You’ve likely heard or asked some form of the question How do I get to the top ranking on Google? Or, perhaps you’ve gotten an email from an SEO company making claims that they can get you there. Well, first off, what is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization. It involves adjusting your website structure and content for better results with search engines. It is a sub category of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
You see, a lot of people want to be #1 on Google. The good news is there are best practices you can follow to optimize your site for search including clean, honest, relevant, and up-to-date content and structure.
In other words, there is no Magic-SEO-Sauce to put on top of a rickety website. In fact, adding Magic-SEO-Sauce to a rickety website is a recipe for spam. Remember that your target audience consists of actual humans who can smell foul. Also remember that aiming at your target audience is not a one-time thing— it’s a long-term commitment.
You hopefully started your business or project because you thought it would be inspiring or helpful for people. So why don’t we look at that instead of bad tricks? Optimizing for search relevancy ultimately involves looking deeply at your communication approach, and being open to change, because if you want to reach actual humans you first need to define the humans and then engage them.
1) Honest Content & Identifiable Copy: Talk about your product or service honestly and helpfully. Name your URL, Page and Post Titles, and Header Tags with identity and clarity in mind. Only assign keywords to pages if they are actually part of your page copy. Consider what terms people search to find someone like you and find organic ways to tie it into your copy if it is not already happening naturally.
The honest, organic implementation of copy and key terms is also referred to as White Hat SEO. By contrast, Black Hat SEO is the unethical, Magic-SEO-Sauce approach. For example, you could hide irrelevant but frequently searched words and phrases like “kittens” or “naked hot chicks” on your site page by applying a white text style to a white background. But then you’d be sleazy.
If you use a WordPress site, try adding the Yoast SEO Plugin. This user friendly plugin rates your optimization for each page or post based on the URL, focus keyword, title and meta description you assign, highlighting where to adjust your language to better optimize.
2) Customer Service: This is not technically an SEO approach or web design tip, but isn’t it really the root of it all? There is nothing better for your product or service than making people feel good about working with you, and a nice by-product of that can be the most coveted of all marketing: word-of-mouth. If you make stellar service part of your identity and approach, people will talk about you. They might share your website with their own blog or social media audience. Customer service is not reserved for Zappos and your web host; it’s not just a department of a large business with a phone bank. You, as an individual or small business, can provide good customer service by effectively serving people what you have to offer, whether that means picking up the phone or making your website easy to navigate.
But what if I’m not trying to sell a product or service? I just want people to find my band’s page? Then appreciate people who stay up late going to your Wednesday night shows. Be nice to people who like you. You still make music that you want to sell, whether it’s selling an actual CD or just selling people on your music.
3) Link Out: Same theory as #2. Corny as it sounds, you gotta give to get back. You want links to your website, right? Well, you probably know a lot about what you are offering and you probably have resources your audience doesn’t already know about. By sharing links to others, the goodwill may come back to you. I’m not saying go crazy with gratuitous links with self-serving benefits in mind, but if you reference your colleague or influencer or a product that really made your day, include a link if possible. Depending on your product or service, you may even want to include a resources or links page.
4) Image IDs: By naming your image file, image title, and image alt with clear descriptors, you can add search relevancy by reaching people through image search.
5) Blog: If you are inclined, maintain a blog as part of your website. It’s not for everyone, but if you are interested in sharing a point-of-view in your area of expertise, each entry topic could bring you readers searching for answers you may be able to shed light on. Keep it relevant.
Hold your horses. Google doesn’t see you immediately. There are a lot of factors going into rising to a top search engine spot or page and one of them is time. Another is people actually scrolling through the Google results pages until they find your link and click on it. If that happens over and over, you start moving up. And then there is other stuff that’s just random. Sorry. You can plug your ears and whistle if you like, but that won’t help either.
Common Sense SEO Checklist and Thoughts on SEO by Chris Coyier
Why I Don’t Get SEO and Perhaps SEO Isn’t All Bad by Paul Boag
Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide by Google
10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Site for Search by Creative Market