Often when people think about SEO, they think they are optimizing their content for a robot. They try to strike a balance between being Google friendly and being user friendly.
The truth is that what search engines want is for content to be fantastic for users. Web users are their customers, too, and they want to please them. So when thinking about SEO, think about users, how they might find you and what they want and need from you. If you do that, the search engines will love you.
Plus, you can’t embrace your users online until they find you! So here’s a few specific tips to optimize for search:
- Keywords: Think about what you’re writing about and make sure you use very clear, specific words in your headline and the first 1-2 sentences of your content plus throughout. Keep in mind your users. What will they be searching for when they are on the web? If you’re a hot wings restaurant in Chicago, for example, you should use the keywords “wings,” “restaurant,” “Chicago,” “buffalo wings” and other search-friendly words prominently and frequently.
- Link, link, link: Links are an important part of what search-engines are looking for, and they’re good for users, too! Link to your past content on related topics to create a strong internal experience and keep people engaged with your site. Link to outside content that would be useful to your readers to show you support their experience above all else and that you engage with the web ecosystem. Also, place your link over the words that best show what you are sending the reader to. For example, here’s an article about SEO for small businesses. Do you see what I did there? My link is placed directly over the words that describe the article.
- Get others to link to you: Inbound links are extremely important for SEO. They show that other people and organizations value and trust your content enough to link to it. It’s especially helpful when sites with strong traffic link to you. Any sites with .gov or .org in the domain are viewed especially important by search engines and will aid in helping your content rise in search rankings. Whenever you have a connection with another site, talk to them. Ask them to link to you in exchange for linking to them. Explain the benefit to both parties and support each other in the web ecosystem.
- Think about photos: Most search engines (cough, Google, cough) index photos separately. So when you put photos on your content, think about search-friendliness. Name the photo file, which is captured. Write a good caption. This will help users put your photos in context and will enhance your SEO!
- Be an expert: When you create lots of content around a specific content, search engines and your users say, “Hey! They’re a real expert on that topic.” That’s fantastic for SEO. So break up one piece of content into multiple pieces and link them all to each other. Voila! Expertise established.
- Be recent: Being fresh and relevant is very important on search! Keep your content up to date as often as you can. If you can embed something that will be continually updating, like a Twitter stream or a Storify, all the better!
- Have a history: Your old content is just as important as your new content. Keep your content lived and archived. Link back to posts from the past, especially if they were well-trafficked. Even on the web, it’s true that time establishes credibility!
- Be credible: Be what you say you are. Always. Send people to good web pages, internally and externally. Be correct. Use good grammar and spell things correctly. Seriously. It matters.
- Be shareable: How often content is shared socially is becoming more and more intertwined with how it is ranked in search. If you have content that inspires your users to share it on their social networks, everyone benefits! Don’t forget to share it on your own social pages, too. Viral posts have to start somewhere.
- Let Google help you: Google Trends is a great site to look at what’s trending and to analyze keywords. Checking out this site helps you think like a user! But don’t create content SOLELY for matching up to search trends. Being credible is more important in the long run than a quick win. You want your users to come back again and again!