Over the years you’ve probably heard a lot of different advice for how to rank your website higher in the search engines. While it’s still possible to manipulate your search ranking, a more sustainable approach to search engine optimization is to get back to the basics and focus on a positive user experience giving your visitors a reason to share your content. This social sharing is the new face of SEO and will continue to play a larger role in the future. The following presentation provides a good framework for an optimized website.
Reliable Web Host
As you see it all starts with a reliable hosting company. You want to ensure when the search engines are looking for your content they can find it easily. Server load times matter! By using Rackspace or Amazon, you will have a much better page load speed than on GoDaddy or other shared hosting.
Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) is a tool used to manage the content of a website easily. A good CMS such as WordPress can give your site a really solid framework to build an optimized site. The following are my recommended WordPress plugins to help with your optimization efforts:
- WordPress SEO
Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
Easily manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.
- Broken Link Checker
Search engines don’t want to see broken links. This plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.
- Google XML Sitemaps
Make it easy for search engines to find your content. This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines better index your blog.
- W3 Total Cache
Speed up your site’s load time. Improve site performance and user experience via caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support.
- Google Analytics for WordPress
Track your statistics easily and with lots of metadata: views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and page views.
Responsive Website Design
Mobile friendly websites matter! Today it is more than just avoiding Flash like the plague, a good looking website on a desktop does not translate to a mobile device well without building it responsively.
Learn more about responsive web design here: http://clearlym.com/
Attention to Detail
Remember that the search engine’s role is to serve the most relevant content with a quality experience. You can think of a search engine like a concierge at a nice hotel when you ask for their recommendations on good places to dine. If you have a horrible experience based on the recommendations of the concierge you probably won’t go back and ask for more advice. This is the same for a search engine. They don’t want to send you to a website with tons of broken links, poor grammar and poor content. There are a number of tools available to help monitor the user experience, the two most helpful are Google’s Webmasters Tools and Google’s Analytics.
- Google Webmaster Guidelines
Stay up to date with best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site. Google wants you to succeed and takes great effort to provide guidelines and updates on what you need to know to help them help you.
- Google Webmaster Tools
Strongly recommend verifying your site with Google Webmaster Tools and add your XML sitemap. You can use Google Webmaster tools to be alerted if you have site issues ranging from broken links to malware.
- Google Analytics
You must install Google Analytics tracking to your website (recommend Universal Analytics especially if you have a mobile version) so you can have a sense of who is visiting your site. The data has many uses, but one aspect is to check bounce & exit ratio to see how your content is performing.
Create Compelling Content
Now that you have an optimized platform it’s time to showcase some really great content on it. Do not underestimate the need for quality content. You want to be compelling and informative (or entertaining). The more engaging the content, the more loyal the visitors. The byproduct of great content is that it begs to be shared. If you create a great article, infographic or similar you will earn inbound links which directly impacts your search ranking.
Build Your Authority
It is important to build authority both as a brand and also as an author.
Claim your name
The first step to establishing your authority is to claim and connect your social media profiles. Even if you or your company does not plan on being on each social platform, for the sake of reputation management, you really need to claim your name on all social channels. There are a number of services such as knowem.com which can help claim all of the platforms for you.
Historically, Google’s has used their PageRank algorithm to identify authority on a website. A big change currently happening is the shift from a domain to the author of the content. Google has announced:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results.”
This shift makes having a Google+ account and building your authorship critical. Authorship is established by linking your Google+ account to the various domains you contribute content on with a reciprocal rel=”author” link back to Google+ profile. Once this connection is made you can test the connection using Google’s Rich Snippets tool. Learn more about the Authorship program on Google’s website.
Harness the power of social media by sharing your content and making it easy for others to share it!
Share your content!
After you create content, leverage your social networks to promote its visibility. If you create a blog post, be sure to post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other relevant networks. Leverage a featured image in your blog post so that when you share it out it will be accompanied by a thumbnail. Open Graph meta tags allow you to control the content that displays when a page is accessed through a social channel. For WordPress, consider using the WP Facebook OG plugin or similar to easily integrate these tags into your website. It will make it more visual when you share content out to the various social channels.
Make it easy for others to share your content!
By placing social buttons (similar to the ones on the left) sharing becomes very easy! Really, go ahead and try it out The plugin we use is DiggDigg for WordPress but there are a number of other plugins we use as well:
Make it easy for visitors to share your content! This plugin creates a sexy share button to accompany your content.
- Disqus Comment System
Make it easy for visitors to leave comments! Rather than requiring users to register on your site to leave comments (or getting bombarded by spam for not restricting it to logged users) the Disqus comments leverages the social media accounts you are most likely already signed into to make it easy to comment.
Leverage & Reward your advocates
In the last blog post on the power of brand advocates I discussed the importance of leveraging your customers and employees to further your reach and generate word of mouth marketing. One feature of SurroundsMe that has helped me rank #1 in Google for “Search Engine Optimization Expert” is a tool which visualizes how many social shares each of the pages in your website have and makes it easy to validate the content socially.
As a general summary, the secret to SEO is to start with an optimized web hosting provider and content management system. Then create quality content which attracts inbound links and reinforce your content with social shares.