Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a set of best practices that’s constantly evolving. Particularly as we enter the era of mobile readiness, keeping up with the latest SEO strategies has become more critical than ever. Studies have shown that almost nobody looks beyond the first page of search engine results. Very few people will even look past the first handful of results. Ensuring a website and web presence shows up early in search engine results is akin to having an online presence at all.
Unfortunately, SEO can seem like a confusing and intimidating strategy for the average business/website owner. Poor practices, like keyword stuffing, continue to plague websites and hurt SEO endeavors. As we move into the New Year, here are the best ways to improve SEO and get your web presence close to the top of Google results:
1. Identify the “right” keyword density. There’s some wiggle room in this percentage, but a general percentage to aim for is about four percent. Too much and you risk keyword stuffing, too little and your page is unlikely to register as keyword rich at all. There are numerous free online tools to check for keyword density, including tools.seobook.com.
2. Focus on local SEO. “Local” can mean many things from state-specific to hyper-local and focusing on neighborhoods or even streets. Many businesses, especially those without a brick and mortar, don’t think they need local SEO. However, customers naturally want to support local and have the peace of mind in knowing that their product or service came from someone they could feasible meet—even if “meeting” isn’t really possible. Local SEO can help you tap markets you might not otherwise reach. Clifford Blodgett, Director of Digital Marketing for CreativeOne, a top financial marketing organization says “While local SEO is significantly more competitive it pays off to get ranking for the local terms. If you or your team is working with local businesses it’s good to understand the changing of local SEO. Optimizing your Google My Business page and adding localized content to your business website should be top priority when starting local SEO.”
3. Do a “link audit.” Including high authority links as part of your SEO strategy can be savvy, but only if the links work, are complementary without being cannibalistic, and are truly high authority. When is the last time you checked all of the links on your website? It can be a tedious task, but there are various sites that let you quickly scan links (try brokenlinkchecker.com).
4. Get mobile ready. Now that there are more people in North America using mobile devices rather than desktops for all online activity, it’s more important than ever that your websites are mobile ready. This will definitely include responsive design, but may also include a mobile version of a site and/or an app. Discuss your site, goals and customers with an SEO/mobile ready expert to see what mobile ready approach is best for you.
5. Don’t overlook meta tags. Meta tags are the bits of text that are “teasers” to describe sites on search engine results (SERP) pages. For example, a meta tag for a bakery might include, “A Houston vegan bakery specializing in weddings with cakes, eclairs, muffins …” You only get about 65 characters (not words) for meta tags, and they should also be SEO-rich while drawing in customers.
6. Give your site a facelift. SEO doesn’t just consider content, but also layout. There are also best design practices evolving at a fast clip, and it’s very likely that a neglected website is outdated. If it’s not in the budget to hire a web designer, try out a platform like WordPress, Wix, or GoDaddy’s new website builder tool for a free avenue to design and update your site. Layout, images, nav bar placement, fonts and more make a huge difference in SEO.
Optimizing your online presence for search engine results is how you control your online reputation. Websites and web presence aren’t just the first impression anymore—oftentimes, they’re the only impression. Showing up as number one for a long-tail keyword compared to number five can make all the difference. Online shoppers want fast results and immediate gratification. SEO can give that to them while making sure you’re at the top of the heap.