Sir Winston Churchill once said, “SEO is an enigma wrapped in a mystery.”
Wait – actually he said that about Russia.
Regardless, if he had said that about SEO (search engine optimization), he would’ve been accurate. Because Google won’t release the algorithm they use to determine where websites rank in organic search results, nobody has figured out yet the exact best way to appear at the top of the results. And they likely never will, since Google modifies its algorithm constantly to provide smarter search results.
Nevertheless, if you search “How to improve your SEO,” thousands of results show up (you should probably only pay attention to the first few ones, of course–clearly they’re the only ones who know what they’re talking about). Since much of improving your SEO is conjecture, there is a lot of divergent advice out there. However, there is some consensus. Here are five of the best tips!
1. Choose Your Keywords Wisely, You Must
Keywords – the words/phrases you use throughout your content to make your site findable on a search engine – should line up with what words/phrases a person would intuitively search to get to your page.
You can spend a lot of time doing intensive keyword research with spreadsheets and attempts to replicate Google’s algorithm if you want, but that’s not necessary. At bare minimum, you should try to figure out what keyword (which can be a phrase or a word – phrases are generally better) makes the most sense to find your page.
There’s a couple different ways you can go about this research. One way is to use Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This tool will both suggest keywords and estimate the amount of volume to that keyword(it also helpfully gives you an estimate of how much an Adwords campaign would cost for that keyword if you decided to pursue SEM as well as SEO).
Another way is to simply see which keywords are performing best for your website. To do that, you need to see which pages are doing best and then check the keywords you chose to use for that page. You can combine intuition with what you’ve learned to create some great keywords. When you use a particular keyword, you should make sure that it shows up at least in your URL, title and somewhere in your content. That said, be aware of “keyword stuffing” as well. For instance, WordPress SEO often informs me when I upload these posts that using the same keyword too many times may lower my rankings, so keep that in mind.
2. Don’t Ignore the Metadata
Metadata sounds a lot worse than it is. They really should come up with a less threatening word for it.
Metadata is essentially all the things besides the basic content of your page that go into people finding your page. Metadata includes the keyword discussed above, but it also includes the meta-description, tags and the URL of your page.
Tags function somewhat like Twitter hashtags for search engines. Essentially, you can tag your page with keywords for search terms you’d like your site to show up in. Google makes no guarantees, but at least they’ve heard you.
The meta-description is the text that appears on the search engine results page (aka “SERP”) beneath the article title and URL. Google’s crawlers will check this meta-description, so having your keyword here is an important flag to get Google’s attention.
Your URL should also have the keyword somewhere in it. It should be under 100 characters and include dashes, not underscores. Anything more than 100 characters tends to look spammy to both the crawlers and viewers.
3. Make Your Site Useable!
Google knows people like visiting easy-to-use pages over hard-to-use pages.
So should you.
Making your site easy-to-use by including easily navigable links, a sitemap and an aesthetic that doesn’t look like it’s from 1998 will not only improve your SEO, but it will make people more likely to actually read your content/do whatever it is you want them to do on your site. It’s a no-brainer, really.
4. Have a Social Media Presence
To be totally fair with this one, there’s no hard scientific data that proves social media directly raises your search rankings. So my saying that having more social media posts or more followers is a good way to improve your SEO is even more conjecture than the other tips I’ve listed here.
Nonetheless, in the same way that it’s reasonable to assume alien life exists based on sheer probability, it is reasonable to assume on sheer probability that social media presence helps improve your SEO. Either way, if you post your website/page/article on all your social networks and drum up some viewers, you’re still getting viewers, right? And hopefully some of those viewers will repost it, or link to your page (which will also help improve your SEO).
5. Have Great Content
All the #1 rankings in the world won’t help you if your content is bad. You want viewers sharing your page (and therefore raising your SEO). This one’s hard, because there is plenty of good content out there, so yours has to be great.
You should think of your content in terms of what you would want to read and what you would want to share. If you wouldn’t share it, don’t post it. What makes for great content? An interesting layout, personality, humor, original research, and mind-blowing facts. Ok, so that was a little vague. Let’s get more specific.
- Attention grabbing headlines – I don’t know about you, but I click on articles that say things like “Russians Mock Obama With Racist Laser Projection” (which I’m not making up. That’s the actual title of an actual, real article. Read it here.). Anyway, the point is try to do that, but for your website.
- Make your content easy to digest. People spend an average of 10-20 seconds on a page. That average only gets longer if you are able to successfully capture their attention, and even there, you’re looking at only having a quarter of your content ingested. Thus: keep your layout simple by using white space to your advantage, and using large, easy-to-read font. Also, use pictures. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and people are going to only read a quarter of your content, might as well make that quarter go as far as possible.
- Finally, I’m a big proponent of keeping things humorous. I have no real studies to back me up on this one, but I’m a completely average human being and I’m way more likely to pay attention to your content, and even click through a few of your pages, if your pages are funny. As an example of why humor works, check out Central Desktop’s page. My friend actually thought their site was so clever she shared it with me (which is EXACTLY what you want to happen to raise your rankings). Further, I feel like there are probably very relatable, real, live human beings behind this page who are totally trustworthy and make me want to buy their products. That is the exact reaction you are looking for. Plus, with memes abounding on the internet, even the least funny person can be funny, so there’s literally no excuse not to be.
Also do NOT NOT NOT copy other people’s content. Google will get mad and put you on page 1,000,000,012 of the search. You’ve been warned.
Know any other good SEO techniques? Share them in the comments below!