SEO Basics: What You Need for a Well Optimized Website

by | SEO, Website Design

Using SEO to Improve Site Rank and Generate Leads 

Search engine optimization is a complex, ever-changing subset of digital marketing that continues to grow in importance. The methods for improving a website’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) range from technical to creative, and they work in tandem to create a positive site experience and encourage repeat visits.

While successful SEO requires extensive knowledge of how search engines work, there are several basic concepts that every CMO or VP of Marketing should understand to quickly evaluate their current situation and understand where there’s room for improvement.

Why Do You Need SEO?

Optimizing for Google strengthens consumer trust and value. When a business ranks high in organic search results, it generates a certain level of trust, respect and credibility which are necessary for brands relying on digital channels for leads.

What Are Search Engines Looking For?

Search engines are smart. They scour the internet for the best and most relevant information. They look at content and code to determine how to rank a page. There are an estimated 200 ranking factors that Google looks at when analyzing a website. But in our experience, the basics outlined here create the biggest impact and ensure a website is ranking.

1. Code
2. Content
3. Keywords
4. User Experience
5. Links

Website Code

This is the technical side of SEO and much of what we’re talking about in this category occurs “behind the scenes” on a website. But make no mistake, coding for SEO is vital. This is by no means an all-encompassing list, but these are definitely items you want to pay attention to.

Search-Engine Friendly URLs: URLs should be easily understood by humans and search engines. Keep things clean and nest pages in a manner that makes sense.

Meta Data: Basic meta data includes titles, descriptions and links. These elements should include relevant keywords but be mindful not to go overboard.

Redirects: Search engines don’t like duplicate content. You can use several different types of redirects to tell them which pages to look at.

Page Speed: Page speed is a ranking factor and the faster the better. Website visitors have little patience for a page that takes forever to load. Optimize code by removing unnecessary characters.

Cross-Device Compatibility: This refers to mobile-friendly websites which are now a priority for Google and their “mobile first” mindset.

Properly Tagged Images: Properly tagging images helps when an image fails to load for any reason. The user will see what the image is supposed to be with what’s known as “alt text.”

XML Sitemap: This is different from a user-facing sitemap. The XML sitemap is specifically for Google and helps identify the most essential website pages.

Original Content

content is still one of the best ways to show search engines that your site is relevant for a given topic.

Do you regularly publish helpful articles? Do you write content that your target market is actively searching for?

Original content typically includes blog articles, case studies, podcasts, videos or white papers. When you create thought-leadership style content for a specific topic, you demonstrate to search engines why your website is relevant. Here are a few tips to consider:

Experiment With Long-Form Content: These articles can be 1,500+ words in length.

Repurpose Old Content: Rather than reinvent the wheel, update an older article to reflect any recent industry changes.

Publish Transcripts: Video and podcasts are very popular, and the transcripts are a great way to add additional content to your site.

Keywords and Keyword Research

While some SEO professionals are placing less emphasis on keywords, we still believe they matter. Optimizing a website inherently involves keywords and keyword research.

Use a Reputable Tool for Research: Moz Pro and SEM Rush are two of our favorite tools.

One Word or Phrase Per Page: Avoid watering down SEO efforts. Remain focused by optimizing each page for one word or phrase.

Don’t go Overboard: Use the keyword a few times, ideally in the meta data and sprinkled throughout the content.

User Experience

If you follow the best practices with website code and content, you’ll be well on your way to providing a positive user experience (UX) for site visitors. But it’s worth calling out UX as a separate objective because this goes beyond the technical components of a site.

UX involves thinking through every touchpoint that makes up the overall experience with a website site. Graphic design is part of this, but at its core UX involves understanding the user’s needs and objectives and creating a site the solves problems. Some initial questions to consider include:

 

  • What is the problem or need we are aiming to solve?
  • What are the users trying to do?
  • Why is this important to them? / Why do they care?
  • What is the business opportunity?

Links

Although links have become less important over the last few years, they still hold value. The easiest links to secure are typically directory listings. The most worthwhile directory listings are ones that relate to your industry niche. We suggest Moz Local as a place to start. Then explore industry specific directories like Avvo for attorneys or HomeAdvisor for contractors.

Have more questions about how to use search engine optimization to improve visibility?  Contact us today for more information.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2015 and was updated in March 2021.

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