In order to be successful in search engine optimization (SEO), you need to forget anything you might have learned during the last decade.
Because SEO has changed dramatically, and will change again shortly, as search engines aim to deliver the most accurate search results. This can make it difficult for businesses that don’t have a dedicated person to stay on top of SEO, because it’s in constant flux. But there are some practices to keep in mind that should help you for the long haul.
Let’s start with the crème de la crème: keywords. Way back in the Wild West days of the Internet, keywords were the currency of a web page. Search engines were not advanced (they are now, thanks to machine learning), and overloading your web pages with keywords helped get it a higher rank in search engine results.
This is referred to as "keyword density" and will count against you today.
It’s still important to use targeted keywords. What you need to avoid are very broad, generalized keywords or ones that may be off topic.
Today’s search engines are looking at the web page as a whole and examining the information it is providing. Because of that, you need to focus on using relevant, long-tail keywords that relate to the topic. Search engines, such as Google, are looking at the meaning of the web page, not just the number of times a specific word is used. Search engines have access to a thesaurus, too, so when you write for the web, use synonyms and make the content sound natural.
This brings us to one of the top three factors to keep in mind when trying to rank on Google: content. Google, along with all the major search engines, hang their hats on the ability to provide not just the most accurate search result based on your terms, but the most relevant ones. That’s why original content supported by citations will greatly boost your chances of being discovered. Now, that’s not always the easiest thing to provide, but a simple link to your source can go a long way. And don’t forget the photographs and imagery. We’re visual beings and Google knows it.
But good SEO involves more than keywords and content. A web page needs the right metadata to intrigue people and get them to choose the listing on SERPs. Every page on your site should have a unique title that speaks to the content found on that particular page. The description should be persuasive and unique. The goal is to tempt the user into investigating what is available on your page.
Quick Tip: You don’t need to waste your limited character count in the title or description with your brand name. Search engines can connect the dots with your domain name and several other methods to understand who owns the website.
The next point I want to make is about speed, or site performance. Google uses page speed, or how quickly a page transfers the data to the visitor’s browser and renders the content, as one of the top factors when ranking sites. That image you uploaded that is more than 2 megabytes sure looks nice when it’s full screen across the browser window, but to Google and some mobile data contracts, that’s a red flag.
The name of the game is speed, and if your site is slow to load, it could be penalized for poor performance. I mentioned images as a culprit since I often find images on websites that are more likely ready to be sent to a print house than a visitor’s browser window, due to the sheer size of the file.
If there’s one easy way to improve performance, it’s to upload photos (or anything, really) that are properly compressed. Striking a balance between quality and file size will pay off in the long run.
Google’s PageRank Insight tool is a great way to see how your site stacks up when it comes to speed and will identify ways to improve the performance. And if there’s something that is out of your range, we’re here to help take a look under the hood.
The real takeaway is to be authentic and don’t try and game the system. Although Google and others search engines are the gatekeepers, it’s really the end user that is the judge. Optimize for them and you’ll be rewarded.