12 Steps to Becoming a Natural at SEO – Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of our 12 Steps to Becoming a Natural at SEO. In Part 1, I covered the basics of SEO such as the difference between SEO and PPC, writing title and meta tags, structuring your URLs and website efficiently, or how having great content can help with generating organic traffic. So let’s jump into #7-#12:
7. Get the Word (and Links) Out
If you’re reading this blog, you probably have one of your own, along with Facebook, Twitter and all sorts of other social media pages. So why not take advantage of these online properties to boost the SEO value of your main website? Not only can you link back to it from those pages, you can leverage your existing online community whenever they choose to repost any content that you share. So once again, having fresh, interesting content is a great way to climb the rankings.
Don’t forget about offline promotion either: list your website URL on your business cards, tradeshow booths, direct mail pieces, etc. Building this reputation can only lead to faster discovery by those who are interested in what you have to offer, and by extension by search engines.
8. Give your Links Extra Weight
Anchor text is the clickable text that users will see as a result of a link. It should be concise while being descriptive enough to tell users and search engines what the page you’re linking to is about. For instance, linking sign up might be better than a generic click here when inviting people to your webinar.
You can use anchor links not just as external links to direct people to outside websites, but as internal links as well, which can help visitors and spiders navigate your website better.
9. Say It with More Than Words
You may think that images only serve to illustrate and break your text, since they can’t be worth 1,000 (key)words to a spider, right? Au contraire, they are also a main component in optimizing your web page. See, each image you add has a different filename and alt text (just like in your emails), so in case a visitor is viewing your page using a browser that doesn’t support images, he/she will still be able to read information about your picture instead of “image1.jpg.”
- Use brief but descriptive filenames and alt text, mixing in some of those search query-friendly keywords we’ve discussed.
- Supply alt text when using images as links, as it will help search engines understand more about the page you’re linking to, just like what anchor text does for your text links.
- Create an Image Sitemap file to provide spiders with more information about the images found on your site, similar to the XML Sitemap file I mentioned when talking about your site navigation.
10. Get Mobile
We recently reviewed a few mobile sites that we loved, but before we can add yours to the list let’s make sure we can find it!
- Make sure it is indexed by the main search engines: create a Mobile Sitemap once your mobile site is ready and submit it to the search engines to inform them of its existence.
- Verify your mobile URLs are crawlable: some search engine have mobile-specific spiders, so check your mobile site’s permissions in order to grant them access. Also (sorry to get all technical on you), make sure your URLs’ Doc Type Definition (DTD) declaration is in an appropriate mobile format such as XHTML Mobile or Compact HTML.
- Redirect mobile users to the correct version: of course you’ll want desktop users to access the desktop version of your site and mobile users the mobile one, not the other way around. Thankfully, search engines are able to detect the relationship between the desktop and mobile version of the URL if you redirect them accordingly. Also, point mobile users to the specific page they were looking for, not the homepage of your mobile version of your website by default.
- Don’t get flagged for “cloaking”: cloaking is when a website tries to cheat the system by serving different content to spiders than to regular users in order to boost its rankings, which can lead to disappearing from search results, which would be bad. To avoid that, simply switch content based on User-agent in case your desktop and mobile URLs are identical.
11. Love Thy Numbers
Of course, after putting in all these efforts to optimize your website, you’ll want to track the fruits of your labor. Tools such as Google Analytics and Omniture SiteCatalyst can provide you with in-depth metrics on how much organic traffic you are now attracting, which keywords are driving this traffic, how much revenue it is generating, how your competitors’ websites are performing, etc.
Also, Google and Bing each offer their own version of Website Optimizer, a neat little tool that allows you to run tests on which on-page changes will generate the best results, conversion rate-wise. Did I mention how much we love testing here at VerticalResponse?
12. Your Ultimate Consumers are your Users, not Search Engines
Despite all the technicalese I just shared with you, remember that your website is meant to be read by human beings, not electronic spiders. Some tweaks might help you gain a couple of spots in the organic rankings, but if they hinder the user experience then you will have taken 2 steps back instead of one forward. Your site’s visitors are the main readers of your content and are using search engines to find it, so base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for them.
And that concludes our 2-parter on getting started with SEO. Search isn’t an exact science, just like email marketing it requires a lot of tweaking, tinkering and testing, but these 12 tips and tactics should give you a great head start.
What else have you done or planned on doing to boost your natural rankings?
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