SEO Mysteries Revealed

Written By Claiborne Linvill on May 2nd, 2016

We know, the reason you hired us to help with your website is because you don’t have the time to research or deal with the ins and outs of something as vague and complicated as SEO. We’re happy you’ve hired us for this because, oddly enough, it’s something that gets the team at A-LINE kind of excited.

If you’ve hired an outside web-design firm, odds are you or someone in your staff will be adding to your website’s content, creating new pages and/or hiring people to write content for you. Good! That’s the first step to improving your search rankings! It’s also why it’s important to understand at least the basics of SEO so you can yield the best results for these efforts. In this post, we’ll reveal some of the mysteries of SEO and the best tactics for improving it.

What is SEO exactly?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization”—meaning the steps you take to help your site show up in online results from search engines like Google and Bing.

SEO is not a single action you take: it’s a long-term strategy. There’s no one-time input of keywords for SEO, nor is there a product you can pay for that immediately helps your site become the most visible among your competitors. Instead, SEO is an ongoing process of creating valuable content, keywords and tags that allow search engines to find your website, rank it as relevant to your potential visitors, and ultimately place it near the top of search results for your products, services, mission or insights.

Why do I need SEO?
According to Google, the search engine’s mission “is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” To do that, the engine crawls websites looking for certain words, phrases and content that can help users find exactly the information they’re looking for. Google doesn’t rank a site as better or worse for its own value; rather, the ranking is based on how valuable that content is to its users. So SEO, in short, is a map you write to help users find your website. If your content is overly brief, unspecific, static, or uncreative, you have posted an imprecise map that won’t lead visitors to your door.

How do I improve my search ranking?
Reaching Page 1 of search results on a national scale is difficult unless you clearly understand your audience and what they are searching for (even then, it’s still very hard for most small businesses). Your best chance for a first-page result will come from promoting your local presence and specific location. Remember, the goal of SEO is to target the exact people you want to visit your site and business, not all people.

Implement these tips for creating content that appeals to search engines:

  • Set up local pages and directories. Claim your business on Google+ and Bing Places for Business to ensure local customers find you and that all your information is correct. With the rise in mobile device use and the importance of maps, these directories are a vital first step in establishing your online presence. 
  • Create content that is relevant to your specific customer. Focus on the niche you provide, your specific location/area, and what sets you apart from other companies.

(For help with this tip and the next ones, read A-LINE's Inbound and Content Marketing 3-Step Guide.)

  • Keep content fresh. Google improves rankings on sites that make updates. Don’t put up a website and leave it static. Write blogs, post news and events, add social media feeds, and create new pages that keep your content always changing – and always helpful. 
  • Be creative. If you sound like other companies making the same offerings or writing the same blogs, you won’t stand out. Be the first to post on a topic and you’ll rank higher. 
  • Use keywords strategically. Keywords are the words and phrases that users type in most often when searching for businesses like yours (they can also be linked strategically with AdWords , Google’s paid-for results). Sometimes you can guess at these, other times it can be helpful to hire an SEO consultant to prepare a list of top keywords for your industry and company. That said, if you use these keywords too often in your content, it will likely sound clunky or awkward (and if you use them way too often, Google will dismiss your page as spam). Write content that incorporates keywords but doesn’t overuse them. 
  • Input SEO on the back end. Some of the most valuable SEO tools are ones your visitors never see. Make sure every page of your website has a meta title and meta tag description (this is a good place to use valuable keywords). (A-LINE writes meta tags and meta titles for all our clients’ sites when we first set them up. If you’re adding pages yourself, check out this guide to ensure they’re in good form). Additionally, write a caption for every photo, and use clear file names for all images.

Excited to improve your SEO? If you’d like to delve more into how Google searches for information and how you can use these tools on your site, download Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

(A-LINE also has a brief “SEO 101” guide especially for small, local companies, which is free for clients to download.)

Keep in mind, Google Analytics are proprietary and always changing. Don’t trust anyone who says they can guarantee organic search results. While there are many best practices and techniques to help with rankings, we’re all learning (and often changing) to keep up with an ever-evolving system.

Got questions about SEO? Want a review of your site to see how it could rank better in search results? Contact A-LINE today to discuss how we can improve your SEO and, in turn, expand your online audience.

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