How to Optimize a Website Like a Pro

By Jon Trobaugh, SEO Consultant

“How do I optimize my website for search engines?”

The above is by far the most common question I am asked as an SEO consultant. To those outside the industry, it appears to be a question with a straight forward answer. But in reality, SEO optimization is a never-ending process with a list of complications from here to Mars. Today, I am going to scratch the Martian surface so to speak by giving you five steps you can take to increase your site’s search performance.

Step 1: Research keywords and user Intent.

Understanding what users search for and their intent in doing so is essential to SEO optimization. If you don’t know what potential customers are typing into Google’s search box to find products and services like your own, your SEO efforts will miss the mark.

The most popular tool for keyword research is Google’s Keyword Planner. The Keyword Planner lets you research monthly keyword search volumes based on your industry, location, and product type. You want to build a list of keywords with high search volume and low competition. Depending on site size and product diversity, this list may be hundreds of keywords long.

The keywords on your list should now be added to the site’s textual content in order to help the site rank for related queries. Your site only has so much content, so optimize for business critical terms first. Do not try to optimize for more than one or two keywords on any given page.

As with most aspects of SEO, keyword research is not a “set it and forget it” task. Keyword selection should be reevaluated quarterly.

Step 2: Create wonderful content.

The quality of your site’s content goes a long way in determining its search performance. Engaging, deep content is the expectation here. Optimizing content for search engines should always come second to creating a wonderful user experience. Instead of thinking in terms of landing pages, build “resource” pages, pages that are worthwhile to users even if they do not convert on their first visit.

For SEO, you want to make sure those mission-critical keywords appear in a page’s URL, title, and headings. Image alt-tags should also include keywords where applicable. Keyword use in a site’s meta description (the slug that appears under a URL on Google’s search results pages) does not affect rank, but a strong call to action in this description will increase click-through-rate.

Step 3: Think mobile.

Google recently announced that its mobile index would become the primary index for search. This means that Google will use what it judges as the site’s mobile quality to determine ranking decisions on all devices. It behooves webmasters to make sure their site is mobile friendly. No more excuses.

Step 4: Get social.

Facebook likes, Google +1s, and retweets no longer directly affect search engine rankings, but social media offers a perfect publishing platform to drive traffic to your newly created resource pages and promote your brand.

Step 5: Monitor and adapt.

After completing steps 1 through 4, use Google Analytics or a similar tool to monitor your site’s organic performance. Key metrics here are keyword rankings, organic visits/visitors, and organic conversions. By charting changes here, you can better shape your SEO strategy and always stay one step ahead of your competition.

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