According to StatisticBrain, there was 5.7 billion searches each day on Google alone last year. That’s some serious traffic flow. Getting even the tiniest piece of that pie can mean lots of visitors that are worth a lot. Google Adwords usually charges a minimum of $0.25 per visitor and $10+ for keywords like ‘insurance.’ A couple hundred visits a month can be worth the effort of a well run website alone! So let’s tackle SEO 101 to help you get started.
There is definitely a balance in what is called keyword mapping, where you research and plan out what keywords to utlize. Too narrow (e.g. “hotels”) and the competition is too high. Too wide (e.g. “availability of hotels in Alexandria MN in June) and your search traffic will be limited. The happy medium is typically 2-4 words. The Google Keyword Planner tool is the perfect place to test out each keyword. The first keyword in the image below is a solid keyword for a hotel website in the Alexandria area. There are approximately 1,000 searches a month and the of competitors for this search will be much lower than just “hotels.”
This example is a great keyword for the home page. What a lot of webmasters forget is that every page or blog post can have its own targeted keyword. Targeting low competition long-tail keywords (i.e. keywords with several words) is a great way to extend your reach on the blog. The long-tail keyword below, “things to do in alexandria mn,” is a great example. The competition is low but there is still a decent number of searches per month. Plus, these searches could certainly translate into visitors looking for a hotel.
Picking the right targets is an important part of SEO 101. Take your time. Picking the right words upfront is far easier than having to call an audible later.
In short, this is the data that search engines will use to display your page or post in search results. It is an excellent place to draw in your potential audience and highlight your targeted keyword. All you have to do is fill out the meta title and description. You could also fill out the meta keywords but ironically this is pretty much worthless. Too many websites abused this feature and it is largely ignored now by Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Targeting the Keyword
The next step is to work in the right amount of your keyword into the targeted page. This means using the keyword in the post title, meta title, meta description, page URL (e.g. http://cybersprout.net/seo-101/), and content. It is a nice bonus if you can also add it into one header in content. If you have an image within the page, be sure to add an alt tag with the keyword. For easy interfaces, like WordPress, this is as simple as using the edit function. For HTML it will look a bit like this:
<img src=”example.com/image.png” alt=”SEO 101 graphic” height=“42” width=“42”>
A common rookie mistake during this step is “keyword stuffing.” It is the overuse of the keyword in a page in an attempt to mislead search engines. As a rule of thumb keep the keyword density below 5%. On the flip side, you want to keep it above 1%. A great WordPress plugin to help you with this step in SEO by Yoast.
One part of planning is determining which pages will target which words. Then add links on other pages back to the targeted page using the keywords. It is important that the keywords are used within the anchor text (e.g. the hyperlinked text) of the link to add value. And be sure to remain consistent. You want all the linked text for “alexandria mn hotels” to point to the page that is optimized for this keyword. Linking these words to multiple pages can confuse search engines.
Along the lines of this topic is the sitemap. It is a single page that has links to literally every page and blog post on your website. The importance of this page is tp make it easy for search bots to crawl through your entire website. These bots are automated program deployed by search engines to determine what is on every page across the internet. Making it easy for these bots to crawl your website increases the odds that all of your pages will be included in the pool of potential search results.
One of the single most important factors for ranking well in search engines is having other websites link back to your website. It is also the hardest factor to conquer. Firstly, not all external links are created equal. A link from HGTV’s website is 100 times more valuable than a link from Bob’s Garden Site. Getting even one link from a high authority website can make a world of difference. One way to determine the “authority” of a website is Google pagerank. It is a scale from 0 to 10 with zeros being new websites and 10 being only a handful of websites, like Facebook. There are extensions for pretty much all browsers you can use to evaluate the pagerank.
Unfortunately, that is just the start of external links. Links given the “nofollow” attribute are worth little. Sites like Facebook and Twitter automatically add this attribute into all links posted in status updates.
The anchor text is not as straight forward for external links. If the majority of these links hyperlink “alexandria mn hotels,” search engines will find this highly suspect. It is much more likely where you’ll see a variety of similar keywords linking back, like “alexandria hotels,” “hotels in alex mn,” “click here,” and sometimes the URL. This variety of words looks pretty realistic and does you a lot of good. The problem with too many of the same one is that Google cracked down on webmasters who were paying for external links (a big no-no) with highly optimized anchor text. See Google’s guide on what is acceptable here.
So how do you go about getting these elusive links? It is tough and this topic may be best ignored until you master the other basics. However, if you want to tackle this obstacle now the best way to gain external links is to write compelling articles chocked full of great content and images. Make articles that are so good that other webmasters and bloggers want to share.
SEO 101 Basics
In a nutshell, make sure you have a plan. You’ll save yourself a ton of time by creating a search engine optimization plan before even building a website. And if you already have a website, layout a plan on how you’re going to update the website before making changes. Also equally important is to keep in mind that SEO takes time. It’s a pressure cooker, not a microwave. It often times takes months, if not a year or more, to rank in the top 10 results for competitive keywords. The best thing you can do now is master SEO 101 and build your arsenal from there.