A Beginner's Guide to SEO

Search engine optimization is a confusing topic. Even the most well-meaning business can be hit with a penalty from Google for not following best practices on the Internet. However, as marketing continues to center itself around the Internet, businesses have to understand how to stand out on the digital landscape.  The goal of this post is to clarify what best practices every business can use to give their website a competitive edge.

The routes for improving the search ranking of a blog or a site can be grouped into two categories – white hat and black hat. The former is the legitimate way of improving one’s ranking following the established guidelines, while the latter is the illegitimate way of achieving the same. Black hat techniques attempt to fool search engine algorithms and search spiders, while white hat techniques form a more comprehensive and resilient search strategy.

Search engines like Google have come down hard on the sites implementing black hat SEO methods, so your business should only employ white hat SEO techniques to get a higher ranking in the search engines. 

Here is a checklist to ensure that you’re on the right track in the internet marketing game: 

SEO 101 – Create awesome content

No matter how many different ways you try to fool the search spiders, at the end of the day, your content matters most. Your content draws loyalty from readers and ensures that your site enjoys good readership over time. If your content is sub-standard, no one will visit your site or share your site’s content. Good content encourages readers to share it with their friends and family through social networks and email, and this natural linking helps your business bring in targeted traffic and develop an authoritative link profile. 

Keep your eyes fixed on the end user

Again, the mistake of black hat SEO is that it totally neglect the needs and preferences of the end user. Your SEO strategy should ultimately attract your target audience to your site, so that you can address their needs through your content and services.

In order to accomplish this purpose, you need to zoom in on your specific niche. It’s easy to create a site on general interest, but the competition out there is far too much to be able to make any significant impact. Bring your focus down to a narrow niche, so that what you’re left with is a small but loyal band of readers which will gradually grow over time. 

One practical way to target your audience is to use the Google Keyword Planner to determine what the most popular searches are among your target audience.  Once you have these keywords, create content that focuses on these keywords. This way, when a member of your target audience types something related to your site, chances would be high that your site would come out right on top.

Get quality backlinks

A Backlink (or inbound links) is simply any link that points back to your site. Improving the quality and quantity of backlinks is essential if you wish to improve your site’s Page Rank (PR). Links from high PR sites are relatively more beneficial than those from low PR sites, but only backlinks from relevant sites will improve your sites Page Rank.

Stay away from spammy links.  In the past SEO specialists created websites dedicated only to building backlinks to other sites.  Google is extremely intolerant towards these, and if any of these spam sites link back to your site, your site will be hit with a penalty.                       

Make use of tags and meta descriptions

A meta description is a brief summary statement that populates the search engine results page (SERP) for each site.  Make brief but informative meta descriptions (no more than 130 characters for each of your web pages and posts), making sure to include keywords for that particular page. Although meta descriptions are no longer used by Google for page ranking, they play a major role in appealing to human readers who browse through the search results. 

Additionally, don’t forget to include title tags for all the important pages in your site. Title tags are usually around 70 characters long and give a brief description of the page. They should also have a couple of keywords related to the particular page. However, as always, do not simply list keywords. Make them reader-friendly!

Promote Social Media Sharing

Remember to enable all major social media sharing options on your site wherever you can. Each and every important page in your site should carry share buttons for all major social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram). This enables your site’s readers to share interesting content that they find on your site with all their friends and followers. Gradually, that content will end up on other sites and you’ll also get some good backlinks. 

Ready to implement your own SEO strategy? Call Horton Group today – 615.292.8642