Seven ways to improve your website content for better search engine results
When it comes to their websites, many business owners have just one question: “How can I increase my page ranking on Google and other search engines?” But the answer isn’t a simple one. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complex subject.
In the early days of SEO, it seemed to be all about finding out what algorithm the search engines were using to determine page rank, and then working out how to “game the system” to increase one’s page rank. (algorithm is a computer term meaning a set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. In this case, it’s the rules used by Google or other search engines to determine page ranking priority.)
And so we had companies trying to figure out how to beat the search engine algorithms – using keyword stuffing, link bombing, web page “cloaking,” and all of the other tricks and strategies that came to be associated with the darker side of SEO. As soon as Google got wise to any of these strategies, they would change the algorithm, so SEO became a game of trying to keep one step ahead of the algorithm changes.
But with the 2011 Google algorithm change known as Panda, well-written, intelligent and informative content has moved to front-row, center. Keywords are still important, but now Google looks at the intent of the search, not just the literal keyword, and looks for sites where the actual site content matches what the person is looking for.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk on old-time copywriting basics to an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) group. I talked about the basic principles of good ad copy, as pioneered by advertising legends like David Ogilvy and John Caples. One attendee seemed bored with the presentation and increasingly impatient. After about fifteen minutes, she raised her hand. “This is all very interesting,” she said, “but what does this have to do with SEO?” The answer, as the instructor quickly pointed out, is “everything.” We seem to have come full circle with search engine algorithms, and once again, actual content is king.
So how do you make sure your website content will be not only search-engine friendly, but customer-friendly? Here are a few tips:
1. Know who you’re talking to: This is basic to any marketing. You have to know who your customers are. Are they young or old? Men or women? What is their education level? Their income? What are their likes and dislikes? The more you understand who your potential customers are, the better you can craft your content so it speaks to them.
2. Talk like they talk: Use your customers’ language, the terms they are most likely to use when searching for your services. Are they searching for a lawyer, a legal firm, or an attorney? Or all three? Think about who your customers are and what language they are most likely to use when talking about your products or services. This will not only give you a good list of keywords, it will make them feel like you are talking to them.
3. Forget keyword density: Repeating keywords over and over was once thought to improve search engine rankings. The result was often copy that sounded stilted and artificial, written for search engines but not for people. Concentrate on being interesting and informative. Use keywords where they make sense, but don’t feel compelled to shoehorn them in where they don’t fit.
4. Be specific: Describe the products or services you are selling as fully as possible. People are searching for very specific things. The more details you provide, the easier it will be for them to find you. You might be a lawyer, for instance, but do you specialize in family law, divorce, criminal law or personal injury? You have a restaurant, but is it Italian, Vietnamese, or Mexican? Is it a family restaurant or “exclusive dining”? And don’t forget your location. Specifics are great for search engines and for people.
5. Make it unique: Don’t create content that sounds like everyone else. Reward website visitors with something that makes your services and products different. Figure out what you offer that your competitors don’t, and then feature that. Old-time advertisers called this the “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP). Give them a reason to stay on your site.
6. Give them something of value: Great content will answer people’s questions, solve problems, or give them something they can use. How-to articles, instructions, product information or recipes can engage people and get them involved. And if you do it well, people will link to your content and share it on social media – which also helps your search rankings.
7. Make it correct: That means no spelling mistakes. No grammar errors. No “your” when it should be “you’re.” Take the time to proofread your content or have someone else proofread it. Nothing destroys the professionalism of your website like poor spelling and grammar.
The best long-term SEO strategy is to have great content. Search algorithms will always change, but you can’t go wrong by focusing your content on the user – your potential customers.