In Part 1 of this guide, we answered some of the most basic questions that a know-nothing beginner could have: what is a search engine, how does it work, and what is search engine optimization (SEO)? If you missed it, you can find it here. Now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of SEO and discuss concrete steps for improving your site’s search ranking. Don’t worry; you won’t need to know much about computers.
The keywords are what people type into the search bar. If they wanted to find something similar to your webpage, what words would they use? Those are your keywords. Use them in your page titles, content, URL, and links but don’t go overboard. Crazily cramming keywords can trigger a search engine’s spam alert and end up drastically lowering the rank of a page. When it comes to keyword optimization, the best practice is simple: just use them naturally – and with a bit of strategy.
Put keywords close to the beginning of a page’s title…once; then once in URL and prominently near the top of the page. Then write it with a little variation 2 or 3 more times throughout your content and Bob’s your uncle.
The title of any page should be an accurate, precise description of its contents. Include the page’s keyword, preferably at the beginning where it will help with not only rank but also the click-rate (how often users click on it). Search engine users are an impatient bunch; rather than read an entire page title, they’ll often only briefly scan the first few words before deciding whether to click or move on.
At the end of your title tag, write your brand name. Eventually, this will result in brand awareness and that’s a very valuable thing. If people recognize your brand, they’ll feel invested in it.
The catch: search engine’s will only display 65-75 characters of the title tag. You need to make the title as compelling as possible while including a keyword and your brand within that frame.
If your page’s URL – its web address – gives would-be visitors a descriptive picture of what they’re about to click on, you’ve done a good job. The best URLs are short and sweet and minimize numbers, random letters, and symbols. A good, clean URL for every one of your pages makes the entire website appear more trustworthy and will increase its click-rate, which in turn increases its search rank.
If you want to be great at SEO, design your website for a search engine’s purpose: to provide users with relevant, useful content. The best thing you can do to increase your website’s rank is to improve its usability and fill it with great content. All the meta tagging, keyword optimization, and strategic linking in the world is no match for a thoughtfully designed website made to engage users and give them the information for which they’re looking.
This 2-part guide is exactly what it claims to be: a complete, absolute, know-nothing beginner’s guide. Additional reading is highly recommended and the best place to start is probably with SEO consultancy Moz’s “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO,” a far longer, more in-depth guide.
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