Search Engine Optimization for Beginners
How often do you browse the second page of search results beyond the top 10 hits Google suggests? What about the third page? If you’re like most online users, the answer is “not much.“ Research shows that 85 percent of people look no further than the first page of Google search results. Ninety-nine percent look no further than the top 30 results. Seventy-eight percent of online traffic referrals go to the first 10 sites suggested. And, most importantly, 93 percent of all website traffic comes from search engine referrals. These trends highlight the importance of understanding — and then mastering — what’s known as “search engine optimization,” or SEO for short. By studying the most effective methods for achieving high rankings in search engine results, website owners can implement various SEO strategies that allow them to access more online traffic. Whether you’re a business owner looking to expand your market reach or a college student starting a blog, you should determine how you can best use SEO to your advantage. There are several critical points to dominating this realm of potential business.
SEO is based off the keywords that people constantly search for. Therefore, using specific word choice when creating your site is key to high rankings. For example, when researching for this piece, I searched “do people search beyond the top ten Google results?” The top search results were sites that contained a considerable combination of these keywords in their titles, URLs and also throughout the text found on their pages. Thus, keyword research is essential to SEO. Google’s free AdWords: Keyword Tool is a web tool that allows users to enter keywords or phrases and analyze how popular they are in searches. It provides the global number of searches for certain words and closely related words. The level of competition for Google’s rankings is listed, too. The trick is to incorporate keywords that have substantial search volume with a moderate-to-low level of competition into your site. Be specific enough to attract your target audience, yet broad enough to attract the search engine’s attention. Other online bonding companies that my company competes against fully understand how this works, which is why there’s so much competition among the certain industry words and phrases. To overcome this problem, you should also look for words that are searched relatively often but don’t involve too much competition. Consider words users would type to find your pages, and then make sure that your site actually includes those words within it. Implement these words into your page titles, text and even the actual URL. Keep it clean, simple and direct. Investing time doing quality keyword research will help you improve your search engine rankings and therefore send more site visitors your way.
The next step in conquering SEO is link building. This strategy involves linking content to your website. It connects people to your site while simultaneously spreading your work across the Web, pushing you further up in rankings. There are a few ways to build links.
- Provide internal links. It’s exactly what it sounds like; links within your site. When you make a blog post, a new page or update your site in other ways, be sure to embed links to other relevant pages within the text. This encourages visitors to explore other material you’ve produced.
- Write guest posts. By contacting site owners who produce similar information, you can expose your work to visitors of other websites. If your blog relates to the subject matter of another, you can offer to write applicable pieces specifically for them. This is called guest posting. By writing content for someone else’s site, you market the rest of your work to a whole new audience. Your name and a link will be attached to the guest post because interested readers might want to know what else you produce. These links boost your SEO capabilities because searches have greater access to your site when you have links spread across the net. Guest posting also provides more credibility for your site as it shows the host site finds your content to be worthwhile enough to share with their readers.
- Share content via social media. Facebook and Twitter are simple and free ways to market your site. Links featured in status updates and tweets have the ability to reach your friends and fans and then their friends and fans. Social media links inherently invite others to share your content. This is similar to guest posting in its “word of mouth” style. If your followers and Facebook friends take interest in your site, then others will follow suit.
Furthermore, placing “Like,” “Tweet” and “Share” buttons throughout your website makes it easier for visitors to introduce it to their friends, who likely hold similar interests. Again, the more popular your site becomes among users, the higher it will rank in search engine results. Link building puts good faith in your product and distributes your work across the Internet, which increases your site’s likelihood of being recognized as a pertinent source of information.
The last tip for increasing your SEO is to make every page of your website easily accessible. Visitors should be able to reach any page with three or fewer clicks. This increases the amount of content consumed and welcomes people to navigate more of the site. Incorporating drop down menus, “related topics” links or a search bar are great ways to achieve this. Adding a comment box to certain pages encourages users to make suggestions on how you can improve your website and better serve them. Pretend the search engine is a visitor to your site. If the engine cannot find relevant pages, then it will not identify your site as a useful source of information. With logical accessibility, search engines can easily overlook crucial content and knock your site down in search results. Maximizing accessibility simplifies navigation for both users and search engines, which means it can make or break your chances of being considered a beneficial site. Knowing what your audience is searching for is the first step to better search engine results. It requires an analysis of effective keywords that must be strategically used throughout your site. Then link building exposes your content to larger audiences, which makes it more likely to be recognized by search engines. Finally, accessibility makes it easier for visitors to explore your entire site while also limiting the likelihood of Google’s algorithms overlooking it. When effectively implemented together, keyword research, link building and website accessibility can skyrocket your SEO rankings.
Jessica LeMay is an online marketing specialist at SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide surety bond producer that works with small business owners every day. As a part of the agency’s educational outreach program, Jessica writes informational articles that help entrepreneurs successfully market their businesses.