My clients often ask me what they can do to improve their search engine optimization (SEO). Understanding SEO can be daunting, as search engines take literally thousands of factors into consideration when cataloging and ranking sites. But even just understanding the basics can help you improve SEO on your website. Here are three quick points to help you get a handle on SEO and how you can improve your site’s SEO.
Clear Page Hierarchy
A clear page hierarchy will help search engines correctly catalog your site’s information. Site maps are the best way to serve up your site’s page hierarchy to the search engine spiders, and if you have a WordPress site, there are lots of plugins that will automatically create a site map for you.
But before you make a site map, make sure that your website actually has good page hierarchy to begin with. Think of your website content sort of like an outline for a paper or report (remember the kind your teachers made you do in English class back in high school, with the Roman numerals?). If you organized your website pages in list form, it might look something like this:
- Post Title 1
- Post Title 2
- Post Title 3
- Mission Statement
- Company History
- Our Methods
Translating this into your actual website, you would want to make sure your sub pages show up under the parent pages. In WordPress you do this by assigning parent pages to your sub pages. Using the above example, the Mission Statement page would have the About page as its parent page, and its URL would read like this: www.example.com/about/mission-statement. This makes it clear to search engines that the Mission Statement page is a subset of the About page, and it will catalog the pages accordingly. Likewise, any site map you generate will outline your site similarly to the outline above, further helping search engines to catalog your site content in the appropriate order. How your site is cataloged determines how a search engine decides to serve up your content in its search results.
Search engines love fresh content, and in most cases will serve up newer content in their search results over older content, even if the older content is basically the same information as the newer content. This is why having a blog (or other similarly dynamic portion of a website, like a news section, or a portfolio, where new content is added regularly) is extremely useful. Every time you post something new on your blog, it gives the search engine spiders a reason to crawl your site again. If a search engine recognizes that you regularly post fresh content to your site, it is more likely to serve up your site’s content in its search results. So having a plan in place to post regular updates to your blog will help your site’s SEO.
The all-important keyword! Keywords are how search engines match content with searches; that’s a no brainer. While you should ALWAYS write your content with actual human readers in mind, pay close attention to the keywords of your content.
Determining your keywords is pretty simple: Ask yourself what your blog post is about. If you were looking online for the information your post is about, what keywords or phrases would you type into a search engine to find that information? Those are your keywords. Keep it simple and limit it to 2-3 keywords per blog post, and identify one as the main keyword. Make sure your main keyword appears in your post title. If they fit naturally, include your other keywords as well.
Natural is the rule here. Remember that your intended readers are human, and write your post for them. Search engines know when you’re padding your content with keywords in an effort to get their attention, and some will penalize you for it in their search results. DON’T PAD YOUR CONTENT WITH KEYWORDS. Seriously. Don’t do it. DO craft opening and closing summary paragraphs that make good use of your keywords.
These three points are a great place to start when thinking about your site’s search engine optimization. These are simple things that every site owner can put into practice on their site pretty easily. Search engines operate on complex algorithms that take thousands of factors into consideration, but those algorithms usually favor common human sense: They like well-organized content, regular content updates, and common sense keyword usage. I always stress to my clients that focusing on communicating naturally with your human site visitors usually translates to favorable SEO as well!