Over the past few years, we have added search engine optimization (SEO) services to the list of services we provide. Like any service, providing SEO is part intuition and part experimentation. Here are some of the top SEO tips we have learned to follow based on our own experiences and lessons learned from others.
Proper keyword usage is vital
Keywords are individual words or phrases that search engines use to determine the subject of a page. If you sell office supplies, for instance, some of your keywords might be “office supplies,” “printer paper,” “toner,” etc. Because these keywords relate to your business, using them in page headings and page content could help your ranking. But you need to make sure your keywords are relevant.
Take the office supply store as an example. You might think that people looking to start a business would be good prospects for you, but if you try to target them with a keyword phrase like “How to Start a Business,” you could actually hurt your own rankings. This is because search engine algorithms are smart enough to know the true purpose of a website–in this case, selling office supplies. If you try to present yourself as a business adviser instead of an office supply site, you could find your site penalized for using misleading keywords.
Similarly, hiding keywords on your site or filling your homepage with unrelated content can do the same thing. This process (known as keyword stuffing) is something that Google actively discourages.
On a related note, trying to optimize for keywords that nobody uses is a waste of time. Instead, use Google’s Keyword Planner or Google Trends to research what’s in use. Let’s say you want to sell printer paper to amateur clowns. Optimizing for the keyword “printer paper for clowns” would be wasteful. Both AdWords Planner and Google Trends show that nobody searches for that phrase.
Don’t ignore off-page optimization
Your web developer should have optimized the technical aspects of your site when it was built, but unless you’ve hired somebody to continually optimize your SEO, you may not know about off-page optimization.
Off-page optimization is the process of making sure your content can be crawled by search engines. But beyond that, this process extends to ensuring sites that link to you are authentic, trustworthy sites. Some examples of sites that you want to have link to you are news sites, popular blogs, and social media accounts of verified users. (Twitter is better than Facebook in this regard since Twitter feeds are usually public and Facebook feeds are usually closed to search engines.)
You also want your pages to link to each other internally within your own site.
Focus on the long-term
SEO is not something that can be set and forgotten. Web technologies change constantly, as do search engine algorithms. Google has updated their algorithm at least twice in the past year. And they have indicated they will be updating it even more frequently in the future. In addition, having outdated content management software (Is your WordPress version current?) could cause your site to appear irrelevant.
Ranking updates also don’t happen overnight. While there are tricks that can bounce you higher in the short term, they don’t last for long. Most sites need about six months’ worth of optimization in order to get identifiable, lasting results. If you have extensive competition in your field, expect it to take a year or longer. After that, regular SEO management is required to stay there.
Don’t even think about plagiarizing content
Copying content from competitors (or in some cases, even paraphrasing) can cost you big time. Not only is this practice a violation of copyright laws, but search engines can see when it happens. Sites that have copied content are pushed down by search engines very quickly.
If you find content you love on a competitor’s site, it’s better to create well-written copy of your own that’s based on the same subject. Thoughtful, well-written, original content is rewarded just as quickly as copied content is penalized.
Your site must be mobile responsive
This has been our mantra since we first started ThirdSide almost seven years ago. More than half of all internet traffic is delivered to a mobile device. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’re doing a disservice to your site’s visitors and costing yourself valuable search engine rankings.
Check your rankings often
Your ranking in search results can change daily. While you probably don’t need to check them daily, you should at least check them a few times a month. If you want an in-depth look into what your site looks like from a technical level, feel free to use our SEO site auditor here. You can even check yourself against a competitor and email yourself the results.
One final thought
Common sense is key in proper SEO. If you feel like your content flows poorly or seems unnatural, then it probably is. Stay true to your goals and write honest content. Following these steps and engaging a good SEO service will help your site’s rankings rise and help your business grow.