Are you still delaying that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) project on your website for some reason? The majority of most websites’ traffic comes from search engines. Can you really afford NOT to optimize your website to attract more search traffic?
SEO can easily be done on most websites in a matter of a few weeks. It involves 5 critical steps — none of which are rocket science, all of which are easy to understand, and most of which should be entirely transparent to you.
Here’s how to SEO (or optimize) a website in 5 basic steps:
1. Keyword Research to Identify What Your Audience Searches For
Every SEO project should start here. Discover 3 things:
- Which keywords are visitors to your website searching for? Your website analytics (including Google Analytics) will tell you this.
- Which keywords have a reasonable level of search volume, ideally with a lower level of competition? Go page by page on your website, identifying potential keywords for each page. Google has several free tools to help you focus your web pages on those keywords that searchers are actually typing into Google.
- Which keyword searches don’t yield a lot of page one choices for what you’re offering? Just typing in some keywords on Google.com might show you some keyword phrases that don’t really pull up websites offering what searchers are likely looking for — hence, opportunity for you!
2. Optimize your Website Page URLs.
Select 1 or 2 keyword phrases to focus each page of your website around. For each page, create a new page URL that incorporates the most important keyword phrase for that page. Separate all words in the page URL with hyphens, and try to keep the page URL to 3 to 5 words.
For example, you’ll notice the page URL of this post is “how-to-SEO-optimize-website”
3. Create 301 Permanent Redirects from Old or Duplicate Web Pages.
This is a CRITICAL step! Google does not like duplicate content. Create a spreadsheet listing all old page URLs you’ll no longer use, and any other page URLs that contain duplicate content. For each old or duplicate page URL, identify the new page URL to which you wish to permanently redirect traffic from that old or duplicate page.
Have your programmer create these 301 Permanent Redirects. Using a 301 will also preserve the value of any incoming links to those old pages –but only when your programmer creates a 301 permanent redirect page by page (rather than merely redirecting an entire domain name).
4. Optimize Page Title, Meta Description, H1 Headline, H2 Subheads, and Body Text
You’ve selected 1 or 2 keyword phrases with which to focus each page of your website. Here’s how to optimize each website page:
- Place your primary keyword phrase early in your Page Title and Meta Description. Your programmer can easily implement this for you, or you may be able to do this if your website has a Content Management System (CMS).
- Incorporate your primary keyword phrase early in your main (H1) headline on each page. Have you programmer code one main headline on each page as an “h1″ headline. Incorporate your keyword phrases early in subheads on the page. Have your programmer code your subheads as “h2.”
- Incorporate your primary keyword early in your first sentence, and a few additional times throughout the page, including in the last sentence on the page.
5. Create Links between your Individual Web Pages
Create links within your copy to related web pages. Be sure the link appears on appropriate “anchor text” that contains keywords for the page you’re linking to. For example, we recently finished a website makeover that incorporates SEO and social media. Note that link is on the actual words, rather than “click here.”
Are there additional elements of SEO to optimize a website beyond these basics? Yes.
- Incorporate keywords into the file name and alternate (alt) text of each image on your website (a task that’s easier to implement as you create new pages and add new images).
- Ask your programmer to 301 redirect your http://yourdomainname.com to www.yourdomainname.com and place a canonical tag on your www.yourdomainname.com.
Finally, develop content that will attract quality inbound links — the next critical piece of the SEO puzzle.
Are there other SEO elements that you consider to be basic steps to optimize a website?