By Dr. Ty Belknap, CEO of Port Bell
Interested in knowing more about what SEO is? Watch this short video for an explanation.
SEO... whether that term brings peace or has your chest tightening, it’s something that almost every business and organization needs to have worked on regularly.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is not a manipulative tactic to get you to part from your hard-earned money. Yes, the incessant calls about getting you to the top of Google are probably from hackers. And there are many shady SEO companies out there (But there are also good companies that want nothing more than to help you get to the top of the search engines. We are one of them, so please contact us if there is anything we can do to help).
And you need to do your research, because doing Tacoma SEO wrong can hurt you as much as doing it right can help.
Optimizing your web site for the search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, etc.), when done correctly, can make your web site more visible in SERPs (search engine result pages). But SEO is not about underhanded techniques designed to deceive search engines and us users. Doing “black hat” techniques will just as likely get you permanently kicked out of search engines, even if they are done on accident.
Google® has one purpose: To get you the best results possible. The only reason they update their algorithms all the time is to provide their users with the best possible results.
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And they have stopped rolling out “big” updates. After a bad update in 2019 that caused a lot of problems, Google has decided to roll out small updates as they are finished rather than combining them into larger updates. And these updates partly look for web sites that are doing underhanded SEO practices. What this means is that we need to be constantly focused on good SEO.
Proper SEO practices means work that not only helps a web page get higher in the search engines, but also helps people find the information they are looking for as easily as possible (note that this is the same as Google’s main purpose). These are also called “White Hate” practices.
Remember, SEO is not here to serve a website owner, blogger or entrepreneur; SEO is here to serve the user. Our job is to implement SEO in a way that best helps that user, because they are your potential visitor, follower, happy customer and dedicated brand advocate.
Important SEO Tacoma Techniques
You don’t have to have a degree to do search engine optimization (and no, none of my degrees are in SEO or even Internet). In fact, this article is dedicated to some great SEO techniques that you can do yourself. They are here to help make your Internet marketing efforts easier to handle.
That doesn’t mean SEO is easy; it’s a long-term, complex process. So, to keep things as simple as possible, I’ve divided this list into a few sections. I will start with some small, easy SEO steps that could have a great impact on your web site’s rankings. Then, as I go deeper, the techniques will get a bit more involved. But I hope they will help you develop your own SEO strategy.
Content Is Still the SEO King.
1. Create only high quality, relevant, accurate and keyword-rich content.
I’ve been in the SEO game since 1995 and, if there were one thing that was as true then as it is now, it would be CONTENT. Remember, the entire purpose of Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, etc. is to provide relevant, accurate content in its results. If a web page does this, 70% of the SEO game is already won.
2. Get your spelling and grammar correct.
Don’t have your web page written by a (physical or mental) 5-year old. Yes, people sometimes misspell words when they search. And there were times in the past when I used to advise clients to include misspelled words in their keywords. Not anymore. Think of these two things:
- The search engines will ding you for words that are not spelled correctly.
- These days people may misspell a word, but they won’t go to sites that show up with wrongly spelled words.
The Hemingway Editor is a great site to check your content for spelling and grammar.
3. Relevant content is a web page that changes when needed.
Search engines like web sites that change. Search engines like web sites with longevity pages. Yes, this can be a catch-22. Don’t change a web page by adding a period or space just to change the publish date, this doesn’t work anymore. But do change your web page when it stops being relevant. This is generally truer of blog posts than web pages. Blog posts can become irrelevant and outdated. It’s better to remove or update unnecessary blog posts than to leave them there.
4. Relevant content appeals to your target audience.
You don’t want a web page on the latest research of how the elasticity of certain types of gum creates the best bubbles if your web site is about refrigerator repair. Don’t get me wrong, that may be a fun blog post, but it doesn’t belong as a web page. Relevant content has two purposes: it gets your target audience to your web site and provides them with good information.
5. Accurate web pages are.
‘Nuff said? Don’t write false stuff on a web page, the search engines will notice it eventually. Even if they don’t, people will and people are who you are really trying to attract, right? Make sure what you write is as accurate as you can get.
6. Unique content is a must.
Don’t copy content from other web pages and put it directly on your site. This is called web page spamming and is a (old) black-hat technique. It’s also one of the most likely ways to get banned from the search engines. Use a program like Copyscape to make sure your content is 100% unique (you can also use Copyscape to make sure others are not stealing your content).
7. Develop a strategic plan for your content.
Do some keyword research (see number 17 below) and develop a plan on content that works with the best keywords. Plan on writing a page (or blog post) once a week, fortnight (not the game), month or whatever works for you.
8. And strategic page design.
Have you been scanning each number to see what you may be interested in? Other people do. Make good use of headers (H1, H2, etc.). Use bold and italics to highlight important text also. BUT NOT JUST TEXT. Yes, search engines love text. BUT people love images. Mix in some imagery with the text to break it up a bit.
9. Remove any duplicate content.
Your web site should not have any duplicate content (you can use Copyscape to check your site as well, from #6 above). However, some ecommerce sites have duplicate content because the items you sell may be on more than one page. In that case, I recommend hiring someone to help you create canonical tags for your web site (but that is getting a bit techy-nerdy for this document).
Your Web Site Structure
10. Create an easy, clear web site structure.
Web structure is more for people than SEO. Search engines don’t care how a site is laid out. If there is a link, it will find the page. But people won’t find a page if it’s not easy to find. Create a web structure that makes it easy for people. Two samples: www.portbell.com. You will notice that this site has web navigation across the top of the page. This is fine for smaller sites, but you might run out of room on a larger site. However, www.tacomaseo.com has a vertical navigation structure. This is good for small and large web sites but takes up more real estate on the page.
Either way, you will notice that the most important links are always close to the top or far left. The less important the link, the farther away it is. That is until you get to the other end. People tend to look at one end and then the other and only go to the middle if they can’t find what they want. Develop your navigation structure like that.
11. Each page should have one primary SEO keyword.
Each page of your web site will be optimized for several keywords, but one keyword should be more prominent than all the rest for search engine optimization purposes. The page will get watered down in the search engines if there are too many main keywords on it, so it is best to make separate pages with one primary keyword per page.
For instance, you might have a “services” page on your web site with four or five services on it. But one of those should be your primary service. If they are all primary services, then make a separate page for each of them.
12. Use a dash (-) instead of the underscore (_) or a space in your page names (URLs).
Always use a dash between words in your page names. For instance, instead of SEO_company or SEOcompany, use SEO-company. Using a dash makes it easy for search engines to separate the words. Using an underscore makes it look like all the words are running together. Never use a space. The Internet still (sometimes) interprets a space as %20, so “SEO Company” could be seen on the Internet as “SEO%20Company,” which means nothing to the search engines or to people.
13. Make your page names descriptive and relevant.
Some pages on your web site have to have a specific name. For instance, your main page should always be index.html. but you can make other pages more descriptive. Instead of “contact.html,” you could have “contact-seattle-plumber.html.” That makes the page more descriptive for both people and search engines.
Your Title Tag, Description, and Image ALT Attributes
14. Generate a unique sentence to describe each page of your web site. This sentence will be your TITLE tag.
The title tag describes what will be on that specific page of your site. Each page must have a different, unique title tag. Never use the same wording on multiple pages.
This tag should be no more than 120 characters (not words). You may have heard that it should only be 60 characters, but the times they are a-changing (Sometimes you will only see 60 characters and sometimes 120).You need to describe that page in no more than 120 characters, including spaces.
15. The META Description Is Marketing Gold.
The META description is the line of text you see that describes a web page when you see search results (above). The desired length of a META description used to be 150 characters, but now you can go to 240 (and it’s good to do more than less). Use the META description to continue describing your web page from where you left off on your title tag.
16. Always remember that images MUST have ALT information listed.
Search engines have no idea what an image is, so they ignore it. Instead, they look for the text in the ALT tag. You can put as much information as you want in an ALT tag, but don’t be spammy.
Every app has its own way to put ALT tags. The image below shows where you do it in WordPress. Once you go into the media area, click the image you want and the information will show up on the right. Fill in the title and ALT. Don’t fill in the caption unless you want that text showing up on the page. The description area is optional.
Keywords and Keyphrases For Search Engine Optimization
17. Keywords make all the difference.
Keywords are part of the core of SEO. The cornerstone of a good search engine optimization strategy is finding the right keywords. A plumber may think that he/she wants to be at the top of the search engines for “plumber,” but are you sure? If you are in New York, do you want calls from Florida? That’s quite a drive.
So maybe “plumber New York” is better? But what kind of plumber? Residential, commercial, industrial? Yes, those are all different kinds of plumbers.
You need to find the keywords that work best for your business, and be as specific as you can.
A great, free, tool you can use is UberSuggest. This is a robust tool that will help you find good keywords and much more.
Look at the most popular keywords, but don’t necessarily pick them. If they are very competitive, you might want to pick a keyword a bit lower in the list so you can get to page one for it quicker.
18. Use long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are just keywords that have more than one word. “Plumber” is a keyword. “Residential plumber New York” is a long tail keyword. But this long tail keyword could rank for “residential plumber,” “plumber New York,” and “residential plumber New York.”
19. Notice how a location has been used in the last two points?
The average plumber in New York isn’t going to travel to Florida to fix a leaky pipe. Using your location can make a big difference. For instance, we do SEO work for companies around the world, but we use the SEO Tacoma and SEO Seattle keywords all over our site.
20. Put keywords in headings, subheadings and ALT text.
Search engines rank the importance of keywords depending on where they are on your site. The least important spot is the ALT tag of images (that doesn’t mean you can ignore this area). The most important is the H1, or main heading, of your page. The second most important is an H2 heading, and so on.
21. Place keywords throughout the text of your web page.
Keywords can, and should, be placed in the normal text of your web site. If your H1 tag says “I sell widgets” but your text is about plumbing in New York, the search engines will know something is wrong. Keep the keywords in your text similar to the ones used in your heading tags.
22. There should be one main keyword per page.
See point 11 above.
23. Track how your keywords are performing.
Doing all this keyword stuff won’t help if you don’t track it. Use Google Search Console or another analytic program to track how your keywords are doing over time.
Backlinks Are Critical
24. Develop a link building plan.
Backlinks, link building, link juice; it all means the same thing: A web site has a link that goes to your web site. That’s it, but it’s critically important. It is one of the ways the search engines use to verify your site is legitimate (who would link to a web site that isn’t?). Develop a plan to build links. Look for complementary businesses. A plumber might trade links with a local electrician. You can get links from your Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, etc.
Be sure to pick people you trust to link to you.
25. The higher quality the link, the better.
Google would place a much higher priority if you were being linked from the White House or Microsoft than it would if the local drug dealer linked to you (yes, they know the difference). The more popular the web site that is linking to you, the higher your Domain Score in Google will be. And the higher the Domain Score, the more likely you will get to the top of the search engines.
26. Don’t pay for links.
You may think that paying for links would get you higher in the search engines, but the opposite is actually true. If you pay a legitimate company for a link, they are bound by Google to add a “nofollow” tag to your link. And, as it implies, the search engines will not follow that link. It’s even worse if you pay someone to get you 500 or 1,000 backlinks. They will put your links on the nastiest, shadiest web sites out there and that won’t help you one bit.
Write articles for an outlet like Quora and you will get far more engagement from that backlink.
27. Link to other web sites you trust.
Only link to web sites you trust because your clients may click on that link.
28. Create high quality, relevant, interesting content.
I said this before, but it deserves repeating. Make sure you have great content on your site. This is not only for the search engines; people will link to great content. That way you don’t have to go trying to get backlinks, it will just happen.
29. Work on your social media pages.
The floodgates have opened as of December 2019. You can now find Facebook posts on Google. This is huge. Before, you might be able to find someone else’s profile page, but never a post. As of this month, I have found Facebook videos and posts on both Google and Bing.
BONUS: Remember To…
30. Keep track of what your competition is doing for SEO.
You won’t always be on the top of the search engines for every keyword you want, but you can watch and see what your competitors are doing. Keep track and, if necessary, copy what they do.