Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website to make it more readable by search engines and users.
As a practice, SEO started decades ago. But it's since evolved and turned into a much more sophisticated marketing strategy than it used to be — just like search engines themselves.
Today, SEO is concerned with updating certain parts of your website to make sure search engines and readers know what to expect from a page. Search engines look at more than 200 factors when they evaluate pages, and users frequently skim pages to find information they need.
If you want to be successful in terms of both search engines and users, you need to know a few basics about what's important to SEO.
SEO strategy #1: Title tags
The title tags of a page tell search engines and users what your page is about. You can see title tags most often as the blue or purple links in a page of search results.
Every page on your site should have a title tag with fewer than 65 characters. That allows you to create a strong, concise title for your page while ensuring it doesn't get truncated in search results.
In other words, every time that page shows up in search results, a search engine user will be able to read your entire title.
Once you have a title, it's also considered a best practice to include your brand name somewhere in your title.
So let's say you're creating a page for General Practice Medical about how to avoid the flu this winter. One option for a title tag could be "How to Avoid the Flu in 2016 | GPM".
You could also experiment with other abbreviations if your brand has a long name. In this case, something like General Practice may work with shorter titles.
Most importantly, you want to add relevant keywords in your title to make sure your page shows up in the correct searches.
But these are the important takeaways for title tags:
- Use relevant keywords
- Be descriptive
- Stay below 67 characters
- Use your brand name
- Use consistent branding
With those factors in mind, you can create effective titles for any page on your site.
SEO strategy #2: Meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are 155-character explanation of what someone can expect on your page. They're best used when they explain the title of a page in a little more detail and entice users to click.
Meta descriptions don't have any direct SEO impact, but they're helpful for search engine users. Search engines also highlight any keywords that are written in meta descriptions so that they stand out to users better.
With that in mind, it's important to write a concise and engaging description since it can be the deciding factor in getting a visitor to your site.
When you write meta descriptions, keep these factors in mind:
- Explain your title tag
- Entice users to click
- Use keywords
These quick list will let you write meta descriptions that grip search engine users and bring them to your site instead of your competitors'.
SEO strategy #3: Relevant internal links
When you're creating pages for your site, you should link to other relevant pages of your site.
These links serve a few purposes.
First, they act like bridges between your old pages and your new pages, allowing Google to fully explore and index your site so they can list you in search results.
Second, they offer users supplemental information on the topics of your pages. So if you're still working on a page about staying healthy during flu seasons, you could also link to a page, graphic, or video about how to properly wash hands.
Third, internal links help keep visitors on your site for longer periods of time. This is because visitors can see that you offer more information about topics that interest them, which makes them click to another page, then another, and so on.
All three of these factors are important since they improve a user's experience on your site. Plus, from an infrastructure standpoint, these links also guarantee that search engines can find all of your pages.
SEO strategy #4: External links pointing to your site
External links are one of the most important factors in SEO.
These are links that other websites use to send visitors to your site. Search engines also view them as votes of confidence that you offer high-quality, reliable information.
Generally speaking, the more reliable and trustworthy a search engine thinks you are, the more they'll recommend you to users.
That results in a runaway effect where you earn lots of new links for your site, allowing other users to find your pages, which then results in more links for your site.
The tough part is getting started. We'll address that task more in Strategy #6: Link building.
SEO strategy #5: Search saturation
Search saturation is the practice of creating multiple pages around similar keywords so that your site dominates a set (or sets) of search results. It's a subset of SEO, and it's primarily used in reputation management strategies.
However, you can also use search saturation to beat out competitors for high-traffic keywords.
Let's say your page on how to avoid the flu is published on your site, and it's getting lots of traffic. But you feel you could still do better.
To double down on that content, you could create another page about how the flu changes every year. You could also create a page about the history of the flu, past flus that were especially bad, or even how the flu got its name.
With so much information on the flu, you can dominate search results for flu-related keywords or at least ensure that you show up for each individual keyword.