Building Organic Traffic: The Basics of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website rank highly in search engines such as Google, and a basic knowledge of SEO is important for everyone who runs a website. Even if someone else is doing your writing for you, it still helps if you know a little yourself.

Optimize Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases people type into search engine boxes to look for information on the internet, and choosing the right keywords is an important first step in optimizing your site. To select the right keywords, avoid being too general, and focus on the niche your website is serving. Do not use a single word, because most searches use 3-5 related words.

The first thing to be clear on is exactly what your niche is and what your potential customers are looking for. Take the example of a website of a graphic designer in Boston. Using the keyword “graphics designer” is too general, but “graphics designer Boston” would produce better results. If you already have customers, ask them how they found you.

When you have chosen your keywords do a Google search using them and see how many hits you get. The resulting hits are the number of competitors you have to beat to get to the top of the list. There are a number of tools, such as the Google Keyword Tool, and Overture that can help you find the best keywords. Optimize every page on your site for different keyword phrases, each consisting of two or three well-targeted keywords.

The keywords should be sprinkled through the page, but not to the point that it loses its readability. Keyword density is the percentage of optimized keywords to the rest of the text. Most SEO gurus suggest aiming for 7-10 percent for each page. Structure your site so that every page is built around one main keyword phrase plus a few related phrases.

Optimize URL and Titles

The next thing to look at is your domain name and make sure it contains keywords. For example, graphicsdesigners.com will be ranked lower than graphics-designers-boston.com for the same keywords. If it’s too late because the domain is already registered, make sure the keywords are in the title for each page, and also make sure the title tag of each page is descriptive, accurate, and has the keywords near the beginning.

Headings

Headings with the < h1 > tag are less important than they used to be, but Google still sees h1 tagged text as more important than the rest of the text on the page.

Optimize Links

Your web pages will rank higher in the search engines if they have a lot of backlinks, which are links back to your pages from other websites. Growing a list of backlinks takes time, but you can submit your website to directories to speed up the process, and you can also email relevant websites and request backlinks or partnership links.

As well as backlinks, make sure your website has sitewide links to your most important pages, and that each page has at least one link to it from another page.

Write Something Worth Reading

This is last on the list, but actually is the most important. You can use the best keywords and set up your site with lots of links, use perfect keyword density, great title tags and all the rest, but if there is nothing worth reading your visitors will leave and never return. Almost as important is to keep the content fresh, so returning visitors have something new and useful to read each time.

There is much more to learn about SEO, and this area is constantly evolving, so it pays to continue your research and keep up with the latest trends and changes. It also requires patience, as rising to the top of search engine rankings takes time.

There are also reputable SEO companies that can help — but beware of the many scammers who offer to guarantee top listings on Google. No reputable firm would make such a claim.