SEO Basics for 2017
Making the Most of Your Online Presence
by Jack Thompson
With the new year rolling around, there's never been a better time to invest effort or funds into your website's Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. New Year's is a great time to get back to the basics, and SEO is no exception. While firms may suggest complicated strategies, expensive packages, and extensive, statistical reports, most of us can benefit from applying the simple, back-to-basic tips made freely available by Google. While multi-national or Top 100 companies may need to invest huge amounts of money and time into extremely technical aspects of SEO campaigns, smaller businesses can benefit immensely from just a few simple tips. Follow these strategies to get a boost in your search volume:
Choose a Good Title Tag
The title tag is probably the most important tag on your entire page, and as such should be treated carefully. Just as the title of a book should catch a reader's eye, we should use the title tag to strengthen our SEO campaign by using keywords and locations. Search engines like Google will display your title tag in organic search results, and it's capable of breaking up or rearranging your tag per the discretion of the algorithm. Try to use a title tag that is as short as possible that utilizes your primary keywords, location if applicable, and business name. The format I have found to be useful is this one:
Snazzy Keyword-Rich Title | Company Location | Company Name
That formula tells the search engine what the page is about, where the service or company is located, and what the company offering the service is. Make the title as short as possible so that it isn't truncated in the search engine display. Keeping your title tag to 50-60 characters is considered best practice, when possible.
Use Headers Properly, and in the Correct Order
Headers (like the H3 pictured above) are used to break text into scannable, easily-understood blocks. While we always advocate making a webpage for the reader first and search engines second, there is good reason to follow some basic principles when using the header tags. One of the most common mistakes we see here at Bear River Web Design is the use of multiple H1 tags. The H1 tag denotes a very broad generalization of what all of the contents beneath it are about. While it may make sense to have two H1's for a very large page, most blog posts, articles, and service pages need only one. This makes it easier for Google to know what the entire article is about. We should include the keywords we are hoping to target in our H1, preferably towards the beginning of the tag, and should strive to keep the tag as short as possible while still clearly conveying what the info on the page is about. This allows search engines to quickly "understand" the page. Don't be afraid to use the title tag as the H1 tag - often they will need to convey the same message anyway. If you do choose to use a different header and title tag, ensure that they are related to one another to prevent confusing the search engines. As always, don't stuff keywords unnaturally - create a good, accurate, and succinct H1 and break the information on the page into a logical format.
H2's should always follow the H1, and H3's should always follow the H2s. Make sure to return to H2's from H3's when switching subjects or moving between topics, and as always, stay on point. Avoid jumping from an H1 to an H3, or from H3 to an H5. Use headers to structure content logically, and use CSS selectors to style that content. Responsible use of H tags will go a long way towards establishing a basic SEO campaign that can then be built upon in the future.
Make Great Content!
I know, you've heard it before. In all reality, creating quality, well-structured, sensibly-titled, and unique content is the most important, basic building block of any SEO campaign. It is beyond important to have writing that people can easily read and preferably enjoy, because that's what inspires them to link to and share your webpage or service. All the fancy SEO tricks in the world won't make up for weak content, or content that people don't understand, or content that is attempting to trick the search engines.
The big secret in the SEO industry is that a talented writer can make the difference between a successful website more quickly and easily than an SEO specialist can. Technical gizmos can help us refine our great content to reach a wider audience, but without the basic foundation of good writing as a starting point, the campaign is dead in the water. Take time craft great work, hire an advertising professional or writer if need be, and make sure to tell the world why your product or service is the best!
SEO Basics for the New Year
The world of SEO is rapidly changing, but the more things change the more they stay the same. The fundamental basics of SEO - title things properly, use headers in a sensible way, and build great content - are never going away. As search engines become more intelligent, technical tricks that worked in years past (keyword stuffing, link abuse, etc.) will continue to give way to great, reliable content from sources that are trustworthy.
Happy New Year!