After your web page is completed you have just begun the process of optimizing your site to rank in the search engines, which is vital for organically being discovered by future customers or clients.
This is meant to be a very quick overview to help the non-tech community understand the basic principals of legitimate SEO practices. SEO starts with how the web site is built, how the internal links are created and how the content is managed. From there, back links ought to be acquired and if the site is for a local business, local listings ought to be created. SEO is an ongoing process which does not return results overnight.
It’s not about being the first listing in Google
Certainly you’ll want your site on the first page of listings, but don’t be tempted to fight for that first ranking on the search engine result page (called a SERP). These rankings fluctuate daily and are not the same for every person. Many factors go into the algorithms for search engines, locality being a huge new factor for local business. Also, search engines like Google tailor your search results based on your browsing history on that computer. Search engine rankings are always fluctuating, it’s something everyone needs to understand. Instead of focusing on being number one on Google, focus on your visitor base increasing and your conversion rate improving.
No one can offer you a guarantee with SEO
If search engines made their algorithms public and told everyone just what to do to rank well on their sites there would be no point for the search engines to exists as they would be full of spam. If someone is offering you a guarantee on their SEO efforts run far, far away from them. Companies used to offer guaranteed overnight success by paying to have back links created through a multitude of services, this practice has been written out of the search engine algorithms and sites using it have subsequently been punished and black listed by search engines as spam. Today, some companies will offer a gurantee view or retweet rate, but all they’re doing is spending money to get retweets or robots to bump up statistics so they can show you a graph with a spike in visitors, you’ll also notice a spike in your bounce rate (length of time a visitor is on your page) which can hurt your page rank. Key lesson, have a relationship with your SEO and ensure they want your company to do well, insist on transparency as to what they are doing to better your brand.
Expect transparency from your SEO and have patience
An SEO who refuses to tell you what they are doing are either engaged in bad SEO practices (black hat SEO) or isn’t doing their job. SEO is such an ambiguous field in the internet, what works and what doesn’t work is purely speculative. The successful strategy that worked for company A will not necessarily work for company B. That being said, work with someone who will tell you what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it. Don’t jump ship if you’ve not seen the results you have hoped for in just three months. Time is actually an SEO variable which carries a lot of weight; it takes time for SEO campaigns to pick up momentum. Which suggests patience, SEO is not overnight. Understanding the aforementioned paramount concept, if your site is showing absolutely no improvement (or worsening) then you should consider a new SEO company. This is not necessarily a sign that a company is bad at SEO, but perhaps their technique is simply not working with your company or industry/audience/clientele.
What is Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO?
Post April 2012 few people would admit to engaging in black hat SEO techniques because these are the practices that will hurt your site and potentially do irreversible damage to your SEO campaign. White Hat SEO consists of practices that are approved or encouraged by the search engine companies, namely Google.
What are some White Hat practices?
- Relevant and quality inbound linking (sites in your industry linking back to your site that appear natural)
- Good structure site construction
- Proper internal URL structure (use canonical and semantic structure)
- Proper usage of social media marketing strategies
- Usage of micro data or schema technology
- Production of new and fresh quality content frequently that is written for humans (i.e. blogs, infographics, etc)
- Proper usage of meta tags and titles (without spamming)
- Proper keyword, alt tag, header tag and other misc tag usage
- the list can continue…
What are some Black Hat practices?
- Link Farming or submission to link directories (if it’s relevant to your industry it may be ok, depending on the directory)
- Paying for fake persons to tweet or share spam leading back to your site
- Hidden content (white text on white background)
- Meta Keyword stuffing (meta keywords don’t show on your page; they’re intended to help search engines)
- Gateway or Doorway pages (fake pages made to appeal to search engines, not humans)
- Duplicate content (copying/pasting another pages information or simply rewording it)
How to succeed in SEO
We’ve barely glanced the tip of the iceberg of the vast subject of search engine optimization in this article. However, the single most important thing to remember when building a site to rank well in search engines is this: build a web site which serves your target audience and is coded for them and not a search engine. The search engines have worked tirelessly for decades now to reward this practice and such a practice is the only 100% future proof method of lasting search engine sucess.