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Lately my clients have been asking me “How do I get to the top of Google?” Competition on the world-wide web has been growing rapidly and trying to claim your space is getting harder. Search engines such as Google use complicated algorithms to rank your page that are always changing. This is my attempt at sharing my knowledge of SEO with you.
How does one improve their rank on the search engines?
Many small business are often approached by companies that offer to get them on the first page of Google. Some have systems that work, some don’t and some can actually hurt your ranking. Everything that these service do you can do on you own, and often times better. The following are some tips on things you can do with your website to help improve your ranking.
In the early days a website could just load a bunch of keywords in a meta-tag on their website and search engines would use them to get and idea of what you website was about. Unscrupulous website builders would load their site with keywords that were popular and had nothing to do with their website to try to get you there. The larger search engines will often ignore the keyword meta-tag now. That doesn’t mean we should ignore doing the research. Keywords or phrases placed carefully in the content of your website will do a lot build the authority of your website. Google offers a free keyword tool you can use to research what words or phrases are being search for your business. Think carefully how you search and how others may search. Now think about the question or terms your customers use when asking about your product or service. Try researching these. You will see the results that show you how often those are searched as well as other words or phrases that may yield better results. The keyword search will also show you how much competition there is on a word or phrase. If you look carefully you may be able to choose some that have good result and low competition.
Carefully construct written content for your website using the keywords and phrases you have researched. Use some terms multiple times but be careful not to overuse them. You don’t want to seem like you are just trying to stuff your webpage with keywords. When building your site think carefully about what your customers are looking for and a logically menu system for them to find it. If you are referencing other information on your site consider creating a link. When making a link avoid using “click here” use a phrase that defines where the link leads and add the “title” tag to the html to better describe the link. Keep content to a minimum and use headings and outline structure to make skimming the content easier. If a visitor to your site finds the content overwhelming they may leave and what good is getting someone to visit your site if they don’t stay? One last tip on content, look to your competition for clues. If you search using the keywords you’ve chosen, who shows up? What do they have on their website that you think is helping them rank higher?
Page Title and meta tags
Look at the top of your browser window. Possibly in the tab. This is your title and this information is contained in the code of your website in the title tag. There are additional tags that can be used for search engines that are called meta tags. One of these tags is the description tag. The title tag and the description tags are used by Google when showing search results. Try to be descriptive of the page content when creating the page title and description and make them unique to each page. A more descriptive listing had a better chance of being clicked on and more visits to your site improves your rank. More on that to follow.
A URL is the full address of the page you are viewing or trying to view. What do you think is better http://insightdezign.com/staging/how-do-i-get-on-the-first-page-on-google/ or http://insightdezign.com/staging/?p=472? Both of these URLs will get you to this page but the first one is more descriptive. Search engines pay attention to URL as well and will use it to determine if your content is relevant to the search being requested. Try and choose your URLs carefully.
A Sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website. It is a XML file that search engines can read. If your website is new or has pages that may not be linked yet is helps search engines find them. When you change content on your website you should recreate your Sitemap and resubmit it to the search engines. Some content management systems like WordPress have plugins that can automate this for you.
Ready? Take a deep breath because I think this is one of the most important parts next to your content. Google uses links to find your website and rank it. If other sites don’t link to your website then the chances of being found are much smaller. Part of Google’s algorithm looks at how many sites link to you, how relevant those sites are and how many people are clicking through to your site. What does this mean. Don’t just go getting anyone to link to your site and offering a link back. Think of more valuable ways to use links. Can you offer some content on your site that others may want to link to from within their page’s content? This would be the best type of link much more likely to be clicked on than a link listed on a page called “Links”. Look for industry related website and see if you can write guest blog pieces that link back to your site. Try and find industry listing site, chamber of commerce site, networking groups in your area that allow you to put your information with a link on their site. Find lots of ways to link to your site but do it carefully.
Google+ Local, often called Google Places or Google Maps is Google’s free listing for your business. I often compare this to a yellow pages listing but with much more to offer. Chances are if you have a “bricks and mortar” store and have been around for a while you already have a listing. IF not you can create one. Either way, as the business owner you want to claim this listing and make sure it is filled out completely. This listing can link to your website as well as provide quick information to those looking for your product or service. It also now uses a Zagat rating to rate your business and allows people to leave reviews on your business. When someone searches Google for your type of business and enter a location, Google will often show results with a map and list of locations. If your profile is complete, has a better Zagat rating and offers more reviews it can mean your listing will appear at the top of the list. Work with existing customers and ask them to rate you and leave a review. When a new client visits ask them to leave you a review as well. Google+ Local is quick way to move your site up the ranking and drive more traffic to your site.
Alt tags for images
Do you have pictures on your website. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “A picture’s worth a thousand words”. While this may be true for anyone with eyes a computer doesn’t have eyes. The only thing Google knows about your image is what you title it when you save it. Unless… One of the things you can add in the code is called an alt tag. Alt tags are used in two ways. Originally they were used as a place holder for when an image doesn’t show and for screen readers for those who are visually impaired. Now they have an addition use for search engines. Have you ever tried using Google’s Image search? Google keeps track of all the images it finds when looking through websites. If your image has an alt tag that describes the content of the picture it stands a much better chance of showing up in search results in an image search. Once again, and opportunity to drive more traffic to your website.
Domain name registration
Often overlooked. This simple little trick and help improve your rank a little and every little bit counts. When registering your domain name choose a longer term. Rather than 1 year or 2 years consider 5 years or 10 years. This sends the message that you plan on being around a while and search engines like that.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, etc… all of these social media platforms offer a way for you to interact with large numbers of people and drive traffic to your website. There are numerous ways to use the different types of social media and many articles and books have been written on them. I’ll do my best put together a few at a later date and put links back here when I do. So come back and check later.
Content Management System (CMS)
Using a content management system can give your website a boost in the search engine results as well as simplify many of the above items. Matt Cutts of Google has come right out and said that WordPress takes care of 80-90% of SEO. Something as simple as using a CMS can help your page rank. If you have and extra 45 minutes I would highly recommend watching this video.
Google offers a few tools to help you optimize you website. I suggest taking some time to look through each of them and begin using them. Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” is also a great reference tool.