(aka How to Rank in Google)
Chances are, you’ve at least heard those three letters strung together. Now, let’s start with breaking apart those letters: What does SEO stand for?
SEO is an acronym, and the letters stand for Search Engine Optimization.
They may as well drop the S and the E, add a G, and call it GO, because almost always, the search engine in question is Google. And the #1 thing every business owner wants is to be at the top of that elusive first page. It’s not always easy or possible, but it’s not rocket science, either.
The number one thing that affects where you rank is your content. Isn’t that great news?! But there are a few other factors that Google takes into consideration as well, and when you mix them all together in the pot, and someone types in the magic search words, you come up with your ranking. Let’s take a closer look at some of the other factors and dispel the magic of Google once and for all.
What’s Important to Google
- New Content
- Social Media
- Inbound links
- Geographic location
You already know that your content is everything on your site. Google can even “read” images – that’s why alt tags and file titles are so important for images. If you need a refresher, flip back to Part 1: Chapter 2: What is Web Content?
Google gives you a thumbs up if you have new content when the Google bot comes around to visit your site. That’s why so many experts claim it’s ESSENTIAL to have a blog. Blogs to help you rank in Google with new content – but they are not essential. New content can simply be updating your home page on a rotating basis, or adding articles about what you do best.
Social media is new content, all the time – just not directly on your site. Because it is new, updated often, and encourages interaction between people and content (the whole point of the web!), social profiles that you connect with your business rank high in Google – sometimes before your actual website!
An inbound link is a link to your website from another website. Google wants to know that you are credible. How would a computer know whether content is credible? By following the lead of what humans already think is credible!
Inbound links, as links from someone else’s site to yours, are essentially votes of confidence from other humans that you have good information, good services, or good products. Google gives you a check plus for inbound links from good sources. It’s pretty easy for you to tell if a website is spam, and the Google bots have gotten good at that too, so you don’t get any extra juice from sharing links on spammy sites.
If you have a brick and mortar business, you must have your store/shop/restaurant/bar/bakery set up on Google Places. Once you’re on the map with Google, anyone searching for you or what you sell from a device that has GPS location services enabled will see you pop up in local results over non-local results, giving you an easy boost for the people who are close to you.
How long you’ve been around counts! If you’ve been on the web only a few months, days, or weeks, it will be harder to find yourself in Google. It takes time for the Google bots to find your site and scan it.
The number of people who visit your site also count! Sadly, the web is still a bit of a popularity contest. When Google sees large numbers of visitors who visit at least two pages, you get another boost – following the logic that if so many people find value in what you have to say/sell, then there must be value in it.
The SEO Page Framework
Now that you know a little more about the specifics of how you end up where you do in any given Google search, let’s take a look at what Google looks at on a page in order to determine what that page is about. I find that this list is an excellent place to start writing for any particular page and suggest using it as you would an outline.
SEO Page Framework
- Meta Description
- Page Title & H1
- Menu/Nav Bar Links
- Internal Links
- External Links
- Call to Action
Let’s take a closer look at each piece in this puzzle.
Confusingly enough, a keyword is not just one word – it’s often a phrase. Each page can really only rank for one keyword at a time – so choose wisely. If you’re a WordPress user, checkout the WordPress SEO plugin by YOAST.
Google is smart! Don’t just vomit your keyword everywhere! Swap some out for synonyms instead. This improves readability.
The meta description is the first 150-160 characters that shows up in Google when someone searches for something your page matches. I like to consider this a summary of the page – it should hit the pertinent points and make your VBV want to click to read more. Your meta description hould contain your keyword.
Page Title & Heading 1
You know what a Page Title is (right! The title of your page.) Heading 1 (or H1), you might not be familiar with. Let’s take a detour into code land for a moment:
The structure of the text on any webpage is controlled by HTML (which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language). H1 is part of the HTML structure. It acts as a signifier, and you’ll often hear it called a tag. It’s a little bit of code that looks like this
<h1>YOUR H1 TEXT HERE</h1>
And it basically tells Google, “This is what this page is all about.” There are 6 H tags, H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 & H6. They descend in importance. The H1 tag should only be used ONCE on every page, but feel free to repeat the others.
In some cases, your Page Title can be your H1. I prefer to keep the Page Title separate from the H1, and I suggest you do too. Keep your Page Title short and succinct: About. Then use your H1 as a true heading and make sure to include your keyword, plus enough information so that your VBV knows exactly what your page is about. About Ruby Red Design Studio, which is still quite simple, gives more information than About, and will make a better H1.
The URL is the link to the page that you paste in the address bar to go directly to that page. URLs should be accurate, on the shorter side and use or include hyphens. Eliminate any short words such as “a, an, the” from your URL.
Menu / Nav bar link
This is the word (or short phrase) that your VBV clicks on in the menu or nav bar to get the page. It is often only one word, sometimes two. Usually no more than three! If you’re using the short page title direction as I suggested, this link will probably be the same as the page title: About.
Internal links are links that connect one page of your site to another page of your site. Google likes to see that all of your content is related – and it helps your VBVs, too, if you link them to other content on your site from within your content, in ways that are pertinent.
Call to action
Include your call to action from the Action Path exercise so that you can direct your user where to go next.
That’s it! That’s the SEO Page Framework. Coupled with the content suggestions for each page in the next chapter, you now have, in your very hands, a very strong guide to get started writing your content! So let’s talk about that quick – the writing part.
NOW! Finally: How to Begin Writing
In the next chapter, you’ll find a full rundown of the common pages found on websites, along with the suggested content for those pages. For each page, you’ll start with the SEO Page Framework, add in content from the exercises in Part 2, and then fill in the gaps with buttercream icing… err, words. Lovely, lovely words.
6 Steps to Start (and Keep!) Writing
ONE. The blank page is your enemy. That’s why I’m going to have you start with the SEO Page Framework for each page. Fill it out and VOILA! No more blank page.
TWO. Once you’ve filled in the SEO page framework, keep writing! Get all the STUFF out of your head and onto your page.
THREE. Leave it alone. For at least a few hours, sometimes at most, 2 or 3 days. Any longer than that and you risk not coming back to it at all. Or wanting to start over completely from scratch.
FOUR. When you come back to it, make a copy.
FIVE. Then, start reading it aloud! Honestly, I pretend I’m narrating an audiobook. If it doesn’t sound good coming from the mouth of the person who wrote it, who knows all the intentions and inflections, it’s not going to read well for anyone else either.
SIX. As you read, edit yourself! Don’t worry about getting rid of anything “good.” That’s why you made the copy! You can go back to the old stuff anytime and grab something you might have deleted.
Next Up: Common Pages and What Goes on Them
Alright, hop to it! We’ll get started with your Home page.