Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website in order to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
I’ve built multiple websites over the years, with varying degrees of success, and this blog that focuses on the topic of Go coding is my latest project.
So I want to share some of the various insights and lessons that I’ve learnt about SEO through running this blog, working on other sites and reading about the subject from experts in the field.
Understanding the Importance of SEO
It’s not enough just to write lots of content for your website or blog. If you want to attract a bigger audience, then it’s vital that you pay attention to the subject of SEO, which is all about how to drive more traffic to your site and how to keep users engaged for longer.
If you’re running a commercial venture, then more traffic can also produce more business leads and conversions, which in turn can generate more advertising and sales revenue — and ultimately a greater level of profitability.
Finding keywords that people are using when performing searches for online is one of the most important aspects of SEO.
It’s also one of the simplest, since there are so many excellent tools available to help you gather good keywords.
If you understand what keywords your target audience is using, then you can optimize your content by including them where most relevant.
Below are some useful suggestions for how to begin conducting research into SEO keywords.
Compiling a List of Relevant Topics
One way to begin finding keywords is by writing a list of themes and topics that are most relevant to your website or business.
This can help you to come up with some seed keywords that can be used to search for other more specialized keywords.
It’s also possible that the very first words that come to your head are also some of the first words that other people think of when they’re searching the web.
For example, if you run a floristry business, some relevant seed keywords could be “flowers”, “bouquet”, “floral”, “flowering plants”, “flower delivery”, “romantic roses” — and so on…
Using Keyword Research Tools
Even if you don’t have a big budget available, there are many excellent tools and online platforms for keyword research that have free plans.
Some of the most popular are:
- Google Keyword Planner (provided by Google AdWords);
- UberSuggest (run by digital entrepreneur Neil Patel);
- AnswerThePublic (a very useful service that generates questions, now also owned by Neil Patel);
- Google Trends (which gives information about what people are searching for on Google);
- Soolve (a really cool single-page site that shows what people are searching for across many different search engines and platforms);
- Keyword Surfer (a free extension for the Chrome web browser that provides keyword data directly within Google search results).
These are so useful because they will provide a lot of information on the search volume and relevance of keywords, as well as how much competition there is from other websites that are already targeting the keywords.
Identifying Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are very specific phrases that people may use to search for websites online.
They tend to have a lower search volume than more general keywords, but users that search for those keywords tend to be more interested and engaged in the subject.
For example, “pizza” would be a short-tail keyword (also known as a head keyword), since it’s only one-word long.
However, “authentic calzone pizza restaurant in London” would be a long-tail keyword, because there’s much more detail given about exactly what the user is looking for.
These kinds of long-tail keywords are often easier to rank for, because there may be less competition.
Analyzing Competitor’s Keywords
Talking about competition, it can be useful to work out what keywords other websites that you’re competing with are ranking for, in order to see if they’re doing something to attract users that you’re not.
For example, you can enter a competitor’s domain name into the search box of the Moz Keyword Explorer, and it will provide you with a list of their top-ranking keywords. You can also enter multiple domains and compare how well they rank for shared keywords.
Don’t Be a Keyword Stuffer
While it can be great for SEO to include relevant keywords in your content, don’t go overboard.
Only include keywords if they actually make sense within the context that you’re placing them.
On the other hand, if you stuff your pages with so many keywords that it makes your content less enjoyable to read, then users will simply go elsewhere and you’ll be penalized by search engines for trying to game their systems.
As with so many good things in life, keywords are best used in moderation.
Performing On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization refers to improving the structure of the HTML pages that deliver your content.
Below are some tips on this subject.
Optimizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The text within the page’s HTML
title tag should describe the content of the page in a few short words. There’s no need to write a clickbait-style title, but it should grab people’s attention, so that they’re tempted to click through to your page rather than visiting somebody else’s site.
The description of the page within the
meta tag can span two or three sentences, but it should still sum up the overall gist of the entire content. Someone reading the description should have a very good idea about what the rest of the content is going to be about.
Using Header Tags
HTML header tags (such as
h3 and so on) help to provide a greater degree of structure for your content.
This makes it easier for readers to skim the page and understand what each section is roughly about, but it also makes the page easier for search engines to scrape information from.
Some search engines place greater emphasis on the text within header tags, so you may want to include keywords within them.
Use Alt Tags For Images
Search engines aren’t able to “see” images like humans do, so
alt tags provide a text-based alternative that helps search engines understand the content of the image.
They’re also good for accessibility, because they provide a description of the image that can be read aloud by screen readers in order to help visually impaired users.
The alternative text will also appear if an image isn’t able to be downloaded, either because there’s a problem with the server or the client’s connection.
Given that they’re so useful in all of those different scenarios, it’s vital that every image on your website has an
alt tag providing a human-readable description of the picture.
Backlinks are created when other websites link to pages on your website.
The process of building backlinks makes your site appear more authoritative and trustworthy to search engines.
It also provides an opportunity for users of other sites to click through to your website, increasing your traffic.
So the following tips are focused on various ways to build links.
Creating High-Quality Content
Remember that quality content is what attracts an audience that will keep coming back to your site.
The best way to attract backlinks is to create well written and researched content that people are going to want to share and link to.
Ensure that any information you provide is accurate and reliable, but try to convey it in an entertaining and engaging style. You don’t want people to feel like they’re just reading a dry encyclopedia article; you want them to feel like they’re actually connecting with a real person.
Reaching Out to Other Websites
Networking isn’t just a computing term: it also refers to the important skill in business of building connections with other professionals, so that you can share opportunities and make deals.
So identify websites that are relevant to your own business and don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who are running them, asking them if they’d interested in linking to your content.
However, don’t just send a boilerplate message out to a group of contents: write personalized emails, to help build rapport, and try to explain how you could genuinely help each other by working together.
Doing Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is where you write content for other websites in exchange for backlinks.
If you can find relevant websites that accept guest posts, feel free to send a message and pitch some content to them. Try to stick to topics that will clearly be relevant to the site’s existing audience.
You should be able to include a link back to your own website within the author-biography section — or simply within the main body of the content itself.
Finding and Fixing Broken Links
People are often more willing to support you if you can solve a real problem that they’re suffering from.
Over time any website will tend to accumulate broken links, as some of the other websites that it links to go offline.
If you can find these broken links on other websites and offer links to your own content as a potential replacement, then you’re genuinely helping the owners of those websites by keeping their links active and up to date.
Of course, you also benefit by gaining additional backlinks to your own site, which is always useful for SEO.
Focusing on the Technicals
Content is king, but there are many little technical fixes that can improve the way your website responds, so that users have a better experience when browsing your pages.
If your site takes too long to load, then prospective users may simply decide to quit before even looking at your content, which will result in your bounce rate being very high.
So the technical fixes discussed below are well worth considering.
Using a Responsive Design
Responsive design simply means that your website is optimized so that it looks good on all kinds of different devices, such as desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.
You may also wish to optimize your site for larger screen resolutions, such as HD (1920 × 1080), 4K (3840 × 2160) and 8K (7680 × 4320).
Not everyone is aware of the fact that Google actually gives priority to websites that are mobile-friendly in its search results, so it’s particularly important to ensure that your site looks good and displays all of its content correctly at smaller resolutions.
Optimizing Your Website Speed
Another important factor that can affect your ranking on search engines is how fast, or slow, your website loads for users around the world.
You can use a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights in order to analyze the loading times of your website’s server and client-side scripts, and this information can help you to focus your attention on the particular aspects of performance that most urgently need to be improved.
Using Structured Data
Structured data is a form of markup that can be included in your HTML in order to help search engines understand more about the content on your website.
You can think of it as providing an extra element of metadata for your webpage.
If your website uses WordPress, like this blog, then there are many plugins you can use that will automatically incorporate structured data into your pages.
However, if you have coded the website yourself, then you simply need to modify your HTML pages, or templates that are passed to a rendering engine, in order to incorporate structured data.
Optimizing Your Website Architecture
When creating pages for your website, think about how they can all be linked together to form a larger architectural structure.
In other words, you should aim to use a logical hierarchy of pages and subpages that can be displayed as a tree.
This will help to ensure that your website is very easy to navigate, both for human users and for bots operated by search engines.
Localizing Your SEO
We live in an increasingly fast-moving and globalized world, but local communities still matter to people — and, of course, we still live and work in physical locations.
So it’s important to ensure that you think about how to attract local customers or users when working on SEO, and the sections below provide some suggestions on how to do this.
Creating a Business Profile With Google
One of the first places to get started when advertising your business to potential customers nearby is to ensure that you’re listed correctly on Google, so that people can find you when searching or using Google Maps.
You can create a profile with Google, if you don’t already have one, providing the necessary information to allow local people to find your business.
Getting Listed in Local Directories
You can also post promotional material advertising your business on websites like craigslist, which has separate sections for most major cities in the US and around the world.
Using Location-Specific Keywords
When you’re coming up with keywords — as we covered in an earlier section — don’t forget to include your location or other local details.
For example, let’s imagine that you’re running a barbershop somewhere in New York City.
In that case, you’ll probably want to think about location-specific keywords such as “haircut NYC” or “New York barber”, since these will make it easier for potential customers in the local vicinity to find your business when searching online.
Encouraging Customer Reviews
Creating a dedicated page on your website where customers can leave reviews and testimonials is an excellent thing to do for the purposes of SEO.
However, ensuring that you get positive feedback on other websites, like TrustPilot or TripAdvisor, can be especially important, since you can piggyback on their credibility in order to drive traffic to your own site.
Good reviews, wherever they’re hosted, make it easier for people to trust your brand, if they see that other people in the local area are already willing to recommend you.
Sharing Some Final Thoughts About SEO
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to improving the Search Engine Optimization of a website or business.
It’s something that requires constant consideration, so you need to ensure that you have a strategy in place, focusing on the specific areas of improvement that we’ve discussed above.
Most important of all is to keep sight of the fact that SEO is an ongoing process, so it’s important to monitor your rankings on the major search engines regularly, so you can be quick to take action if you find yourself losing ground to your competitors.
However, try not to get overwhelmed by how difficult it can seem to keep on top of all these different areas. Just focus on making SEO an integral part of your routine whenever you write content or produce a new page for your website — and then you can conduct a more wide-ranging review of your entire site’s performance two or three times a year.