Search engine optimization has been a hot topic for a long time, and there is a lot of content that can be found about it. Something occurred to me today, though, that I thought I’d write about. There are a lot of things you can do to optimize your site for improved search engine results right now, but what about later? Search engine technology changes so rapidly that what used to work no longer does, and what works today may not be as effective next year. How do you optimize your site for search engines in a way that makes the best use of your time? Are there ways to do search engine optimization that are “future-proof”?
The techniques that worked for improving your site’s ranking in search engine results when I first started out as a web developer no longer work…in fact, they may have a negative impact. Back in the day, the “keywords” meta tag was one of the main tools available. They were invisible to users (unless you were a techie like me and liked looking at the source code of a page), but visible to search engines and were used as a ranking factor. Times change, though…website owners started spamming keywords, and search engines gradually changed to ignore them. Over time, the major search engines announced that meta keywords were no longer used in ranking.
So, what is a website owner to do?
Outside of paid advertising with search engines, there are three main elements that will have an impact on your search rankings that I believe will stand the test of time:
- On-page SEO (search engine optimization)
- Great content
- Social interactions
Let’s go a little deeper into each of these:
This is closely related to the content of your page(s), but I have it listed as a separate item because it is more technical than the text content that shows on your page. There are a lot of elements that go into a well-optimized page of content, so I’ll just touch briefly on a few:
- Friendly(ier) URLs
If at all possible, try to avoid long, complex page URLs. Try to keep them as short as possible and include the keyword(s) you are trying to target if you can. Your ability to do this will depend on how much control you have over page URLs in your CMS (content management system).
- Title Tag
The title tag of your page is one of the most important on-page SEO elements. This is the title that shows on the title bar or tab for a page. Make the page title relevant to the content, and include long tail versions of the keyword(s) you are targeting.
- Headline Tag
This is the main title within content, enclosed in an “h1” tag…the headline of your content. Think of it like the main headline over a newspaper article. Most CMS’s like Hubspot’s COS and WordPress will usually add this tag automatically, but this isn’t always the case. Like the title tag above, make sure it contains relevant keywords. Ideally there should only be a single “h1” tag….others should be spread out into subheadings to organize content further.
- Keywords in Content
The keywords you are targeting should be used in the actual content of the page, ideally in the beginning portion of the content.
- Responsive Design
Gone are the days of having separate mobile-friendly sites for content. The use of responsive design will allow users to view your content across a wide variety of devices, including mobile. This saves you work in managing content in the long run, and some search engines have started penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly.
I’ve just scratched the surface of on-page SEO with these pointers, but you can see where it’s going. Your pages need to be technically correct, optimized for speed and structured in a way that will not detract from your search engine rankings. The good news is that there are a number of content management systems that can do the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to concentrate on the next element…content!
I touched on it briefly in a previous post, but a key factor in search engine optimization is the content of your site. It may seem obvious to include keywords in your content, but it’s something that is frequently neglected. Don’t just load the page with the words and phrases your clients may be looking for, though. Use well-written, engaging content on the page to encourage users to keep reading.
Potential customers come to your page looking for information to meet a need, whatever that need may be. If they can’t find what they need, they will move on and look elsewhere. Provide them with unique content that meets their needs and you may succeed in moving them along the journey to becoming a customer.
So, let’s say you have a well-structured page filled with great content that meets a need. Now what? How are you going to get eyes on your content?
Your website is not an island…it exists in a very large ecosystem of content that potential customers are navigating. Share the content you have created on social media networks. Give them a way to share the content using features such as readily available social media sharing buttons. Use internal links on your site to encourage users to explore more of your site.
It may seem counter-productive, but include links to other external sites with relevant information. Top SEO experts have found that external links are a large factor in search engine ranking.
There are so many more factors that go into a site optimized for search engine rankings, but hopefully this has provided you with enough information to get started. The best part of the tips here is that these improvements are optimizations you can make that should stand the test of time. They don’t rely on artificial tricks to boost your rankings, they’re just good practices that will result in your site providing well-organized, relevant content to users and potential customers.
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In case you missed it, check out our previous article about website reputation.