SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and You – in Layman’s Terms
By Shauna Millar
You have the perfect website design: it reflects you and your company! Now you want to be found by the search engines. What next?
First, let’s understand what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is and isn’t. SEO will not give a “quick fix finds us fast overnight success” result. The first thing to know is that no one can guarantee your website to be top ranked, number one in your industry. One of the main reasons for this – besides the overwhelming competition that is out there on the internet – is that SEO algorithms (yes, there is such a thing) change on a continual basis. So someone has to monitor this and adjust your site as needed; this can be you. You don’t have to hire a professional; you just need the time to do it.
Also remember that a lot of website designers don’t automatically optimize for SEO simply because they don’t know how to do so. Even if your site has been optimized, there will be times it will need to be adjusted to keep up with the changes. This is not something that is included in web-design, as SEO is a job all its own.
Secondly, SEO rankings are not just based on one thing anymore. I often compare this to a teacher grading a paper; there are several things a search engine “looks” for in your site:
- The first couple most everyone knows; Meta tags (title, keyword, and description) – this is the information that is added on “behind the scenes” for each page. It is something that is not seen by the everyday user who comes to your site, being strictly for the use of the search engines. There is now also “micro-tagging”, which often includes your geo-location, if you have a store-front or a certain area where you provide your services and/or products.
- The next area the search engines look at is your page content. This is where it can get tricky. Content is “king”. The way the html tags are written is also important. Anything that uses an H1 header is considered important. You should only have ONE H1 header per page. This will be followed by the H2, H3, – H5 headers. Basically this tells the search engine what is the MOST important thing on your site for it to look at. (Also a basic rule of thumb – H1 should only appear 1 time per page, H2 – twice, H3 – three times, etc.
- Be aware of methods that have been tried in an attempt to gain search engine ranking – that DON’T work – in fact, will have the opposite effect. Sites that add a bunch of random words that are “invisible” to the end-user by making the font the same as the background are not acceptable by the search engines. This practice is called “black hat seo” and often can have the opposite effect that a person wants for their site, such as getting a site “blackballed” from the search engines all together. Another method that can get a website removed from the search engines is having two sites with different names but with the same exact content.
- Acceptable content for your pages: What you say about your product or service in the paragraph is looked and ranked by the search engines. Is the information that you are sharing, selling the product in the best light to bring customers to your site? Don’t be generic, be unique. Don’t say ‘jewelry’ if you are selling ‘hand-designed one-of-a-kind’ creations. Be specific. Just think about how you would do a search, what words you would type into a search engine when looking for your service or product, and then try to incorporate those words or phrases into what you write for your content. Again, be specific! For example, when you type in the word “book-shelf”, search engines will come up with a lot of information; however, if you type in “oak book-shelf”, the search is automatically narrowed down, focusing more on the product you are researching. That is how you want people to find your site.
- Back links: A back-link is a link pointing to your page from another site. You will get a bit of a higher ranking for any link that is pointing to your site from another website that has a high ranking. Also, cross-linking – having someone else’s link to their site on your site, and your link on their site. You should always have a “links” page for this reason. (For obvious reasons, we do not recommend linking to your competitors.) Great places to have your links are the Chamber of Commerce, your suppliers as a recommended vendor, etc.
- Give away information! One of the things you should consider doing is adding a “top ten” list to help out your potential customers. Such as “top ten things to look for when buying a…” This information should be aimed at helping the consumer to understand what to look for and the pitfalls that they may encounter. It shouldn’t be aimed as the reasons they should purchase through you or any particular person. This way, you are helping to educate the consumer and build trust in your product/service. Or build an F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions) page.
One thing you need to consider is how long has your website been out on the internet. The longer your site is up, the higher your rankings will become. “Seasoning” is very important to search engines. New sites aren’t given as much priority due to the number of sites that “disappear” quickly.
You can help by using the above tools to set your site up for success. Generally speaking, it takes a minimum of three months to see the results of an SEO effort, and then to maintain and/or adjust it as needed. This is why SEO is so sought after and is also why rates vary, from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
If you want to learn more about SEO and how in-depth it can be there are numerous articles that can be found online. We encourage you to read more about it. Just type “how to develop good search engine optimization” into your favorite search engine!
If you’d like to get a quote or more information about how Dynamic Graphics Website Development can help you achieve the best search engine optimization, click here.
Shauna Millar is a website developer, designer, copywriter and professional photographer. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org