Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing field as search giants like Google regularly change the rules. Just a couple of years ago, websites were crammed full of keywords, so much so that good content was hard to find. Today, pages that have too many keywords get put on Google’s blacklist. Yet a few things have remained constant over the years. While it is incredibly important for you to stay up-to-date with SEO, you need to have a firm grasp on the most important, unchanging aspects of this tricky game. Instead of trying to focus on the latest trends in SEO, every website should first make sure they have the basics covered with the 5 elements discussed below.
The real key to successful SEO starts with careful keyword selection and building high quality content. As mentioned above, you cannot simply load a keyword into a page anymore. Believe it or not, search engines are more sensitive to grammar and spelling than they used to be, which puts even more emphasis on good content. SEO is about helping search engines understand the content on your site, but your primary customer is ALWAYS the reader. With other marketing media, such as in a catalog printing campaign, content is always the focus since you are sending the catalogs directly to customers. With a website, however, a global clientele is right at your doorstep through search engines. Therefore, many website owners make the mistake of focusing on SEO and end up with mediocre content at the end of the day, which ultimately ends up backfiring with Google and customers alike. Be sure to keep this all-important aspect of quality content in mind as you read through the 5 most important SEO elements your website should include.
Once you know your keywords, one of the easiest ways to search engine optimize your page is to build your keywords into the title of the page. You can find this in the HTML tags <title> near the top of the code. Avoid putting more than one keyword phrase into the title, as this appears spammy both to readers and Google.
Remember that the title of your page is what search engines display in search results. If you load keywords into the title, you risk confusing customers. So choose a single keyword phrase for a single page and include it in the title. This also forces you to build multiple pages or posts within your website, giving it more depth and making much more valuable to clients and customers.
Another important place for your keywords to be is in the URL of your page. The standard convention is to separate the keywords in the keyword phrase by hyphens. This reinforces the page title for both search engines and readers. Most blog platforms, such as WordPress, allow you to make the title of your blog also your URL. This is a smart practice and easy to implement. If you want to make the URL shorter than the actual title, go ahead but do not forget to include the keyword phrase within the shortened version.
Arguably one of the most important places to include your keywords is in the headings throughout your content. In the HTML code, headings are within the <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc tags with most headings within content beginning with the <h3> tag.
Headings are an important formatting practice to begin with, even if search engines completely ignored them (which is NOT the case, making keywords in headings all the more important). Just like this article, headings guide you, the reader (and primary customer), to help you understand what is being discussed. In addition, headings let search engines know what topics are covered on a page. This means that the keywords within those headings are heavily weighted. Once again, however, do not overdo it. Include keywords in the headings when it works.
Using keywords at appropriate places in your main body content should come naturally if your content and keywords are related. And they should be! Make sure that keywords within your content do not take away from the readability of the text.
Remember that content is king for both your readers and search engines. A great page title, URL, and headings are worthless if your content is worthless to your readers. So take the time to make your content top-notch. Content should be free of spelling and grammar errors, but most importantly — make it useful. And if keywords happen to fit in just fine, be sure to include them.
Last, but not least, you should take advantage on every page to link to articles within your website — when relevant. Don’t arbitrarily link to pages that have nothing to do with your content, though. Make sure the reader would actually be interested in the page to which you are linking.
When building out links, use anchor text that makes sense for readers, but bear in mind the page to which you are linking. The anchor text should be relevant to the landing page, but also make sense in context of the location on the page. If no links fit within the main content, you can always consider a “Related Articles” section at the end of your text.
Other SEO Elements to Consider
A couple of other elements that readers and search engines may focus on include content within the <strong> and <em> (emphasis or italics) tags and images. The emphasis and italics tags make the content stand out from the rest. So readers are more likely to see the content and, therefore, search engines may place weight on this text, too.
Images are also a great place to include keywords because, while search engines cannot read the actual text within a graphic, they do scan the text attached to the image. The name of the image URL, the Alt element, and the description element are all great places to include relevant keywords.
In all of the SEO work you do, never forget that your primary customer is your reader. Search engines may come in a close second, but your readers always come first. If you can always build up your web pages and posts with quality content, you will gain loyal customers and readers that keep coming back for more. If you can fit in keywords, great! But never include keywords at the expense of losing happy customers.