What Is SEO?
So what is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it is the process of optimizing your website and the content on it so that search engines (think Google, Bing, etc.) will recommend your web pages when people search for particular topics. It is also important to note that there are two different types of SEO, general SEO and local SEO. General SEO is when you optimize a website and page for content as mentioned above. It pertains to what the user is searching regardless of where they are. Local SEO on the other hand is more about optimizing your site, and informing search engines, to target specific locations and industries. For the sake of specificity in this article we will continue to focus on general SEO.
Now, when it comes to general SEO, there is a ton of stuff that goes into how search engines determine what content should rank the highest, and a lot of people out there will claim they have the secrets. But the honest truth is search engines such as google don’t reveal how their algorithm works or all the factors that go into what makes a piece of content rank high, and it is a constant process of research, producing content, data gathering and testing to make sure search engines recognize your site and content and relevant to whatever the user searched.
So What Are Search Engins Looking For?
As I mentioned above, there is no clear cut answer to that, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you and probably trying to sell you something. It’s not the fun answer but it’s the honest one. Ultimately Google and other search engines are out there to cater to the person searching and gather their data. So what they are really looking for when they rank a site is its usefulness to what the user has searched, and they are really good at it. Some people say that search engines rank domains and if they are valued higher, meaning they have other high ranking content about a topic, they will be more likely to recommend other content produced by that site. It makes sense but is not verified. Other people say that there are a particular amount of words for given topics that must be met to rank. This has been flat out discredited by people at Google, yet people still stand by it.
The simple fact of the matter is, you aren’t going to game the system. If you really want to have content rank on google then your best bet is going to be to do everything you can to produce high quality relevant content, and as much of it as possible. However, there are some things you can do to give yourself and your content the best chance. Hence the term SEO best practices.
SEO Best Practices
1. Make sure your site is organized
When search engines and human users visit your site the content on it should be easily found and understood. This means having an appropriate amount of categories, making sure all your content falls into those categories, and building the site so that everything is easily accessible. For search engines when they crawl your site, they need this organization structure to find your content as well as determine what subject that content is about. The same applies for human users.
2. Upload a sitemap to search engines
This particular action has everything to do with search engines, but is no less important. Essentially it is a generated web page that consists entirely of links, and this links illustrate the organizational structure and all the content on your site. It is the easiest and best way for you to tell search engines this is what my site is about and the content that is on it.
3. Structure Your Pages Correctly
When it comes to writing actual content on your pages there are particular tags that exist and you should use: h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, and p. You don’t have to use them all (I generally use h1, h2, h3, h5 and p depending on the circumstances), but the order in which you use them matters.
First off the should only be 1 h1 tag per page. This is your overarching title and subject of the page, everything that falls under it should have to do with that topic. Below that are h2 tags which can essentially be seen as sub categories of that topic, and then the rest follow suit each being a sub category of the next with your p (paragraph) being the actual content of the page. This gives both search engines and users and good view of the topics and structure of your page and makes it easier to understand.
4. Pick a target key phrase
An important part of making sure your content can be found by people is making sure you pick a good target key phrase that people may search about. Think of it as naming your content subject. Picking an appropriate an specific key phrase can make all the difference in allowing your content to be found.
For example say I’m writing an article about how to restore antique furniture. I wouldn’t want my key phrase to just be antique furniture. If someone searches for that what they are going to find antique furniture for sale and website who sell it. However, if you chose “How to restore antique furniture”, then you are more likely to show up for someone who searches for that particular subject.
Alternatively, if you are selling antique furniture then you would want to show up for someone just searching for that topic, but that’s a pretty difficult task. One that you’d pretty much have to pay to rank for. However, if one of your pages is about an antique oak dresser, while still probably difficult, someone searching for “antique oak dressers” is much more likely to find that specific page.
5. Put your target key phrase in your content
This seems like a no brainer, but there is no magic tool to tell search engines what your key phrase is. They determine that by looking at your content. This means that if you can, your key phrase should be in your url, h1 tag, and other places throughout the site. Now you don’t have to continually repeat your key phrase over and over, but use it when it makes sense and other times paraphrase it. Really anything you can do to affirm the topic of what you’re writing about.
6. Make sure there are links in on the page
Each page should never be “stranded” you should link out to other relative content either on your site or others. One this registers as an action on the site if someone clicks it, which could be a determining factor in considering a site “useful”. Just don’t go crazy and make sure it makes sense.
7. Make sure the content is high quality
I know I’ve said it before but I really want to drive it home. The best thing you can do is create high quality content based around what the user wants to do for that given page. The obvious reason is that’s literally what you’re creating the page to do and as we’ve established you aren’t going to game the system. However, one key way that this does directly affect your ranking is through the creation of backlinks.
Backlinks happen when other sites link to your content, and it is a key way that search engines decide if content is considered useful. So the higher quality content you create the more likely other people will link out to it, which will help you rank higher.
8. If you can, get reviews
Reviews are another thing that is a clear signal to search engines that a site is trusted and credible. Same thing also applies to human visitors. When people see 5 stars and multiple reviews they will instinctively trust the business more. Now this may not apply to every site, but if it does then it’s worth trying to get as many strong reviews as possible.