Published on February 20, 2014
mization ine Opti rch Eng Sea SEO OP T UES NIQ ECH T m HotPotatoSocialMedia.com
top SEo techniq ues The holy grail of marketing is now ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs). With a reported 93% of considered purchases, (both consumer and business) using a search engine1, no wonder marketers are focused on techniques for improving search authority. Techniques most often referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO. Studies prove that ranking or position for a particular search term significantly impacts click-through for that result, and subsequent traffic2. In simple terms, if you are not in the first few search result positions for a keyword, your chances of click-through traffic drop precipitously. Page 2 and lower results have very little click-through. Sure you can pay for high search results. But Paid Search is expensive, and not sustainable (it vanishes if you stop paying). Rule-of-thumb is to build or retrofit your website (or blog) with proper SEO techniques and search optimized content and you will improve organic (also called natural) search results. The consensus among SEO experts is that search authority, and yes search rankings are driven by on-page coding, search-optimized content, and off-page factors including link building and social media. So without further adieu, following are the key search engine optimization techniques, at-a-glance, followed with greater detail, and an example! • • • • • • • URL Structure and Redirects Meta tag coding and Page Titles Blog and Social Media Integration Site Maps and Text Links Link building, Reciprocal Links and Inter-Linking Keyword content or “landing” pages SEO errors (broken links, duplicate content) A key SEO determinant is URL or domain structure—specifically, keyword-rich sub-domains. When linking to website sub-pages that are often served dynamically via databases, the URL that appears on the “http” line often includes obscure database code with multiple back slashes or symbols. To eliminate this search engine hurdle, ideal URL structures use the base domain name, along with simple keywords or keyword phrases in place of this coding. Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 2
Next, a simple but often neglected SEO technique is setting-up URL redirects, or more specifically, a 301 permanent redirect for your website. Search engines will index both the www.domainname.com and domainname.com versions of your website. Without a redirect in place, this scenario creates what is known as duplicate content, thus diluting the search authority of both the WWW and non-WWW version of your website. Also called a canonical redirect, the 301 permanent redirect (redirect) is vital to proper search engine optimization and improved rankings. A simple way to test whether your website has a 301 redirect in place is to type “yourdomain.com” into your browser address bar then hit “Enter”. If the URL does not automatically change to “www.yourdomain.com”, then the redirect is NOT in place to resolve canonical issues and, therefore, is not optimized for the search engines. The redirect must be done at the hosting server level, and can often be completed via hosting tech support requests. It does not matter which version (WWW vs. non-WWW) of your website you redirect to, you just need to pick one and stick to it. Another type of redirect is the 302 redirect. If you have multiple domains purchased for your site (variations of your domain name), and want to make sure that no matter which domain a person types in, it will go to the domain that you chose, you need to set up a 302. So, if you recently changed your company name and have revamped your website, you may want to set up a 302 redirect from www.companyA.com to www.companyB.com. This way, if someone forgets you changed your company name, they will be redirected to the new website. Invisible to the user, Meta tags are HTML (or XHTML) coding for descriptions of a webpage’s contents, thus enabling the search engine to correctly index the web page’s content. Meta tag coding is the most fundamental SEO technique, and critical to most search results. Meta tag coding includes Meta title and descriptions, Header tags and Alt or image tags. In the past, Meta keywords were used, but are now less important. There is also reason to believe that meta descriptions are no longer necessary and that search engines use the first couple lines of content as your description. However, it is still good practice to write a meta description. During a search, Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions are displayed in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Each webpage should have a keyword-rich Meta title, approximately 70 characters, and Meta description (also relevant and specific to the page), approximately 160 characters in length including spaces. Header tags are brief headlines that should be coded at the top or header position of each page. Blogs will actually take your blog title and use that as the Header (H1) tag. Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 3
Alt tags are the file names, image titles or descriptions for images and links contained on your website. These are useful when search engines index or “crawl” your website since the engines automatically turn off images and read only text, including file names. Therefore, instead of image filenames such as “DCP0003.jpg,” images should be re-named to reflect important keywords as they relate to your page, file or picture, such as “SEO-Marketing.jpg,” to increase search results. Blogs and Social Media channels are now, more than ever, major determinants of Search Engine Results. For the best search engine marketing results, make sure that your website links to your blog and social profiles. Likewise, make sure you link out to your website and blog through your social profiles, and provide reciprocal links amongst your social profiles. Ideally the blog is a primary navigation link, and a sub-domain of the site (ex. www.sitename.com/blog). Two of the most important determinants of website search authority are indexed pages and links to your website—blogs support both. Each blog post gets indexed as a new page, along with blog roll reciprocal links. Blogs provide the platform and distribution channel for content that should relate to the keywords and topics you seek greater search authority for. And blogs integrate nicely with social sharing tools and counters. Finally, blog software includes many free SEO features, along with numerous SEO plug-ins or widgets that are free or low cost. More on the topic of blogging will be covered in our blogging best practices white paper. Brand websites and blogs should place social icons with hyperlinks to key social media profiles including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, Share or Bookmark icons are also important to building search authority. Counter tools like the AddThis tool, which include counters for Tweets, Facebook Likes, Google+1s and total shares help support and encourage social sharing, ultimately improving your search authority and building backlinks. Site Maps are yet another SEO best practice. Typically, a site map is a text link placed in the footer of the web page, and links to a sub-page with a simple outline of website content and sub-links. This is often called a Site Index. In the same location, redundant text navigation links for all primary navigation should be placed. Site Maps and Text Links make search engines’ jobs easier, allowing them to index all of your website content and sub-links of a single site map, rather than trying to figure out the structure of your site without one. This then allows them to determine the ranking of your pages and overall domain. XML Site Maps, which are formatted files with all links to your website and look like a bunch of HTML code, should be submitted to key search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google actually allows you to submit this through Google Webmaster Tools immediately. Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 4
Link-building, Reciprocal Links and Inter-Linking are key aspects to SEO. Why? Because most search engines rank websites based on how many links are pointing to that site. The practice of dedicating a website sub-page or pages to industry links, and/or requesting reciprocal links supports link-building. Link sources include paid and free directories like Yahoo, Best of the Web and DMOZ. Industry blogs, publications, associations and trade shows are also great sources. Bookmarks to your website or pages are a source of links. Place Share and Bookmark widgets on your website (we recommend AddThis), and bookmark your website sub-pages with popular Bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Reddit. The process of bookmarking and sharing your links helps build backlinks to content on your site. The more quality back-links you have, the better – so it is important to have others share your content. Finally, it is also important to practice inter-linking, which involves creating text hyperlinks within your website’s pages, to other relevant web pages on YOUR site (not other sites). Before you share your website and post it onto the worldwide web, be sure your website content includes keywords that correspond to the Meta tags for those pages, or even dedicated landing pages or sub-pages for your site’s top keywords. As referenced previously, these pages should use keywords in URLs, title-tags, Alt tags and meta code to ensure the best search results. When you are creating individual pages, think to yourself “What would I search for to get to this information? Which keyword would I plug in the most?” and build your page’s content around that keyword. Throughout the process of maintaining your website and practicing good SEO, you need to identify and fix various errors. The more errors on a site, the more the search engines will penalize your site. The 404 error, which means ‘Page not Found’ more often than not results from a broken link on your website. Sometimes, these are easy to find when you happen to be browsing through your site. On the other hand, once your website is built out with thousands of pages it can be difficult to pin-point which links are broken. Various tools are available for you to check this, such as SEOmoz (seomoz.org) and the broken link checker (http://brokenlinkcheck.com). Another common SEO error is duplicate content. Search engines are smart. They know if you are posting duplicate pages with the same content, and only changing the title. They also penalize you if two or more pages have the same title. So, instead of wasting your time doing this and getting only one of those pages indexed by search engines, always make sure that each page is unique. Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 5
Below is the Hot Potato Social Media homepage with numbered references to SEO features. 1. 2. 3. 4. Keywork-rich page title, or Title Tag Keyword-rich URL or domain structure Website navigation based on keyword analysis Social sharing including hyperlinks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, bookmarking and related 5. Interlinking of text to other pages 6. Image Alt Tags 7. Not shown, proper meta-coding, site maps, URL redirects, Keyword density of page content Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 6
Go, Go SEO! With a Search Engine Optimized website, organic or natural search results will flourish. There are several options for measuring search authority and search engine optimization (SEO). We prefer and recommend Google Analytics, but this does require installation of Google Analytics tracking code. Certainly test keywords with search engines to measure your search engine results page (SERP) placements. A free and robust measurement tool is Hubspot’s Marketing Grader. Sources: 1 Marketo - http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2012/04/the-cmo-guide-to-inbound-marketing-infographic.htmlt 2 Search Engine Watch - http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2215868/53-of-Organic-Search-Clicks-Go-to-First-Link-Study About Hot Potato Based in Naperville, IL outside of Chicago, Hot Potato Social Media is a full service social media marketing agency that helps companies and brands implement and manage social media and other inbound marketing programs for measurable, and often profound sales results. For more information, check out the website at www.HotPotatoSocialMedia.com, or call 630-868-5062. Hot Potato | Search Engine Optimization Top SEO Techniques 7
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