A beautifully designed website won’t go far if no one can find it – and a website without SEO is almost impossible to find unless visitors known the specific URL. SEO (or search engine optimization) is crucial to generating the right kind of traffic and drawing conversions.
An effective SEO campaign can’t be haphazard, however. It must be unified and strategic, coordinating all elements of your website, your online content, and even your social networking activity.
Off-page SEO – also known as inbound link building – plays the largest role in boosting search engine visibility. The more relevant, authoritative inbound links you have on other websites, the more traffic you’ll attract, and the higher your page will rank with Google and other search engines. Off-page SEO can be a bit tricky, though, since you’ll only have limited control over who posts your link on their site. To help increase your impact, you need to demonstrate your unique insights and expertise to the right audiences. Start by networking and building productive online relationships. Follow industry leaders and contribute to blogs, forums, and social media groups – you can even link to others’ web pages, in the hopes that they’ll reciprocate. Develop a strong social media presence, too, to help get your name out there. Finally, make sure any content you post is high-quality and valuable to your audience so that they’ll want to learn more about your brand.
Though not quite as influential as off-page SEO, the placement of keywords within your website is still important to increasing your search rankings. Effective on-page SEO incorporates keywords into every element of your website, including headlines and sub-headlines (very important, as the first things search engines scan), page URLs, image file names and ALT tags, and of course, the main body of your content. On-page SEO also applies to meta and title tags – that is, the page title and brief description that pop up under the search results for that page. (The title tag also appears at the top of the web browser when your page is open.) While modern search engines pay more attention to your website’s inbound links and main content, meta and title tags are still a big component of a comprehensive SEO strategy, since they summarize, for both visitors and search engines, what each page is about.
Though the body of your content isn’t a priority target for search engines, it usually makes up the greatest solid portion of your website volume. With that in mind, it only makes sense to include keywords throughout. It’s important to use those keywords strategically within that content, however, so that they enhance your search engine rankings rather than detracting from them.
- Avoid using too many keywords – or too few. Effective SEO depends on finding the right balance between not using any relevant keywords and using so many that the content becomes cumbersome or confusing (known as “keyword stuffing”).
- Optimize each page around one primary keyword. This makes it easier for search engines – and your visitors – to tell what the page is about, and in turn, boosts the page’s relevance and authority for search rankings.
- Make sure keywords are relevant to your content. Keep them in context with the topic, language, or main ideas on each page.
- Write your content, then optimize for search. Trying to build your content around keywords, rather than incorporating keywords afterwards, will disrupt the natural flow and make it difficult for your audience to absorb.
Analyzing Your SEO
A strategic SEO campaign has one further advantage: its success can be measured. Analyzing your website traffic on a regular basis will help you better identify the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign, and develop ways to improve. As with any metrics, though, it’s important to clearly understand the results in order to accurately interpret them. Here are just a few things to look out for when perusing your website performance data:
- Inbound traffic sources. Are visitors finding your website through keywords typed into Google (organic search), external links on other websites (off-page SEO), or referrals on social media?
- Conversion rates. If more visitors are filling out forms, downloading offers, or leaving comments, that’s a good indication that your SEO is working and that your content is engaging.
- Destinations. Are visitors always linking directly to your home page? If they’re finding other pages on your website first, then your on-page SEO for those pages is probably fairly strong.
Whether within your pages themselves or as part of a broader online presence, SEO plays a huge role in making your website easier for prospects to “discover” – and is, therefore, a key factor in landing conversions. SEO is an ongoing process, however, and success doesn’t happen overnight. The greatest rewards come with persistence over time, and while it may take some effort to perfect your strategy, SEO is one website component no business should ever ignore.