One of the biggest keys to having a website you love is having people visit it. You can have the best design and the most perfect content, but if there’s tumbleweed rolling around it’s hard to feel really positive about it.
Good news, there are things you can do about this. While a good mix of frequently updated content (like blog posts), social media and guest posting or affiliate programs, is a good way to keep the people coming in, today I’m going to focus on Search Engine Optimization (or SEO).
Now, Search Engine Optimization sounds like a really big, scary term. It isn’t. What is big and scary is the incredible amount of disagreement and “must do” lists surrounding it.
Today I’m here to tell you that SEO is huge. It’s a massive undertaking that can consume your life if you let it. But that’s also only if you’re a major corporation or a business with some serious bucks available to spend on SEO consultants.
So what is SEO anyway?
Search Engine Optimization is the term used to make sure that what it says on your website’s page or blog post can be easily understood by a search engine so they can quantify what it is about. Once a search engine understands what your page or blog post is about it can quickly and easily provide it to someone searching for that thing.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
Well, like everything, yes and no.
SEO is something that directly relates to your Search Engine Ranking, and your Ranking if based on a number of things, like the size of your website (how many posts and pages it has), the quality of your SEO (meaning how well search engines understand it), the number of other websites who have linked to your website and a few other technical things.
SEO has three parts
In order to properly do uncomplicated SEO, you need three things:
- SEO itself
You need to do certain things with your content that will allow search engines to understand it.
- A sitemap
This is a simple listing of all the content on your website in a specific format that search engines like. More on this in a few minutes.
- A way to monitor your success
Having tracking stats are unbelievably important. How will you know if people are visiting or if your hard work is paying off if you can’t see and track your visitor’s movements on your site?
There are five basic pillars of SEO, but they are all based around SEO keywords.
“Keywords” are a shortened version of whatever you page or blog post was about. If you wrote a blog post titled “Latest trends in stoneware pottery” your keywords would be “stoneware pottery,” or they could also be “trends in stoneware pottery.”
Here’s an important tip: if you were to use the former set of keywords (“stoneware pottery”), there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. But the pool of websites out there about simply stoneware pottery is probably large. If someone searches just for stoneware pottery, your site may not come up near the top to be noticed. In fact, it might not come up on the first page of results at all.
Instead, you likely have a better chance of being found for something else, like “trends in stoneware pottery.”
This is called a long-tail search. It means that someone has gone to their search bar and typed in “trends stoneware pottery.” Long-tail search traffic is the small business owner’s friend.
The five basic pillars of SEO
When putting together your content, you want to make sure that these five pillars are covered. Doing this puts you head and shoulders above the competition, because most people don’t do this at all.
In order to optimize something for search engines, those keywords we talked about a minute ago must be in these four places:
- Your URL.
The URL is the link used to find that piece of content on the internet. You want to make sure that all your keywords appear in that link. In this case it would be something like: yoursite.com/trends-in-stoneware-pottery.
- Your content.
It is vitally important that your keyword phrase appears inside your actual content, in the right order. It is not alright to simply have the words “trends” “stoneware” and “pottery” inside your post. You need to have them all together. Try to make this look and sound organic. Saying something like, “Today I’m looking at some upcoming trends in stoneware pottery” sounds perfectly natural and looks like it should be there. Simply adding a heading at the top of your post that says “Trends in Stoneware Pottery” looks more than a little strange.
- Your meta description.
The meta description is the little blurb that accompanies search engine results. This description does need to include your keywords, but it is mostly for humans. When you look at a bunch of search results, it’s the descriptions underneath that often sell you on clicking the link. In this case you would want to say something like, “A look at the latest trends in stoneware pottery from around the world.”
- The title of your page or post.
Super important. The title of your post or page must contain your keyword phrase in the right order. Leaving this out blows everything. Make sure the title of your post matches your URL, as well as what you’re putting into your content, or all your work will be for naught.
Once you have done all of that, there is only one additional consideration (or pillar): content length. Search engines can’t determine what a post or page is about in less than 300 words. This one is really hard for most of the clients I work with. Getting to 300 words on something can be difficult, especially if you are a musician or photographer. I frequently come across photography sites with posts that have a ton of images and three sentences below. That definitely looks pretty, but no search engine will ever find it. Take the time to write a few words on what you’re posting about. It will pay dividends in traffic, I promise.
So how do I actually do all that?!?
Well, first off, you need to make sure that you are creating your content around these items. Make sure you’re including the five pillars when you write your posts or pages and you’ll be all set.
Then, you need to get a tool to help you best communicate with search engines.
I strongly recommend the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. This plugin reduces so much of the complication of SEO down to completely user-friendly options that make SEO seem like a breeze.
It creates an XML sitemap for you and then has a place for you to submit your sitemap to Google, Bing and Yahoo.
It also has a box on your “Add New Post” and “Add New Page” pages that helps you with the creation of your SEO. It lists off the items required for good SEO and then goes green or red if they are completed or missing.
It’s excellent, and I recommend getting it today. Right now in fact.
Yoast also has an excellent Google Analytics plugin which allows you to choose the options you want right from the WordPress Dashboard, instead of having to run around inside Analytics to figure it out.
Look at that! Now you’re an SEO whizz. Go get started loving your website a little more.