5 Tips for Better SEO Posted on August 13, 2013 By Kristin Bass-Petersen Brace Yourself. We’re going to discuss Search Engine Optimization.It’s the term du jour: “I want my website to show up on Page 1!” “You and everyone else” mutters your webmaster under a forced smile. Realistically, you are the most important element in this hazy SEO formula. You know what your company does, you know who your customers are, and you know what information best represents you on the web. Really. You do.When it comes to SEO you can go bonkers reading every blog and downloading every whitepaper that pops up (thanks, Hubspot!). Let us spare you the agony of sifting through the endless data and present you with a brief list of tactics you should consider as you build your website’s presence. 1. Rich ContentThe web is a growing universe full of resources, a playground of knowledge. You need to think about your audience (the folks you want visiting your site). What do you think will appeal to them: <-- or... Well, maybe Organic Chemistry isn’t the best example, but the principle remains: we’re attracted to images. Look outside your window! Colors, contrast, movement; all sorts of things are happening in our brains whether we’re aware of them or not. Have you noticed lately that Google pushes results up to the top that contain videos or images (as well as news and local results, more on that in a minute). Why? Because Google wants content on the web to be useful. For the record, Google is the search engine of choice for this article because it is the 800-lb gorilla in the room; the same tactics apply to Bing, Yahoo!, Altavista, etc. The biggest tip that you can walk away with from this list is make sure your website is both useful and user-friendly. That means that your content is relevant to your audience and organized in a way that appeals to them. You could very well have a website that has no need for images or videos, but if it is messy, boring or painful then you’re going to turn users away. But don’t go too far in the other direction and create an eyesore! Bounce-rate is a factor in your ranking on a SERP (search engine results page). If people are finding your site but not going beyond one page, that’s your bounce-rate. Essentially it means you aren’t giving them any reason to explore--most often they find that your site is not relevant to their search query. Avinash Kaushik refers to the Bounce Rate as the measurement for “I came, I puked, I left.” Keep your target audience in mind with every piece of content you put on your website. Think of them again when you organize that content. 2. Long-tail keywordsOh keywords. Those clusters of letters that connect your website to an inquiry. This is a pretty large topic to try and summarize. Bottom line? Use keywords that are specific to your content and goal. Do you have an eCommerce site that sells hats? How many search queries do you think a) actually just type in “hats”? and b) overlap and have “hats” in their search? Let’s find out: Notice who shows up? Big brands who have been around for many years. You’ll also see local results prioritized--the importance of filling out your Google Business information cannot be stressed enough. Say you’re traveling and need coffee. Who’s going to show up if you just punch in ‘coffee’ into your smartphone? Probably Starbucks. Even if you’re standing on the same block as a local coffee shop, the results of a search will show who has filled out the pertinent information with Google. Keywords don’t just matter for PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, but also in the body of your content. If your website is about Japanese Bobtail Cats, you’re not going to show up when someone searches for “dogs.” That might be obvious. But you’re not going to show up on the top 50 results pages for “cats” either. You may get lucky if someone searches for “Japanese Bobtail Cats” but how’s the competition? None of those websites are “small fish” sites; meaning they are all from pretty big companies: Cat Fancier, PetFinder, The International Cat Association, Iams... even the videos are from Animal Planet. Try to narrow down your focus keywords, like “Japanese Bobtail Cats For Sale North Florida.”. Now you’re going to find people stumbling onto your site who are probably more serious about contacting you, versus a high bounce rate because people clicked into your site with a search for ‘cats’ when they really wanted something more specific, like “Funny Pictures of Russian Blues.” Curious to know what the most expensive keywords are? Number one goes to “Insurance.” Avoid the headache of figuring out what the right combination of words are by using a nifty keyword tool. You might think this doesn’t matter because you’re not setting up a PPC campaign... but there are specific places on your website that you can include keywords (long tail or otherwise) to begin building higher organic rankings. Places like your page titles, in the body of your content, in your metadata, alt-tags, and so much more. 3. BacklinksLooking at our Japanese Bobtail Cats example, what’s the first result? Wikipedia will almost always show up in a general query pretty close to the top. Why? Other than the somewhat questionable connection to Google, Wikipedia is hit so many times by so many users in a short time that it can be considered an “authority.” True, the content may not always be accurate, but that doesn’t take away from how often it is used for information. Tons of other websites out there will link back to Wikipedia for definitions and clarifications. That tactic is critical: backlinks, or websites that link back to your site. Ideally, this will happen organically: as you become an authority on a topic, other sites will look to you as a source and give you the credit you deserve for your content. And if you fear someone is plagiarizing your work, CopyChecker can help you out and tell you if your content is being duplicated. Another way to pepper the internet with links back to your website is to contribute to other people’s blogs. Guest blogging is a fantastic way to get your name out there. What you DON’T ever want to do is populate thousands of pages with links back to your site like JC Penney got in trouble for. That will get you booted out of the web pool pretty quickly, because yes, Google checks up on those things. 4. Anchor TextNot something written under Popeye’s tattoos, anchor text includes all the links you put in your content that link out to other sites--or back to other content on your own site. For instance, you see them throughout this article. Its purpose is twofold: you give your readers more content to explore on their own; the more you can build onto that playground of knowledge the more useful you’ll be. The other is because it aids in building your authority. Here’s an example of how NOT to use anchor text: I’m sorry, what does a pay day loan have to do with exercising? Keep your anchor text relevant to your content--but you want to make sure that the websites you are linking out to are also in good standing. In many ways, content on the web has taken a page from academic writing: cite your sources. Users are becoming more skeptical of websites so there are definitely lots of things to consider when trying to present yourself as a trustworthy website. 5. Get Social!Social media just gets more ubiquitous. It isn’t just for announcing you went to the gym and posting a picture of your breakfast. Brands are all over the social web, and some clearly know how to use it... while others clearly don’t. Heck, there’s even a great Facebook page devoted to this second group of clueless companies: Please don’t run out and get a profile set up on every network you can find. Research which network is best for your brand’s voice. You can certainly have more than one, but don’t just duplicate content. That gets very old, very fast. Use them for what they are designed for. Twitter is great for “micro-blogging” or directing users to websites. Catch is, you only have 140 characters to get them interested enough to click on your link! What about Facebook? Well, you definitely have more space to write, but everyone and their mother is on “The Facebook” so think about what you are competing with. Pushing sales messages 10 times a day is going to get you “un-liked” and then no one will see anything you’re posting. Think about how you can leverage LinkedIn to give your brand some added prestige. Plus, there’s the added bonus that your social activity affects your search engine results ranking. ConclusionThere are so many webpages out there. So... so... many.... Some are fun, others informative, and then there are those that just plain stink. Make your website useful and user-friendly and you’re halfway there. The other half involves keeping your content fresh, relevant and “crawlable” by the ‘bots and spiders out there. No kidding, that’s pretty much it.