Considering how much the internet can become a sales outlet for a business, more entrepreneurs are open to establishing an online presence, typically through a website.
Having a website, however, isn't the be-all and end-all if you want your business to succeed online. Before the design of your website comes into play, consumers have to find your site. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
SEO is a collection of techniques that one uses to boost the ranking of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher a website ranks on Google and other search engines, the more visible the website is, which leads to a greater chance of users clicking. All those clicks mean organic traffic, which could result in more leads and conversions for your business.
As you can see, boosting the visibility of your business and generating more sales isn't just about creating a website. Here are seven additional things about SEO that entrepreneurs should know.
1. On-page optimization
On-page SEO refers to techniques that you implement within your website to catch the attention of search engines, whose crawlers or bots scour the internet for relevant keywords that users type in.
The many on-page optimization techniques you can use include creating a meta description for each page. A meta description is essentially a brief summary of a webpage. A meta tag is a snippet of text that appears in the source code of the page; it doesn't show up on the page itself. Therefore, it's important to carefully choose the keywords and phrases for your meta tags, because this is what search engines crawl whenever a user types in a search.
2. Off-page optimization
Off-page SEO refers to steps you can take outside of your business's website to improve the visibility and ranking of your company in search engines. One method is link building, which is where other websites link back to your company website.
Guest blogging is a primary example of an off-page SEO action, wherein you reach out to other webmasters and ask them to publish content you created on their blogs. Submitting content to article directories and posting to social media are other off-page optimization strategies.
3. White hat SEO
Google and other search engines have set rules and conditions that all websites hoping to rise in search rankings have to follow. White hat SEO refers to optimization practices that comply with these rules.
Creating original and high-quality content, making your website easy to navigate, boosting the load speeds of your pages, and anything that will improve the user experience (UX) are some white hat SEO practices that help you create a website and business that's ethical and sustainably successful.
4. Black hat SEO
Any technique to improve search rankings that violates the rules and conditions set by the search engines falls under black hat SEO. Getting caught – and you will be caught – can ban your website from Google and other search engines.
These are some of the many black hat SEO tactics that can tank your website:
- Keyword stuffing, which is squeezing as many SEO keywords onto a page as physically possible
- Duplicate content, which is essentially copying and posting a substantial amount of content from another website
- Irrelevant keywords
- Clickbait, usually in the form of a deceptive headline that pulls users into a website only to show them uninteresting or unrelated content
- Link buying, where you pay another webmaster to publish a backlink to your site
5. Content quality
You've probably heard the phrase "content is king" a million times, but it remains true. In the early days of SEO, many in the optimization business didn't bother providing quality content. That isn't to say no websites provided quality content; many sites did, but they didn't occupy higher rankings on SERPs.
Before its earth-shaking algorithm updates, Google gave prime ranking to websites that were stuffed with keywords but had garbage for content. It wasn't uncommon for sites to have nothing but keywords for content stay at the top of the SERPs. Websites that actually offered engaging and useful content but didn't have much in the way of keyword density often found themselves occupying much lower search rankings.
That's ancient history now, thanks to the significant and continuous changes Google has been making to its algorithm since the early 2000s. Panda, Penguin and all the other updates have restored content to its throne. Today, quality content is one of the top Google ranking factors, and webmasters would do well to give their audience that.
So what types of content should you provide your website users to improve your SEO? Here are some suggestions:
People scour the internet for solutions every day in search of solutions to problems. How-to articles covering specific topics relevant to your industry or niche serve that need, which is something that Google will undoubtedly notice. Are there articles you could write about common questions or problems relating to the products or services you provide consumers?
Authoritative blog posts
Assuming your website has a blog, authoritative posts can position your business as an authority within your niche. Relevant industry news and opinion pieces about developments within your industry qualify as quality content.
People enjoy well-conceived, well-written, engaging and relevant lists. They are likely to be shared, which is always good for your SEO.
An article about a certain topic is good, but an infographic covering the same subject tends to be easier to digest for many people. It is also more visually engaging and more likely to be shared.
Aside from being more engaging than infographics, videos are poised to account for 82% of all web traffic by 2022.
6. Mobile optimization
Mobile is the future, and that future is here. About 70% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones. As of April 2019, nearly 4 billion people are unique mobile internet users. This data alone should convince entrepreneurs to have a mobile version of their website.
One more thing to consider is that Google now bases websites' rankings and search listings on whether a mobile version exists. That is a clear indication that Google, the biggest search engine, wants websites to go mobile.
Of course, the best way to go mobile is to work with a web designer to make your site responsive. With a responsive web design, your website should display perfectly on smartphones, tablets and all mobile devices.
7. Long-term SEO
There is no such thing as instant SEO results. You cannot expect your site to rank high in search results immediately after optimizing it. Even the best optimized websites take four to six months to achieve any results, and the first results aren't earth-shattering.
SEO results improve over time. With a consistent SEO campaign, you will reach your optimization goals. However, once you get there, don't ignore SEO work. You have competitors, and they will stop at nothing to pull the rug out from under you and get that top ranking for themselves. SEO work is never done.
SEO is a very young field, and it will continue to evolve. Learn what you can about SEO, and keep abreast of future developments.