How to Be a (Semi) Expert in SEO

Google Search

Hey all! It’s Dana, ChangeMakers’ digital intern. I am very excited to share my knowledge in this post about my background in digital marketing, particularly in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Now, what is SEO?

SEO focuses on growing traffic in organic search engine results. It is a combination of strategies and tactics to increase the number of visitors to your website and awareness on search engines. The goal of SEO is to have the search engine spiders find your site, crawl (scan), index (save) and rank your page relevance in the search engine.

This video from Search Engine Land perfectly explains how SEO works:

Is it difficult to learn SEO? Well, SEO is very complex. There are different types of SEO and factors that can influence a website to rank. I agree that SEO is a bit complicated to understand; it takes time and a lot of practice to become a professional in this field, but I do believe that everyone can do it and even a high-level audit can make a big difference to your website and your organic search ranking. In fact, with all the rule changes, it’s become almost effortless nowadays for small businesses to be found on search results.
In this post, I’ll present the basics of how to optimize your site and how to audit your online presence.

Your website should be searchable and customer friendly

If your goal is to be found online, your website should be accessible both to visitors and Google.

Make sure that your website is properly optimized with no barriers for Google to crawl and index. For your site to appear in search results, this needs to be scanned and saved by search engines robots.

To know if your site is properly indexed, type site:website.com in Google search and see if your site appears on the results page.

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If something comes up (like when I searched the ChangeMakers site), then congrats! You’re in Google search results.

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If not, then there could be a number of things going on that might be blocking your site. One issue could be what’s called a robots.txt file, which you can learn more about here.

Two other website essentials include HTML and XML sitemaps. Sitemaps are very important in directing robots and customers to your site. An XML sitemap allows the search engine to crawl and save important pages from your site while an HTML sitemap directs visitors to locate specific web pages (this is usually placed in the footer navigation).

To check if your website has an XML sitemap, locate your robots.txt by typing yourwebsite.com/robots.txt in the location bar or type yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml in Google search. Putting your sitemap in robots.txt informs search engines that your site is openly available for them to crawl. An alternative way to tell search engines is by submitting the sitemap in Google Search Console.

Know your headings, page titles and meta descriptions

Google’s primary concern is the accuracy, usability and reliability of your site. Make sure the proper HTML headings are used (H1, H2, etc…), no duplicate keywords are used and meta descriptions are available for every page. The meta descriptions will tell the searchers what the website is all about.

Page titles and meta descriptions are the first things people will see in search engine results and have the power to persuade them to click through to your website.

Try performing a site crawl using Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

Add more content and be engaging

Creating for people always comes first before SEO. Gone are the days when we used tons of keywords to rank – Google now wants engaging content. The thing is, Google will know if your content is clickbait and only written to get links.

SEO has become intertwined with marketing. As SEOs, we need to think about how to rank naturally, and the best way to do this without being penalized is through content marketing.

Check out this great article by KissMetrics on how SEO relates to content marketing.

Use long tail keywords

Search engine algorithms are designed to read like humans. They will notice if your website is overstuffed with keywords, but it doesn’t mean keywords are no longer useful. You just need to adjust how you use them.

Long tail keywords are longer phrases that target a specific audience. These are keyword phrases that are at least three to four words, typically with fewer traffic searches but boasting a high conversion rate. Think about your niche and how you might target your audience with long tail keywords. For example, If you search for “pizza Winnipeg” in Google, your search results would be broad and may not be very useful. But if you search for “24-hour pizza delivery in Winnipeg” your search results will include pizza restaurants currently open for delivery with the desired call to action.

Use high-quality links

I recommend you use Open Site Explorer by Moz to determine the overall health of your website. The remarkable thing about Open Site Explorer is you can check your backlinks, link-building opportunities, spam and view your current standing against your competitors (that’s right, you heard me!). Start your analysis from there and create an action plan for how to enhance your current links, see what your competitors are doing and eventually find a way to earn some link juice!

Be social

There is a lengthy discussion between SEOs if social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram affect the ranking of a website. Some say that social media has no impact, but it might have an extraordinary role to take later on.

However, an active presence on social media contributes to brand reputation. A good brand awareness and high engagement on social platforms may bring high traffic to your site. Better customer service and interacting with your followers via social media posts can create a potential lead, directly driving them to your site.

Think mobile

A significant percentage of searches are from a mobile device. In fact, according to 2016 research by eMarketer, The average adult spends two hours and twenty-eight minutes each day on their smartphones.

Last November, Google announced that they would soon release a mobile-first index where they will prioritize mobile sites over desktop sites. Your ranking will be determined by your mobile visitor’s engagements and how mobile-friendly your website is.

To get better ranking on mobile, check to see how fast your site loads (no more than 3-5 seconds) and use the right fonts and images, intuitive navigation, clickable links and calls to action.

Check out page speed insights to see how speedy your site is on both desktop and mobile.

There you go! This may just be the basics, but it’s enough to get you started! The more you know about SEO, the easier it gets and the better your site will perform. There are many SEO resources that you can read, such as Search Engine Land and Moz Blog. Spend some time checking out these sites to help you better understand how SEO works, or better yet, send us a message to learn how we can help you!

Do you have any SEO tips that you would like to share? Comment down below!

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