Search engine optimization tips are a dime a dozen. The problem is too many search engine optimization specialists (SEOs) not only rely on outdated tactics, many use search engine optimization strategies that can actually hurt your website. Just this week, a major flower supplier in the U.K., Interflora, along with a number of high profile news sites and blogs were dropped from the search engine because the “SEO” company they hired relied on “black hat” SEO strategies that are not only outdated but are intended to fool the Google search engine algorithms.
Thanks to the Google Panda updates, many of these search engine optimization specialists are finding themselves scrambling as it gets harder and harder to manipulate the search engine returns. As Google gets smarter search engine optimization becomes more about the actual content on the page and less about the trickery of “black hat” techniques.
The good news is that with a few basic tools, moving up the search engine rankings is within anyone’s reach. Yes, competition will make it harder for some than others but ultimately, it comes down to the work you put into it. Gaining a solid hold in the search engine rankings doesn’t happen fast either. It is a long term project that requires a long term strategy. When done right it also yields long-term results. Unlike a trick that may move a web page to the top for a short time the tips I’m going to show you below will help you move to the top and stay there. They are nothing new. They have survived the Google updates of the past and for the most part, will continue to work no matter what Google throws at them in the future.
Here are seven search engine optimization tips that will help you make friends with Google:
1. Form a Partnership with Google
The problem with too many SEO types is that they see Google as the enemy, a powerful force waiting to rain down penalties on the innocent. Instead of facing off with Google as an adversary, form a partnership with Google. Look for ways to help Google succeed. To do that you need to think like Google or more important the person using the Google search engine.
Google succeeds when someone searching Google finds the information they need. If Google fails to provide that information, people will find other tools to provide that information. This is why Google has “penalized” websites that artificially found their way to the top of the search engine rankings. It’s not that they were penalizing the site. They were moving it back where it belonged in the search engine rankings making way for the information the Google user wanted. Yes, it could be argued that those that took advantage of the Google algorithms suffered more than they should but once you’ve broken a partner’s trust, it’s hard to get it back.
Partner with Google by providing information that their user seeks. Think about your target audience and the information they need. When they search the internet with questions about the services you provide, what do they ask? What information do they need? Provide that information.
For example, if you’re a lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation, publish blog posts that help your target audience with the workers’ compensation process. Interior designer? Share tips on interior design or blog about the latest trends in design. Specialize in computer repair? Create how-two videos helping people solve their computer problems. Guide them through the steps they can fix on their own and lead them to your services with the bigger problems. You’ll not only move up the search engine rankings, you’ll build trust with potential clients.
The idea is to help Google and even more important your target audience by providing the information they need. High quality content of value always has and always will be king.
2. Find Terms (Keywords) Your Target Audience is Using
Even more important than thinking like Google, you need to think like your target audience. What terms are they useing when they search for the information you can provide. These terms are the keywords that you will use to guide your content development. Although keywords have long been a target of SEO abuse, common sense key word research and optimization can help your target audience find your information.
Start by making a list of the questions you can answer for your target audience through a blog post, video presentation or other form of content. For example, an estate attorney might go after the obvious terms such as “Estate Attorney” but if we use a tool such as the Google Keywords Tool, we can see that although there are a number of Google users searching this term, it is also a highly competitive term. Also note the confusion with terms such as “real estate attorney.” (See image below)
However, if we think like our Google user we might look at a phrase like, “How to write a will.” A phrase someone needing an estate attorney might actually use when searching the web.
As you can see in the image below, “How to write a will” provides a much bigger opportunity than “Estate Attorney” with 165,000 searches in the U.S. yet low competition. Scroll down through the keyword ideas and you can often find the potential for more content your target audience needs and is actively searching on Google.
For example at the bottom of the image below you can see the term “sample will” showing low competition with 90,500 searches in the U.S. If I was an estate attorney, you can bet I’d be publishing a sample will that demonstrates what is needed in a will. Even better, I’d create a sample will that my target audience could download in exchange for a subscription to my weekly newsletter.
Another interesting key phrase image the below uncovers is “How to write a will and testament .” At first thought, this would seem to be a natural phrase to go after. However, look at how that phrase only gets 1,900 global searches yet the competition is high. Without commen sense keyword research, I would probably have gone after “How to write a will and testament” but the real opportunity is content that answers the question, “How to write a will?”
Terms with opportunities like this are known as “long-tail keywords.” One of the biggest advantages of long-tail keywords is that content which provides solid information the user seeks using these long-tail terms can slowly work it’s way to the top and stay there.
(If there are any Estate Attorney’s out there reading this, call me. What a huge opportunity!)
3. Optimize Your Website (ie. use WordPress)
Optimizing your website for the search engines means nothing more than making it easy for the search engines to crawl your site and accurately determine what it is about. This means there you don’t have splash pages blocking the search engine spiders, pdf files which the search engines can’t read don’t take the place of web copy, the code is clean and easy for the search engines to navigate and all the proper search engine road signs are in place.
Search engine ease of use is one of the biggest reasons I am such a WordPress advocate. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, just using WordPress takes care of 80-90% of your search engine needs. Add a few simple plugins such as Google XML Sitemaps and a high quality theme (I like Studiopress by Genesis) and your site can really hum.
If you’re using WordPress, the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin does a great job at handling all the technical SEO stuff so you can focus on creating content.
4. Write Strong Meta Titles and Descriptions
The meta title is one of the most important search engine road signs on a webpage. It lets both the search engines and search engine users know what is on the page. Be sure to include your targeted keyword in the title, preferably toward the front of the title. Meta titles should also be no more than 70 characters.
The meta description is also used to guide the search engines to your content and should also include your target keyword. Meta descriptions should be no longer than 150 characters although extra information won’t hurt, it will just be cut off in the search engine returns (most of the time).
The meta title and description appear in the Google search engine returns. Along with helping the search engines, the meta title and description needs to encourage the user to click through to your website. Use the title and description to sell your content with a headline and description that appeals to your target audience.
Most website content management systems include an easy way to add meta data to a blog post or webpage. If your website does not, get one that does now. Again, this is the advantage of WordPress. Meta data functionality is easily added to WordPress using a plugin or high quality theme. The image below shows the meta data input fields using the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. Note the preview showing how it will look in the search engine returns (SERP) along with fields for basic keyword optimization and research. These elements are part of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.
5. Use Simple URLs Which Include Your Key Word
Although there is some disagreement regarding including date or other info in the URL, from an SEO perspective the cleaner the URL the better. I personally like to set my url to show just the main url followed by the post title. WordPress now includes this form as an option under “settings/permalinks.” (see image). DO NOT make this change to an established website/blog or you will break any incoming and internal links. This setting should only be made when setting up a new site.
Include your targeted keyword in the url but keep it short. If using a keyword phrase, separate words with a hyphen (see the url above on this post for an example). Again, if you are using WordPress, the url can be changed directly on from the CMS. (see image below).
6. Include keywords but don’t overdue it
Yes, you should still include your keyword in the actual post but only as it naturally occurs. Write the post for the reader, not the search engines and stick to one keyword or phrase. Attempts to keyword stuff only make the text look awkward and don’t fool the search engines. If anything, keyword stuffing can get in the way of an otherwise quality post.
Use the keyword in the opening of the post in order to make a connection with the reader coming from the search engines and again when it works. Don’t be afraid to work in variations of the keyword such as the plural form. The search engines are smart enough to figure out what your are talking about.
7. Make it easy to share
Social recognition and sharing is having a bigger and bigger influence in the search engines. This is only going to increase as Google+ continues to grow and Facebook implements Graph Search. Include sharing buttons and don’t be afraid to ask for a share every now and then. When appropriate, share the content yourself by creating discussion on Twitter, in Google+ Communities and among other networks where your target audience gathers. Make the content useful and don’t spam your communities. Nobody likes a spammer.
And remember Content First, SEO second
Even the best Search engine optimization tips don’t mean anything if the content on the page is of no value to the target audience. They will only bounce from the page, won’t share and the content will remain exactly where it belongs, lost in the trash heap of SEO optimization.
Need Help Creating Content That Will Move You Up The Search Engine Rankings?
Click on the button below for a free analysis of your website and a content marketing strategy session. I’ll help you develop a plan to make friends with Google and move your content to the top of the search engine rankings. You can also call me today at 410-777-8698 or email me by clicking here.