What is SEO and why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s how Google finds you and decides where to rank you in its search results. If you want people who don’t know about you already to discover you on the Internet, this is your first step. Your goal with SEO is for Google to rank you highly in their search results. Generally speaking, most folk don’t look past the first page of search results, so being at the top of the list is important.
So what can I do to rank highly in search results?
First, know what search terms you want to be ranking for. As an exercise, try to find yourself on Google without using the name of your company or organization. What did you look for? Those are your keywords. You want to use them on your website, and in key places of your copy. For example, Google pays more attention to titles and headers, so make sure your keyword is there once or twice. Google will also pay more attention to text that is in bold or italics, as well as hyperlinks.
However, you don’t want to overdo it. If Google has the impression that you’re cramming keywords into your pages, it could harm your rankings rather than helping.
Additionally, Google looks for websites that update regularly, because this indicates that someone is maintaining them and keeping them relevant. Google includes blogs and social media channels in their algorithms, so running a regular blog and putting a little effort into a Facebook page or Twitter feed can yield positive results in the long term.
Could I be accidentally doing anything else to sabotage my SEO?
Yes. In simple terms, Google (and other search engines) have legions of code robots that scour the Internet reading your websites to find out what they’re about. You can keep this from happening by adding lines of code to your site which basically tell search engines: “don’t look here.” Sometimes you do this for privacy or security reasons. But you can also do it accidentally and be left wondering why you don’t show up on Google anymore.
And, as I said before, if Google catches you engaged in activity that makes it look as if you are trying to cheat or game the system, they will punish you in your rankings.
The long and short of it all
SEO used to be more complicated. But as Google improves its search algorithms, it’s easier to comply to SEO best practices. While the underpinnings of how search engines work are complex, your job is simple: make sure Google can crawl your site, and that your purpose is clear to all concerned.
Relevancy is in Google’s best interest: people use Google because they expect to be able to find what they are looking for quickly. Essentially, Google is trying to vet your website on behalf of the searcher. So if you focus on creating a page that your target audience will want to find, Google will reward you.
Bottom line: write for people, and Google will help them find you.