into the world. In terms of a website, this pertains most to your main site pages and your subsequent pieces of content like blog posts, videos, etc.
The things you include on your website have to be relevant to your business, product, service, or general mission. This is intuitive, and it makes sense that you would include things that you have an understanding of.
One area where a lot of small business owners fail, though, is thinking that any content will suffice. The impulse is to create your site, sit down, and start typing away at all of the things that you can scrape off the top of your head.
Everything from bios to product descriptions might be readily available in your mind. Even though it’s cathartic to speak freely about things that you know, however, it’s not always the best idea when you’re trying to optimize a site.
Of course, it’s important to insert your knowledge and personality into your content. On the other hand, optimization requires that you make content in direct response to the terms in your niche that will get searched.
Let’s explore that idea a little bit more.
Why Is Keyword Research So Important?
Keyword research is just the process of seeing what sort of search terms are popular, how often they’re searched, and who is searching for them.
It makes sense that keyword phrases are at the center of optimization because they’re also at the center of Google searches. Everything revolves around the things that users type into the search bar.
As individuals, we can imagine the sort of thing that people want to find online. This is especially true as business owners, considering we’re something of experts in the niche. The things that are popular in these areas are probably popular searches online.
That’s where people start to write out content from the top of their heads. They think “virtual reality games are popular right now, so let’s write out everything I know and post it.”
While the first impulse might be correct, the application of that content creation needs to be more focused. Let’s take a look at the ways that specificity helps get rankings.
Specific Keyword Phrases
Remember that each Google search relates to one, very specific phrase. The results will vary in very similar searches. Virtual reality systems, new virtual reality, and virtual reality new systems will all produce different results.
There are also dozens of businesses that are competing for those specific terms respectively. As you dig into the keyword phrases in your niche, you’ll see that slight variations produce different results.
For example, one term might vary from another by only one word. Let’s say that the first term is virtual reality.
Virtual reality has a lot of popularity among individuals in your target demographic. It’s a popular term, and the businesses ranked at the top of the searches are large, powerful companies.
On the other hand, Virtual Realities is far less popular. There are fewer people in your niche searching for this term, but there’s still a significant chunk. When you look at who’s ranked at the top of those searches, though, you find that there are only businesses similar to your own.
So, one term is popular with strong competition, and the other is less popular but has weak competition. You’ll never compete with those large companies, so vying for positions in those searches will bring you nothing.
A slightly less popular term with weak competition could put you in a position to rank well and get a lot of traffic, though. In this way, a small change at the end of the term opens up your chances of ranking. Demographic Changes
It’s also important to note that keyword research allows you to look at what people in your target audience are doing. Not only can you search the results for your niche at large, but you can isolate the people who you want to visit your site.
As you get more specific, you’ll find that each group searches in a unique way. These insights are important and can open up your ability to rank significantly. The more specific you are, the less competition you’re faced with in the rankings.
You can only find these insights through keyword research, though. Writing from knowledge without any reference to keyword trends might produce great content, but that content will have a very hard time ranking in searches.
Creating Content in Response to Keyword Phrases
Once you identify the target keyword that will work best for your site, you can start to figure out how to write an optimized piece of content in response to it.
Let’s say that you find virtual reality systems to be the term that has the highest search volume and least competition. It’s not super interesting to write or read at length about virtual reality system technical aspects.
That isn’t to say that there’s nothing interesting within that topic, but reciting facts about products can only get your content creation campaign so far.
It’s important to provide content with interesting angles and perspectives.
So, we have to find ways to incorporate that keyword phrase into ideas that are unique and relevant to the user’s interest. Imagining User Questions
To find the best content ideas in response keywords, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of whoever is searching. When there’s a broad trend occurring with a specific keyword, there is likely to be one common issue that’s causing the search.
So, in terms of virtual reality systems, we can make a couple of assumptions. First, we know that our target engages in new forms of entertainment. We can also assume that they’re interested in digital advancements and games.
You can then start to whip up ideas for content. Write about the development of virtual reality systems and how they’ve changed over time. You could also explore what the future of virtual reality looks like and how it could impact culture.
It might be a good idea to write content about the new games that are hitting the market, and how they differ from older ones. What are the advantages of advanced technology and how will it impact user experience?
What matters is that the content naturally incorporates the keyword and leads to a call to action that directs the user back to your page.
Now, we know your business might not have anything to do with virtual reality. Whatever your product or service is, try and think up content that’s loosely related, interesting, and provides you with a clear route to mentioning your product.
The interesting content sweetens the pot so that you can offer up the suggestion of your business services. When you do place your “call to action” in this way, be sure to add a link.
Keyword Placement and Frequency
In addition to creating relevant content, you have to optimize that content to the keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for.
This is the piece of the puzzle that is, arguably, the most important when it comes to ranking for specific terms. There are numerous places where you should try to place your keyword phrase, exactly as it is from your keyword research. Something to Keep in Mind:
Think back to our discussion about Google’s primary goal. They seek to put their users in touch with the information that is most relevant and useful to them.
That means the content they seek is meaningful, enjoyable to read, and a natural fit for the keyword search. Have you ever had the experience of reading an article that had keyword phrases slammed into unnatural places?
Whether or not you knew it was the result of over-optimization, you’ve certainly come across a blog post that was clunkily worded and difficult to respect.
It typically goes something like “Have you ever thought about eating The Best Workplace Meals You Can Buy for Lunch in Sydney, Australia but don’t know where to look?”
The example above is completely unnatural. It looks so forced that the reader will wonder if it was written artificially. Google is good at knowing when language is natural, especially when it pertains to keywords. Your mission is to fit keywords into the content in a way that works.
So, as we continue our discussion of keyword placement, keep in mind that “keyword stuffing,” or forcefully shoving keywords into target areas, will hurt you more than help.
If push comes to shove, just leave that keyword out in that instance and continue placing it in other target areas.Back to Placement and Frequency
If you can manage, it’s smart to include the keyword in the title of your content. There are a lot of ways to produce content, but we’re going to focus on blog posts for the purposes of this article.
Blog posts offer a lot of great chances to optimize, and they’re easy to produce as you find new keyword terms.
Further, try to place the keyword phrase in the title or meta description of the post. This is the little snippet that Google uses underneath the link in the search results.
If your word content management system doesn’t have the option to create a meta description (it should), Google uses the first 50 to 100 characters as this description. As you work down the post, you’ll want to include the keyword phrase in one of your main headers.
After that, keep the term in mind and fit it into the content whenever it comes up naturally. You should also fit the term into the final chunk of text, whatever that may be.
You should also try and include the term in the description or name of any images that you insert into the content. Finally, adjust your URL to include the keyword phrase as well.
There are more tricks and angles for inserting keyword phrases, but using the options above should serve as a good base for your optimized posts.
Moving forward, it’s time to explore an extension of content: links.
Remember that bots travel through the web via links, and they pick up information about the links that direct them to your site. Who links to you, it turns out, is important.
You should try to link out to reputable sources in your content. You should also try to cultivate links from reputable sources in your niche. In other words, get other websites to direct links from their site to yours.
A link to your site is like a sort of vote in your favor. When one site links to another, it’s a nod to the recipient’s value in the niche. You wouldn’t link to content that you didn’t think was valuable, so Google sees links as reasons to increase rankings.
That said, it’s hard to get other websites to link to you. This is especially true when you’re a new site without much content to work with.
How Do I Gather Links?
One great way to generate links to your site is something called “guest posting.”
This requires that you take your knowledge of the niche and offer to express that knowledge in someone else’s blog. You can contact industry leaders or other businesses in your niche and ask them for a chance to write a post for their site.
Include that you’d like to do an exchange for the ability to link back to your own site. Depending on the business that you work with, that single link could send you rushing up the rankings.
If you were a car company, for example, and Ford agreed to link to you in their next post, Google would see that as a huge positive.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many ways to build links early on. You’ll have to use your powers of networking and relationships to pick up links. Once your site starts to rank well, though, you’ll see that links to your site start picking up organically.
Yes, there is a lot that goes into true SEO. Don’t be fooled by these cheap SEO companies that say they can get you results for a low cost…feel free to use our “Audit Your Marketing Company” guide or feel free to schedule a quick chat, and we will give you some advice on a DIY strategy or a plan that we could take live.