If you’re new to the web or marketing industry, you’ve likely heard of SEO or Search Engine Optimization before. Don’t worry if you’re unsure how to implement this on your own website. It’s a fairly simple strategy to learn. I’ve included some SEO tips and guidelines below from things I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully, these will help give you a good start.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. According to Wikipedia: “SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural’, ‘organic,’ or ‘earned’ results.”
In short, it’s what can help your website rank better in search results without having to pay for advertising. Online paid advertising is known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.
SEO vs. SEM — What’s the Difference?
It’s important to understand the difference between SEO and SEM. These terms may seem interchangeable, but they are different. SEM is a broader category term and can be considered to include SEO. Like wheat bread is a type of bread, SEO is a type of SEM.
The simplest way to distinguish SEO from SEM is: SEM tends to be a paid service and SEO is a set of web-writing standards. For instance, SEM can include things like Google ads, campaigns, etc. Whereas SEO is a technique the web developer and/or copywriter applies to the website.
SEO Guidelines Introduction
SEO guidelines vary depending on which search engine you’re targeting. Google seems to be the current industry leader in setting SEO standards, but others such as Bing/Yahoo and Moz are also important to consider. Think of SEO as a way of telling search engines what your website is about—but beware—their algorithms are very sophisticated and can usually tell when a website is being dishonest or sneaky.
You may hear these dishonest techniques referred to as “black hat SEO.” A simple example of black hat SEO is overloading your content with keywords to the point that it doesn’t even make sense while reading. Trying to trick the search engines to help your site rank better may work in the short-term, but over time it can actually hurt your website ranking. It can even cause your website to be removed from search results altogether. Rule of thumb:
Be reasonable and honest in how you develop your website content. If your content reads and sounds natural, that’s a good indicator it’s okay.
Simple SEO Guidelines to Help Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
Here is a list of several SEO tips and techniques I aim to follow when developing a website. To help with this process, I will sometimes write a short 2–3 sentence paragraph describing what my website is about.
Write a Simple Descriptive Paragraph*
Write the paragraph as if you were explaining what your website is about to a stranger. Include descriptive keywords and adjectives that you feel appropriately describe your website, business, services, etc. including your target city and state.
Establish a Few Primary Keywords*
The keywords should quickly explain to the user what your website is about. These words are what you want to focus your content around. Adjectives are good to include in headers and content, but are not suitable for primary keywords. Also, it may be tempting, but your company name is not the best keyword. Those searching online for a service are not likely to know your company exists, so it’s unlikely they will search for you by name (unless you’re a very well-known business).
FREE RESOURCE: Some words may help your website show up more in search results, so if you want to find which words may be better, Google offers a great keyword planning tool. You may need an AdWords account, but—as of this writing—it’s free.
Now that you have a reference paragraph and some keywords to focus on, let’s move on to content.
SEO Guidelines for Writing Website Content
- Make sure the major pages of your website have a minimum of 300 words
This is the minimum amount of content you would want on the page, which includes titles and paragraphs. It’s perfectly okay to include more content, but try to break the text up with subheadings (see below).
- Try to include 1–2 keywords in the page title (H1)
“Our dog walkers are ready to help our neighbors in the Cleveland area.”
- Include 1–2 keywords in at least one subheading
Break up your content every 100–150 words with a subheading (H2, H3). Such as, “We offer affordable dog walking services.”
- Include 1-2 keywords, up to 3 times, for every 300 words
Use subtle variations if that helps, such as: dog walker/dog walking/dog walkers; Cleveland/Cleveland, Ohio.
Other Helpful SEO Tips for Content Writing
- Other variations of keywords can also be beneficial to include
For instance, “dog walking, pet sitter, Northeast Ohio, etc.”
- Avoid using the same text for headers and content
Mix it up! Page headings and content that match too closely are red flags to search engines that the text is not genuine. This is known as “duplicate content.” Try to avoid this as much as possible.
- Use adjectives in front of keywords
Focus on putting some descriptive words before your keywords, but be cautious. Avoid overly excited statements or cramming in a lot of adjectives. It can appear spammy. Note: If it reads odd to you, it will probably sound odd to your website viewers too. “The best, friendliest, cheapest, awesome, amazing dog walkers in all of Cleveland, Ohio.”
- Spread your keywords throughout your paragraphs
As mentioned above, a good ratio is one keyword (or phrase) included up to three times for every 300 words. Sprinkling the keywords throughout the text helps the content read more naturally.
- Submit your website sitemaps to search engines
This gives your website a head-start for being indexed by search engines.
- Try not to use a lot of complex words, phrases, and long sentences
It’s helpful if your content is moderately easy to understand by the average viewer. This may change based on who your target audience is.
- Include internal and external links where appropriate
Adding links to other pages on your website (or other websites) gives the search engine a better sense of how your site is structured. One, maybe two links, every 300 words is sufficient.
- Add ‘alt’ tag text to your images
Images are a simple way to help boost your SEO. Since images can’t be read as text, the only way they can be “read” is by using alt text, such as:
<img src="" alt="dog walkers in Cleveland, Ohio">
The alt text should represent the content of the image as best as possible.
FREE RESOURCE: Yoast SEO is a great plugin to consider using if you’re creating a WordPress website. They also offer a premium version, but their free features work fine for what I need.
How Is Yours or Your Client’s Website SEO? Do You Know Other SEO Tips?
Search Engine Optimization is becoming more and more critical in the world of web and marketing. Though the standards may change, these simple SEO tips and guidelines should be a good place for you to start if you’re just beginning.
Please let me know how your SEO is working in the comments section below. I’d be happy to know what does or doesn’t work for you. If you have any other tips for SEO beginners, feel free to share them!