Search engine optimization (SEO) raises the profile of your website. You may have engaging, powerful content on your site, but if you don’t pay attention to SEO, it’s like painting a masterpiece and hoping the Guggenheim will discover it even though it’s stored behind a rusted bicycle in your garage.
Whether you end up hiring an SEO professional or not, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the many SEO resources available to you right now. Boosting SEO boosts traffic and the more traffic, the more sales conversions your site will see. Here is what you need to know to help improve your SEO.
Without Quality Content, You Have Nothing
We’ve all seen web pages that inexplicably top the search engine rankings despite being nonsensical, irrelevant, or downright malevolent (ever seen the warning “This site may harm your computer” in a search result?). However, these sites generally disappear quickly because they often reach the top of search results by using “black hat” SEO, which is a sure way to be banned from search engines. Sites that reach the top and stay there are the ones with high quality content. Throughout your website, you have to invest in high quality content, whether you write it yourself or outsource it. You need powerful titles containing important keywords. You also have to assume readers have short attention spans, because other content is never more than a click away.
Keywords Work for You, Not the Other Way Around
If you don’t know where to begin in determining which keywords to use, the Google keyword tool is free and there are tutorials for using it. You need a handful of relevant, frequently searched keywords (with 50,000 or more searches per month) and to invest in them by creating high quality content including them. Don’t let keywords rule the content, though. Several years ago, attempts to game search engines using a practice known as “keyword stuffing” resulted in pages of content where keywords were repeated so frequently that the content made no sense. Search engines learned how to detect keyword stuffing and quickly punted this content to the depths of the search engine rankings.
The Search Engine Holy Grail: Relevance
The goal of every search engine is to deliver the best, most relevant results for every search. When your content is relevant, not only will it rise in search engine rankings, but visitors to your site will actually read it. Relevant, high quality content is like a classically tailored suit: it’s great today, and when well cared-for, it will be great in ten years. You don’t have to know SEO jargon or add technical tweaks to your page to create solid, relevant content. On the other hand, if you have irrelevant, poor quality content, all the page tweaking in the world won’t help.
Take Advantage of SEO-Friendly Social Networks
Everyone knows how important having a social media strategy is. Cross-promoting features on social networking sites, interacting with customers, and tuning in to the zeitgeist in your industry are critical to every business. The professional networking site LinkedIn is one of the more SEO-friendly sites. Profiles of your website or business’s executives on LinkedIn should be filled in completely and should contain keywords relevant to your industry. You can easily create links from these keywords to your website. Joining industry-specific groups on LinkedIn is another way to connect more professionals in your trade or location with your website. Whether people are actively searching for a job or merely assessing the state of the industry, the importance of networks cannot be overstated.
Keep Track of Competitor Sites
Don’t worry so much about optimizing your site that you forget about competitor websites. Visit competitor websites regularly. Read blog posts and comment threads, and check out their social networking presence. Don’t try to copy everything competing sites do, but make note of their successes (a guest blog post that produced an epic comment thread) and failures (a flame war on a forum that got out of hand). This is a good way to find out what professionals in your local area or trade respond to, and what they ignore, so you can tailor your site’s content accordingly.
SEO can be complicated, but don’t think there’s nothing you can do to improve your site’s SEO on your own, because there is plenty you can do. And it’s well worth the effort. As your site gains prominence and authority in your field, you can expect web traffic and profit-making potential to increase as well.