Search Engine Optimization Techniques
At one time, shady SEO specialists used all sorts of tricks to enhance a website for search engine optimization, like using invisible text stuffed with keywords. You’ve likely heard mention of Google’s regularly changing algorithms. As search engines have become more sophisticated, these old SEO techniques have become obsolete and can even result in search engine penalties.
A technique that is still extremely relevant, actually critical to raising your website in the search engine ranks, is the proper selection and use of keywords in your website. To sum it up, this means that you need to determine what words or phrases people are likely to type into their search engine and make sure that you use those same words or phrases in appropriate places on your website. Then, if the stars come into alignment, and a few more Google, Yahoo, or Bing factors fall into place, your website will come up at the top of someone’s internet search.
Proper keyword selection can be more challenging than it might first appear. Let’s say you own a bookstore in my hometown of Bellingham, Washington. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to rank at number one when people search for the word “book?” If you did, your bookstore might start making an awful lot of money, but let’s be realistic. My Google search results tell me that even Amazon doesn’t rank that high. They seem to fall behind Google Books (big surprise) and Amazon. It would be more realistic to strive for a “keyword” phrase like “Bellingham bookstore” or even “Bellingham used bookstore.”
Any given web page, article, or blog should only target a few keywords. There are SEO specialists that recommend only one per page, but there are no hard and fast rules. The more keywords you try to target, the less effective each will be.
Naturally, you want your keywords to correspond with words or phrases that people might actually search for. This isn’t always as obvious as it seems. If you know your industry well, you’re also familiar with the inside lingo, the industry slang, and the proper terminology. These may not be the terms that the average Joe Schmo uses when searching for business like yours.
To determine the keywords that people are searching for, a tool like Google Adwords Keyword Planner will help you choose the best words or phrases to optimize for.
Once you’ve determined those keywords or phrases, here’s where you place them to improve your website’s search engine ranking:
- Page Title – Using the keyword near the beginning of the page title is preferable. The page title shows up in the search results and on the tab of a browser.
- Web Address or URL – The keyword or phrase should be used in the url, preferably with hyphens separating words.
- Headings – Each page should have only one H1 tag, with the keyword in it. Be sure to use heading tags correctly, using H2 tags for sections of the page, H3 for subsections, etc.
- Body Text – The keyword should appear at least three times on the page, preferably at least once within your first few sentences and once in bold letters.
- Image Alt Text – Your accompanying images can show up in image-based searches, bringing more traffic to your website.
- Meta Descriptions – Search engines may display your meta descriptions, so a proper description with keywords should attract more clicks.
Blogging, or writing a variety of articles, is a wonderful way to produce new content, keep visitors interested in your website, and target for a whole variety of keywords. We’ve got another article on suggestions for writing great content.
When writing a new article that is highly targeted for a keyword or phrase, I’ve seen articles that show up almost immediately, especially when I post a link on Google Plus. Most SEO effects show up more gradually, as much as three months later. Regularly writing new, high-quality content, and using the above techniques will slowly but steadily improve your search engine rankings, driving more traffic to your website. It’s an endeavor well worth pursuing.