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The first five results that turn up for a single search typically get more than 65 percent of the traffic for that search. Regardless of how informative a website is, without being optimized for search engines, it is unlikely to be found. This makes search engine optimization (SEO) a necessary process for all websites.
SEO — search engine optimization — is the practice of increasing both the quantity and quality of overall traffic to your website through search results. The search results we’re talking about are the organic ones that show up for a user’s search query, not the paid advertisements. Organic traffic is a good thing — because you don’t have to pay for it.
Even just implementing a few best practices can move your website from deep in search results to the coveted first page. Without SEO, you’re missing out on huge click-through-rate opportunities.
When writing content for a website page or blog post, insert keywords and phrases into the headline, body text and meta description. This allows the page or post to rank for a particular search term, so when a user enters that search term into Google or another search engine, the page created to rank for that term comes up on the first page of search results. The title and meta description specifically make up the search result.
For best results, include your focus keyword or phrase in the headline, URL and meta description. Related keyword phrases should also be judiciously used in subheads and throughout the body of the page. These related phrases help Google to see the page covers the topic comprehensively. Also include keywords in the alt text of any photos on the page.
While the meta description is less important for Google’s search algorithm, it’s very important for user click-through rates, so make sure you’re using it to entice a reader.
The most important thing for SEO is content. Typically, Google and other search engines reward high-quality, in-depth and comprehensive content. Time and time again, long-form content has proven to be more engaging and more shareable than bite-sized content.
One of the things to be aware of is dwell time: the average amount of time a user spends on a single page. If a user is taking the time to read most, if not all, of the content on the page, Google will assume that user finds the page
informative and valuable.
The longer the content on a single page, the longer the average dwell time is bound to be. As a rule of thumb, content should be at least 500 words long (though 1,000-2,000 or more is even better). The average length for a page that ranks within the top 10 search results is about 2,000 words. The content should also be easy to read, well organized and engaging. All of these factors work to keep a user on the page.
Long-form, high-quality content is in your best interest. Long-form posts typically generate nine times more leads than shorter posts.
Include links to other pages on your website within a single blog post or web page. This can help search engines (and users) navigate your website. But be judicious here. Stick to a few internal links per web page to start.
External links (linking out to other websites) can be a good strategy as well. Make sure you link to reputable sources with high domain authority. You don’t want Google to see your website connected to lower quality websites.
In general, internal links should open in the same window and external links should open in a new tab. This keeps a user within your website as long as possible.
Above all else, Google prioritizes content that is written with the reader in mind. Don’t specifically write to search engines; write directly for the reader and then adapt for search engines.
Do your research and find what terms people are searching for. Try to answer any questions the reader might have while reading your web page. The more you can tailor your content with the reader in mind, the more Google is likely to see your website as a valuable resource for its searchers.
Google uses a mobile-first index, meaning the search engine will begin to consider the mobile version of any site as the first version before even looking at the desktop version. About 60 percent of Google searches are now performed on a mobile device, so making sure a website is mobile-friendly and easy to use on a smartphone is crucial.
Websites that do not have a mobile-friendly site may rank beneath lower-quality websites that do have a site that is optimized for mobile devices. Make sure your site is mobile-responsive and as comprehensive as its desktop version.
According to Cisco, online video will make up 80 percent of all online traffic by 2021. Even now, 55 percent of all Google search results contain at least one video. Embedding YouTube videos on blog pages can help increase average dwell time and boost ranking in search results.
Pushing your website to the top of search results is possible with these best practices. However, be careful to steer clear of the traps of poor SEO. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
Diversify content across multiple platforms. Try not to use the same content across multiple platforms. For example, don’t write a press release or email and then copy/paste it as a blog post. Website content should be a lot longer and more in-depth than other types of content. Mirroring email content is not a good long-term strategy because that content was written for an entirely different purpose.
Avoid duplicate content. Any duplicated content can be a big red flag for Google. Using the same phrases and talking points on multiple website pages, or including big block quotes from previously published sources, can hurt SEO ranking. It’s much better to have unique phrasing.
Keep up-to-date. SEO best practices change constantly. Keep up with changes to Google’s algorithm and follow SEO news from experts like Moz.
If you follow these SEO tips and continue to optimize your website based on current best practices, you could land the most cherished real estate in digital — the top of search results.
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