SEO is the gateway to a strong organic search marketing channel. If you want your website to show up in the organic search results you must have great SEO. So what does it mean to have “great SEO”? A big part of SEO is understanding the best practices of developing a website for both users and search engines. There are many best practices such as navigation, keyword targeting for content, URL structure, quality content, and many other aspects that Google is looking for which is all part of SEO.
It is important to have your website set up with these best practices so Google is able to crawl your website, understand all the pages and the content on those pages. If Google finds your website has value it will index your website. Indexing your website means they will store it on their servers so when a person does a search and your website aligns with what the user is looking for then Google will display your website as an option in the search results. You showing up in the search results is referred to as visibility so when talking about SEO we want to increase your visibility on the search results for queries related to your business and industry.
Let’s start exploring the tactics and best practices for setting up your website for SEO purposes.
Technical SEO focuses on, you guessed it, technical aspects of your website. Google is a huge program that crawls your website and based on a multitude of complex algorithms determines the visibility of your website in search results. Because a computer program is scanning your website we need to make it easy for the program to scan and understand what your business and your content is about. Making it easier for Google to scan and understand your site through good technical SEO only benefits you.
The sitemap of your site and therefore the url structure the pages of your website uses is important for technical SEO purposes. Using parent, child and grandchild relationships in the URL structure helps organize your site’s content in a strategic way. Here is an example of the URL structure https://www.yourdomain.com/parent/child/grandchild
Simply put, there is a strategy for linking between the different pages on your site that can help the visibility of your website in search engines. Similar to URL structure linking between pages that are about a similar topic helps the search engines understand the relationship between the different pages. This helps Google and others understand your content which helps with performance. By linking strategically you are passing the authority that has been accumulated on a page to other pages that you want to have more visibility than others. Also, it makes it easier for the user to go to other relevant pages they find may benefit them in their pursuit of information. It is important to understand these SEO techniques to help your site perform better.
On each page you have the option of adding a custom title tag which does not show up in your website’s content but is in the code for the search engines. The title tag is Google uses title tags on their search results page and to help understand what that page is about. The more optimized your title tags are the more likely your site will be found for the content you are targeting. The title tag helps Google also understand what the page is about and helps communicate the purpose of keyword targeting and relevance. Title tags should be a max of 60 characters and have keywords that align with the content of the page.
Similar to title tags, meta descriptions are in the code for Google and other search engines to use to display on their search results pages. The meta description is a 160 character blurb of content that describes the page and helps inform the user if this page answers their query. While the meta description is not a ranking factor used by search engines it helps encourage users to click on your page vs. competitors which that click through rate helps your visibility.
On-site SEO is focused on the user experience of your website. This means the aspects of the site that the user directly interacts with such as the design, content, and navigation. Your site can have great technical SEO but if the user that comes to your site sees a less than stellar design, content that is low quality and does not answer their questions, and hard to navigate to find what they are looking for the user is simply going to leave and not come back. Google is measuring user engagement signals so if uses don’t have a good experience Google will not provide your site with good visibility in the search results.
Your website will be found because it provides the answers a user is searching for. Relevance in SEO is when your content is relevant to the keywords that are being used by users when searching for something in the search engines. So the more relevant your site is to what users are looking for the more visibility your site will potentially get. To achieve a high relevance to what people are searching for you need to do keyword research as it relates to your business.
Once you have the keywords you want to target on your website now you need to create high quality content. If the content is too thin or does not address the users questions the user will simply hit the back button and leave your site. Google wants to see quality content and Google can tell if the content is quality by scanning the content to see if the content is discussing other related terms commonly written about on the topic of the page.
Another on-site user specific element that is important for SEO is clear navigation. Do not confuse internal linking, which is links embedded into the content, but navigation is the core means of helping the user maneuver throughout your website. The more clear you make the navigation which needs to align with the site architecture and content of the site the more you can improve the user experience. The better the user experience and less frustrating you make it for a user to find the information they are looking for the more trust you build with them which can help with conversion.
Keep in mind, you don’t need every page linked to in the main navigation. Having those massive dropdowns with many pages listed out can create a negative user experience. Instead guide the user to the parent sections of your site and on those pages have silo navigation setup meaning navigation just for that section of your site. This creates a far better user experience for larger websites.
Many website agencies or freelancers claim they understand SEO because it makes business owners feel more comfortable when investing in a website that will be optimized for search engines. So many website designers say they know or understand SEO but perhaps they understand some basic tactics but they don’t truly know SEO. This is why as a business owner you need to understand fundamental understanding of digital marketing and SEO so you can ask the right questions and assess if they are the right one to lead your website and digital marketing efforts.
As you can see SEO is a massive topic and I have not scratched the surface, but now you have a fundamental understanding of both technical SEO and on-site SEO. This will help your business either create a better website or when you are hiring someone you can ask them questions that you know the answer to to ensure they know what they are talking about. In addition to organic SEO, there is local SEO which for a local business is just as important considering organic and local SEO are directly related.
As a provider of SEO services and local SEO services I always want to be transparent with my services and pricing so you know what you are getting. I also offer free consultations to ask me any questions you wish to assess if we are good fit to do business for each other.