One of the most common questions we hear is “How do I make my website come up first on Google?”
That’s a great question -- one with a complicated answer. The short answer is SEO, but the long answer requires diving into what SEO is. It’s important to understand that there are a number of ways to improve your SEO, some of which require a developer or paying for ranking -- but the ideas we’ve compiled here are meant to be easy to execute, no matter what your skill level.
First things first, what does SEO even stand for? SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It can refer to anything that helps increase the authority and relevancy of your site.
Let’s let Cristers Media explain more about how that process works:
“The way Google and other search engines display websites is this: Google has automated computer systems working around the clock that randomly visit websites all over the Internet, take snapshots of each page, and file them away in a massive database.
As part of taking a snapshot of each web page, Google's system reads every word and other content on a web page in order to determine the specific subject of the page. Google uses this collected data to determine which web pages to show, and in what order, for a particular keyword search.
In other words, Google's computer algorithms dynamically determine which web page on the Internet is the most relevant for a specific keyword or key phrase and displays it first. It then displays the second most relevant page, and so on. The resulting list of web pages is known as a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).”
So now that you know what SEO is, how do you improve it? And what should you avoid doing?
- Do keep your content fresh with high quality content. The more frequently you update the content on your site, the happier your customers (and Google) will be with you. Providing customers + clients with original content on a regular basis ups the frequency with which a search engine will crawl and recatalog the pages on your site. The more frequently your pages are cataloged, the more opportunities you have to rise in the search rankings. To provide a frame of reference, a site that is updated daily, or at least 2-3 times a week, is considered a frequently updated site.
- Do include keywords where it counts. Keywords are words or phrases in your content that people will search for in order to find your site -- it’s how the search engine matches up a query with your specific website. You’ll want to do research on which words to use, because you have to think like your customers in order to narrow down the proper search terms. Keep in mind that people will often perform a search using general or plain language terms instead of technical jargon.
- Do get social. Social media serves as a way to push your content out -- this puts it in front of more eyes, increasing the chance of getting an external link to your site. An external link is simply any other website (hopefully one with high authority) that points to your site. External links demonstrate and increase the credibility of your site.
Secondarily, if your content is widely shared on social media it can contribute to a website's authority just like external links can (more on that in a minute). It’s another way that Google validates your content, leading to a small bump in domain authority.
- Do utilize Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmasters is a free toolset by Google, for, well...webmasters. They help you do things like track your website’s search presence, see subscriber stats, and measure your overall website performance. Specifically, Search Console will help you make sure Google can access your content, hide content you don’t want show in the results, and monitor any malware issues.
- Do include outbound links. Practically the opposite of an external link, outbound links refer from your site to someone else's. When you link out to other domains, it helps the search engine to understand your “niche” and it helps increase the perceived quality of your site.
- Don’t have a slow load speed. A faster page speed (the time it takes for each individual page to load) is show to lead to a higher rank and conversion rate. Google’s also indicated that site speed (the speed of a sampling of all the pages together) is an influencing factor on page rank. Plus, no one likes waiting around for a website to load, so your customers will be happy too.
- Don’t use paid links. Google is firmly against manipulation of their site results -- specifically people sneakily buying their way to the top. Things like display ads are fine, because they’re a regular tool of marketing, but just regular linked text can come across the wrong way to Google. If you want a search engine to ignore something that really is a paid link, you should use a “nofollow” tag -- but, we promised this wasn’t an article for developers, so if you need to learn more about that check this out.
- Don’t keyword stuff. When you’re blatantly cramming tons of keywords in the content of your article, or in the meta tags of your site it’s called keyword stuffing. It’s obvious you’re trying to up your rankings (in a way that isn’t valuable to the reader) and it can lead to your site being penalized -- or even banned.
- Don’t duplicate content. Content that appears on the Internet more than once is called duplicate content. When there are multiple pieces of identical content on the Internet, it’s hard for search engines to decide which is more relevant. It’s important to note that there is no penalty for duplicate content, but rather rewards for original content (source).
- Don’t have broken links. In addition to harming the user experience of your website, broken links can stop a webcrawler from seeing the rest of your site. Web crawlers function by moving from the root of your site (main page) down to the different pages, subpages, and blog entries. When they hit a broken link they can’t crawl any further -- and might end up missing other pages on your site.
As you can see from all these do’s and dont’s, SEO can be pretty complicated. But the impact of doing things right can mean transforming your site from a deserted corner of the innerwebs to one of the most popular Internet hangouts around.
Looking to read more on SEO? We’ve got even more in-depth reading for you here and here.