SEO is a very long, laborious exercise, which can sometimes take months for any noticeable results, as a dissertation. It continues to get harder as Google update their algorithm to look for sites that are genuinely good, vs. sites that have been ‘SEO’ed’ poorly (we’re talking black hat SEO here).
Trouble is, people often forget the SEO Basics, and move straight into the ‘heavy lifting’. I’ve decided to prepare a SEO 101 article that contains often-overlooked SEO activity that should be completed before turning anywhere else.
#1. Page Titles
It sounds basic, and it is. The problem is, many people get so caught up in the serious SEO (link building, blogging, paid directories), that they forget to look right in their back yard at their page titles.
Your page title is good from an SEO perspective as it helps Google see what the page is about. More importantly it’s good from a user’s perspective. A page title is the first thing a potential customer is greeted with when they perform a search on Google.
If your page title is lacking crucial information about your business, how will the customer know that your site is the right one for them? Think about your own browsing habits. What makes you click a particular result over another one? Some people just click the first result assuming that it is number one for a reason.
If, however, you are like me, you typically read the first few results, scanning for the details for what is most relevant to you. For example, if you were searching for ‘Office Chairs’ and the first result looked like this:
Office Supplies – Office Supply Shop
and the third result looked like this:
Office Chairs & Accessories | Buy Office Supplies Online from Maxi-Office
Which one would you pick? Easy. Work on creating compelling page titles using important details about your business (e.g. Buy Online, Office Supplies, Office Chairs).
#2. Meta Description
Rated equally as important as page titles is the meta description. After reading the page title, people will typically skim the meta description to confirm that is the page they want to click through to (bear in mind this all happens in seconds).
A well-thought out, detailed meta description is so often forgot when performing any search engine optimization.
Just like the page title, the description can determine whether a potential customer clicks through to your site or clicks on a competitor.
Google appreciate it if you put some thought into your meta description, and have relevant copy in there about that specific page.
So next time you are adding products, categories, or content pages, put some thought into what goes into that small box. It can potentially drive traffic to your site, or scare them into going elsewhere.
#3. Unique Page Content
This is a buzz-word in the SEO industry. You’ll hear phrases like “Content is King”, and “Fresh is Best” over and over again on your pursuit of SEO excellence. Sadly, many people don’t heed these very sayings.
The Internet is packed full of content that has just been stolen and rehashed over and over again. Which is why when Google says “We want fresh content”, they mean it. When you regularly post unique content that is not available anywhere else on the web, Google typically favors your site over others that may have either stale out of date content, or content available on hundreds of websites around the world.
Give Google what they want. Post something new every day if you can.
Anything that makes sense for your business. Now there is a piece of advice you can take straight to the bank.
#4. Anchor Text
Although this is slightly more advanced that the other three elements, it is appropriate to discuss the importance of link anchor text. This is often out of your control, but a basic understanding can never go astray.
When someone links to your site (e.g. Exceed Online) the anchor text is the text the link is attached to, in this case it is Exceed Online.
Anchor text helps Google define what the linked page is about, and typically helps you rank for those particular keywords. That is why having descriptive, relevant anchor text is very important when creating links both within your site, and soliciting links externally.
A perfect example to illustrate the power of anchor text is the term “Click Here”. So often people use this as their anchor text for a link, which passes on no information to Google about the pages content.
If you search “Click Here” in Google you will notice that the first result is for Adobe Reader. The anchor text for Adobe Reader is always “Click Here to Download Adobe Reader”. This shows the power of anchor text, as the term click here has nothing to do with Adobe.
#5. Other Bits and Pieces
Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Unique Content & Anchor Text are the main elements of any basic SEO that should be completed before moving on to anything else.
There are other things that used to be as crucial as those, but as Google becomes smarter and smarter they are allocating less value to the following (that’s not to say you shouldn’t do them).
Image Alt Tags, URL Strings, H1 & H2 Tags, & Sitemaps (and Google Webmaster Tools) are still important, but are typically ranked second compared with the above points.
Once you have the first 4 things on the list above ticked off, and fully optimized, work on ensuring that ALT image tags are a fair representation of what the images are (remember Google can’t see images, so it can only go off image name, and ALT tag).
By completing all these steps your site will pass an SEO 101 test, and can move up to the likes of link building, directories, & blogging. Like we always say to our clients, it’s always best to pick the low hanging fruit before moving any further.
Why waste time with link building when your site is not even following the most basic of SEO rules?