7 Best Practices to SEO Like a Pro

When prospects search for products like yours, do they find you or your competitors? Getting to the top of the search engine rankings seems like an impossible task to many marketing managers. But it's neither complicated nor expensive. It does require a lot of effort and a little know-how, and maybe some help from a good web content management tool to automate some of the more time-consuming tasks.

Here are seven SEO best practices to follow to getting to the top of the search results.

  1. Do your keyword research. You can't know how to optimize search engine results unless you know what search words are most popular and most likely to be used by the consumers you are trying to reach. Start researching these keywords using the Google keyword research tool to get a list of the most-used words that relate to your product category. You can also find out what keywords people use to find your site.

  2. Create focused and unique content. Content is king and critical to improving search engine ranking. Not just any content will do though. Your content should be high quality and contain valuable and useful information from which your readers can learn. Developing fresh and relevant content on a regular basis is not always easy. By taking an integrated and team approach to content development, not only will you be able to generate fresh content on a regular basis, but you will also be giving your internal team an opportunity to share their thought leadership. Expanding your content development team to customers and partners is also a great way to generate new content and build stronger relationships. Just make sure to avoid overusing too many keywords or copying content from other sites. Search engines are programmed to look for patterns that indicate cheating. On the other hand, you do want to optimize each page to get the best ranking it deserves. Usually including two to four good keywords in the page, repeated a few times each, is a good goal, depending on the amount of copy.

  3. Know your tags. HTML code includes several types of content tags. The important ones for SEO are the title tag, meta description tags, meta keyword tags, alt tags for images and your H1 and H2 tags. They all help to tell the search engines the focus of the content so they'll be noticed and indexed correctly. Some content management applications automatically generate tags for you. LightCMS, for instance, generates title tags and some header tags. The title tags should reflect the main focus of your content and include the most important keywords.

  4. Leverage software tools. You can't tell how effective your SEO strategy is unless you are monitoring traffic. Google Analytics is a good free tool for checking performance, traffic volume, keywords used, and the loading speed of pages. Many web content management systems (CMS) such as LightCMS also have analytics capabilities and/or integration with Google Analytics. Web CMS applications can also automate a lot of tasks, such as generating URLs and meta tags. Another set of tools provided by both Google and Bing is Webmaster Tools. This is where you submit site maps, learn which keywords bring in the most people, find ways to optimize your site, get alerts to problems with your site, and other useful things.

  5. Consider architecture. Site architecture is another important factor in SEO. Basic considerations include having a clearly worded URL structure with descriptive keywords as well as a clean navigation structure. Page load time or how fast your page loads is increasingly becoming a priority, so make sure that the pages on your site have clean code that’s optimized for loading. The size of images and videos should also be considered when building a site. These factors all contribute to page load time. Once your site is done, make sure you have an XML site map and submit it to Google and Bing using Webmaster Tools. Just as an HTML site map tells people what is on a website, the XML site map informs search engines. If you use a web CMS like LightCMS, the sitemaps are created automatically.

  6. Keep to a schedule. SEO isn't a one-shot promotion. You aren't aiming for three weeks at the top, followed by a gradual drop to the bottom. The goal of SEO is to create a sustainably high ranking. That requires consistently updating your site and sticking with a schedule that web crawlers can come to anticipate. If you don't update content for weeks, the crawlers will learn not to check for new content very often. If you update every Tuesday, eventually crawlers will learn to come every Tuesday to update your listing.

  7. Become a trusted source. The best way to be visible on search engines is to become a trusted source of information. That means providing content not just about your products but content to educate your readers about related issues. This is important because customers often start out as curious researchers. Someone who sees a person paddle boarding might be motivated to search on "water sport using board and paddle," and if he likes what he finds, he might next look for "how to paddle board" and eventually "buy paddle board."

The most sophisticated SEO strategy is to become an integral source of information for everyone — the curious as well as prospects and returning customers. The more useful and up to date content you provide, and the better organized and labeled it is, the more often your company will float to the top of search engine results.

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