Search Engine Optimization is Also Known As SEO
WE will discuss how search engines work and why search engine optimization is important.
In the second section, we’ll discuss basic techniques and important factors in SEO and search rankings.
And, in the final section of this guide we’ll discuss how to maintain and continually improve SEO long term.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to drive search engine traffic to your work.
It involves gaining a thorough understanding of how search engines work and then reflecting that knowledge in your writing and webpage design to maximize traffic to and user experience on your page.
SEO is important because search engines like Google, YAHOO!, and Bing drive the majority of web traffic. Shares on social media can cause short term spikes in stats, but real, long term success comes from maximizing search engines ability to drive traffic to your page.
Not only will good SEO improve search rankings and increase traffic for the author, but it helps people interested in your topic find your page and improves the viewer’s experience as well.
SEO involves strategically using appropriate keywords, building links to your work and making your pages search engine friendly. Although it is important to understand what SEO is, it is also important to understand what SEO isn’t. While SEO can make a big difference in stats, it cannot fix bad writing or poor content. SEO can make good writing into a great, high performing webpage, but it cannot turn poor content into good writing.
How Search Engines Work
Search Engines use “spiders” or “crawlers” to build an index of the webpages available, the words on each page, and where on the page those words were located.These program robots begin on popular webpages and add important words found on the page to the search engine’s index. From there, they follow every link on the page and index the corresponding pages before using the links on those pages to go to the next set of pages, and so on and so forth. This process is known as crawling.
Once this information is gathered by the spiders, it is encoded and stored for indexing. In order to even out the difference between the time needed to search a term beginning with a popular letter like ‘t’ and a search term beginning with a less popular letter like ‘q,’ a numerical value is applied to each word. This process is known as hashing. Not only does hashing even out problems related to letter frequency, but it condenses the index. Only the numerical value and a link to the actual information is stored in the index. This increases index and search speed, especially with more complicated searches that involve multiple words.
When a user performs a search, he or she types a query into the search box. Boolean operators can be used to define specific relationships between the terms in a query. Some of the most common operators are:
- AND-requires that both terms are on the page
- OR-requires that one term or the other is on the page
- NOT-excludes pages that include the following term
- NEAR-requires that two terms be near each other on the page
- “quotation marks”-requires the query be treated as a phrase, instead of each significant word in the query being considered an individual keyword
- FOLLOWED BY-requires that one term be followed by another
These searches are defined as literal searches. Research is currently underway on concept based searching which uses statistics statistical analysis of webpages containing your query to recommend pages you might be interested in, as well as natural language searching which allows users to type a question into the search box using the simple language they would use to ask a friend their question instead of using Boolean operators.
There’s More than One Search Engine
Each search engine uses different rules for determining which words are indexed and which words aren’t. Some search engines index every word on the page. Others focus on the most common words, the words in titles and subtitles, meta tags and the first few lines of text.
If you’ve ever tried searching the same phrase on different search engines, you probably noticed that you got different results. This is because each engine uses different algorithms to weight and index keywords and determine search result rankings. Search engine ranking algorithms use website popularity, meta tags, number of back links (links to the page), keyword frequency and location and a wide variety of other factors to rank webpages and how well they correlate to viewer searches.
In addition to relevance, website popularity is taken into account in determining search rankings. As more interested users are directed to your page by your SEO techniques, not only will the techniques increase your relevancy scores, but the popularity component of the ranking algorithms will increase as well.
(For more concrete information on specific ranking factors and their relative weight please see this website.)
Your Audience is Important in SEO
Now that you know how search engines function, we need to consider how users interact with search engines. To conduct a search, the user types a few keywords into the search box and clicks enter, browses the results and selects a page to visit. If the user is unsatisfied, he or she will return to the search and select another result or modify their query for a new result list.
People perform searches because they a) want to go somewhere specific on the web b) want to do something specific or c) learn a piece of information. In order to create a high performing webpage, you need to think like your user.
Ask yourself how many of your audience’s needs can be met on your page. Add additional, relevant content that meets these needs to attract more viewers and happier views. Then ask yourself if your audience can find your page. What queries might your target audience put into the search engine? Are those keywords found in your titles, subtitles, alt text, summary and first few sentences?
Remember, building content for your users will lead to better results than trying to build pages for search engines.
Application SEO: The Most Common Mistakes When Indexing Apps in Search
Search engine optimization (SEO) may seem straightforward on the surface, but in practice, there are hundreds of interlocking pieces that must be monitored and adjusted in order to see positive results. The process is even more complicated for e-commerce sites, which operate under a unique set of circumstances and must adhere to a distinct set of best practices. All the fundamentals still apply: publishing great content, earning quality inbound links, and maintaining an ongoing social media campaign. But in addition to these, you'll need to pursue these specific e-commerce strategies.
1. Create unique product descriptions for every product. This is extremely important. It's tempting to use a manufacturer's description for your products, or to repeat sections of content for similar products, but the best strategy is to create a completely unique description for each of your products. It's a lot of work up front, but duplicate content can severely hinder your campaign, and all that extra unique content will pay off immediately.
2. Encourage user reviews. Encourage your users to post reviews on each individual product page. Amazon executes this perfectly, so look at any product page on Amazon.com for a great example of how to implement user reviews. Google loves seeing unique, value-adding content, and with an e-commerce site, you have a key opportunity to generate free content from your user base. Plus, you'll boost sales by giving people more insight into the quality of the products you sell.
3. Establish easy site navigation. This is crucial for both attaining higher search engine rankings and improving your site's user experience. Organize your product pages as intuitively as possible, separating them into easily searchable and easily understandable categories. Make your site map obvious and easy to follow, and design your site in a way that pleases the eye and immediately directs users where to go.
4. Optimize your site load times by reducing the size of your images. It's important to have high-quality images on your product pages, but don't go overboard. Having too many high-quality images on one page can slow down your site, which is bad for SEO. Instead, reduce the size of your images, or build a feature that allows users to "zoom in" to see a larger version. This will keep your load speeds in check while still giving your users the quality they need to see.
5. Link between pages wherever possible. Google prefers websites with value-adding internal linking. The fewer clicks a user has to make in order to get to any given page on your site, the better. Improve this by linking each page to several other similar, relevant pages in your domain.
6. Optimize your site for mobile. This is essential for any site, but especially an e-commerce platform, which would otherwise be nearly impossible to navigate. Give your users a smooth mobile experience, either through a responsive design, a specific mobile design, or an interactive app that allows for a better mobile experience. This will become increasingly important in the coming years.
7. Integrate your product pages with social sharing. In addition to basic social integration, your product pages should have social-share buttons so users can pass on information about your products with their friends and followers. This is a good business practice in general but it's particularly good for SEO because Google may use social signals as a measure of authority.
8. Keep your out-of-stock and discontinued item pages up and running. This might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, if you're no longer offering an item, why bother keeping the page up? It's worthwhile because it gives you more permanent pages, and a greater base of indexable content for Google bots to scour. All you need to do is add a headline or some other indication that the item is no longer available.
9. Create seasonal categories to maximize seasonal attention. Seasonal items tend to have lower keyword competition, with the trade-off being a shorter period of relevance. To get the most out of your seasonal items, create specific seasonal category pages such as "Halloween Decor" or "Best in Fashion 2014."
10. Add a community forum and encourage growth. Another major content option for e-commerce platforms is a community forum where users can exchange information about their favorite products and make recommendations to one another. It will increase brand loyalty amongst your participants. Encourage community growth by starting conversations and responding to questions and complaints whenever possible.
11. Include pictures and videos for every product. E-commerce platforms serve as a perfect medium for visual content, which is growing in importance for SEO. Include videos and several high-quality pictures for every product you offer, tagged with relevant metadata, so each image has a chance of showing up for a relevant image-based search. Just keep them stored in a way that doesn't interfere with site loading times.
12. Make your site secure. It's always been a best practice for e-commerce sites to have HTTPS encryption for user security. If you don't have it, get it now. In addition to providing an extra layer of user security, it also provides a significant ranking signal to Google.
13. Build deep inbound links. Link building for e-commerce sites presents a significant opportunity: ample material for deep linking. When engaging in a link-building campaign, focus on attaining links to the deepest pages on your site that you can (such as niche product pages).
14. Regularly check your pages for errors. E-commerce sites can grow unwieldy fast, since they usually have a huge (and growing) number of pages. Perform routine checks to make sure none of your permalinks are generating 404 errors, and that all of your links to external content are still functional. You can do this using Google Webmaster Tools and a site-crawling tool such as Screaming Frog.
15. Build relevantly titled URLs. Every URL on your e-commerce platform should be unique, relevant to the page, and keyword optimized. If you're using an automated means of page creation, you might be left with a URL ending in a long series of numbers and letters--change these immediately. For example, if you're offering a large red umbrella on a specific product page, end your URL with /large-red-umbrella-v1 rather than /10031490314180.
16. Use catchy meta descriptions for your products. When a page appears on a search engine ranking page (SERP), the meta description appears as text under the hyperlink. Use this to your advantage by writing compelling copy for each of your products' meta descriptions. Your goal should be to immediately catch your user's attention, and draw him or her in.
17. Optimize your site's internal search functionality. It's important to realize that Google isn't the only search engine you need to be thinking about. If you want your users to keep shopping on your site, you need to build and refine an internal search function that can efficiently scour your site and provide the most relevant results to your users. This means building an algorithm that can handle misspellings, offer predictive searches, and sort through every page on the site. It also means optimizing your product titles and categories to be searchable both internally and externally.
Put these strategies into effect immediately, and make regular updates as your business grows. E-commerce sites have unique challenges and differences from other websites, but with proper best practices, SEO doesn't have to be difficult for them. If you're looking for more help with online marketing for your e-commerce site, grab my eBook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.
5 Ways to Get People to Read Your Blog
Whether your brand offers a product or a service, you'll always be looking to increase the amount of visitors to your website. You don't necessarily need to put out the next viral marketing video or hire an expensive marketing agency (although both would probably help) to achieve a high rate of traffic. All you need is a bit of elbow grease, a few tricks up your sleeve, and a commitment to making your site a quality destination for visitors.
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Twitter
For many companies, Twitter has quickly become an indispensable part of their business plan. The goal of Twitter isn't necessarily to spend all of your time trying to get followers. Certainly, that's important, but the quality-;and consistency-;of your tweets will have a long-term impact on how much traffic will be driven to your site.
For example, consider your tweet lengths. "If the end of the tweet is a link, as it often is, then your link will be lost," says Tim Frick, author of Return on Engagement: Content Strategy and Design Techniques for Digital Marketing. This happens especially when your tweet is retweeted by someone else. To avoid the truncated tweet, make sure you're keeping tweets short enough - under 120 characters if you can.
If you're building your business or you're launching a start-up, you'll need to target potential customers who may have never heard of you in order to draw attention to your brand. "The biggest unused Twitter resource for small business owners is the search.twitter.com function," says Alexis Wolfer, founder and editor-in-chief of TheBeautyBean.com. "You can search for what people are talking about in real time, which is very powerful. I can search for 'drugstore mascara' and see the people doing anything using those words. So if someone is at a drugstore wondering what mascara to buy, I can say, 'Hey, did you see this article we wrote on the best drugstore mascaras?'"
Getting retweeted is the goal of any good social media manager. Even if you only have a couple hundred (or even fewer) Twitter followers, you can face great exposure by crafting pitch-perfect tweets that are picked up by your followers. In other words, try to find something new, interesting, or funny to say. It doesn't have to be about your product or service in particular, but it should be well thought out and carefully planned. A tweet with typos or factual errors will make people think twice about clicking to your site.
Dig Deeper: 5 Secrets of Highly Effective Twitter Users
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Facebook
If your business doesn't have a Facebook page, it's time to make the leap. With about 500 million users, there's really no better platform to drive traffic to your site. Consider that even if you get just a tiny percentage of Facebook users to look at your page, you have a good chance in driving a fair amount of traffic.
In addition to the page details that list your company's address and website address, you need to utilize the Like and Feed tools to get as much traffic to your site as possible.
If you have your web designer program a Like button onto various pages of your site, it gives your current audience a way to tell their friends about something they saw - and liked - on your site. Once they click the like button, a link to your site appears in their Facebook feed, and depending on how many friends they have, it could means thousands of eyeballs on your product or service.
To get people to interact with your Facebook page, you need to create a virtual conversation that involves as many people as possible. Questions are a great source of interactivity. Jeff Widman, CEO of Brand Glue, a consulting company based in Mountain View, California, offers the advice to 'Put the question first, rather than last' and to 'ask a question where people don't need to click through a link to give you an answer.' In other words, you need to make sure your questions are direct and relatable to your customers. Also, make sure you don't confuse your followers with jargon or words your readers won't understand. It's best to keep it simple.
Dig Deeper: How to Optimize Your Facebook News Feed Presence
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Blogging
No matter what service or product you offer, a blog will help drive traffic to your site. Blogs are especially helpful to get traffic from returning customers because you should have new content to offer, even if your product or service hasn't changed at all. Inc.com blogger and award-winning Internet veteran Maisha Walker says, 'The purpose of blogging in general is usually to establish and/or support an existing brand with an understanding of how that brand generates revenue.'
Here are few ways that blogging helps drive traffic to your site:
- Intimacy - Blogging can make your relationship with your customers far more intimate, and will help increase the amount of returning customers.
- Building Community - When you blog, you define your areas of expertise, but you also attract the relevant customers to your company or brand.
- Customer Research - Readers will inevitably leave feedback in the form of comments and e-mails. It's a great way to understand who is reading your blog and what they're interested in.
Dig Deeper: Blogging's 11 Big Payoffs
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: SEO
All efforts to drive traffic to your site culminate with the idea of Search Engine Optimization. Everything that you do online, whether its social media, blogging, uploading photos, or naming products, contributes to your organic search ranking. Experts say that most, if not all, of your marketing energy should be directed at landing the top search engine rank for your keywords. Here are three tips to improve your Google SEO.
- Google places a lot of emphasis on links, says Chris Dawkins, CEO of Trace Media Marketing, a New York City-based SEO and Internet marketing firm. When someone searches on Google for a particular keyword, Google has analyzed how many other sites have your link on their sites, which increases credibility, and therefore heightens your ranking.
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This tool offers you keyword suggestions for your site, as well as providing stats on each keyword, like how many people search that per month, and which websites you'll be competing with.
- When Google crawls your site, it's going to want to know what - and who - you are. Creating meta tags and posting keyword-rich content to your site are essential. Don't forget to name all of your photos with keywords, either.
Dig Deeper: 5 Secrets to Selecting Highly-Effective SEO Keywords
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Link Building
This term is becoming less specific as more and more marketing techniques are evolving to generate clicks to your site. But essentially, the term refers to generating inbound links to your site from other sites on the Internet. The two major benefits of building your link-presence online are a) to introduce another site's followers to your site and b) help your search engine optimization in terms of ranking.
There are a few ways to link-build. First, and perhaps the most common way, is to comment on an article, blog post, or message board and include your link. Beware, though. If you merely post a link to your site instead of a comment, you may be flagged as spam, which could result in your being banned permanently from posting on that site. The best way to include your link is to find articles that are germane to the product or service you are offering, or at least those that you feel confident in responding to intelligently, and write a meaningful post. At the bottom on the post, include your link with your signature. By doing this, the hope is that audiences will end up at your site after reading an article you've commented on.
Dig Deeper: Link Building - What not to do
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Content Aggregators
Content aggregators are similar to link building in that they both help drive traffic to your site. They differ in the sense that you log onto these sites for the sole reason of sharing links to your site with the world. The most common examples of a directory or content aggregator are Digg and StumbleUpon. The best way to drive traffic to your site using these services is to have a popular third party post on your behalf, because they will have a devoted core of followers. Make sure your site is content aggregator friendly, too. For example, if someone visits your site and likes what they see, they should be able to 'Digg' you, which will send a link of your site to their feed.
Here, are some of the other content aggregators you should know about:
Driving traffic to your site is an organic process that takes time and one that never really ends. You'll always want to be working on your strategy in order to achieve a growing number of visitors to your site, because more often than not, that's where you'll be getting the bulk of your customers.
Dig Deeper: Top 13 Ways to Drive Blog Readership