All you have to do is open your email - notice how often you are spammed by heaps of companies that want to scare you into thinking ‘your website is doomed’; or saying that ‘you will never see the top of Google without their expert help’.
If you sort through the threats and promises of gold, you can actually see that SEO isn’t really that scary. And even though you probably can’t master all of the SEO tricks on your own, if you understand some basic terms and rules, SEO is not the scary beast the spammers want you to think it is.
Here is your 2016 SEO Guide in 10 easy steps:
Step 1: Know Your Keywords
One of the biggest mistakes people make is not researching and knowing the power of their keywords. Google has given you a simple tool that you probably didn’t even know was readily available to you. Your Google Adwords tool has a link to a keyword planner.
Basically, you want to find the keywords for your business that have high traffic and low competition. Once you look up a word you will notice suggestions of other words or phrases that are related. Make sure you read through them because you may find some you would not have thought of otherwise.
This is Step 1 for a very specific reason. The words you select are going to set the theme for everything else you do. You should find ten different keywords. You will actually make these more specific as you go along, but if you have ten different words you can at least let Google know what your site is all about.
That’s a great start!
Step 2: Your Powerful Title Tag
Google is just like you and I, it reads websites from top to bottom and one of the first tags it reads is the title tag. Each page should have its very own title tag, using one of the keywords in a short description that explains the page. Google has a new rule that will penalize you for duplicate content, which also applies to your title tag and any other tags that you put on your pages. Make sure your tags/descriptions are unique, and make sure you are using the keyword or phrase that best fits each page.
Step 3: Description & Keyword Meta Tags
You will find these two meta tags in the top of your code. (This information is not visible to the users. If someone else designed and developed your website, this is a tag they will probably need to change for you.) Note: this is one of the most important tags you will send to Google for indexing. There are, of course, more advanced SEO techniques, but this is a huge DIY step in the right direction.
Step 4: Image Alt Tags
Have you ever gone to Google, typed a word to search, and in the search results at the top you see a bar of images that just ‘happen’ to fit your keyword perfectly?! Since Google is only a computer, how does it know what the picture looks like? Because you tell the computer what your images are about by putting your key phrases in the “alt” tag within the image tag. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Step 5: Links that Hurt You
Links can help you, but they may also hurt you. This is a finely tuned dance that needs to be choreographed and practiced. Good links are critical, but they are also one of the places that websites get penalized for duplicate content. It is so easy to put multiple links all over your website, but if they link to identical or appreciably similar pages & content…you’ll be penalized. This is called “duplicate content.” Keep your links simple and unique, and you will do great.
External links to your website are also vital to your SEO, but don’t fall into the link farm penalty. Many “black hat” SEO companies will do this, which can get you banned from Google permanently.
Step 6: Text & Density
Text and text content are important because this is what your customers SEE. It is important to Google as well. Google wants to deliver relevant content to its customers. When you design your website pages, keep your customers in mind and you will be rewarded.
While you create content, keep one simple rule in mind: keep your content/html ratio leaning on the side of content. If you have less than 15% text compared to the html that is on the page, Google will see this as a “non-informative page” and they may give it a lower ranking. Once that happens you will be pushed down in the search results. (While doing this step, don’t forget the duplicate content penalty.)
Step 7: Header Tags
This article is not really the best place to talk about all the different header tags and their uses, so I’ll be brief, but don’t neglect this step. A header tag is the <h1><h2><h3>, etc. tags that are in your text on your page. It is a great design tool to make some text larger or a different color from the rest. What the search engines see is your extra emphasis on that phrase, giving the <h1> tag the most relevance.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Step 8: XML Sitemap
Your sitemap is a great place to organize the pages on your website in a format that is easy for Google to understand. Once you get your sitemap done, don’t forget to submit the sitemap link to Google using your Google webmaster tools.
Step 9: Use All Your Google Tools
Google is not your enemy. Without Google your website would never be found by anyone outside of your personal inner circle.
Use your Google tools! There are also many other tools that you or your webmaster should be using.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the tools Google give us that can be considered either for business use or for personal use. A perfect example is Gmail. If you are currently using a gmail as your business email, my first suggestion is to stop. It just doesn’t look very professional to list gmail as your email. Your website host should offer you an email account that matches your website. If you don’t have this service, it’s time to find a new host. Remember here that you get what you pay for.
We have already discussed a great use for Google Adwords, that doesn’t involve running ads, but without the tool, you are doing your SEO in the dark.
You should already have a Google Analytics account. This is not only the basis for tracking all Google SEO, but with your analytics account, you can connect to many other social media sites, that helps you determine how your marketing is helping your web traffic.
Google webmaster tools, might seem a bit intimidating, but with this tool you can easily check your sitemap.
Step 10: Mobilegeddon
In 2015 Google announced it would give precedence to mobile-friendly websites. 50% of all web searches are done from mobile devices (tablets/smart phones). If your website isn’t responsive to mobile view then your website won’t be boosted to the top of Google.
Technology is not going away. If you don’t keep up with it then you will get left behind.
That’s it for the Top 10!
Hungry for more? Click the link to learn how your Domain Name sets the tone for your SEO:
Your Domain Name and SEO
2016 DIY SEO Checklist