SEO - HOW can you use it to your advantage?

Danny Sullivan's Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors, used with permissionNow that we've looked at the WHAT, WHO and WHY of SEO, we have come to the juicy part of HOW you can make sure your website and blog are optimized for search engines to find your content.  

First, HOW do search engines gather your information and then rank it in any user's search results?  It's pretty simple really: it all comes down to good content.

Keywords

Since searches are conducted by typing (and now sometimes speaking) words, obviously the web crawlers that search engines use to catalog internet content focus on the text of a web page. In the past, tricksters used to take advantage of a web page's meta tags (a.k.a., keywords that don't show up in the web page's content) to try and elevate their websites in search result rankings. Because of this abuse web crawlers now tend to ignore this data, and sometimes search engines even block sites from showing up in results if they appear to be abusing the meta tags or adding invisible keywords to the content.  So it's probably not worth the effort to add keywords to the metadata on your website any more.  

The good news is that web crawlers now look at the content itself for keywords - both the text's body for common words as well as the title and header text. Not only does choosing a captivating headline grab your audience's attention, it also helps search engines catalog your content to be displayed in search results. So choose your headlines carefully, and make use of header tags (h2, h3, etc.) to title the various sections of your content as opposed to just changing the font style.

While images and video are critical to grabbing users' attention, search engine's web crawlers only grab and manage text content.  So when using media like video, photos and audio files, make sure you fill out all pertinent information attached to those embedded elements in order to make sure those text-based web crawlers can see that content as well.  All good media embedding/hosting services like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Instagram, Soundcloud, etc. provide fields for title, caption/description, category, and tags, with the title being the most important piece of text data.  And don't overdo it on the tags.  Carefully choose the best five or so words that you think users might use when searching for content such as yours.

Traffic

Once your site's content is absorbed into the search engine's databases, the next factor is how high up the list your website is shown in the search results. When a user searches for a popular set of keywords, the main thing that the search engine uses to determine the rank of your site in comparison to all the others is how many times your website has been viewed AND linked to from other websites. So once again, great content is the best thing to focus on in order to attract more eyeballs. And the best way to get a ton of links to your website or blog is to post an enticing link on all of your social media accounts and hope that your friends/followers will repost it for you to increase the links and expand your website's reach.

There are lots of companies out there that tout better search engine results for your business for a fee ("results may vary"). Many of them employ methods which A) search engines are now ignoring due to metadata abuses by scam sites, and B) will probably just end up giving your site temporary high rankings putting you right back where you started after a few months. That's not to say that there aren't good companies out there that could help you, if you have room in your budget.

Remember: CONTENT DRIVES TRAFFIC!  Facebook and Twitter followers won't retweet or share links unless they think others would enjoy them too.  So the best FREE way to boost your search engine rankings is by:

  1. gaining traffic through focusing on providing quality content
  2. using popular and appropriate keywords within your title/headers and body of text
  3. taking advantage of social media sharing and linking to drive more and more people to your site

Good content along with good keywords incorporated into the content, paired with social media sharing, will ensure that your website will place well in search results for the long haul.
 

How frequently do you post quality updates or posts to your website or blog?  Are you sharing links to your posts on all of your social media accounts?  How have users responded to those links and posts?

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