How to Use Amazing SEO to Drive Traffic to Your Site
There you are at the bar with a group of entrepreneurial friends. One of them mentions SEO and how great it has been for their website and business. You smile and nod, as your friend presses on. But wait, you want to ask: what does it mean, and how does it all work?
What Is SEO?
For starters, your friend has gotten something right. SEO is the primary thing that gets people to visit your site. But what is it, exactly? Well, let’s start with the word itself. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Simply put, SEO is a fancy term that describes how search engines find websites and categorize them appropriately for people to find. When you type something into Google or Yahoo! or DuckDuckGo, they comb through billions of pages to give you the best results.
For the rest of this article, we will use Google as our primary example, since it is widely used. When Google receives your search request, it looks at every website to deliver you the best one.
We are going to explore many of the ways it does this. We'll look at the most important aspects of your website that make it visible to Google and cause them to rank it higher in their results.
Before moving on, I highly recommend that you watch this quick video created by Google to explain how search results work on their site. It explains spiders, indexes, ads, and other search terms that will be helpful to know as you begin to learn about SEO in more detail.
How Does Google Decide Which Sites Are Best?
This is the fun part, but it can also be a little bit tricky. Google has to figure out which sites it believes to be the most valuable to you, the searcher. If you are a website owner, you want your site to be the very first one people see when they type in the relevant topic.
Google actually tries to be very open about how you should design your website to make it the most “search engine friendly”. According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, there are basic principles you can follow. They also provide specific guidelines you should avoid.
Their primary recommendation boils down to one thing: build sites “for users, not for search engines”. Basically, they mean that the pages should be readable and easy to understand. Webpages should reference reliable sources and make the site “unique, valuable, or engaging”.
What Does Good SEO Look Like?
It’s one thing for a search engine to tell you to build useful websites with helpful information on every page. It’s quite another actually to be found (“crawled” is the technical term) by the search engine in question. This is where a strong and solid SEO foundation comes into play.
According to Tecsolo, a Scottsdale SEO company, there are several factors that make for great SEO. These are Title, Abstract, Keywords, and Link Building. Let’s take a look at each one to see how it can help you build great search engine optimization for your site.
Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same is true of titles. The right one can make all the difference.
One of the best tools on the internet for creating great titles is the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, and it is completely free to use. It grades your headline and gives you feedback on how it can be improved. (The title of this article got a 70, which is very high.)
On the analyzer, CoSchedule recommends using the most clicked on headlines, which are “lists, how-tos, and questions”. (Note that the title of the article you’re currently reading is a How-To.) These are the types of headlines that consistently grab the most notice.
Next, they suggest incorporating different types of words. There are four main categories: common, uncommon, emotional, and power. You should have at least one power word in your headline, such as absolutely or revealing. These words immediately capture attention.
Finally, there is the character and word count of your headline. The keyword should be one of the first few words. SEO is the third word in our title. And the entire headline should be no more than about 65-70 characters, according to Econsultancy. This is pivotal.
An abstract is also known as a summary or description. It is the one or two sentence paragraph that Google uses in its preview of your page in search results. It should have the primary content of your article in an easy-to-digest format.
Imagine a page for “dog food”. A good summary of that page might be, “We sell the best and cheapest dog food anywhere on the internet.” This lets the reader (and the search engine) know instantly that the site has a great product at an equally great price.
Think of the abstract or summary as your elevator pitch. If you only had the time spent in an elevator with someone to entice them to click your link, what would you say? This is exactly what you should put into your description summary. It doesn’t need to be any more than that.
Keywords are very similar to the elevator pitch, but much shorter. Think of it as the "elevator doors are closing” pitch. If you only had two or three words to shout into a closing elevator about your page, what would they be? These are your keywords.
Right now, there are dozens of keyword tools available online to follow web search trends. Unfortunately, some of them require a second mortgage to afford. Thankfully, Google provides its own absolutely for free. It is called, naturally, Google Trends.
It allows you to type in a search term, like “dog food”, and view the relevance of that term. You can see the interest over a period of time, in specific areas of the world, and even scroll through related entries. Together, it provides a big and helpful picture of what words to use.
Lucky for us, keywords are very easy to implement once you have them. Put them in your headline, summary, article sub-headings, the first sentence of the article, the website URL, and throughout the page.
That’s all there is to it! If you do all these things, Google will take notice and begin to sort your website with others in the same category.
So, you’ve got a killer headline that grabs attention. Your summary is an elevator pitch that draws people in and makes them want more. And your keywords are like little golden nuggets you leave all over the page. There’s only one step left: build your links.
This is arguably the most complicated and difficult step of all. Moz, an online leader in search engine optimization, provides a beginner’s guide to link building. I highly recommend giving it a read. It will give you a great summary of the basic concepts.
Essentially, building links has one goal: to get other websites to link to your content on their pages. This is important, because Google and other search engines use this to rank your site. The more quality links, the higher the rank. (Spammy links have the opposite effect.)
It’s simple, but very difficult to achieve. How do you go about getting other people to link to your pages? You could ask everyone on Twitter, but this would take an enormous amount of time. You could pay people, but this is considered illegitimate and should be avoided.
This is why I said before that it is probably the most complicated and difficult step of making great SEO. So, what’s a person to do? In order to build links, which are absolutely crucial to a solid SEO foundation, Moz says you must make people care about your content. But how?
Thankfully, Moz has an answer for this, too. They suggest that there is a two-step process: the hook and the outreach. Both are equally important and cannot be skipped if you want to build quality links online.
First, create the “hook”: newsworthy, humorous, debatable, an infographic. You have to produce something that people enjoy enough to also want others to enjoy. Moz suggests scrolling through social media to see what people are sharing. This is a huge help.
Second, you have to do the “outreach”. This means finding others within the same field who might be able to use your content on their website. If you’re selling dog food, search for pet bloggers. You can’t force them to link to you, but if your stuff is good, you won’t have to.
It All Comes Together
All right. Now you’ve got an amazing headline, an elevator pitch, two or three killer keywords, and you’re starting to build links. The next part is continued implementation. In other words: keep on building.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Build it, and they will come.” SEO is the same. Craft catchy titles that pop off the page, entice searchers with good keywords, and connect with others in your field, and you will be 90% of the way there.
The other 10% is time. A huge part of success is simply showing up. If you put in the work, and you are willing to stick it out, the results are virtually guaranteed. It’s all about putting in the effort day after day, while Google and the rest of the world take notice. And they will.
For more top resources on SEO, try your hand at a little Google-sleuthing. Search for different keywords within this article and see what comes up. You could also check out the rest of Moz’s Learning Center or read this book on SEO. There’s always more to learn.