Technically SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is about improving your website's page ranking in search engine results across all search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, DuckDuckGo, Dogpile, etc. But when it comes down to it, SEO is really about increasing the overall traffic to your website via Google organic search (as opposed to paid search, SEM, or Search Engine Marketing).
Google truly is really the only search engine that matters -- with about 66% of the search traffic in the U.S. and roughly 90% of the share everywhere else in the world. And while the #1 listing in Google search results gets 33% of all organic search traffic, being on the first page is most important, as 92% of all traffic comes from those first 10 results. But even when you're on that first page, you need to stand out.
Here are ten tips to help you get on the first page of organic Google search results and then get clicked:
- Vanity URLs are key to SEO. Be sure the URL of your website is either the name of your company or, if you're lucky enough to own these URLs, the name of your product/content i.e. ESPN would probably love to own the URL sports.com or Netflix own the URL movies.com. Today these are brand names that are likely "Googled" more often than their product/content terms themselves. But when they were up-and-coming companies, this would have dramatically improved SEO.
- Meta Tags are the keywords in the header code of your website used by search engines to categorize your website and determine relevance to organic searches. Today, Meta tags or keywords aren't nearly as important as they were in 2008, or even 2012, in fact Google and Bing don't even look at them anymore, but other search engines still do, so don't listen to those anti-meta-tag soap boxers and completely ignore them. You should still use them! Your Meta tags should be very specific to what your website is about -- don't be too general. For example, use terms like "used golf clubs, preowned golf clubs, cheap golf gear" versus "golf, clubs, used." But do some research using websites like Google Trends, http://www.keywordspy.com/ or http://www.wordtracker.com/ to find the most popular search queries related to your content.
- Meta Titles are the words that appear as links in search engine results. These words also appear in the top of your browser or in the browser tab when you are on that page, and is the default text that appears when you bookmark a webpage. Meta titles should be no longer than 50 characters in length to be sure the entire title can be read in Google search results. If you go any longer than that, I'd only suggest it being the name of your company/website at the end of your Meta title. Write Meta titles for humans but keep robots in mind -- meaning, write Meta titles that are one readable thought that can be easily understood by a person, but use as many keywords as you can without keyword stuffing.
- Meta Descriptions are the 160 character descriptions of each page of your website that appear in search engine results. Many website creation tools and content management systems let you write Meta descriptions that are longer than 160 characters, but don't bother. Search engines will only display the first 160 characters. Use a tool like http://www.lettercount.com/ to be sure you're under that limit. Technically, Meta descriptions don't help your page rankings in search engines, but it will definitely affect your click-through rate on search results pages. Your Meta description should get straight to the point. Be direct. And be concise.
- Page Content is actually THE MOST IMPORTANT factor when it comes to SEO. Make sure the copy on your website is loaded with as many keywords and top searched terms as possible without looking spammy. Remember, someone has to be able to read it and make sense of it. And definitely don't try and trick Google by putting a bunch of text in white font on a white background in the footer of your website. Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn't become the 5th richest people in the world by being idiots.
- Alt Tags are the invisible image descriptions hidden in the HTML that describe what your image, photo, icon, or picture is about. Use alt tags to not only describe the image, but also describe the other content on the page. But keep it short! And definitely don't keyword stuff! Search engine robots are intelligent enough now to know if you're trying to game the system and it will actually negatively affect your SEO. Did you know? Alt tags are read aloud to blind people who visit your website in accessibility modes.
- Inbound Links are the #1 factor when Google is determining your Page Rank. They are extremely important, but hard to come by. Inbound Links are links from somewhere else on the internet that direct traffic to your website. Inbound Links are different from Reciprocal Links where a website links to you but you link back their website as well -- which is why Inbound Links are hard to come by. The best way to get inbound links to your website is through content marketing. Create interesting content that's relative to your target audience and your target audience will start linking to you. Similarly...
- Outbound Links are important to SEO as well. I know it seems weird, but pointing your traffic to other resources that are similar to yours will create trust with your audience, improve Google related:searches, and increase Google Page Rank. But don't use links farms! And don't overdue it! Internal linking to other pages within your own website (i.e. Wikipedia) is always better than driving traffic to external websites.
- Social Media, particularly Google+'s social search of Search Plus Your World (SPYW), is extremely important when it comes to SEO. Today, the first page of organic search is often filled with links from people in your Google+ Circles, followed by a Facebook page, Twitter profile, and other social media links -- sometimes even before a website's homepage appears! Make sure you have a Google+ page, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page, and YouTube account...
- Videos are almost 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google search results than regular web pages. Create a video -- even if it's just a 30-second selfie of you talking to the camera -- and upload it directly to YouTube (owned by Google). You'll almost instantly see your video views increase right along with your webpage traffic.
Got questions? Or other tips? Add them in the comments below: