Search engine optimization (SEO) seems like an always-moving target. The second you think you’ve got it figured out, things change. New Google algorithms will always keep marketers on their toes, but there are some SEO strategies that are a little more evergreen. So, you can feel more comfortable investing time and money into implementing them.
Whether you’re just launching a new website or giving your existing site a refresh, there are ways that you can get the most bang for your SEO buck.
What Is SEO?
To answer that question, let’s ask Google. Google’s SEO Starter Guide defines SEO simply as “the process of making your site better for search engines.” This means that you’re “helping search engines understand and present [your] content.” But SEO isn’t about putting Google’s crawlers above the needs of your own audience. It’s about making it easier for your audience to find your site when they need it.
SEO isn’t a single change. It’s a collection of small changes that, together, can increase your website’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). This in turn can increase how many people can find your site.
What Are the Benefits of SEO?
Imagine all of the webpages that are catalogued in Google’s vast index. A visitor types a search query, and Google fetches pages that best fit that query. When you implement SEO strategies, you improve the chances that your page gets fetched for the most relevant queries. That gets you in front of more eyes and can open the door to higher engagement and more conversions.
How Do You Get Started Using SEO?
SEO is deep water, so if you dip your toe and can’t feel the bottom, don’t be alarmed. When you’re just starting to implement SEO, it’s helpful to enroll in a beginner’s training session. It takes time to get up to speed, but it’ll be well worth the effort. Here are some resources that are helpful for SEO newbies:
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide
- Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide (updated each year)
- Search Engine Journal’s Complete Guide to SEO (updated each year)
- HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide (updated each year)
- Moz SEO trainings
Top 10 SEO Tips That Marketers Need to Know
So, what do you really need to know right now to get the most out of SEO? Here are our top 10 SEO tips to implement, no matter where you are in the process of optimizing your website.
1. Feel the Need for Speed
If your website is slow to load, even when people click it, they’re likely to leave before they see anything you’ve worked hard to create. In fact, 40 percent of potential visitors will quit if your site takes over three seconds to load. That’s why search engines ding your site for a low click-through rate.
2. Link to Other Useful, Relevant Content
Don’t worry about losing traffic to other websites by including outbound links in your articles and blog posts. Linking shows that you’re involved with other people and businesses in your niche, demonstrating that you’re part of the network and not a lone wolf. Search engines like well-connected websites.
Don’t go overboard and overload your content with any and every link you can find. Instead, focus on a few quality links that lead people to worthwhile resources related to (but outside the scope of) the current article.
- Bonus tip: When you link to influencers and powerful voices, notify them so they can link back to you.
3. Lose the “Keyword First” Mentality for Your Content
Yes, Google bots crawl your content for ranking purposes, but bots can’t actually read your blog posts, connect with them and share them with friends. When you write content, make sure it’s optimized to engage readers first and foremost. That means no keyword stuffing and meaningless fluff. You want to increase dwell time, and people aren’t going to stick around if your content isn’t informing or entertaining them like it should.
Do include well-researched keywords, and use them as a starting point. You’ve got to back up those keywords with content that delivers expert information people are seeking. Remember, consumer dwell time spent on your site boosts SEO.
4. Invest in Creating Quality Meta Data
Make sure your meta titles are accurate and unique to each page and aren’t so long that they overflow the line that Google allots. Meta descriptions are the snippets that appear just below the meta titles on SERPs. They can make or break whether people actually click your link or pass over it. Invisible elements like meta keywords are valuable, too. Not every keyword fits well in your copy, but you can still include it in a relevant meta section.
5. Optimize Your Page URLs
Use words in your URLs, not numbers or codes. Make sure your best keywords appear in the URL — along with not much else in order to keep it simple for the bots. Use hyphens, not underscores between words, and don’t bother with capitals. Direct search engines to canonical URLs, which can avoid duplication penalties, and identify mobile-friendly URLs. Also, set up redirects for old URLs.
6. Add Copy to Your Images
Adding visual content to your website is a big win, but that doesn’t mean you can ditch words entirely when it comes to images. When people search Pinterest and Google Images, for example, they still need to use keywords. Make sure image descriptions accurately portray each photo.
- Bonus tip: Add embeddable images to your posts, which are easier for other sites to embed when they link to your content. When that happens, it boosts your backlinks and your overall SEO.
7. Focus on Freshness
One of the best things you can do for SEO is to show up consistently with new content. You might introduce a fact or statistic that hasn’t been published anywhere else. You’ll likely see a lot of your fans and colleagues linking to this “fresh” information. All of that goes toward boosting your visibility.
- Bonus tip: Make it easy for people to engage and post comments. When Google sees that you have an active community reacting to your content on a regular, ongoing basis, that’s another element of freshness.
8. Favor Medium Keywords
Medium keyword phrases of three to four words provide a nice combination of moderate search volume and moderate competition. They’re a great place to start. That way, you’re not optimizing for highly competitive keywords like “diaper bag” or keywords with lower search volumes like “large black backpack diaper bag for dads.” Instead, you’re hitting a sweet spot with something like “diaper bags for dads.”
- Bonus tip: If your website is for a local business with a physical presence, optimize for longer keyword phrases that people tend to use in voice search. Think about phrases like “Where is a Laundromat near me?” or “What are the vegan restaurants in Long Beach, California?”
9. Deal With Poorly Performing Pages
Don’t let dozens of “zombie pages” sit on your site and drag down your SEO. These are duplicate pages, outdated blogs or press releases, thin or boilerplate content, and archives. If you’ve got a hefty number of these pages, don’t be afraid of pruning them. It’ll improve the overall health of your website — just like trimming a tree.
- Bonus tip: If you’ve got a ton of zombie pages, chances are good that the bits of information they contain can be combined. Create a long-form blog post or detailed guide that performs really well for you. You can easily repurpose what you already had instead of reinventing the wheel.
10. Keep Track of Algorithm Changes
Google updates its algorithm all the time. Most changes are small and don’t have a huge impact alone. But if a big change is cresting the horizon, it’s important to know right away if you’re making SEO a priority for your brand. You don’t want to keep using outdated strategies.
Where can you find out the latest SEO news? The Google Webmaster Central Blog is one place to start, according to the Search Engine Journal. For smaller algorithm changes, you can follow your favorite SEO experts and Google execs on Twitter, or you can enlist the help of a third-party service.