SEOs and internet marketers have a bad rap; underhanded, black hat strategies resulting in penalties have tarnished the industry’s reputation. Fact of the matter is a lot of people doing SEO don’t know what white hat practices are because they’ve never read Google’s webmaster guidelines. Because of that, I’m giving you a tell all, behind the scenes look at what honest internet marketers do. These basic SEO strategies, if done correctly, can significantly help your website, and do it the right way.
The title tag is one of the most important on-site aspects regarding on-site SEO. The title tag of a webpage is the text that appears in the tab of your browser, and this text is what Google will almost always use as the anchor text.
Placing relevant keywords in your title tag can significantly help you rank for those keywords. The goal here isn’t to cram as many keywords as possible—that’s called keyword stuffing, you want to target a long-tail search phrase that also uses the keywords from a shorter search phrase, thus giving you a higher chance of ranking for both. So if you are an advertising agency, “Full Service Advertising and Marketing Agency” is a good Title tag, as it includes derivations of “full service advertising agency”, “marketing agency”, “advertising agency”, “full service marketing agency”, etc. Not only do you want keywords here, but you want something that is going to appeal to the user. This is where click through rate comes into play. You can show up in search results all day long, but if no one is clicking your link you’re not going to bring in any potential customers, or clients. To learn more about how to find the proper keywords to target check out SEO Basics.
Now that the title tag is out of the way we’ll move onto your meta description. Different content management systems will populate these from different areas. If you use WordPress, Yoast is a great plugin for title tags and meta descriptions. The meta description of a page is what Google will usually display as the snippet (short description under link in search results) in their listing for your site. Having a well written meta description that includes a few of your targeted keywords can help your click through rate.
Schema.org mark-ups provide information to Google in a structured manner, the manner in which Google prefers. They also provide Google the ability to provide rich snippet info to the user. A rich snippet looks like this:
Dates and locations are listed in the snippet because the site used schema mark-ups, allowing Google to provide this information to the user. These mark-ups go far beyond just concert dates and locations; they can be used to provide information about photos on your site, products you may sell, or the location of your business. Schema is the most relevant way to provide Google with information about your site. These mark-ups will, however, most likely need to be implemented by a web designer specializing in SEO/Schema mark-ups.
I’m not going to touch too much on alt tags and on-site keywords usage. There is plenty of information out there.
Creating local pages describing what you provide to those local areas can be a great advantage in localized search results. For example, if you have a fish tank cleaning service, create a page called yoursite.com/baltimore-fish-tank-cleaning with all areas in that location served and what services you provide to that area on the page. The other option is to create a URL similar to this: yoursite.com/fish-tank-cleaning/caltimore. This increases your chances of showing up in search results for people located in Baltimore, or whichever area you target.
One way Google calculates the quality of your website is by measuring the time your website takes to respond. Your website may have too many images or videos that can cause a slower response time, and, if that’s the case, Google views this as creating a potentially poor user experience, and your rankings may suffer. (Remember, Google is about user experience, so you should always take that into account when implementing SEO.) You can test your site’s speed with Google’s page speed in their developer tools. After the test is run, it will give you tips on how to increase the speed of your web page, if needed.
One of the ways Google determines the value of a website is by the amount of quality links on the web that point to that website.
In the past, general online directories were used to rack up external links. This strategy is no longer in use by reputable companies, as Google has changed its spam algorithm to discount these links. The honest way is the best way.
Seek out any high quality partners that may be willing to link from their site to yours. If your company has any type of certifications, they can be very high quality places to obtain links. Some of the strongest links come from .gov, .edu, and .org websites, which a lot of places that list certifications are. For homebuilders, this may be building associations, Energy Star.gov, or quality measuring organizations to which they belong. For a website selling services, product websites for the products you sell may be willing to link to you. Chambers of Commerce and industry-related organizations are also valuable resources.
I know you’ve probably heard a lot about competitive analysis and companies offering to do this for a flat onetime fee. I don’t recommend ever hiring a company to do a onetime competitive analysis, as rankings are always changing and the need for competitive analysis is more than a onetime thing. A competitive analysis is when you search Google for the keyword phrase you are targeting and then take the top results and run the URL through backlink checking software. The backlink checking software tells you what sites are linking to the competitor’s website. You then try to get the same, or similar, links to your website. This can be a very effective strategy; however, make sure you are getting quality links to your website. You may run into a lot of low quality, spammy-looking sites that other companies are acquiring links from. You ultimately only want authentic, respectable, high quality sites sending traffic to your site. Ahrefs is a great backlink checking program, as is Moz’s Open Site Explorer.
Ahrefs also gives you the ability to look at domain linking, meaning the number of links coming from a certain domain. I recommend running your own sight through and seeing if you have any low quality links. If you have, let’s say, 80 links coming from a general directory with the anchor text being all keywords, you may want to consider using Google’s disavow tool, which allows you to remove links from Google’s system, so Google doesn’t count them against you. Be very careful when disavowing links, because you never know for sure which links are helping you and which links are hurting you.
One of the potential ways Google decides the quality of your site is by the amount of broken links you have. You don’t want any links on your website that give a 404 error, or a “page not found” error. These provide poor user experience, which is a signal to search engines of a poor quality site. There are 2 free software programs that can help identify 404s. They are Screaming Frog and Xenu’s Link Sleuth. These programs will crawl your website and report any broken links. You can then in turn go through your site and fix, or remove, the broken links. I would also recommend running your URL through HubSpot’s Marketing Grader, which will give you a great analysis on the standing of your site, from its blog capabilities to use of social sharing buttons. Last in the area of testing software you can run a Reverse IP Lookup. This will tell you what other sites are being hosted on the same server as yours. You don’t want a lot of shady sites on the same server, like porn sites, for example.
Blog content is a great way to bring traffic to your site. By creating informative, original content that provides meaningful information to visitors, other websites will be more likely to link to your content. This is a valuable, honest way to earn links.
Citations are also a legitimate way to establish location and brand. Citations are local listings, such as Yelp or Yellowbook, that simply list the address, phone number, website, and sometimes a short description of your business. I recommend using a service like Yext, which may seem pricey, but is often worth the cost, as listing citations one by one is incredibly time consuming.
Guest blog posts are a great way to bring in traffic to your website; however, I recommend asking for a rel=nofollow attribute to be added to your website’s link. A great way to find blogs on which to guest post is Ann Smarty’s My Blog Guest.
A responsive website adapts to any size screen, and website designs utilizing this technology are the way of the future, as they cater to the increasing number of web users who use mobile devices such as smart phones and iPads. What does a responsive website do? If, for example, you use your mobile device to access a website, a responsive site will show you the entire webpage, not just a portion, or if you minimize a window on your desktop computer the website will resize itself to show you the full page. No matter what screen you are viewing, the website will be able to be viewed in its entirety. Another way to make your site mobile friendly is to have a switcher. The switcher will detect when visitors are using a mobile device and in turn show them the mobile version of the website, which is often a URL such as m.yoursite.com. This is an acceptable way to create mobile design; however, it can have its draw backs. Often, the mobile version of websites using switchers will have limited information versus the full site. Most mobile browsers have a show desktop version option, but some people may not be aware of that option. Even if the user does use the view desktop option on their mobile browser, the site will not be optimally displayed on their device. According to some sources, 50% of people are using their mobile devices as their primary internet source. Don’t get left behind. In terms of SEO, if your website is not mobile friendly it’s likely that you’ll rank lower in mobile search results. The ultimate goal is to send the most traffic to your site, and not only traffic, but high quality traffic. If a user visits your site from their mobile device and has a hard time navigating, they will likely return to the search results and choose another option.
Create a business page for your site. Use a unique description that utilizes a few targeted keyword phrases, keeping your customers in mind when writing. List your address and all available information in the settings. A good rule for listing your site anywhere is to include all information available, including clients or certifications, and upload images as often as possible. You want your profiles to be robust and look like you spent time creating them, not skimpy and hastily composed. To get started on Facebook, you can choose to run ads for likes, or simply for your product or service. Note that the likes you get from ads will most likely not be high quality. Once you page is up, link to it, as well as your other social media pages, from your website. For example, include a “Like Us on Facebook” link. You could even go a further step to say “Like us on FB for updates about things in your business’s field”. When maintaining your Facebook page, make sure to share other people’s content, even your competitors’. If you do this, users will see your page as a resource and view your company as genuine and confident. There is a lot more information on social media optimization in my SEO basics article. Please feel free to delve a little deeper there.
Twitter is about information, and the best SEO information can be learned by following key influencers in the industry. If you want to stay current in SEO, start by following these individuals:
Sarah Bradley, Head of Social Media at Receptional Digital Marketing.
Rand Fishkin, Owner of Moz.
Dr. Pete Myers, also part of the Moz team.
Another great SEO mind, Joe Hall.
Steve Goldener, a great social media professional. Check out his blog SocialSteve’s Blog.
Barry Schwartz of Rusty Brick.
Mandy Edwards writes great content, and I recommend subscribing to her blog me marketing services
These are just a few of my favorites. If you would like to see more just check out whom we follow @DragonflyDM.
The last thing I want to talk to you about is bad SEO, or SEO that uses shady or outdated tactics. Don’t overstuff keywords into your title tags, meta description, or content. Overstuffing keywords is when someone takes all the keywords they are targeting and repeats them in their title tag and meta description, or uses them repeatedly in on-site content. A good rule of thumb is to always consider the user first. If you wouldn’t purchase from or use a company’s services with poorly written content, then other people probably won’t either. Don’t get links to your site from low quality sites just to have more links. These links will not help you in Google’s eyes, nor will they bring in quality traffic. A rule of thumb with links is, “Would I put a link on this site if search engines didn’t exist?” If the answer is yes, fire away; if the answer is no, skip that link.
When creating content, try to generate content that is helpful and adds value to the internet. Remember, a quality over quantity approach to SEO is a viable, long-term practice that is sure to have positive results.