Search Engine Optimization... What is it and why do you need it?
“If you build it they will come…”
It may work for baseball fields, but for websites? Not so much.
Business owners often think that putting up a website will send droves of customers their way. But no matter how beautiful your graphics are, and how clever your copy, without SEO the search engines won’t find your site and you’ll be virtually invisible online.
Why SEO matters
Studies show 87% of purchases start with an online search, up from 71% last year. So if your website isn’t optimized you don’t stand a chance of being considered.
Search engine optimization affects how your site ranks in search results. Without deliberate attention to SEO, you may end up on page 5 (or worse) of Google or Bing, while your optimized competitors are nabbing customers from their lofty perches on pages 1 and 2.
Elements of SEO
Back in the day, people thought that for great visibility you just need to stuff your text with keywords. Au contraire! Here’s what you need on your site to rise in the rankings:
well-researched keywords – not necessarily the terminology you use to describe your business, but the words customers enter for an online search
strategic application of keywords – seamless integration of keywords in headlines and copy helps search engines understand and categorize your page
keyword-rich page titles and meta descriptions – by making meta data specific to each page you gain greater exposure
Let’s talk about keywords
In the early days of online marketing, it was all about keywords. Websites sounded like they were written for search engines, not humans. Keyword stuffing became the norm…thankfully, that practice has passed. Today, Google looks for quality content, meaning content that’s original, fresh and most important, has value for the customer. Yes, it still needs to have keywords in order for search bots to understand what your page is about. But, please, less is more. Judicious use of these terms in heads, subheads and text is all that’s needed.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
If you’re looking for summer sandals you’ve come to the right place. Our selection of summer sandals is the best you’ll find anywhere. We have dressy summer sandals, casual summer sandals, summer sandals with heels or flat summer sandals. And our summer sandals come in a full range of sizes and colors.
See what I mean?
The power of page titles Next to your content, the page title is the most important SEO element on your website. Made up of keywords, it tells search engines what each page is about and shows up on the search results page to attract visitors. Important distinction—a page title is not the same as your page url. About Company XYZ, is not a page title. (Do you know anyone who searches for “About” your company?) Home, likewise, is not a page title. No search engine is going to index a page called Home.
Instead, your page titles need to be specific to the topic of each page, for example: “About Company XYZ, CPA firm in Oakland.”
Avoid these common page title mistakes
Missing or too long – no page title means no traffic. Search engines favor page titles of 70 characters or less. More than that and you’re diluting your message.
Same on every page – using the same page title gives you only one chance to be found. Include unique keywords on each page and maximize your opportunity to match a variety of searches.
Localization - If you serve local or regional customers, say so in your page titles. For example, add “San Francisco” to your Eco-friendly Flooring page title to attract traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area. If not, you’re competing for visibility with businesses all over the country and it’s not likely that you’ll rank.
How to write a meta description
A meta-description is the brief copy that shows up in search results. Think of it as an ad for your business. It should contain the same keyword phrase as the page title, preferably at the beginning of the text, so the search engines can match your page title to the description. Keep it short and punchy, ideally 150-160 characters, max.
Don’t set it and forget it
By following these SEO basics your website has a better chance of being found by customers who are in the market for your products or services. Remember, with a website you can’t set it and forget it. Add fresh content on a regular basis, in the form of blog posts, articles, downloads, press releases… all to give people reasons to return. And to earn more search engine love.
Lanny Udell, Lanny Udell Marketing Communications Chapter 150
Lanny, aka Copywhiz, is a content strategist and SEO marketing writer based in San Rafael, CA.
Lanny specializes in helping businesses find their voice, and crafts their messaging for website content, blogs, enewsletters and more. Her diverse industry experience—B2B, B2C, nonprofit-- demonstrates her ability to write strategically for different audiences in a variety of media. Lanny helps clients get found online by applying on-page SEO to their websites to drive traffic and sales. She especially enjoys working with WNA members. Learn more: https://copywhiz.com