Best Practices for Search Engine Optimization: Part 2

Posted on: August 22nd, 2012

(Part one of this series on SEO can be found here.)

Last week, we discussed the importance of setting strong goals for your search engine optimization plan. Now, it’s time to examine some of the tactics that can be used to achieve your SEO goals.

Organic SEO: What Is It?

Organic search engine optimization is the tactic of getting a web page found in the search engines via natural results. How exactly a web page gets found is a little more complicated, as the process is controlled by algorithms kept secret by the search engines. Fortunately, Google and the other search engines provide information on best SEO practices that shed light into the inner working of everything that happens after a user clicks “search”.

How Organic SEO Works: The Basics

Over the years, search engine algorithms, especially Google’s, have been refined to look for content that would be of most value to someone performing a search. “Value” and rankings are established based on the following criteria:

Content

It’s been said before that “content is King.” But the better phrase would be “good content is King.” In years past, it was easy to manipulate search engine rankings through the use of hidden keyword copy. This technique has become less and less effective as the search engines attempt to reward natural copy written for users,  not manipulative copy written for search engines. SEO-friendly copy should be good copy and follow the basic rules to writing well on the web:

  • Write relevant content. Search engines have become very adept at recognizing when a page is spamming key phrases as opposed to written for a human audience.
  • Write with keywords in mind, but don’t overdo it. Strong keywords are based around products, services, and locations that are important to your customers. If you’re not sure what your keywords should be, check other sites your customers visits — competitor sites, forums, social networks, etc.
  • Put conclusions and summaries at the beginning of the page. Directly state products, services, and locations. While creative writing evokes an emotional response from your audience, it’s important to directly state your company’s products on services on the appropriate pages. Hold off on using synonyms and metaphors for your key phrases until further down in your copy.
  • Make links part of the copy. Keywords in your copy that link to other pages within your site will help your SEO. For example “custom web design” is a stronger phrase than “click here” to use as a link.
  • Use headings to repeat your keywords. Headers are a good way to organize your content. They’re also a tactical place to repeat your keywords in a way that feels natural to the reader.
  • Proofread! Then proofread again! Spelling and grammar errors make your content look unprofessional, discourage people from linking to your site, and can make your page miss out on strong keywords.
Websites that regularly generate strong content, usually via a blog, also perform well for “long tail” searches. These are keyword phrases that, by themselves, don’t draw a tremendous amount of traffic. They traffic they do attract, however, tends to be highly qualified. Consider an  example of a hypothetical shoe store: searches for “shoes” may rank highest for incoming keywords, but it’s searches for phrases like “men’s red Nike running shoes” or “women’s adidas basketball shoes” that will have the best chance of conversion.

Link Building

Inbound links from other website not only boost your traffic, but also your organic SEO results. It’s a little bit like a popularity contest — the more 3rd party sites that link to a page, the stronger the rankings. However, the search engines give more credence to 3rd party sites that themselves have strong rankings.

Build strong links by establishing relationships with other websites, forms, and bloggers. Encourage inbound links through quality content such as:

  • Unique blog posts, especially if they contain interesting graphics
  • Free online resources
  • Informative articles & white papers
  • Online video series

Social

Google+ isn’t just Google’s response to Facebook; it’s also a means of introducing the social component into the organic SEO algorithm. Users logged into their Google account (quite often a default in the Firefox and Chrome browsers) will get results that pull in part from their Google+ network. For example, +1’s on a page from a user’s Google+ circles or a brand being part of a user’s circles.  It looks like making a strong social impression on Google users will have long-term effects on their future searches.

Location

Another recent change to Google’s search algorithm is the emphasis on local results. This means a user searching for a keyword in New York would get different results than a user looking for the same keyword in Texas. Users are also increasingly becoming more sophisticated in their searches and may search for key phrases like “Orlando web design” instead of just “web design”. It’s important to ensure your company’s website copy includes its locations on prominent pages.

Part 3: PayPerClick and Google AdWords

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