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Writing a bunch of blog posts and creating some cool images for your website isn’t enough to efficiently move the needle when it comes to driving visitors to your website. A good SEO company will use data (not assumptions) to help everyone in the room make informed business decisions.

SEO is strategic, highly competitive and much more calculated than many might believe. With all the data available, an SEO company worth their salt is going to actual user data to inform marketing strategy, budget, and measurable return on investment.

Assuming SEO is the plan, here are the 7 core on-page elements that ALWAYS need attention:

1. Establish a keyword research and selection strategy

2. Choose and configure page titles

3. Write captivating meta descriptions

4. Properly use headings and sub-headings

5. Adding images and helping search engines “see” images

6. Setting up a sensible URL structure

7. Develop a content strategy focused on the user’s perspective

1. Establish a keyword research and selection strategy

You first need to figure out what your intended audience actually cares about.

What questions do they have? What are they interested in? What problems are your customers facing? What solutions are they looking for? Where are they looking for these solutions?

It doesn’t do you any good to write about stuff that your prospects don’t care about. So let’s not lead with self-centered stuff like “We offer the best customer service in the country” or “Our team of experts have the experience to satisfy your needs”. If your website is full of this crap, read Defining Your Company’s Market Position immediately.

keyword research and selection

Keywords are the actual terms and phrases that people type into search engines.

Tools like Hubspot’s Keyword Tool or Google Analytics allow you to research what keywords are most frequently searched, and how competitive the situation is for ranking. This isn’t about guesswork, it’s about looking through data and finding opportunities for achieving listings on the first page of Google.

Every page on your website should be optimized for specific keywords.

For example, let’s say you’re into classic cars. Trying to rank high for the search “classic cars” is going to be really difficult. There are tons of companies and websites out there trying to do the same. It’ll be expensive and time consuming to move up the list, and really hard to stay there. Additionally, visitors that come to your site are going to be really diverse…who knows what kinds of classic cars they’ll be looking for, are they buyers, sellers, etc. All that money and effort wasted.

A better strategy might be to choose your niche and focus like a laser. Ranking high for “Ford Thunderbird Convertibles from the 60’s” is probably much easier, and will deliver you a highly targeted audience that’s more interested in your product.

A scientific approach is best. This analysis can and should be done on day 1, followed by regular assessments and refinements. Rely on data, not some guy’s opinion on what they think could work.

Here’s another example. This web page of ours is focused on “Minimizing Risk in E-Commerce Website Negotiation“.

2. Choose and configure page titles

A page title is the bold text that appears in search engine results and is also what appears up in the top tab of your browser window when you’re viewing the web page. Your page title is really important because it tells your human users what the page is all about (which makes them happy), and also tells those mysterious website crawlers what your site is all about too (which makes search engines happy). Win – Win.

You should be considering the following guidelines when it comes to great page titles:

  1. Page title should describe what the page is actually about. No misleading anyone…humans or search engines.
  2. Include your selected keywords naturally. Don’t artificially stuff keywords in places they don’t belong. Users hate it and search engines are smart enough to pick up on it.
  3. Keywords should be near the beginning of the page title as possible. This is where they’ll have the most value.
  4. 70 Characters max. Any longer and your title will be cut off in certain web browsers and mobile devices. A long title also dilutes the importance of your keywords.
  5. Add your company name after the “pipe” at the end of the title.
  6. Every page should have unique page title on your website. They can be optimized for the same keywords, but titles should be unique.

Example: 
“How will an SEO Company help my website get found? | Web Design Phoenix”

3. Write captivating meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are not going to help you with SEO, but they will help with what we call “click throughs”. These are summaries that come up in search results that give searchers an idea what your page is about…a teaser if you will.

meta description examples

It should be compelling, and accurately describe what is on the page so that users will be enticed to click. Keep meta descriptions less than about 160 characters to avoid getting cut off.

4. Properly use headings and sub-headings

Headings are pieces of text that appear larger on the page than other text. Both users (humans) and search engines (crawlers) tend to pay more attention to headings than regular paragraph text. For this reason, your SEO company should be including your chosen keywords in various headings on each page.

H1 Headings give text more weight than h2, h3, etc., so they should only be used once. Otherwise, the significance of these headings becomes diluted. Feel free to sprinkle in a few sub-titles here and there to support your primary h1 headings.

5. Adding images and helping search engines seeimages

Everyone knows that strong images will improve the user experience and/or facilitate delivering your message (infographics, charts, etc). Images, however carry a few inherent problems when it comes to SEO. Your SEO experts will take care of this, but you should know what’s happening behind the scenes.

Zugspitze-photo-andreas-weber

Photo Credit: My buddy Andreas Weber – Zugspitze in Germany, 2017

Images are “heavy”. This means that they carry a lot of data and slow the loading of your pages. Users don’t like waiting for pages to come up, therefore search engines don’t like it either. Image resolutions need to be slimmed down, and don’t over use images on any given page.

Use Alt text. Search engines can’t see that cute photo of your dog or the chart about your pricing structure. Use the alt text field to describe what the image is all about…preferably using your keywords. Also, if for some reason the images fail to render, users and search engines alike will still know what message you’re trying to send.

Use keywords in the file name. This can help images be found in image searches and bring traffic to your website. Separate title words with a dash (-) because blank spaces in Urls don’t go over too well.

6. Setting up a sensible URL structure

The url for a web page is the website address you see in your browser. For example, our website url is https://webdesign-phoenix.com. The url is yet another indicator to both users and search engines for what your website is all about. There are also some best practices when it comes to adding new sub-pages:

  1. Include keywords whenever you can. By way of example, our url contains 3 keywords that we’re very well optimized for…in fact this was the basis of naming our company 20+ years ago.
  2. Separate keywords with dashes. As I said with images, search engines don’t do well with blank spaces.
  3. Describe what’s on the page. No misleading…let your users and search engines know what the page is about. A bunch of numbers and random symbols isn’t any value, so create a url naming convention that employs descriptive words.
  4. Use 301 redirects when necessary. If you change a url or if a page goes away for some reason, set up a permanent redirect to the new page. A common mistake even some experienced SEO firms make is failing to set up a 301 redirect between yourwebsite.com and www.yourwebsite.com. Search engines will treat these two addresses separately otherwise and you’ll lose valuable ranking credit.

7. Develop a content strategy focused on the user’s perspective

When it comes to writing your website content itself, there’s only a couple things you need to make sure of.

Your content is always written with the user’s perspective in mind. Quit talking about yourself and how great your company is. Nobody cares. Think about what your prospects are interested in, what they want to learn about, or provide answers to the problems they have. Your content needs to be helpful and interesting to them, not serve to support your ego.

Put a process in place where new content is produced regularly on an ongoing basis. Letting things get stale will sabotage your SEO efforts…users and search engines hate old or inaccurate information. Those who produce the best content win.

Conclusion

SEO is a long-term, strategic approach to marketing that can deliver enormous benefit by almost every important metric. You may be able to handle all this in-house, or farm the work out to a capable agency. It’s not rocket science, but long-term planning and consistency is absolutely required.

If you choose to outsource some or all of this work, find an SEO company that will guide your strategic decision making, perform the necessary research, and pay close attention to on-page SEO.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about handling SEO and building web pages that are well optimized, check out our ebook The Quick Guide How to SEO

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what is search engine optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website to attract more online visitors through search engines.

SEO is part of the Attraction Stage of the inbound marketing methodology, and helps your business by attracting strangers to your website and to turning them into leads or customers.

Component of professional grade search engine optimization are highly complex, yet very logical:

Google is the most popular search engine in the world. It handles more than 3.3 billion web searches every single day. These searches usually contain questions or problems that people are trying to resolve like “how to keep my pool from turning green” or “homeowners insurance in scottsdale”.

Ranking for certain searches is a competitive game and requires some strategy, effort, and time. Search engines are charged with presenting the most relevant and trustworthy answers to online questions. They send what are called web crawlers all around the web to try to understand what each website is all about.

If you want to know what happens when you do a Google search, check out this video.

A good website is not only crafted with cool, interesting content, but also makes it easy for these crawlers to know what’s happening.

Truthfully, Google doesn’t really care so much about you or the success of your website itself. Their responsibility is with their customers – the ones conducting all these searches. If Google produces a lousy roster of websites for a given search, users won’t use Google anymore.

SEO is a giant (and very high stakes) competition for attention. If it were as simple as adding a few lines of code or text, then everyone would do it. By definition, not everyone can rank near the top of search results.

If you’re considering doing the work yourself, here’s how to optimize web pages for search engines. Alternatively, this article explains how an SEO company can help your website be found online.

Grab the complete SEO Book for Free

how-to-seo

Let’s go over some basics about search engine keywords. If you want to pop up in search results, you need to know what people are actually typing into their search engines (i.e., Google or Yahoo).

Here’s what we’ll cover for you:

– What are SEO Keywords?

– How do I pick the right keywords for my business?

– What are best practices for keyword research?

– How do I know which keywords people use to find my website?

– How can I expand the list of keywords I am using?

– What is the difference between long-tail and short-tail keywords?

Keyword Research and Selection: What are Keywords?

Keywords are the words that people type into search engines. For example: “landscapers in Orlando”. They are basically the subjects or questions that people want to learn about.

To attract people who are interested in what your site has to offer, you’ll need to research what people are looking for in your line of business. What questions need answering? What do your prospects care about most?

Start by considering who your customers are. It might be tempting to talk about how great your company is and how awesome your products or services are, but this isn’t what your customers care about (just yet). Put yourself in their shoes and make a list of words they might be searching for.

As you make your list, categorize your keywords according to where they fit in the buying process. Are they simply becoming aware of a problem they are facing? Are they considering their options or different kinds of solutions? Are they making their final decision on who to do business with? The information you present on each web page will vary significantly depending on where your customers stand in their buying process.

Now, expand your list of keywords by searching the web for alternatives. This gives you a great source of synonyms, related phrases, or other permutations that people are looking for in your industry. Add all these alternatives to your keyword list…as long as they relate to your business and the interests of your target market.

What are Keyword Research Best Practices?

There are tools to help you analyze what keywords your website users are already using to find and access your website. Google Analytics or Hubspot Sources offer great insights on where your web traffic is coming from and what people are doing to find your website. Maybe they’re being referred through social media, or perhaps they’re finding an article that you wrote months ago.

You’ll need to decide which keywords present the best opportunity for you to rank for. Remember that there are probably tons of other websites out there trying to do exactly the same thing…and only 10 can make it to the first page of each search result.

Should I Use Long-Tail Keywords?

Some keywords are going to be much harder to rank for than others. A very general term like “Sports Cars” is pretty broad and a small website would not get many qualified visitors from this.

Alternatively, a more specific play on these keywords might narrow the field to a more select group, allowing you to compete more favorably. Consider what we call a long-tail keyword such as “Red Italian Sports Cars from the 60’s”. This might focus on the specific users you’re targeting and give you a better chance of ranking high.

Targeting keywords that are very broad could mean big challenges with achieving high search rank, and ultimately attracting either unqualified website visitors or people who just don’t care about your offerings. It’s much better to choose a specific niche for each page and target your audience more acutely.

Note that just because your keyword is long-tail and more specific, this doesn’t mean it will be easy to rank for. Ranking is a function of how competitive the environment is for your specific search terms.

What Tools are Available for Keyword Research?

Again, tools like Google AnalyticsGoogle Webmaster Tools or Hubspot Keywords allow us to analyze what the level of competition is like for every possible keyword. We also recommend search engine audit reports that evaluate your website in great detail as compared to the existing top 10 websites in your search result. These comprehensive reports outline every strength and weakness of your onsite SEO and what steps you should be taking to improve your results.

Key Take Aways:

– It takes time for websites to develop credibility in the eyes of search engines…measured in months or even years

– More website traffic doesn’t always translate into more business. Targeted strategy is best

– Evaluate the competitive set for each keyword to find a niche or opportunity

– Set a process in place to continually develop content around your chosen keywords