Five years ago, most of us had probably not even heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) let alone understand its importance to our small business websites. Back then, webmasters would fiddle around with things called meta tags, alt tags and keywords in some mysterious way that sometimes helped our websites get more traffic from the search engines. It was not uncommon to throw in a laundry list of keywords that may or may not have anything to do with your website, including the name of your competitors as a way to try to get their search results sent your way.
But today, SEO is another story. Search engines have changed and are more focused on delivering better results to searchers based on what is actually on a website and not a list of words stuck in a meta tag. That isn’t to say there aren’t a few tricks you can use to enhance your SEO efforts, though. But the real bottom line is that great content is key to getting good search engine results. Without that as your starting point, all the rest of these tips will be useless.
- Page Descriptions. This is a short paragraph that summarizes the content of the page. It somewhat replaces the meta tag, but should be specific to that particular page. Page descriptions are very important in helping search engines figure out what your website is about. Do not use the same description on every page. You will have to go to the Admin section of your website to add these in.
- Page URLs. Each page should have its own unique URL that is related to the content on that specific page. This is what will show up in the address bar when someone clicks on the page. An example is www.mywebsite.com/SEO-basics. You can see that the page URL immediately describes to users what they will find on the page. Again, do not use the same one over and over. You can include the name of your company in the page title.
- Page Titles. These also appear in the Admin section and is a brief few words that describe what is on the page. Each page should have a different title.
- XML Sitemap. If you do not have an XML Sitemap on your page, go to the Google Webmaster Tools and create one. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site.
- Alt tags. Use alt tags for every photograph on your website. Since search engines cannot “see” photos, they rely on alt tags to tell them what is in the photograph. Also, alt tags are used by disabled individuals who cannot see the screen. Keep the tag brief, but descriptive of what is in the photo. Use the word “image” or “photo” at the beginning of the description.
- Heading tags. H1, H2, H3, etc. are all heading tags. Typically the H1 tag is used for the headline at the top of the page. It should be a brief summary of what is on the page. Subheads or section heads can be smaller – H2 is smaller than H1, H3 is smaller than H2, etc. These tags are picked up by search engine crawlers and provide more clues about the content of the site.
- Simple Navigation. Try to keep your menu as simple as possible and make sure that it does not include industry jargon in the navigation. There is a reason that most websites use “About Us” and “Contact Us” – users know what those mean and what to expect when they click on them. Getting too fancy or clever with navigation menus can actually confuse users, so use the KISS (Keep It Simple Sunshine) principle.
- Text Links. The content on one page of your site is most likely connected to other pages. Help your readers by adding text links to let them jump to that content quickly. If you are writing about SEO and you have a whole article on “SEO definitions” on another page, then create a link that will take the user to the article. These connections are crawled by the search engines and will improve your SEO results.
- Anchor text. This is related to text links. The anchor is the word used to create the link – in the above example, it would be “SEO.” Use these more descriptive keywords instead of things like “click here” or “learn more.” A short keyword gives the search engine a better clue.
- Keywords. While this is listed last, it may be the most important of these 10 tips. Having the right keywords identified before you start writing for your website is very important. There are many keyword tools, including Google’s, to get help with building a list of appropriate keywords. Keywords and phrases should represent the things that your users/customers are most likely to type into a search engine to find you. Do you sell carpet? Then “carpet” and “flooring” are obvious keywords. “Floor coverings” and “shag carpet” and “rugs” should also be on your list. Once you have a list, use your keyword planning tool to learn which of these words are searched for the most. Look for niche phrases that might not have a lot of traffic, but represent an opportunity to garner visits. For example, “pine wood flooring” might not have a lot of searches but if you carry a lot of it, you might want to choose that keyword anyway. Try to narrow down your keyword list to a dozen or so really important ones, then focus on one or two of them on each page of your website. If you have a page but no matching keywords for it, then consider whether you should revise either the keywords or eliminate the page. Do NOT throw keywords into your content willy-nilly. First, it makes your content sound like gibberish to the reader. More importantly, keyword stuffing will get you penalized by Google and they might just remove you completely from their search engine. Your content should read naturally and keywords should be incorporated where they make sense. That’s why you should select the keywords before you write your content. Trying to add them in later could make your copy sound unnatural.
Understanding SEO and using it properly can help your small business website show up better in search engine results. Make sure you are showing up for the right results, though, and are focusing on things that will drive business not just traffic. As always, set up a tracking mechanism for leads that are generated by your search results, such as a contact form. Be sure to check your Google Analytics regularly to understand which keywords are working for you, and which you should think about changing.
There are other things, of course, that you can do to improve your SEO…great content, link building, website design, etc. But these 10 things will definitely get you on the right path. If you need help with SEO for your company website, call Deppe Communications at 904.524.0170 or E-mail info@DeppeCommunications.com.