So you are planning on building a website to promote your business products and services. Regardless of whether you want to sell through your site, or simply provide information, you will need to understand SEO basics. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the term used when referring to where a website appears in search results like Google, Bing and Yahoo. To succeed with SEO basics one must be able to understand psychology of the average Internet user. You need to think about what’s going through the mind when someone is about to conduct a search, and how can you provide the best answer. Is this person researching the best option, or has the decision been made to purchase? The way your site is optimized will determine whether you appear on the first page, at the right time, or not.
The three key elements of SEO basics
- Sitemaps and Robots.txt
This is important – these elements MUST be considered carefully and be incorporated BEFORE you launch the site.
Choosing the correct keywords is the number one rule of SEO basics. These are the words that best describe your product or service, which are referred to as targeted terms. More often than not your targeted term will be in the form of multiple words – such as “widgets for sale”. The two types of keyword terms you need to understand are generic and “long tail”. Generic keywords like “widgets” are usually very competitive terms because all businesses in you category will want to rank for that term. You should aim to rank long tail terms such as “small widgets for sale in [location]”. These are the quickest wins for your site because:
- It’s easier to rank higher up the results; and
- the more specific the term, the better chance of a sale.
Using location specifically as part of your targeted term is a smart thing to do because it signals that a user searching by location is ready to buy. So SEO basics tip one is – start with long tail terms to begin with, and as you build a brand online the more generic terms will come into play.
Rule number two of SEO basics is to use the right tags and Metadata in the HTML code of your site. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the way your computer translates into the into the webpage that becomes rendered on your screen (transferred from a web server to your computing device via HTTP). HTML is how search engine’s view your web page (think Neo in the Matrix), so it needs to be presented in the right way. By “right clicking” on the page and selecting “view source” you will be able to view the HTML. It will look something like this…
It probably looks very confusing but for the purposes of basic SEO we are only going to focus on three areas
The title tag
There should only be one title tag on each page, which is unique and keyword rich. The title tag is considered one of the most important HTML elements on the page by search engines.
If you’re reading this you’ve probably used MS Word (or a similar program), so you should be familiar with the use of headings. For basic SEO we need to focus on only one heading – the h1 tag. The h1 tag is the main heading which helps signal the theme of a page to Google. As with the title tag, there must be only one h1 tag per page and it must be unique to all others on your site.
Meta description tag
The meta description tag is a component of metadata and is used to summarise the content on your page. More often than not search engines will use the meta description as the snippet of information that appears in search results. Your description should always include a strong call to action so that users are encouraged to click on yours over the competition, and again it must be unique Why must each tag be unique? Because if search engines see the same tag across your site it will assume each page is about the same thing and the perceived quality of your content will be diluted causing a lower ranking in the results. So SEO basics tip number two is to present a unique title, h1 heading and description for each page of your site.
Sitemaps and Robots.txt
The purpose of having a sitemap is to alert search engines to the existence of all pages on the website that you want indexed in results. There are two types of Sitemaps, both of which are an essential part of SEO basics. HTML sitemaps allow search engine web crawlers (or robots) to penetrate your site structurally, while XML sitemaps provide a list of URLs contained in your site. Both must be available to ensure your whole site is indexed On most sites there are links that shouldn’t be accessible – like password protected pages, etc. A robots.txt file is a simple file which notifies search engines parts of your site to crawl (or NOT), and should be viewed as a mandatory inclusion for all websites. So SEO basics tip number three is to attract web crawlers to only the parts of your site you want indexed by including HTML and XML sitemaps, along with a robots.txt file.
Using the right keywords, unique Meta data and web crawling mechanisms lays a solid foundation for your site. And before you decide to hire someone to build it for you make sure they understand these SEO basics.