Intro to SEO – Basic SEO factors

With this post I’m trying to give you a short overview / intro to SEO.

Something that is always important and something that you should always keep in mind should be:

  • Think about your users! U/X (user experience) is crucial. Happy user, happy you, better SEO results!
  • Fight the bounce rate! Make sure people stay on your page once they arrived. If they leave again in a hurry that doesn’t help your ranking and makes the user sad.
  • Use smart formatting to make the content more appealing. Boring formatting leads to users not reading all your content and getting bored. Fight that!

Having all that said, let’s start with the tips that you’ve been waiting for.

Blog Post Title

Quite important! It makes users click and hit helps with SEO when you use related keywords. Don’t make it too long since google and co will cut it, if it’s too long (not more than 65 characters). Make it catchy and try to use the keyword (s/phrases) that you want to target.

Post Permalink Structure 

Your URL structure is also something you should think about. You can easily change it (in WordPress for example). It’s always good to use keywords within the URL and avoid special characters or symbols and stuff like that. Also you might want to switch from sayfun.me/category/date/topic/post.html to sayfun.me/post.html. Don’t make it tooo complicated.

Heading Tags

Using heading tags (via the wordpress editor for example) is definitely a good idea. Better than just making your headline bold. When doing that you should make sure to only use one h1 tag though and only a few h2 or h3. Don’t overuse it since Google will think you try to cheat if you do so. Ideally you would have another keyword finding its way into the heading tag.

Keyword Density

There’s no exact number of how many times you should use your keyword within the body of your page. You should use it often enough so that google knows what’s it about but you shouldn’t use it too often so it doesn’t annoy the reader. Research shows that 1.5% Keyword Density might be a good value to follow. But that’s just an educated guess more or less. Also don’t forget to use synonyms.

Meta Description

You should add unique and relevant meta keyword and meta description with each of your blog post. Again, you should use your use targeted keyword in the meta description and meta keyword section. You should create a meta description tag which work as a summary for your blog post. You should limit meta description length to 160 charactersincluding spaces. You should write user friendly meta description tags for better Click Through Rate (CTR) in search engines. Though, many search engine like Bing still prefer meta keywords but Google already made it clear that they don’t give any weight-age to Meta keywords. Here is official statement from Google regarding use of Meta Keywords:

Addition of Images

Images are always good. It makes users happier if they have to read less (lazy asses!) and it’s good for universal search results. Just make sure you don’t forget to actually name those pictures, give them descriptions and appropriate alt-tags and also think about using descriptive keywords and synonyms in close proximity to those pictures. Ideally you would try to keep the image size  to a minimum (while still having it look good). If you’re running wordpress there are a few plugins that could help to you reduce image file sizes automatically.

Word Count Per Post

Sure it’s about quality but quantity also needs to be satisfied to some extend. Search engines usually don’t believe you that you can convey lots of quality in super short texts. So ideally you’d aim at 700+ word articles. Ideally I would suggest to go for even longer articles that are well researched and target specific longtail keywords. This doesn’t mean you have to write for the sake of increasing the word count though, quality still matters and should be your top priority.

Internal Links

If you run a blog you probably have lots of good articles in your archive. So why not use them? Link to your own articles or articles of your guests within your own blog. This will allow users to find more related information while still keeping them on your domain. When linking to your own blog posts you would obviously do that from the ‘right’ anchor text keywords that make sense in this regard.

External Links

This seems a bit counter productive at first. Why should I link away from my website? However there’s a good reason for that. It shows that you don’t just collect links and are able to provide additional value by offering your readers more knowledge. When linking to other websites you should make sure though that the website you link to can be trusted and isn’t some shady side project of your friend or something similar like that. If you don’t have any good website to link to but feel like you want to add some extra value and in the need for an external link wikipedia is usually a good place to search for a ‘linkable’ website.

Write Engaging Content

It’s been said so many times but it will always prove to be true: Content is King. So write good, engaging content. Of course you try to target your chosen keyword but in the end you want the user to come to your site and stay there and ideally ‘do something’. The higher the engagement, the higher the time on your site, lower bounce rate, etc…So how do you keep people engaged? You could ask questions or for the opinion of the reader. This often helps. You could also offer some incentives in order to get your desired user action, etc. Just be creative!

On page SEO Checklist:

A quick check list to recap what we just talked about and what you learned in our course:

Keyword placement:

  • Keyword in Title
  • Keyword in Permalink
  • Keyword in first paragraph
  • Keyword in Image Alt tag, Image name, proximity
  • Tweaked Keyword in H2 or H3
  • Bold Important Keywords and related keywords
  • Italics 1-2 important Keywords
  • Outbound Link to relevant high-quality sites
  • Internal links to related articles
  • Remove all stop words from Permalinks – wordpress tries to do that automatically but check it anyways.
  • Add multimedia (Video, Slides, Infographic)
  • Longer content. Minimum: 700 words
  • Optimize images (compress, resize)
  • Think about the page loading time (fast is good!)
  • Use Longterm Keywords

A few more things:

  • Use Meta title but think about the perfect length (not too short, not too long)
  • Use Meta description with less than 150 characters (also not too short though!)
  • Optimize the SEO plugins that you use (don’t be satisfied with the default settings).
  • Utilize social sharing buttons.
  • Offer related blog posts at the end to keep the reader on your site.

A few things not to do:

  • Not more than 1 H1 tag (Your Post title is H1 tag)
  • Don’t repeat H2 and H3 Tag too often!
  • Don’t increase the Keyword density too more than 1.25%

A Things to focus on:

  • Use Keywords in a smart way! The beginning of post titles for examples, headlines, etc.
  • Use Long tail keywords!
  • Maybe it makes sense to remove the post date from your posts.
  • Go for long content – don’t make it painful to read though.

seo-trends-2016

You’re still reading? Wow. Good on you. Then here are a few more, more specific, tips for you!

1. Intention is everything.

It’s not always only about matching exact keywords but also about intention according to Cyrus Shepard, director of audience development at Moz. “In the old days, it was about getting the click. Now search engines are seeing how people are interacting with your website: Are they going back and clicking on results, or are they finding the answers they’re looking for when they’re on your site? Today it’s about the post-click activity. Not only do you have to get the clicks, but you have to satisfy user intent.”

*Epicurious includes videos and post-click actions 

2. Keywords aren’t the be-all and end-all.

According to the aforementioned expert Keywords, Shepard says “Google has gotten better about interpreting meaning. It used to be that if you wanted to rank for ‘best restaurants,’ you had to say ‘best restaurants’ three or four times. It’s still helpful to mention ‘best restaurants,’ but the semantic meaning is becoming much more important. Now you can just talk about great dining experiences, and the search engines will pick up on it.”

Moreover: “Historically, we wanted to get a keyword in the body copy or in the meta description. Now that’s all gone out the window. As the search engines get smarter, they start to think about other words that you expect to be in that article, what will signal that this is an authoritative article on the topic. If you were writing an article about the Apple Watch, you might have the words ‘Apple,’ ‘iPhone,’ ‘Watch,’ ‘apps’ and ‘time.’ If those are in the body copy, it sends signals to the search engines that this is a pretty good article.”

Research shows that 75% of searches are between three and five words long, therefore it would make sense to write headlines accordingly. He also adds “The search engines are figuring out that if people search for the word ‘marketing,’ or any one- or two-word query, they don’t get the results they want. To get quality results that are most likely to answer their question, they have to go to three-, four- or five-word queries. As content creators, when you’re thinking about optimization, you have to think about that.”

3. Focus on the user experience.

“Google, right now, is making 500 algorithm changes a year,” according to experts. “Every change is focused on making sure that when someone searches on Google, if they get the right result on the first few pages, they’ve got a great experience. It’s not, ‘How am I going to tweak the engine or trick Google, Bing or Yahoo?’ It’s how you make sure that your content is the best possible content on the Internet for the words that you care about.”

Therefore creating your own, original content is becoming more important than ever, according to Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Outspoken Media Inc., a Troy, N.Y.-based SEO consulting firm. “The more original content that you can produce—whether it’s an image or a video, or long-form content, anything you can put together that’s going to justify someone wanting to read it or share it—the better.”

We know that buzzfeed style articles are often clickable. Just think about those “top five” list format posts, Drysdale suggests using them sparingly though. “People like things that they can quickly digest, but it doesn’t necessarily have much weight with search,” she says. “You have to make sure that whatever comes after the number makes sense and is useful.”

Appealing to your audience becomes more and more important as well. “That’s the most important thing that a marketer can do for SEO in 2016. Your content has to be original and targeted to your audience. If you curate content, take a paragraph from another article or site, and give them full credit and add an attribution, but add a paragraph or two in your own voice: ‘Here’s why I think it’s relevant.’ You’re adding a journalistic voice and making it your own.”

4. Size matters.

Longer articles, between 1,200 to 1,500 words, perform better in search, on average, Laetsch says. “It’s significantly different than it was two or three years ago, when 300 words was a pretty long page. Longer articles are getting more traffic, and they’re ranking higher in SEO, especially for competitive terms. The changes that Google is making, and the reason they’re making these changes, is to make sure they’re sending traffic to pages that delight humans.” Specialists suggest breaking up long-form content with subheads, bullet points and images throughout the text to make it easy for readers to quickly scan and digest it.

Longer articles perform better in search results because there are more words and images to rank on the page, Shepard says. “People are sharing longer articles on social media more, and linking to them and citing them more. Shorter articles do well sometimes, but on average, longer articles tend to perform better.”

5. Optimize for mobile.

More and more people are reading news on their phones, so you gotta make sure that your content can be found and read there. “Making sure Google can understand the content that’s found within a mobile app, and leveraging the marketing of the app with respect to SEO, is an opportunity on the consumer and B-to-B marketing side.” – according to several social media and SEO managers.

6. Use unique images.

Pictures do not drive as much traffic to websites as they used to, still they are quite important though. If you use pictures you want to use unique pictures and not pictures that show up 100 times on others websites too.  According to Sheppard: “The same image can show up in hundreds of places around the Web, but having unique content around those images is what makes it stand out. I’m not opposed to using stock images to illustrate a point, but any time you can create something that’s custom or use unique photography, that will pay off more in the long run.”

The most important SEO tip for 2016 is to focus on your audience, Shepard says. “In the past, it was about marketers trying to promote what they wanted people to see. Today it’s about delivering what people actually want to see that will give you an SEO ranking boost.”

Laetsch, another expert, adds: “The reason we’re doing optimization and want to show up in Google, Bing or Yahoo is not because we make money because we show up No. 1 or No. 2. The reason we want to rank well in the search engine is so that our audience, the people we’re trying to reach, have a great experience. It doesn’t matter how high you rank if your target audience goes to your site and they’re not happy.”

Now stop reading, and start doing! 🙂