- Internet marketers often think there's some "gray hat" method that tricks search engines into ranking them higher for a given search term or phrase.
- "Joe Business Owner" gets it wrong because he simply thinks you build a website, insert your "keywords" in your website's meta tags, and you're done.
Nothing could be further from the truth, on either side.
SEO can be broken into 2 different parts:
- "On page"
- "Off page"
On Page SEO
This is the "simple" part of SEO, if anything regarding SEO can be thought of as simple! Since nobody knows what the search engines' algorithms are (I'm convinced the folks employed by the search engines don't even fully know), everything is a guess and–worse–what works for one SE may fail completely for another SE.
How frustrating is that?
Your best bet, really, is to just concentrate on getting a few things right. And if by so doing you don't get ranked at one of the "Big 3" (Google, Yahoo, and Bing), so what?
Yeah, I know. You all think that getting Google to notice your "one in a quadrillion" website is important. It is. But you can do well even if Google doesn't know you exist. Like that girl back in high school you had the hots for. Brings to mind the Toby Keith song, "How Do You Like Me Now?"
But I digress.
Seriously, here's your number one on-page SEO tip: Do these things right and you will be 80 percent there. Then, optimize for one search engine.
Here's the backstory. Once you get to #1 on Google and stay there for a few weeks, it's hard to get toppled from there to #27. It just doesn't happen. In fact, once you're at #1 for a time, you probably won't fall a single spot.
Then, optimize for Yahoo or Bing.
Critical on-page SEO factors
- Content. Good content trumps everything else. Make sure that the key phrase you are optimizing for is in the body of your content and isn't overused. 2-3 times is probably the ideal number for an average-length post. The longer the post, the more times you can use the key phrase.
- Title tag. Include your keywords but make it readable.
- Description. For most blogs, the first few sentences of your post make up your description. If you want to make your description more descriptive of your content, get the All in One SEO plugin (if you use WordPress); otherwise, craft your description to describe exactly what your post, page, or article is about.
- Tags and Categories. If your site uses a CMS like WordPress, optimize for one key phrase per post. Same if you have a static website. Make sure you tag your post with one specific tag (I often use the title or a variation of it) and/or variations on the same tag, and only categorize your post within one category.
With the above factors in mind, always ask yourself, "What might possible visitors type into a search engine to find this content?"
Optional: Use header tags, bold, italics, etc. to show off your content and cue your reader about what's important. Seriously, think of your reader when you're creating your content. It works!
Off Page SEO
This is where the "hard work" comes in. I firmly believe that with a little bit of practice, anybody can write SEO posts. However, there are many ways to "skin the cat," so to speak, in off-page SEO tactics.
There are a few key considerations when it comes to off-page SEO.
What off-page SEO factors matter?
There are just a few. Here they are. How to tackle them might take a book. But we'll try. Off-page SEO has a lot to do with trust.
- Domain age. The SEs seem to "think" that the longer a domain has been around, the more "authoritative" or trustworthy it is. After all, if you've had Ford.com for 15 years, you probably are a major player in your industry.
But you cannot control this. Use it to your advantage if you can, but if your domain name is 3 months old, there ain't a whole lot you can do about that (well, you could buy an "aged domain" but that is another story).
- Traffic. Traffic begets traffic. The more traffic you get, the more the search engines take notice. As they notice you, you rise up the ranks. As you rise up the ranks, your traffic grows. As your traffic grows, your rise higher. Get it? Go get some traffic. But how? Again, another story. in the near-term, there's probably not a lot you can do to get a big enough bump in traffic to make a difference.
- "Authority." If CNN publishes a story about "homemade widgets," it will almost always beat you in the SERPs (search engine results page). Why is CNN and authority? First, it's trustworthy. Second, it gets a lot of traffic. Third, it's an old domain. Fourth…let's continue.
- Backlinks. All other things equal, a site with thousands of backlinks will rank higher in the SEs than a site with 12. Now, in the real world (which is where you're reading this, right?), nothing is ever "all other things equal." So if you want to beat your competition, just go get more backlinks. There's a ton of ways to do this.
None of them are perfect. Or "right." Or "the best way." You have to try this, evaluate results, tweak a bit, look at the results again; keep looping through the Plan-Do-Check-Act routine until you hit #1 for your key phrase.
As you may have guessed, you cannot really affect #1-3.
# 4, building backlinks, is where it's at. That's where you will get your biggest SEO bang for the buck. It is–by far–the best off-page SEO factor to concentrate on.
Here's a little secret though: Use #1-3 to your advantage.
Get "authority" and high-traffic sites to link to you! See the Related Posts below for more juicy SEO tips.