Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short is a key component to getting your website to rank well. In today's article we are going to cover the bare minimum to rank well on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These are predominantly the three most used search engines and feed many of the smaller search engines on the Internet. This will not be a complete guide to what we do for our clients under our monthly maintenance contracts but for those not wanting a maintenance contract, with another company, or would like additional knowledge regarding your SEO this guide is for you.
It would do us well to understand the basics of what you will need when starting SEO. The first step in the process is to review your site content and overall structure that it is complete, you have no broken links, and is designed for a human and not trying to manipulate the search engines to your specific business. Quality content will get the search engines to like you and rank you better.
META tags are pieces of information that a user doesn't see. This information tells the search engines what you feel the description, keywords, and other information should be. Not as widely used as in the past. The search engines have at their discretion to use your META information or to create their own. Google uses their interpretation the majority of the time while Yahoo, Bing and others will put more weight onto your META information.
There are two types of site maps. You have the user readable and understandable site map known as an HTML site map. The other is a more cryptic site map known as an XML site map. In the perfect world you will have both of these. In the not-so-perfect world you will have just one. In no world should you ever have none. According to Google if you do have to choose the HTML site map is the better of the two. This doesn't mean that the XML site map is bad at all. Google sides on the side of usability and an HTML site map is something a human will understand more than an XML site map and holds great weight with it.
Core Items to think about
When it comes to the search engines they are getting really smart. They look at your content, your images, your color scheme, handicap status (can you handle people that are blind, partially blind, color blindness, and other handicaps), mobile friendliness, security (SSL ranks better than non-SSL sites), and page load time to just name a few.
Be Afraid. Be VERY Afraid.
If you talk with any company that guarantees a #1 position on any search ranking or even any ranking at all. The only item any SEO company can do is do the best "white hat" and best practice techniques to get your site indexed. The company you work with should be very open and honest about what your results are going to be. This is one reason we have "no lying" as our "Rule #1" as we want to be transparent, honest, upfront, and direct with you.
Data analytics for a website will show you who is visiting your site, how often they come back, the device type (desktop, tablet, or mobile), screen sizes, screen resolutions, and more. There are many tools that can do data analytics on your website and we've used over a dozen in the past. The one we encourage everyone is to use Google Analytics. The price is right; free. You can have multiple administrators and share the information with SEO companies, like JM2 Webdesigners in Northwest Indiana, and it is easy-to-use. You will need a Google account to use and you will find the next step of SEO and Google will also need this account. You can install the Google Analytics by going to www.google.com/analytics, creating your account, and adding a small piece of code to the bottom of every page of your website.
SEO and Google
For Google you will first need a Google account. Ideally you will also create a Google+ page letting Google know more about your business. You will also go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and add your site to the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). Now you can submit your site to the search engine and it will start being indexed. One item to note as well if your business has a physical address, and many do, to make certain Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps) knows who you are.
SEO and Yahoo!
With Yahoo! the submission process is very easy compared to the other search engines. You will go to Microsoft's Bing webmaster tools. Wait, what? Bing you say? That's right. Yahoo no longer really crawls the entire internet. They utilize the technology of Bing for many aspects of what you find on them.
SEO and Bing
Bing, like Google, requires you to login and use a Microsoft account. You can get to the Bing Webmaster Tools at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster. Once logged in you will create your site and do like you did with Google and put in some hidden text in your page to verify ownership of your site. Bing Places is one area you also need to setup. This is similar to the Google Maps but controlled by Microsoft for their search engine and the search engines they power.
What are these Webmaster tools?
You'll notice that both Bing and Google have Webmaster tools. But what are they? These will help you meet the current industry best practices, show broken links, security vulnerabilities, test mobile friendliness, and more.
How often to submit
At a minimum we always encourage people to do what we do. We go into the results at a minimum of monthly. Look at your analytics. What keywords are being targeted, what pages are being visited (go deeper with heat maps to see where they are clicking and looking on your site), and how many pages are indexed. Are pages not being indexed but you feel they should be? If so, there could be something blocking the page. Items that could be blocking are having a file that says don't index this page or even the page itself saying to not index a page.
With some time and effort, you can be on each major search engine and found. To start with anticipate 4-8 hours to go through all of the above. From there budget 1-2 hours per month at a minimum to go over the reports, update any search engines (at least the top three), and verify the information on your site is current and still relevant to what you are doing.
We know your primary focus is running your business and not sitting your website. This is where JM2 Webdesigners from Valparaiso (Valpo) Indiana can assist. We have low cost monthly maintenance plans that all have SEO at their core, unlimited website updates, SSL to help you on the search engines, professional head shots to take your team photos to that next level, web hosting is included (if you're with us), and a lot more. You are experts in your business and you can let us stay and be the experts at what we do (helping your business be found online). You can reach us at , email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us on our online form here.