To be honest, I get a little nervous when someone asks me how to make sure their site ranks well in search engines. It’s not because I don’t know anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)–it’s because I know enough to know how much I don’t know! I won’t promise results I can’t be sure of delivering. That being said, there are some simple things anybody can do to help their site rank better.
Search engines carefully guard and constantly tweak their processes to stay one step ahead of people trying to game the system. That’s a great goal, but makes it harder for regular folks to make sure they get their content seen. But by developing a few good habits, you can get significant improvements in your search engine rankings without an huge time commitment.
Content for SEO
The first thing you’ll always here regarding ranking well is “content is king.” Kinda trite, but a lot of truth there. Original, focused, keyword-rich niche content that is frequently updated will do best in search engines. The better your content is, the more sites will link to your site, and the more often it will be visited when it does come up in a search, all of which helps get you higher in search results. Get in the habit of providing original, high-quality content regularly.
You also have to tell the search engines about your content. One of the easiest ways is setting up an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google and other search engines you want to court. If you’re running WordPress or a similar content management system, there may be plugins you can add to do this automatically. Get in the habit of notifying search engines when you update your site.
Structure for SEO
Using clean, standards-compliant code without errors will help your search engine visibility. Search engines crawlers are not as forgiving about coding problems as a visitor’s browser will be. Get in the habit of making sure your site has clean code (or hire someone if you don’t know how).
Likewise, don’t think of headlines in your code as simply a visual detail to change text size. Search engines look at document structure and consider the weight of a headline tag vs. boldfaced copy. Now, if you turn everything into headlines, the search engines will catch on. But breaking down your content into managable sections, with appropriately structures headline tags, will help both the search engines and your readers. Get in the habit of using keywords in your headlines, reflecting the structure of your document in the HTML code.
Also, don’t forget what you can’t see! Hidden content in your pages, called “meta tags” commonly include keywords and page description; these tags also play an important role for some search engines. Your description may be used to represent the page’s content in the search engine results. Get in the habit of adding unique, keyword-rich meta tags to every page.
Copy for SEO
It goes without saying your content should contain the keywords you’d like to rank for. One of the most important is your page name. Get in the habit of including keywords in your page titles.
And headlines are especially important. But in addition to headlines, certain other copy also gets extra weight from search engines. Bold or italicized text gets extra attention.Get in the habit of using bold or italics to emphasize keywords in text.
Link text matters for SEO. Just like headlines and bold text, linked text is treated as more important. So instead of linking “Click Here”, consider linking the text “Get a Blue Widget” instead. Get in the habit of using keywords in linked text.
Naming matters for SEO. The name of images, link titles, and image alt attribute all provide test that search engines read, even if your visitors don’t. Get in the habit of specifying alt text and link titles for all of your images and links.
And while you’re uploading images, pay attention to those names! Search engines read file names, too. Get in the habit of naming your images with keywords.
Summary of Habits to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking
See, that’s not so bad, huh? Here’s a quick recap of good search engine habits:
- Get in the habit of providing original, high-quality content regularly.
- Get in the habit of notifying search engines when you update your site.
- Get in the habit of using clean code.
- Get in the habit of using keywords in your headlines, reflecting the structure of your document in the HTML code.
- Get in the habit of adding unique, keyword-rich meta tags to every page.
- Get in the habit of including keywords in your page titles.
- Get in the habit of using bold or italics to emphasize keywords in text.
- Get in the habit of using keywords in linked text.
- Get in the habit of specifying alt text and link titles for all of your images and links.
- Get in the habit of naming your images with keywords.
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll get more visitors over time though improved positioning in search results. If you carefully craft your keywords, they’ll be the folks you want to reach. Good luck!