Search engine optimization (SEO) offers no magic bullet for getting the coveted #1 slot in Google for specific keywords. There is some low-hanging fruit which anyone can do fairly easily (like optimize the title tags on your sites pages), but the intense level of competition for search terms and the robust algorithms used by search engines mean it’s not terribly simple to have a high ranking website.
Search Optimized Websites
The foundation for any SEO marketing is a great website. Without good information and visual design, your site’s content is not going to be discovered, nor shared, by either human visitors or search engines.
Make it Look Good!
Visual design applies only to your human visitors (search engines have different ways to evaluate the quality of your site). The importance of visual design can not be overestimated. When a user finds your site, do they like it enough to want to share it, or does it look amateurish and spammy? Is your site’s design appropriate for your industry? Do the navigation tools on your site help users find your great content? Can visitors find vital tools like email registration and social sharing buttons so they can become engaged readers?
Sites with content that gets shared are bestowed with better results by search engines. Make sure your site is not scaring people away!
Build it Right
There are a diverse number of factors to keep in mind when building a search optimized site, all of which have a bearing on how well search engines will refer you. Is your HTML semantic and valid? Does your site load quickly, or does it take ten seconds to see your gorgeous homepage? Do you have breadcrumbs, sitemaps, and intelligent navigation to help search engines index your content? Is your written content near the top of your HTML, or buried behind an avalanche of CMS-generated code?
Information and visual design set you up for success; once you have a fast, semantic, contemporary, sharable site, you can start to figure out how to heighten your chances for search engine relevance.
What are the search terms you’d like to rank for? How competitive are those terms? (In other words, are there other companies and sites likely gunning for the same search results?) Is it better for your site to go for shorter keyword phrases (like “SEO services”) or so-called longtail keyword phrases (like “SEO strategy and training for non-profits in Seattle”)? (Hint: longtail is usually better, but not always!)
Target keywords and phrases in hand, how do you work them into your site? 10 years ago, a ‘strategy’ was to simply stick your preferred search terms all over your site, as often as possible – in footers especially! And in white type on a white background so visitor wouldn’t catch on to your ‘keyword stuffing’!
Today, we don’t do keyword stuffing, because the spammers forced Google to be smarter than that. Now, we have to craft our site intelligently to draw search engine attention for specific keywords and phrases.
Strategizing is equal parts research and empathy. Research will give you all sorts of ideas to implement; only when we empathize with a visitor’s experience of a website can we perfect those ideas.
A beautiful design and intelligent strategy don’t mean anything if your site maintenance and content generation is done by someone with no clue how to think like an SEO nerd.
Fortunately, SEO is a teachable skill. For clients in the Seattle area, I love to do in-person training with site owners and their staff. For clients in far-flung places, the conference calls and online screen-sharing services will let me communicate with you and/or your staff and co-workers.
For those with a DIY mindset or who simply want to be better informed, here are a couple of articles I recommend:
- SEO Moz’s Beginner Guide To SEO: This is an in-depth series of the major topics to understand in SEO. Highly recommended.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: Anyone who is using WordPress and hoping to get control of SEO should be using Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress; it’s more powerful and better organized than other SEO plugins like All-in-One SEO or Ultimate SEO. Once you’ve got the plugin installed, this article will help you leverage it. Note: has great points about overall SEO strategy, which apply to all sites, not just WordPress-powered sites.
Want to know how I can help you? Drop me a line!