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February 3, 2021

Basic SEO tips

SEO for content writing
Understanding SEO is easy when you know how to optimize your web page so that search engines like Google can read your content and increase your website ranking.
Reading time ~ 7 minutes

What is SEO in business?

If you don’t already know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Put in simple terms, when someone says SEO they are usually referring to creating content that Google will show first. Most businesses have a website and want Google to direct potential customers to their website. So SEO in business is all about making it easy for Google. 

There is not a magic formula for getting Google to display your content first. But there are tried and true techniques that will improve your search engine ranking, and if done really well can land you on the first page of a Google search.  

Why optimize for Google? 

Even though there are other search engines around, Google handles 3.5 billion (3,500,000,000) a day which is over 40,000 searches a second! That’s nuts, right? And if you create your content for Google, you will also do well in all the other search engines, too.

Providing valuable, relevant (to the search term) content is one aspect of Google search engine ranking and we’ll discuss how to create content in Part 2. But before you even begin delving into content creation, it’s important to understand the basics of SEO.

Is SEO easy to learn?

Yes, and you already know the first step which is understanding why SEO is important (hint: ranking high in Google searches). The next three steps are:

  • Understanding On-Page SEO
  • Creating content for SEO
  • Content planning

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is about optimizing the structural tags of the content on the page. If that’s too confusing, then put even more simply On-Page SEO is about making it easy for Google to read and categorize the content by providing easy (for the computers) to read code.

If you think about how Google search works, someone types something into a search bar then Google displays the pages related to that content. In order to show the content that is the most beneficial, Google needs some way to categorize and rank each website. That’s where algorithms come in.

What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is a set of step-by-step instructions (similar to a recipe) that perform a specific task. An algorithm can be as simple as adding two numbers together or complicated instructions that use logic. 

Computer logic isn’t the same as human logic. Unlike humans, a computer does not have the capacity to look at a page and evaluate what is important or not. Any logic that a computer has is because a human programmed it. Even the most amazing AI (artificial intelligence) begins with a human creating the code to evaluate the data.

So it is your job, as the website owner, to have a well structured page that the Google algorithm can use. Elements such as title tags, headings, and alternative text on images is important for the algorithm to know how to rank your webpage.

Which elements should be optimized for on-page SEO?

Optimize your title tag to draw in your potential client

The title tag is part of the meta information (the information that is hidden on the page from humans but computers read it). It is one of the first things found in the <head> section of the webpage and it is structured like this:

<title>This is the awesome title of the webpage | Company</title>

While the title tag used to be the best indicator of content for Google, it isn’t anymore but it is probably the most important part of your page when it comes to whether someone will click. The title is what is shown in the tab in the browser, but more importantly it is shown in previews.

If you wanted to help people to understand SEO (like in this article) would the title “SEO” help people to click through to your website? Probably not, but having a descriptive title such as “Basic SEO Tips you can easily implement” would tell your readers what the page is about. 

It’s also worth noting that Google only displays approximately 50-60 characters of the title so short, concise titles that are descriptive perform the best. In addition, the display is based on pixel width not characters (hence the 50-60 character estimate) so use capitalized letters sparingly as they take up value space in the title preview.

While it is an important part of your overall SEO strategy, it isn’t highly valued by Google. Many people created titles that were not relevant to the content but were instead full of words that they thought people would search for so Google updated their algorithm to not value the title tag. In fact, you will lose ranking if your title does not match your content.

Not having a title or having it properly formatted will hurt your ranking. Remember the Google algorithm is following specific instructions and part of those instructions includes reading the title so it can be displayed in previews.

Takeaway: Write a short, concise descriptive title for your clients

Take time to create a compelling description

After a web searcher is drawn in by your title, the next thing they will do is read the description. Descriptions have and always will (well, at least for the foreseeable future) be a key component in effective SEO.

Google has stated that descriptions don’t play a part in ranking, but they do indirectly because the more people that click on your link and read the content, the more Google will display your content.

The description is sometimes the first time a potential customer is getting to know you. Letting your brand voice shine through in your descriptions will help you. It’s easy to overlook this step but a well written description can make a big difference in your bottom line.

Takeaway: Use enticing language that explains the content of the page in your description

Use headings with keywords

Header tags are elements on a page that help the algorithm understand the structure of the page. They are tags (an html code block that tells the browser how to display the content) with the letter “H” and then the number indicating the order.

<h1>Content is King - Part 1: Basic SEO Tips</h1>

The h1 tag is the most important. It is what humans read and should indicate what the page is about and Google expects it to explain the content on the page. There should only be one H1 per page and it should be unique (otherwise how does Google know which page is the best one for that title?).

Subsequent headings would follow. You can see the headings used in this page in the Table of Contents block. The heading tags provide an outline of the document and that is how Google uses them. Oftentimes, people will use heading tags out of order because they like the styling of them but this will hurt your ranking. The algorithm follows a set of instructions which expects there to be only one h1 tag, followed by h2, then h3, and so on. 

Headings should make sense to your reader but to help your ranking, they should also include keywords. We will discuss keywords (how to find them and use them) in Part 2.

One thing to keep in mind is that the algorithms expect text to be in a heading tag. Try to stay away from using images, phone numbers, addresses, or anything else that is not explaining what the following content is. 

Takeaway: Use headings that explain the content

Don’t forget about using headlines and subheadings

If you wrote a compelling title and description and a google search user clicks on your page, there is only a 20% chance that they will read your content. Readers in general prefer to scan documents for the headings and headlines first before they read (the classic F pattern if you want to get into the analytics). 

Headlines and subheadings, give the reader quick bite-sized information about the content of the page. They are visually formatted differently (bold, font-size, etc) but they do not include the h1-h6 tags so they are considered to be content on the page. 

If you forget to include a meta description, then the first line after your h1 heading will be used in the Google preview. Strive to make your headlines catch attention and if you skip the description you will still entice the reader to click through.

From an SEO perspective, having your keyword(s) in the first few sentences of your page will also help as it is a high indicator that the content on the page is related to the keyword.

Next up: How to create content that solves a problem and converts

Resources

Want to learn more about improving your SEO? You’re in luck because there are some amazing SEO resources available for free.

Read the other posts in the Content is King series

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