With complicated algorithms named after zoo animals and scary rumors everywhere you look, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of SEO. Don’t let it get to you. SEO is about creating a good website that follows protocols based on technical and etiquette guidelines. You’ve done that since you learned to raise your hand when you had a question, put your name on your paper and say please and thank you. You can handle this too.
Here are a collection of easy, straight-forward tips to let your web pages shine through the online clutter, adapted from Matt D’Alesio’s article in Responsible Marketing.
- Write for humans, not search engines. This point can’t be stressed enough. Your content should exist because it has something of value to communicate. If you’re talking knowledgeably about a topic within your area of expertise, your SEO will take care of itself. Sure, you can tweak it to be sure you’ve covered some of the words that would help interested readers find it, but anything beyond that will look awkward and end up hurting you in the search engines. Google ranks pages based on quality, and so do your readers!
- Share the love. Having high quality sites link to your website helps the search engines recognize its worth. Accept links from sites you trust and respect, and link to them as well. Both sites win. Note that this is only helpful for good sites with content that is relevant to yours. Accepting spammy, automated or farmed links isn’t a good idea. This will negatively impact your page rank, so link generously but with discretion.
- You need a sitemap. This is important, because the sitemap is what communicates your pages to the search engines. Without it, your site won’t show up in searches at all. You can use a plug-in to create one automatically, or if you’re inclined to do it yourself just make a file with the map and upload it to your site. The web host control panel will have an option to do that, whichever host you’re using.
- Choose keywords wisely. Your keywords should be extremely specific, and more relevant to your site than any other words. You don’t necessarily want the words that generate the most traffic; instead, choose the ones that deliver viewers who will highly value your content. Besides creating an audience that is likely to explore your site and make return visits, it’s easier to rank well in searches for these terms than the more commonly used words that aren’t as specific.
- Look at the data. Examining the analytics for your site every now and then is a smart investment of time. It will let you learn which pages, links and sources are most effective as well as what isn’t working as well. Armed with this knowledge, you can tweak and adjust to get the maximum value from your online presence, and make educated choices about where to focus your efforts.
That’s not so scary now, is it? Super-sophisticated math may underlie these principles and the programs that make them work, but you don’t have to learn all that for it to work for you. Most of what you need is stuff you learned in early childhood: be honest, be polite, be organized, be specific and check your work often.