What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a term you are familiar with, but even the basic SEO principles you haven’t paid much attention to it. For one, when you check on websites specializing in SEO, you get all this technical stuff about big sounding words. You think you need an in-depth knowledge about coding websites in order to create an SEO-friendly site. But that’s far from the truth. All you need to have is some basic knowledge on what SEO actually is and how you can use it to your advantage.
The thing is, search engine optimization is not that different from just making a readable and user-friendly page. Some would even say that it is exactly that. For a website to be considered optimized, you need to know that you have two audiences, the reader who stumbles upon your website, and the search engine, who looks beyond your site’s appearance and reads the source code of your site.
There are many aspects to consider in creating an SEO-friendly website but I think these are the simplest yet often overlooked aspects of a web page.
1. Meta Title and Meta Description
Collectively known as metadata, the meta title and meta description are the first lines of text people read when searching for a keyword in a search engine. Metadata talks about what kind of information is included in your web page. The meta title or title tag tells both the reader and the search engine what the page is all about. The meta description elaborates this further by giving a more detailed insight on the topic of your content. There is no limit to how many characters you can put in your title tag and meta description. However, search engine snippets in the search results page are usually limited to 70 characters for the title tag or 156 characters for the description tag.
SEO experts state that the meta title and meta description should include the keyword that you want to optimize for. However, there is still a debate on how strongly putting keywords in these affects search engine ranking today, but you should always keep your human audience in mind when writing the metadata. The metadata should give them the relevant information that they need at a glance. Write them in a way that entices them to click on your webpage.
If you’re using WordPress or Blogger to host your content, it’s easy to input the metadata every time you create a webpage using plugins. Some even show you a snippet preview of the search results to help make sure you don’t go over the character limit.
2. Header Tags
In the HTML language that is the foundation of web pages, header tags (H1 to H6) break the content into several different and digestible sections. In a sense, they serve as the title of every section and help both the human audience and the search engine know more about that section’s content. It also arranges the content in the order of importance, with H1 (the meta title) being the most important and h6 the least.
In a sense, these header tags serve as the outline of your content and help readers have a logical flow of thought when they read your content. This would give your readers a better user experience, an important factor in search engine optimization. Header tags also provide search engines relevant terms and keywords on your content that will give them a better understanding of what type of content your web page has. The usage of header tags is also important aesthetically, as it provides cleaner and more professional-looking content.
Blogger and WordPress include an option to put header tags in your content when you write an article. It’s important that you do not skip a tag like jumping immediately to H3 after H1 when you write your content or else the structure of your web page will not be search engine friendly.
3. Image alt tags
While current technology can now classify images, it still needs a little help to actually identify the content of the image. That’s where the alt tag comes in. The image alt tag, or alternate text, is used to describe the contents of an image file. Aside from basic SEO reasons, image alt tags are used to provide text for visitors who can’t see the image. This is especially helpful to visually-impaired users who use screen readers when they browse the internet and those who have technical problems while loading an image.
Image alt tags are also helpful in helping your site rank in image search results. Search engines use the description provided in the alt tags in order to provide relevant images during image searches. Thus it is important that keywords are included in your alt text. However, be careful in creating a tag that is stuffed with keywords. If you did not actually describe the image, you might end up hurting your search engine ranking. Keep it simple and provide descriptive words in your alt tag.
If you are using WordPress, providing an alt tag is as easy as inputting it in the provided alt text section when you upload an image.
4. Internal and External Links
Links are what make the internet an actual “world wide web”. With links, you can introduce the reader to another piece of content that relates to the content that you’ve written. Internal links are links the point out to other web pages that are hosted in your own website while external links are those which lead to web pages outside of your website or links from other websites that lead to you. According to top SEO experts, links are the most important factor in search engine optimization. Since links, especially external, are harder to manipulate, some believe that it is the most used metric of a search engine in determining ranking.
Essentially, links are a measure of trustworthiness. If a trustworthy site links to another site, the linked site can also be considered trustworthy by the search engine. The anchor text, that is the text that links to the website, can also be used the search engine in obtaining the relevant keywords for the linked site. Finally, links can help search engines in determining the relationship between the current page and the page it links to.
Talking about links might be too technical for beginning marketers and content creators but think about it this way. Links are important in providing a good user experience. By linking to relevant pages, you help give a better picture and more relevant information to your reader. It’s good practice to have a healthy amount of links to your own web pages to keep your reader in your site and links to other reputable websites.
5. Website Interface/Blog Theme
To give a good user experience, you need to have a good user interface. You need to consider then how you arrange your website elements or the type of theme that you use in your blogs. Search engine giant, Google, rewards those with fast loading sites since that equates to good user experience.
If you have a background in programming, make sure that the coding of your website theme is clean and well-structured. Also, with the increase of mobile users nowadays, it is important that your site is readable in different screen sizes.
You can check out some great WordPress themes that are SEO-friendly here.
Search Engine Optimization is moving away from taking advantage of algorithms toward actually creating a great user experience, and rightfully so. At first, you might perceive SEO as a technical topic but in simple terms, it is just a collection of tips that could help your site create an environment that is friendly to human users, and in turn, the search engines. For more detailed explanations, check out these SEO sites that are helpful for beginners:
Is there any more beginner SEO concept I missed? Tell me in the comments section below!