Because the internet plays a vital role in buying decisions, it’s important to make search engine optimization (SEO) is part of your business’s marketing toolkit. Mastering just a few basics can bring your business to greater online prominence and make it easier for potential customers to find. As with many professions, SEO has its own vital terminology. This article focuses on teaching you about five core concepts that are absolutely vital: SERP, keywords, black hat SEO, title tags, and quality content.
1) The SERP defined
As you’d guess from the capitalization, SERP is an acronym. It stands for “search engine results page,” and it simply refers to the page that gets displayed after you enter a query into a search engine and punch enter. Content on the SERP (on most major engines like Google and Bing) is separated by type. Different information formats – news, maps, images, definitions, etc. – each get their own sections.
The entire point of employing effective SEO techniques is to push your website higher on the SERPs. Each search engine uses a proprietary (and non-public) algorithm to rank results for a given search query. The good news is that the same basic strategies will improve your site’s performance across every search engine. Proper use of keywords, title tags, and content will help.
2) What Are Keywords?
Keywords are easy to understand. They’re the search terms users actually put in when they’re trying to find a specific result from a search engine. If your site uses frequently-used keywords in a relevant way, your site will rank better and appear closer to the top of the list of results on the SERP.
The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is an invaluable resource that will teach you which keywords are the most popular in your industry or niche. Keyword research is a core part of SEO; you want to make sure that you’re focusing on popular terms with a high search volume. Online marketing professionals divide up keywords into two main families: short tail and long tail. Short tail keywords consist of one or two words and are very general. Long tail keywords can run to any length and usually convey much more specific ideas. “SEO” by itself, for instance, is a short tail keyword. “SEO consultant in Toronto,” in contrast, is a long tail keyword.
The best way to keep track of your website’s SEO performance is by using good rank tracking software. These programs will automatically track your pages’ rankings for certain keywords and send you updates (weekly, daily, or even hourly) about how your rankings are changing.
3) Black Hat SEO
“Black Hat” SEO is named after the villains in western movies. It serves as an umbrella term for any sort of optimization work that seeks to improve your site’s ranking in an unethical or manipulative manner. Examples would include keyword stuffing (repeating the same keywords over and over in an attempt to improve one’s ranking) or buying traffic.
Search engines penalize sites that engage in black hat SEO. This can be done automatically or manually. Penalties can range from reducing your site’s ranking to removing it entirely from a search engine’s index. To avoid penalization, simply make sure that the optimization steps you take remain promotional rather than manipulative.
4) Title Tags
The title tag is the information coded into a specific web page that tells visitors (and search engines!) what the page is about. Keywords that appear in a page’s title tag are strong indicators to the search engines that the page may be relevant to a user inputting those keywords for a search. Well-optimized title tags will boost your pages’ SEO performance considerably.
Good title tags should be no longer than 70 characters, including spaces. This is the threshold beyond which Google cuts off the title displayed on the SERP. Longer titles will appear with an ellipsis (…) hiding the extended title. As a general rule of thumb, complete titles perform better and attract more traffic than partial ones.
A short title tag with strong relevant keywords is going to perform well. Be aware that search engines compare the keywords that appear in a title with those that appear in the body text of the page. Significant mismatches may attract ranking penalties.
5) Quality Content
Most of the SEO techniques already described have to do with the technical side of your site. The content appearing on your pages also plays a significant (and growing) role in how they’re ranked. Search engines now look at a number of signals that tell them how useful visitors find your content. Examples include time spent on-page, bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who back out of your page shortly after arriving), and social shares.
Quality content is useful, informative, and entertaining. This holds visitors’ attention and increases their chances of spending a significant amount of time on a page and possibly sharing it via social social writing. Good content is free of grammatical errors and should help readers in some way.
By mastering the basics of SEO, you can make your small business easier for potential customers to find. The more you learn about the way pages are ranked, the better your own site will do and the more traffic you can generate.