SEO is one of those fields that remain foreign to many people, and even somewhat ambiguous. We hear terms thrown around like “keywords” and “search engine rankings” but never really go beyond that.
In reality, however, SEO is not that difficult to understand and put into practice. Like any other field, there are basic steps you need to learn to get started. Once those steps are learned and mastered, then you can move on to more advanced SEO practices to further refine your website for optimum visibility.
The following is a primer in SEO that lays out the basics. Learn these and your website will be far ahead of many other sites that are hastily thrown together.
SEO and the importance of user experience
When we think about the user experience (UX) of a website, we often think in terms of design, functionality, ease of use and so forth. While all those are definitely important, they do not by themselves satisfy all the requirements for a good UX. What’s missing? SEO.
Why do people visit websites? They visit because they’re looking for information, to buy something or to be entertained. This is where SEO comes into play. It’s said that UX focuses on what the user sees and how the user interacts with a website. SEO, on the other hand, focuses on what the user wants (information, a product to buy, entertainment and how to get some place). However, regardless if you’re talking about SEO or UX, the end goal for everyone is to give your website visitors the best possible experience.
There are ways where SEO and UX intersect, for example:
• HTML sitemaps will help users find what they’re looking for if they got lost (404 error pages) and help search engines crawl the site more effectively. A sitemap guides the search engine through all the pages, identifying each page with the correct anchor texts.
• Including navigational aides like breadcrumbs that allow users to retrace their steps through a website. These also improve site structure and make search engine crawling more effective.
The best SEO always focuses on the users, giving them the best experience possible. Nothing will make a user leave your website faster than having a poorly designed website that’s difficult to navigate, or a website that doesn’t provide the user with what they are looking for. If a website is designed and optimized for a stellar user experience, the search engine part will follow right behind.
Yes, inbound links still matter
In the beginning, Google use to rank pages by the number of inbound links a site had. The reason being, the more inbound links, the more important the page must be. Website owners caught on and began link exchanges, hidden links and other nefarious tactics to boost their search engine rankings. Google has since changed how it ranks pages, so such tactics no longer work. The search engine now looks at the quality of links (authoritative) as a way of measuring a website’s authority.
However, inbound links are still important. If you have two websites that are exactly the same in every way, except one has zero inbound links and the other has one thousand authoritative links, which one do you think will rank higher?
Of course, the one with the thousand authoritative links will rank much higher than the website with zero links.
That leaves us with a very big, important question: how do we get quality inbound links? There is no one answer or formula to answer this. But having a good website with a good user experience and quality content help a lot. If someone is researching a topic and comes across a stellar blog post you wrote, they might link back to it on their own website. Other methods include guest blogging and content marketing. The trick is to spread your website’s content far and wide without spamming comment sections and forums.
Make use of title tags
Title tags are a simple description about what’s on a page. They appear in the search engine results pages (SERPS) to help users know what the page’s content is all about. In other words, when a user sees a link in the SERPs, it will not only give the website page URL, but a brief description as well. Keep title tags to 60 characters or less, as Google will only show between 50-60 characters.
But aside from helping users know what your website is about, it’s also another bit of information search engines read when crawling your site. To optimize a title tag for SEO, it should contain your primary keyword, secondary keyword and your brand name.
Content is king
This might be one of the most overused phrases in the world of SEO and Internet marketing. It’s also become controversial. Some say it simply is not true anymore. But it can be argued that both content and technical SEO is equally important.
You can have all the right keywords, tags and a perfectly optimized website, but with no content, what good will it do you? Likewise, you can have the best written content in the world, but it won’t be of any use if no one can find it because your website doesn’t have the technical side of SEO nailed down.
Further, something as simple as a blog on your website can market your business for you with little or no extra cost to you. It has been shown that well-written blog posts convert Internet visitors into paying customers. Why? Because a blog post that informs and gives users what they’re looking for, will establish authority and trust. The ROI on a quality blog content can be huge. It has been shown that blog posts alone can bring in over 50% of total leads.
Again, content is only effective if it’s balanced by a website that utilizes good SEO practices.
SEO is more than just stuffing content with keywords and hoping for search engines rank your website higher than others in the same niche. Instead, SEO embodies different best practices that not only help search engines find your website, but also improve the user experience. Remember that a website should be designed for, and the content should be written for people, not search engines. Attract and keep users on your website and the search engine rankings will follow.
SEO is not a discipline that exists in a vacuum. It encompasses everything from how your website is designed, to quality content and authoritative inbound links.