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Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Basic Guide to SEO

SEO may be one of the biggest buzzwords of the decade, but what is it and why does it matter? SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, has become a critical component to the way that companies do business on the Internet. This guide will help you understand the definition of SEO, why it matters and how you can measure it in terms of your own business.

What is SEO?
The acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization, but there is more behind these three letters than you may think. Search Engine Land defines it as the process of getting traffic from “organic” or “natural” listings on search engines. Tech Target states that SEO is the practice of manipulating features of a website to improve its rankings on search engines.

When you look for a definition of SEO, “search engine” and “rankings” are words that are likely going to appear. In short, SEO is all about making sure that your website is front and center when an individual types in words pertaining your business (also known as keywords) and submits them to a search engine. Bing, Google and Yahoo are the big players in the world of SEO.

How to Achieve High Rankings
Everyone wants to have the website that appears at the top of the page when a search query is submitted, but there can only be one. To increase your chances of being included in the handful of websites that people initially see, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider.

First, it’s important to take a look at the HTML and content that is going into your website. This is what search engines digest and use to rank websites accordingly. Content that is unique is more likely to perform well on a search engine such as Google.

Similarly, including informational third party links within content can help your website’s cause. Google specifically looks for link diversity within pieces, making it a prime area of focus for those concentrated on SEO performance.

Next, it’s critical to incorporate industry-specific keywords into your content. Keywords can help ensure that your site instantly pops up as soon as an individual inputs a search query that is relevant to your business. There are several free tools on the market that can help you determine which keywords are ideal for your company, including the Keyword Tool by Google. By using this resource, you can determine which keywords have historically improved website traffic.

Finally, interlinking all of your webpages and redirecting traffic through social outlets can help you substantially improve your SEO ranking. This means every time you send out a tweet, you should try to incorporate a link that directs to one of your webpages, which includes links to all of your other sites – it’s like one big network that loops back to itself. These are variables that you can control and manipulate to enhance your SEO potential.

How to Gauge Your Performance
Once you begin implementing these SEO tactics, you are going to want to monitor the performance of your website to identify where more improvements can be made. That being said, there are multiple tools on the market that can help you get a better idea of how your efforts are paying off. Here are some resources you may want to consider:
  • MOZ Pro: MOZ Pro is an all-in-one SEO management tool that delivers everything from information on social media performance to keyword rankings. Additionally, MOZ has data visualization capabilities, which can help you put your information into easy-to-understand graphics.
  • Majestic SEO: Majestic SEO can be a valuable tool to those who want to be able to gather information on items like backlinks, indexed URLs and external references. The company also offers different subscription levels, meaning you don’t need to purchase a membership that comes with every single feature doesn’t fit into your budget.
  • Raven Tools: Raven Tools is an option for companies that would like a simple dashboard that they can log into to view SEO stats on a whim. With Raven Tools, users can manage keywords, analyze site performance and size up the competition right from the program’s main page.
  • SEO PowerSuite: SEO PowerSuite is an in-depth program that offers you multiple tools to research keywords, determine their rankings and optimize the HTML of your website to improve SEO. It also includes helpful tips for improving your link building strategy, as well as the content on your site.
  • Advanced Web Ranking: Advanced Web Ranking is another simplistic SEO program that helps you conduct competitive research and stay on top of search engine updates that may be impacting your strategy. AWR has both a cloud and desktop version.
It’s important to keep in mind that it is a combination of features that help you improve your SEO ranking. Focusing on insightful hyperlinks, for instance, will not help you increase your performance if you are ignoring other factors that play a role in SEO.

How to Avoid SEO Pitfalls
Once you grasp the basics of improving your website’s SEO ranking, you may start to incorporate dozens of keywords and hyperlinks throughout your page to drive traffic. However, this may be a fatal mistake as search engines strive to weed out websites that are designed for the sole purpose of increasing traffic (rather than providing insight).

One big pitfall to avoid is being blacklisted by Google – the biggest search engine on the Web. You may be banned from search results if you stuff keywords into your site, as well as ALT tags behind pictures. Google naturally assumes that your website is not designed to provide worthwhile information if you have a slew of SEO tactics but nothing to show for it. You can learn more about how Google detects “bad” SEO in this article.

Another SEO mistake to avoid is creating a poor meta description and title tag. This is what shows up when people come across your company in search engine results. Ideally, your title tag should be no more than 70 words, while your meta description should be a maximum of 160 characters. Additionally, each webpage’s meta description should be unique.

Redirects are another problem that can hurt your website’s SEO. Links should always redirect individuals to valuable, rich content, whether or not it’s another area of your site. Furthermore, hyperlinks should be audited routinely to ensure that none are broken.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of mistakes that you can make to hurt your website’s SEO value. That being said, you will want to check out this article to create your ultimate guide to SEO and avoid these pitfalls.

The rules of SEO are constantly changing, and they only become more complicated as search engines make updates to provide the best results to Web surfers. However, understanding the basics can give you the foundation you need to help your business establish a presence on the Internet. For more information on SEO and how you can create a strategy that fits within your budget, review this insightful article. There is always more to be learned about this ever-evolving concept.



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