For all too many website owners the concept of SEO or Search Engine Optimization involves adding a description and some key words to their page and waiting for it to appear on the big search engines. While this approach may mean that you can find your own site on Google/Bing/etc, it often doesn’t mean that your intended audience can do so. Let’s face it, it’s easy to make sure your own site is on Google by searching for a very specific term that you know will bring up your page and [hopefully] little else. I know I’ve looked for my own sites that way in the past as has nearly everyone who has made a website. It has it’s purpose, but does little for getting your content into the hands of your audience.
So how do you know your audience is the one finding your site? How do you know that your work is getting into the hands of your readers or customers? Here are a few tips to help you make sure your site will make it to the top of the searches your audience is looking for.
Content Is Still King
There is no beating around the bush on this one. The content you write matters. Copying works from others might bring you some initial hits, but search engines will quickly catch on. In addition, writing a lot of weak content just for the sake of getting words on the web won’t help you either. Both of these practices could brand your site as a content farm leading to Google and others stopping to show your links. See this article for more.
Nobody Likes A Slow-Poke
Have you ever just surfed away from a slow site? You’re not along. There are numerous articles out there on just how important site performance is to Search Engine Optimization. Google has even gone as far as including site performance in it’s ranking algorithm.
So how do you speed up your site? The answer varies with your own configuration but in general caching, optimization of images and code, and using services such as a Content Delivery Network are a good place to start.
Of course you need to know where your site stands before you can start optimizing. Find out how fast your site is at http://www.webpagetest.org/
Who’s Linking To You?
The amount and quality of sites linking to you have been a large part of search engine rankings since the beginning of Google. For most small site owners this is also one of the more overlooked aspects of SEO. Simply put you need to build links to your site from other quality sites around the web.
So how do you do this? For a new site or blog you need to spend as much time commenting and adding to other sites as possible. For every 2 hours you spend developing content for your site you should be spending at least 1 hour adding content to others. Comment on other blog articles, write guest posts, contribute to forums, etc. The options for writing external content are endless but just as with your own content you need to make sure what you write on someone else’s site is just as good as what you write on your own.
Search Engines Won’t Find What They Don’t Know About
So you’ve been commenting on other sites, made sure your site could win any speed race, and have content that would make Hemingway proud. What’s next? Like all good marketers you now need to market your site to the search engines themselves.
Take a few minutes to tell the Search engines about your site by creating a sitemap and submitting it, at a minimum, to Google and Bing. Then, make sure your site notifies or “pings” the search engines when you have new content. For bloggers and site owners using WordPress one of the easiest ways to do this is with the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. It will generate your sitemap and ping all of the major search engines every time you add new content (as well as complete quite a few other helpful SEO tasks).
Directories Are Your Friends
Search engines aren’t the only place people go for content. Especially for blogs many will use specialized directories such as Technorati and Networked Blogs. Register your site at these and as many other blog directories as you can. This will provide you links back to your site as well as direct traffic as your site grows within the directory itself (most of the blog directories rank blogs for content and popularity). In addition, if your site covers a niche market, make sure your listed on any directories of sites specific to the market you serve. There are usually specialized directories or specialized categories within larger directories for all but the very smallest of niches.
An Object In Motion Should Stay In Motion…
Finally, Just because your site has grown and you’re showing up in searches and directories doesn’t mean that you can quit. You must constantly monitor the effectiveness of your SEO and tweak your techniques to keep you at the top of your game. Stale content will get quickly covered up and failure to list your site in the next big directory or social network, etc could cost you traffic and the ever coveted Google ranking you’ve worked so hard to attain.