If you work at a digital agency or fall under the marketing department, chances are you have heard the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at some point in your career. Unless you are a SEO Specialist who knows Google Analytics inside and out, it won’t come as a surprise if you aren’t exactly sure what SEO is.
After all, you can find any page or article on Google – so what’s the point of optimizing your site for search anyway, right?
Wrong. Just because you can pull up a blog on a search engine doesn’t necessarily mean the most effective SEO practices were put in place. A business doesn’t necessarily need to hire an SEO professional just to get started with the basics. In fact, there are many strategies available that cater to SEO beginners that can easily have the same effect as a seasoned professional. Read on while I cover five practices that are simple to apply, yet extremely beneficial to your SEO strategy.
Optimize your meta titles and descriptions
Did you know that Google has limits on how long your page meta titles and descriptions can be? While the guidelines change from time to time, Google’s current rules are that meta titles be kept under approximately 580 pixels wide, which is the equivalent to about 70 characters – and meta descriptions be under 1,840 pixels (320 characters.) Staying within these limitations will prevent Google from cutting off your title and description – and will, in turn, be more appealing to search users.
But, ensuring that your SEO title and description are within pixel limitations isn’t the only element that you should be concerned with. Your description should also be unique to the content on the page, incorporate relevant keywords, and read in an easy, natural tone. Although it is meant to be much shorter than the description, you should still do your best to fit targeted keywords in your meta title, as well.
The Yoast plugin on WordPress is great for keeping your meta tags in check, and ToTheWeb also offers a free online tool that you can use if you would like to length-check your title and description before publishing your page or article.
Only include one strong H1 per page
To clarify, those who are completely new to HTML tags, the H1 is the tag that acts as the headline for the content below it. From an SEO standpoint, the H1 is the second most important HTML tag on a page, with the first being the title tag. In most cases with WordPress, the title you enter will also be displayed as an H1 at the top of the page – but how the tags are displayed or generated ultimately depends on how the site is coded.
Since search engines focus their attention more on the H1 than any other HTML tags on the page, it’s important to remember that you should include only one H1 tag per page. While having an H1 is essential to your page’s SEO rankings, that doesn’t mean you need to use one for every paragraph. Let the H1 outline what the entire page of content is about, and use subheadings if you need to break the text up even further. But, avoid using smaller headings (H3-H6) as they hold significantly lower SEO value than H1 and H2s.
Optimize the images on your site
With humans being such visual beings, it’s no secret that content paired with images is more appealing to the reader. Photos are actually more powerful than many people realize, and can even help drive traffic to your site when properly optimized. You know those available fields for alt text and title? Well, rather than leaving them blank or as-is, you should spend time carefully customizing those fields for search.
Instead of leaving the image with a generic title such as “girl,” rename it to something that’s relevant and unique to the hundreds of photos your site already has. So, instead of “girl,” opt for something that’s more particular, such as “ballerina-girl.”
Now we all know computers can be finicky, therefore your image might sometimes fail to display. In this case, your alt text will appear so it should specifically describe the image using targeted keywords. That being said, you still want to keep in mind how users conduct search queries – so your alt text should have a natural tone as opposed to keyword-stuffing. A good example of alt text would be something along the lines of “little ballerina girl sitting.” Optimizing images may be a simple SEO practice, but its results are significant to your digital strategy.
Publish blogs that are long and compelling
Content is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies a business can employ, but only if you give it the effort it deserves. It has been proven time and time again that extended content draws in the reader and performs better than dull, concise content. In a study conducted by Backlinko, it was concluded that the word count of the content listed on the first page of Google’s results averaged around 1,890 words.
This goes to show that when it comes to content, writing long, quality content pays off for SEO. So, instead of publishing a short, subpar piece on a daily basis – take the time out to write a weekly quality blog of at least 1,000 words to help drive traffic to your site.
Carefully include highly authoritative external links
When writing for your blog or website, there are two types of links that you should embed – internal and external. As you may already know, internal links connect users to other pages on your website, which is important because it helps hold the user’s interest and keeps them from leaving your site. However, external links, which connect users to pages that aren’t on your website, are important as well.
Now, you may be wondering, “Why would I want to send a user to someone else’s website?” I totally get it, but external links actually provide a lot of value for SEO rankings. Including links to reputable outside sources in your content increases relevance, and provides search engines with context as to the subject matter of your content.
In turn, this relationship proves your site to be trustworthy, which leads to better search engine rankings. However, it’s suggested that when including external links, always make sure that the page opens up in a new tab – this way, the user won’t be directed from your website. Also, it may seem like a no-brainer, but avoid linking out to your competitors.
There’s no doubt that search engine optimization can be intimidating if you’re new to digital marketing. However, optimizing for search is extremely beneficial to any digital marketing strategy. While there are many more complex layers of SEO, following the above-mentioned tips will at least help you scrape the surface.
What other SEO practices would you recommend to beginners? Let us know in the comments below.
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