I don’t claim to be an expert on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), although I have been writing content and building websites for some years, so I decided to write a beginners guide to SEO. In this guide I’ve documented some of my findings and lessons I’ve learned.
Technology is constantly changing and search engines are being optimized and altered to find the best true content on the web. By true content, I’m referring to the content that is original and interesting and not just created in an attempt to make money and trick search engines into better rankings. Google is the largest search engine system used today and is the focus of this article, although the lessons learned here should affect your ranking in most search engines indexing your content.
You can find information and announcements from Google on their Webmaster Tools blog related to their search engine technology, what to optimize and more.
If you run a website then you’re familiar with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool as long as you know how to use it effectively.
When you look at your Google Analytics report for keywords, you’ll see the line (not provided) listed at the top of your report. It can be hard to improve your rankings if Google won’t show you what you’re currently ranking for.
Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
The best way to improve the information in your rankings report is to connect your Google Analytics account to your Google Webmaster tools. Once you have more details in your reports, you can start to analyze your rankings and work on improving your Click Through Rate (CTR). To improve your CTR, you first need to improve your page rankings by better use of keywords,, meta information and the copy text used in your search results. Your main goal is to make your text appealing to your target audience.
To link your Google Analytics account to your Google Webmaster Tools, follow these three easy steps:
- Go into your dashboard and click on the Acquisition option in the navigation area.
- Click on Search engine optimization and then on the Queries option.
- Click on the Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing optionYou should see the following prompt:
Follow the steps presented to link your accounts.
Once you have your Google Analytics account connected with your Google Webmaster Tools, you should have access to a three new reports.
Go to your Analytics reports and head to the Acquisition area and then into the Search Engine Optimization section. Here you should see the three new reports; queries, landing pages and geographical summary.
The Queries Report shows you all the keywords you rank for, the Impressions you’ve received and the number of Clicks people made on the search results. You’ll also see your Average Position in the search results and the CTR for those results.
Use this information to monitor and tweak your content for the subject keywords you’re interested in improving and eventually you should see an increase in your rankings and especially your CTRs. The following sections will give some pointers to which areas you should focus your attention on to make your site more SEO friendly.
There are many guides available with target CTRs stating that acceptable targets are around 20%. Make this your goal for your content.
What makes your content more appealing to search engines?
Search engine providers such as Google are constantly trying to improve their performance to give the best results for its users. An understanding of how they work is the key to improving your rankings in the midst of the thousands of results for most topics today. This may sound like a simple task but they are constantly changing the boundaries and algorithms used to index and search content.
There are a couple of general rules you can follow:
Pick your subject keywords.
Writing an article that search engines index well involves picking relevant keywords for your subject and using them properly throughout your article. Keyword research is a vital tactic to writing content that is search engine optimized. A good place to start is the Google Trends Explorer. Google Trends shows reports on what’s trending around the internet and the search engines. You can perform research on keywords you specify to see how well Google thinks they are performing. View reports on the top performing keywords in almost any category you can think of or simply take a look at the Hot Searches of the day. It’s a great tool and can be a good source of information for your next articles.
Once you pick your keywords, you need to make sure they are using in your page Title, Description and within the content of your article. Don’t use it unnecessarily but enough to ensure the search engines know this is what your article is about. Search engines are incredibly intelligent and can tell if you’ve thrown in keywords just for the sake of using them to try and increase your page rankings. Using them too much can have a negative effect.
Write quality content.
If you don’t have quality content, you’re not going to rank high in search results. Google constantly monitors how users interact with search results. In an almost human like fashion Google can tell if search results in high positions were click and then the back button was pressed too quickly and a different link was chosen. This would indicate the first results didn’t meet the user’s expectations so they backed out and chose a different one. This can result in Google lowering your rankings for the search keywords used.
If you write an article about anything, you must ensure that the contents are fulfilling the reader’s needs. It’s no use writing a lot of short content just for the sake of getting lots of pages on your website. More important is the need to write good quality, engaging content that keeps a user occupied for longer and gives your website stronger credibility.
Make your site easy to navigate.
It’s very important to make your site easy to use and understand. When a user come s to your site, can they find the information they are looking for. Do they get lost in a deep hierarchy of navigational structures?
Google has algorithms that read a site like a human and try to determine of your site is structured well and easy to navigate.
Improve your meta information.
Meta information is the mixture of content for your articles that helps search engines understand what your content is about. We’re not talking about Meta tags, but more the content used for your article.
The main piece of meta information the search engines use is the page title. Writing a compelling title that is not too long, but has enough of a draw for viewers to want to click on it is the key to pages success. In 70 characters you need to make your page titles as keyword-relevant as possible.
Almost as important as the page title is the description of your page. The page description is contained in the description meta tag as shown below:
<meta name=”description” content=”your brief page description in 155 character’s goes here”>
The description will usually show beneath your search results and needs to convince the reader to click on the page link.
MOZ.COM has a good article that explains the meta description and how Google uses it.
Avoid duplicate content
Search engines look above the fold of your website. This is the initially visible area a visitors sees when they visit your site. You should try to avoid duplicate content in this area as much as possible.
If you site has a layout with multiple sidebars that are repeated on every page of your site, Google could see this as repeated content and could be marked as duplicate content seriously affecting your page rankings.
This guide is a good starting point and lists some of the areas you need to focus on to improve your sites content and its search engine rankings. There are plenty of detailed guides that go into these areas in much more details and a great place to start is MOZ.COM. MOZ.COM has plenty of free articles you can read and whole suite of tools to help you enhance and monitor your site.
If you run a blog, there are great tools available to help you write SEO friendly content and also optimize your website in many different ways. One of the best known plugin-ins for WordPress is Yoast’s SEO tool. The Yoast website also has a number of articles worth reading related to SEO with a WordPress focus.
I hope this give you some ideas of where to start on your SEO path to stardom and feel free to leave any tips or questions in the comments below.