If you have a company website or blog, three little letters can make a huge difference: SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential tool to help your online content get noticed by search engines, which means higher rankings in search results, which means more visits to your website — and, ultimately, more business for you. Sound good? Let’s look at five simple ways to improve your site’s SEO ranking.
1. Write original, high-quality content.
This may seem obvious, but useful, relevant information is what both readers and search engines are looking for. Write your content first, then refine it for SEO — not the other way around. The goal isn’t just to lure visitors to your site, it’s to keep them there and get them thinking of you as a credible authority offering good information. Do some online research to find topics that people haven’t written much about, or ones where you can offer a unique angle.
2. Make every page unique.
Every page should have its own title (the text that appears in your browser’s header and in search results), heading, and keywords that are specific to that page. We’ll talk more about harnessing the power of keywords in a minute. Search engines pay more attention to the words in your title and headings, and users will be scanning those titles in search results to decide which page best answers their question, so make sure they accurately reflect your page’s content!
3. Use keywords strategically.
Tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Tool and Soovle (both free) will show you the most popular — and therefore, most competitive — search terms. You’re probably never going to be the #1 result when someone searches for “lawyer,” but you can become one of the top results for, say, “Seattle estate planning attorney,” if you choose your keywords wisely. Type in a word or phrase and you’ll see similar, associated keywords, as well as a keyword difficulty ranking (how hard it would be for you to rank high in search results).
4. Think like a search engine (or a text-to-speech reader).
Search engines can’t see text in images, so if you save text as an image, it might as well be invisible. Text-to-speech readers and search engines use “alt-tags” (the caption that pops up when you mouse over an image) to identify images. Every image on your site should have an alt-tag, both for accessibility and SEO reasons. FeedTheBot’s free image SEO tool will scan your webpage and show you how well search engines are “reading” the images on your site.
5. Link to other sites, and get other sites to link to you.
Your content is online, and now you want people to see it! Search engines measure your website’s value and relevance by analyzing other sites’ links to your site. The words that make up a link also help search engines categorize your website, which is why it’s better to have a link that reads “Seattle Estate Planning Attorney” than “Click Here.” Writing a guest post for someone else’s blog is a great way to get your name out there; do some research to find blogs that are similar in size, theme, and audience. If you have a Twitter account, use hashtags and mentions that can get your article noticed and retweeted. Sponsored Facebook posts can also be a cost-effective way to reach a wider audience. Linking to other pages on your site is useful, too.
Recommended reading: The Yahoo! Style Guide. Sure, they’re not Google, but this online style guide is a wonderful resource for learning to write for the web. It covers everything from defining your audience and choosing your voice to writing clearly and concisely for the biggest audience. And it has an informative chapter on SEO, including a step-by-step guide to keyword research and analysis, so you can get started on optimizing your site.