TimetostartNo matter what industry you’re in, standing out from your competitors can be difficult. This is especially true in the realm of digital content creation, where you might have hundreds or thousands of competitors. This is the very reason we use the best practice concepts of search engine optimization – to, hopefully – pad the deck in our favor.

It’s an ongoing process. It’s a fast-paced process, and it requires diligent monitoring of current “best practices.” In other words, there’s a very fine line between optimizing for search engines and optimizing so much that you get penalized or, even worse, chase your visitors away.

General rule of thumb:
SEO is a gentle art, not a full-contact sport. If you find yourself thinking words like, “cram”, “stuff”, or other violent words in respects to what you’re doing with keywords, for instance, you’re doing it wrong. Finesse, people; finesse!

The Struggle is RealKeyword Research

The focal point of search engine optimization revolves around key terms. In fact, marketing has been using key terms since day one; way before online marketing was cool. You can still see it in the T.V. ads of today, where you hear the same phrase mentioned three times (3 is a magic marketing number – more on that in another blog post, so stay tuned!).

Now, information about keyword research may use a bunch of fancy lingo, but it’s really pretty basic (although difficult to get right). The point of keyword research is simply to find out what people are using to search for your products or services. Once you’ve found out what those terms are (for example, what you searched to come across this blog post), you can then use that information to change or tweak your content focus for more favorable results.

General rule of thumb:
Use a single key term per page. In other words, don’t try to optimize a page for five key terms. If you do, you basically end up trying to split your content four/five ways. This ends up creating a non-focused page, rather than the optimized page you were going for. If you have more than one term you want to focus on, create another page for the second term. If the two pages are related, link to each other.

jaguarUnderstanding Search Behavior

Why are your visitors searching for the terms you’re looking at? One of my favorite examples to point out what I’m trying to get to is the term “jaguar.” If you were to search for “Jaguar,” how is the search engine supposed to tell the difference between “Jaguar,” the car, and “jaguar,” the cat?
The same question can be asked about search engines ranking your pages. How are they supposed to know which “jaguar” your page is talking about?

Context is key. When you’re creating SEO content, make sure that you haven’t let out information that will help make it clear what your page is about.

General rule of thumb:
Use your key term in the title of the page, and at least twice in the body of the page. Make sure to use supporting terms, such as “car” or “cat” from the example above. Use these supporting terms in secondary or tertiary headings.

However, make sure that the actual writing is visitor, not search engine, friendly. Don’t “stuff” your terms in there; make it marketable!


Utilizing Meta Descriptions and Title Tags

I tire of people telling me that Meta descriptions are now useless because search engines don’t use them anymore. To these people, I have to say, “Really? Then you haven’t been paying attention.”

Title tags and Meta descriptions go into making your search snippets. This is precious real estate, people. Why? Because this is your first handshake with your audience, and you don’t want it to be a dead fish handshake.

Don’t leave these spots blank. If you do, the search engines will uses whatever they “feel” is relevant to the search, rather than a carefully worded piece of marketing.

General rule of thumb:
Use your pages’ targeted key term early on in the title and the Meta description. However, again, make sure that it’s used carefully, as you are basically creating an online ad for the page.


Utilizing Internal and Outbound Links

There have been many big discussions about “linking out” throughout the years. Should you? Shouldn’t you?

I’m a strong believer in community building and being supportive of my fellow business owners. From a community standpoint, I strongly recommend linking out to other websites. From an SEO standpoint… well, I still recommend linking out.

The key is to link to relevant, helpful, quality content. Those are the three magic words, whether the link is to a page on your own site or a page on someone else’s. When you’re writing an article and you want to share a link, ask yourself:

  • Is the link relevant to what I’m writing about?
  • Is it helpful to the reader if they follow this link? Will it improve their understand of the topic?
  • Is it a quality link? Does it read well, is it laid out well?

If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions, don’t link out.

General rule of thumb:
Don’t add a link just to have a link. Make sure there is a reason for the link, beyond optimization.

The Wrap-Up

There is a lot more to creating SEO content than the above, but the four pointers above are a good start. These four, specifically, haven’t changed since the day businesses first realized Google was more than just a pretty face.

Over time, if you consistently, proactively utilize the above, you can improve your rankings. Just remember while you’re optimizing your content that you do so for search engines and for visitors.