We have all heard the term SEO (search engine optimization), and we have been told how important it is to have good SEO – but what does that mean? How does a golf course get good results when someone searches for you using Google, Yahoo! or Bing?
There are two areas of results that appear when you search a term on Google: Paid and Organic Results.
Paid (sponsored links using Adwords) results are just that, you pay Google to appear for certain results when users search for certain words. This can be highly effective, but also costly. Depending on your goals, when allocating advertising funds we wouldn’t recommend removing this from the equation. This is also known as pay-per-click advertising; every time a user clicks on your link, you are charged a certain amount. This can become a costly expense, however it can also prove to be highly effective if done right.
Organic results are what make Google so popular. These are the results that Google returns to the users once your site has been indexed by a Google Bot. This can all sound confusing at first, but you don’t necessarily need to do anything to make this happen, Google does all the heavy lifting. When we talk to clients about optimizing their websites for the best search results (often called SEO Optimization) this is mostly what we are talking about – making sure that when Google searches your website that they find what you want them to find.
No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Here are some really important things that get ignored by most “SEO Optimization” practices but must be addressed to maximize your exposure:
Accurately describe the page’s content: Choose a page title that effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content. Avoid choosing a title that has no relation to the content on the page, and using default or vague titles like “Untitled” or “New Page 1”. The more descriptive you are here, the better Google knows what is going to be on this particular web page.
Make use of the “description” meta tag: A page’s description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page’s title may be a few words or a phrase, a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. This is found in the code of your web page and you might not have access to it. If not, ask your web developer if you can edit the meta description for each page. It’s a time consuming process to do this for each page of your website – but it’s worth it in the long run.
Improve the structure of your URLs: Simple-to-understand URLs will convey content information easily. You should create easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content. An example would be to use a nice, easy to read URL like this: http://overlakegc.com/members/ instead of this: http://www.overlakegcc.com/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=355873&ssid=262817&vnf=1
Make your site easier to navigate: Navigation is very important for search engines. The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the business thinks is important. Make sure that HTML5 markup is being used on your website so you can take advantage of semantic code, such as the <nav> element.
Offer quality content and services: Interesting sites will increase their recognition on their own. Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. A quickly growing marketing practice known as ‘content marketing‘ is a perfect example of how providing useful information to your audience really draws traffic to your website.
Promote your website in the right ways: While most of the links to your site will be gained gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it, Google understands that you’d like to let others know about the hard work you’ve put into your content. A simple example would be your blog, which is a great way to let your visitors know that you added something new. If you are adding information on a consistent basis, your users will know to come back and check your website from time to time. It’s also a great idea to tweet links to certain pages on your site, add links to facebook, and share links on google plus. The traffic from these social websites will boost your search engine rankings and garner more popularity for your website.
Submit a sitemap to webmaster tools: If your web developer has built a proper XML sitemap for you, then you can submit this to Google’s Webmaster tools. This is a great way to make sure that the Google Bot is crawling and indexing your website. It also provides some valuable insight on the statistics of your website.
Track your site with Google Analytics: Google provides a first class analytics platform that is free to use and implement. Google Analytics lets you track the visitors that have come to your site, see how long they were on your site, what device they used, what pages they clicked, and much, much more. This is a great way to see what terms your website is being searched for, how people got to your website, and if your marketing is working. The best part of analytics is that you can see what’s working and what isn’t – you can modify your efforts based on the data that it gives you.
These are just some of the easier “tips” to help make sure your website is on the correct path. Google supplies good documentation as to what are the “best practices” for search. They have published a short reference guide titled “Google: Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”