Let’s get something out of the way immediately….
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not the scary monster you might think it is.
Chances are, if you have enough sense to get your website up and running in the first place, you can tweak the SEO aspects until you have a finely-tuned, traffic generating machine.
So rather than chewing your fingernails and thinking of reasons you can’t, let’s get in there and do something.
Here are 7 quick action items you can use to improve your site’s SEO.
1. Learn to Love Long Tail Keywords
Here’s a dirty little secret – ranking for general keywords is most likely a waste of time. There’s lots of money to be made in so-called long-tailed variations. Plus there’s much less competition from the big boys.
Say you sell parrot food. You want to rank for that keyword phrase, right?
Umm, wrong. I just ran a search on it, and the first page of results is plastered with names like Amazon and Petsmart.
You do NOT want to compete head-to-head with that. Here’s where the long tail comes in.
Rather than focusing on a one or two-word general term, explore three, four, five, or more word combinations.
Maybe something like “best parrot food for African Grey.” See what I did?
By targeting specific long-tail keywords in your content creation and ad campaigns, you find the sweet spot far away from the big players.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of traffic to be found in the long tail.
2. Stay Original
In addition to possible copyright issues, Google penalises a website that posts duplicate content. That means that only the website that first publishes the content gets search engine ranking benefits while other’s will experience a negative ranking impact.
Any website that republishes it after that might as well not have bothered. Be especially careful when buying cheap articles that may have been sold multiple times or even illegally posted from an article directory.
If it’s already out there on the internet, don’t touch it! It will provide little benefit to your audience and will trigger warning signals amongst the search engines.
3. Get Social
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube, aren’t just the greatest time-wasters ever invented. They actually can boost your website’s search rankings when used effectively.
Here’s what you need to do. You’ve seen the little icons representing each social media giant on blogs, right? You need to figure out how to include them with each blog you post. WordPress users can find several plugins that make the process a snap.
But here’s the real point. You’ve got to make it easy for readers to share your content, and there’s no better beast for that than social media. Once people start sharing, traffic increases to your website, and Google will notice.
4. Conduct a Site Audit
Even though trying to rank a website high in Google search results is like shooting a moving target, there are some concepts that have remained standard over the years.
You’ve probably heard of title tags and meta descriptions. The short version – you need to have both on every single page of your website.
With title tags, make them relevant, and include keywords. And though meta descriptions are no longer the search engine catnip they used to be, a catchy, well-written couple of sentences goes a long ways towards snagging eyeballs’ who are skimming search results.
If you’ve got nothing but blanks or random verbiage for page titles and meta descriptions, trust me, your website is suffering because of it.
5. Avoid Falling Victim To Slow Load Times
40% of web users abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load.
If your site falls into that category, you’ve got a serious problem. Can you tolerate a 40% reduction in sales? Please say “No.”
There are plenty of online services that allow you to test your site’s load time. If it consistently comes back over three seconds, you need to take action quickly. That giant sucking sound is money being spent somewhere else.
Examine your load time test results. You should be able to pinpoint where the trouble is. Maybe you have too many images (or they’re poorly optimised), or there could be a couple of plugins that don’t play nicely together.
The plugin issue is notoriously common. At some point, it might be worth the extra expense to upgrade your host from a shared server to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). You should notice better load times when you don’t have to fight with other sites for bandwidth.
6. Don’t Pay Good Money for Bad Links
It’s a fact of life at Google. Inbound links are rewarded.
The problem is that an entire industry has sprung up that charges website owners a fee in return for inbound links.
If the thought has crossed your mind that you should be concerned about inbound link quality, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.
A single inbound link from a high-quality, well-respected .edu or .gov website is worth more than a hundred links pointed at you from junk websites. And, by the way, buying or selling links is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, so do so at your own peril.
Search engine spiders are getting excellent at sniffing out link cheating and sending the offending website’s rankings plummeting. If your content is good enough that people start sharing it – don’t worry – the links will come.
7. Forget About Keyword Stuffing
For those old enough to remember the wild west Internet days, circa 1995 perhaps, it was all about keyword stuffing.
This practice involves using a keyword (or phrase) as many times as humanly possible in your content. One especially egregious (and thankfully extinct) practice involved typing the keyword hundreds of times at the end of the content, but changing the font colour so that it was the same as the page’s background. Sorry, search engines aren’t that stupid anymore.
These days, you are FAR better off to only write naturally about the topic at hand. If a sentence sounds stilted because you wedged a keyword into it, take it out.
It’s bad enough to suffer the ranking penalty that Google might slap on you, but a website owner would do well to consider a reader’s opinion. Do you want to irritate them so much he or she never returns to your website just because you were compelled to cram the phrase “awesome dog treats” into every other sentence?
Forget keyword density. Post good content over time and you will witness ever-improving search result placement.
What’s the best part about all the SEO stuff we just talked about?
It doesn’t cost a thing, AND it’s not complicated. It’s true that you could spend the rest of your natural life learning the ins and outs of SEO, but you can accomplish plenty just by putting these simple actions into practice.
Once you have all of this done, dig a little deeper into the process. There are plenty of educational sources online that provide as much knowledge as you need at no cost.