Most people who own and operate a website strive to have as much traffic as possible. There are two main ways that you can get more visitors: paying for advertisements, or designing your site to be suggested by search engines, or SEO.
SEO – search engine optimization – is a continually growing facet of web design and marketing. Rather than spend money on advertising and promotion, you can simply build your website in a framework that makes it easier for search engines (such as Google and Bing) to understand.
How SEO Works
Search engines use programs called “crawlers” to quickly browse your website, understand what it’s about, and remember that when serving search results. Crawlers are programmed to understand a website as similarly to humans as possible: they try to understand the value of the information you provide and the layout of your website to determine how valuable visiting your website is. Because of this, you can appreciate that improving your SEO goes hand-in-hand with improving a visitor’s experience on your website.
Search engines also track user behaviour on your website, and when users stay on your website, they consider it to be more relevant. For this reason, SEO has a cumulative effect: the more visitors you get to your site (and using it), the more often it will come up in searches. This is a big part of what SEO is so important.
Is SEO Difficult?
Generally, implementing SEO scales with your website – a small, straightforward site can be optimized fairly easily, but a larger site can be somewhat complex and involve input from several parties. Bear that in mind as you consider the effort involved in your own SEO.
There are two main parts to improving your SEO: your content and your coding.
When talking about the content of your website, it means the text and information you provide. This is the most crucial part of SEO, because search engines are attempting to find the most relevant search results for users based on your content. Here are some things to focus on when developing your content:
Users of a search engine will be entering specific keywords to find the right website to meet their needs. Try to anticipate what keywords you’d want users to provide to make their way to your website. Consider your geography, product/service line, industry, and brand to find the right blend of keywords to pursue. Then use these keywords heavily on the corresponding pages of your website to direct traffic appropriately.
Use landing pages
By building specialized “landing pages” on your website, you can really focus on specific keywords, customer/visitor segments or products/services. By making a highly-relevant page that flows into the rest of your website effectively, you will be much more likely to attract the right traffic.
Use headings and titles
By focusing on titles and headings to call out the important topics on your website pages, you identify which concepts and content on the page is most relevant. This is partly involved in the coding as well, which will be explained below.
Consider the flow
Ideally, your visitors will come to a landing page on your website – but what is their next step? By using a call to action on your page and directing them through a flow to either browse more of the site or take an action, you engage them more and also rank more highly for search results.
The way your website is coded can facilitate or impede search engine crawlers from understanding your website. Luckily, many content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress are often built with SEO in mind. What’s more, is that coding for SEO is typically just using existing best practices in coding. In any case, by keeping these coding tips in mind, you can be sure that search engine crawlers will understand your website the way you’ve intended:
Use proper heading structure, such as “H1” and “H2” tags to convey the proper importance of headings, sections and content. Avoid using “Div” classes instead of proper HTML markup – it doesn’t provide relevant importance to crawlers. Lastly, make sure that any images have a proper alt-text so that they can be understood by both crawlers and screen reading software.
Make sure that you use a keyword-laden title in the appropriate section of the code. If your platform permits, use URLs with the most important keywords, separated by hyphens. In doing so, a crawler understands more accurately what that particular page is about.
Use an intuitive site structure and corresponding URL structure that users can move forward and backward through easily. By identifying canonical pages with rel=”canonical”, you can identify which pages a search engine should be directing users to. If you move or delete a page, use 301 re-directs so that any visitors doesn’t get misdirected. You can also provide a canonical sitemap (in XML format) directly to Google using their webmaster tools to ensure that they understand the proper structure of your website.
Use meta descriptions and meta tags loaded with keywords to provide a quick summary of the main content on the page. In some cases, this may come up as the page description on a search result.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
It may seem like there are a lot of factors to keep track of to improve your SEO, but once you get into the habit, it’s easy to keep your website ranking well in search results. There are many resources such as blogs, guides and courses to bring your SEO to the next level once you’ve become comfortable with these basics!
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