Want to be found online? SEO is your friend

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is what you are looking for if you are trying to increase the visibility of your website in the search engine result pages. Whether the website in question is an e-commerce site, a description of services, a company information site or a small brochure site, putting into play best practices for search engines will help your site rank better when users enter keywords into a search engine.

Why Search Engines are Picky

Since search engines first came into being to handle the immense amount of information that was being placed online, there has been a need for the website builder to communicate with the search engine so that the search engine can index the site’s content. Unfortunately, that meant website owners could – and did – try to fool the search engines into sending traffic to their site by pretending to be one thing while really being something else. Ugh.

Because of this kind of behaviour (and the fact that there was money to be made by sending users to the site they wanted to go to), search engine developers gradually created more sophisticated algorithms to sift through the ‘black hat’ SEO techniques and find sites that were truly as described. They did this by reading the content, looking at links and evaluating many other criteria.

The truth about each search engine is they make their money by selling ad space on the result pages. In order to be paid for this ad space, they need to prove to advertisers that when someone enters the search string ‘where to buy widgets in Kingston Ontario’, the search engine will return a list of website URLs that link to actual sites that DO sell widgets in Kingston, Ontario. The better they perform, the more likely the user will return and use their search engine again, and perhaps tell others to use it as well (Hello, social media!).

SEO Best Practices for Your Business

Because search engines are continually refining and updating their algorithms (you may have heard of the Panda update from 2011 (named for a Google engineer, not the bear), the Penquin update from 2012 (cool codename) or Mobilegeddon (2015)), site owners need to be regularly reviewing their website’s optimization practices.

Can’t Measure What You Aren’t Tracking

Traffic to any website can be measured and most hosting packages come with some sort of built-in analytics. Oddly enough, many site owners that have analytics installed never check on them. By ignoring their analytics, they dismiss a valuable tool that can give them information about how people are finding their site (keywords, keyword phrases), what search engines they are using, what technology they have (desktop, mobile, browser) and what information is most viewed.

What Not To Do

Over the years, as search engines have upped their game at determining the true content of a website, website developers have engaged in practices to help their site continue to rank well in the result pages. Some of these practices have continued on, even though they are no longer valid and may, in fact, get your website banned from one or more search engine.

Some of the most commonly seen “do-not-do’s”:

Keyword stuffing – By repeating keywords and keyword phrases repeatedly in a paragraph, a website may be dismissed by search engines as trying to game the system. Use keywords and keyword phrases in a natural way that sounds right to the humans reading the page and don’t worry about trying to impress the ‘bots’ (spiders, web crawlers, robots, bots) with how many times you can use the word ‘widget’. By keeping your target audience in mind while writing content, you are more likely to use phrases that they will use in a search query.

Buying links (or link farming) – Seemed like a good idea at the time, but search engines are more interested in finding out who is linking to your site because your content is good rather than just counting a multitude of links. As a result, they started watching for this and penalizing sites that depended on links from these types of sites. Ideally, you would like your site to have keyword-rich linking text from relevant sites. Site owners can also link to other related sites from their own website and some links are still better than others.

Duplicate content – It is so tempting to go to another simliar site and copy/paste item descriptions or other information to your own site. Search engines work hard to index sites that contain unique information since it results in better user experience. Sometimes the duplicate content is warranted, but it is the sin most often committed simply because a business owner doesn’t take the time to come up with fresh content. If you want your site to be indexed and well-positioned in search engine result pages, it is in your best interest to put your own unique spin on your content where possible.

Hiding content – Thankfully, this is falling out of favour, even among DIYers. Hiding content ranges from using a ‘display: none’ parameter in the CSS file to making text the same colour as the background so that the search engine can read it, but the site visitor cannot. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Create Good Content and Write for Humans

Once you have your tracking in place, create your content for humans, not for the search bots. Make it rich with description, images, video, links to other relevant content, reviews – whatever is suitable for the type of site that you are developing. As you create quality, interesting content, encourage users to share it via social media and email. Shareable content allows users to easily tell their friends about your business.

Use All The Tools

Good SEO is a combination of many small things rather than one large gesture. It can be well worth having your site audited to identify unused opportunities. Are you optimizing title tags? Do you identify page content in alt tags for linking images? Do you utilize social media wisely? Does your content focus on your unique offering?

By using specialized software and analytic tools, we can help fine-tune your site and make adjustments that can lead to greater visibility in search engines to users who are looking for exactly what you have to offer.

CarricDesign can audit your website to identify weaknesses and strengths that can be leveraged to gain visibility and targeted traffic for your website.