This SEO guide will focus on SEO basics, onsite optimization, Web optimization best practices and techniques, local search engine optimization, and the most effective search engine optimization strategies of 2016. We may have titled this post “Phoenix SEO: How to Optimize Your Website in 2016,” but this free website optimization and search engine guide is applicable in any city! We love the Metropolitan area of Phoenix, but the information in this guide is applicable to handle SEO for any business, anywhere. So, use this guide to learn search engine optimization and how to optimize your website in any city throughout the nation.
Fair warning, many of the things you’ll read on this page will be repeated over and over. That probably means that you should pay close attention to it – especially if your goal of reading this guide is to learn how to do SEO on your own (DIY SEO) and optimize your website yourself.
Search Engine Optimization Definition (Broad)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the work involved to improve a website and promote it to increase visibility on search engines, which usually translates into an increase in organic visitor traffic relevant to your website. Additionally, it’s the application of using each search engine’s best practices to optimize a site and in doing so, keeping user experience first.
Here’s a quick link to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, review it, understand it, and follow it: webmaster guidelines
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Many details are involved in good SEO, from the words on each page, the words used in Page Titles, H tags, internal links, alt tags, image file names, on-site content and on-site content types, consistent name, address and phone number information (NAP), social signals, local signals, citations from other sites, how fast your site loads, the presence of a SSL certificate, the sites that you link to elsewhere on the Web, the websites that link to you, and the structure, code and placement of that code on your site. Trust us when we tell you that this only scratches the surface when were are talking about the best way to optimize a website. But if you nail these basics, you’ll be light years ahead of most of the competition and these SEO for newbie tips could help you dominate a relatively easy industry. Forbes’ contributor Jason DeMers recently put together a Fundamental Guide to SEO in 2016, which is worth checking out if you have some free time.
Search Engine Optimization Basics
Some of the basics of SEO are above. However, search engines tweak their algorithms continuously by utilizing hundreds of evolving factors. After all, users expect search engines such as Google and Bing* to find relative information for them, instantly and on-demand. Their goal is to bring a user to the exact page that will answer their query, allow them to buy a product, or learn more about X, Y or Z. Because of this, you’ll see that most search engine results lead to pages within a website making it easier for users to find exactly what their looking for in one click. Does your website offer a page for each keyword(s) related to your products and services? If not, it should. That said, don’t make several pages for similar keywords, that may lead to page cannibalization and hurt your efforts.
*Bing & Yahoo! are essentially the same search engine, so we’ll use Bing throughout this guide to keep things simple.
There is no faking it in 2016; search engines are getting smarter by the day. Don’t bother trying blackhat techniques such as keyword stuffing, buying links, or intricate link wheels. Don’t bother using grey hat techniques like stuffing alt tags with keywords not related to the image, overusing keywords on pages and making similar pages (with basically the same text) over and over just to rank for different keywords in different cities. Yep, we know that in terms of black hat and grey hat techniques, we just mentioned a fraction of tactics. Trust us, this is for your benefit.
In General, When Opting for Effective Search Engine Optimization
Be real and genuine. Focus your efforts on building a good quality website that provides a great experience for your users, includes amazing content, and you’ll be far ahead of the game.
For this reason, this search engine optimization (SEO) basics section will cover the most important basic elements of great SEO.
The number one rule is to focus on your website visitors first. Give them remarkable content that invites them to stay on your site and visit several other pages. Content is more than an article, it can be anything from an infographic, stellar image, video, street views of projects, or a power point presentation – be creative. Search engines “see” this behavior (user engagement, lower bounce rates, higher time-on site etc), and they reward your site for it with better quality metrics and higher rankings.
Beyond that, SEO experts agree that in order to get websites on search engines with meaningful rankings you’ll need: high-quality links, a diverse link profile from multiple domains, the aforementioned exceptional and relevant content, consistent updated content, social signals (content shared and liked by social users) and a technically clean and fast website. Additionally, keeping information about your business up-to-date is also very important, this means that information about your business matches information found on directories throughout the world. Finally, reviews and responding to reviews are increasingly becoming more important and there’s a lot you can do with review data. For example, you can improve business processes, optimize your responses to reviews, and improve customer service. We fully believe that a review generation program should be part of every SEO campaign.
SEO Remains Keyword Driven & LSI Keywords Are Important
We know that this is a given, but we feel the need to continuously drill home how critical keywords are to SEO. As a user of search engines, you certainly understand how important words, phrases, and sentences are to finding the information you need. When working on SEO, you are reverse engineering that process, by serving up those keywords to people seeking your information. That said, do not be “spammy” and do not overuse keywords. On another topic, Google is increasingly giving websites higher rankings if those websites take the time to use Latent Semantic Indexing keywords. It’s a fancy way of using synonyms and different variations (related) of keywords and phrases. Google uses LSI to try to determine what a page is about. An easy and quite frequently used example is a page about Apple, by using LSI Google can easily determine if the page is about an apple, or the brand Apple. One key thing about LSI is that trends matter, some phrases or related keywords can change based on trends. So keep trends in mind when you are using this website optimization technique. There are tools online to help with coming up with these terms:
Free SEO Tools to Help with Optimizing Your Phoenix Landing Page with LSI Words
- Use Google’s Auto Complete Feature
- KeywordShi**er.com (yes that’s the name of the tool) the asterisks are T’s
Google’s Search Quality Team
Many years ago, Google put together its search quality team, which is responsible for ensuring users get the best possible user experience by making sure that key signals of quality websites align well with results on search engine pages. Their job description is straightforward “A few hundreds of millions of times a day people will ask Google questions, and within a fraction of a second Google needs to decide which among the billions of pages on the web to show them — and in what order.” They make changes sometimes daily and hundreds annually. Their job consists of one main goal – only one goal – improve user experience. One take away from the post about Google’s Search Quality Team is that PageRank is still used today. Yes, it’s only a part of their ranking algorithm, but it’s still used and that does mean that backlinks matter.
Evaluating Websites that May Not Follow Best Practices
Yes, we know this is a guide to help you learn how to optimize your website, but we feel that you should understand that Google does penalize websites algorithmically and manually.
Google uses both its algorithms and a manual approach to reviewing pages on the Web, in a process designed to offer up the highest quality information their web spam team works to ensure spammers are not doing malicious activities to alter their rankings. Although Google has spent lots of time and lots of money investing in algorithmic programs to find the best data for each search, some situations call for the human eye and the human touch. Here are a few reasons why a site may need a manual evaluation: hacked sites, user-generated spam, pure spam, cloaked images, hidden text, keyword stuffing, spammy structured markup and sneaky redirects. Additionally, sites that launch hundreds of pages over a short period tend to look spammy to a search engine, but it can be legit if you’re building out your site or re-launching it on a new URL. The bottom line is to focus on satisfying your human users, not on chasing algorithms or doing things that may result in an algorithmic or manual penalty.
Focus your time and energy on big-picture items that influence your SEO. These begin with the all-important user experience, great quality content, and relevancy to your website. Of course, the mechanisms that tell search engines about your site are crucial; quality subject matter comes from the depth of your content, your social media signals, your backlink profile, technical issues with your site and your internal linking to other relevant pages. User experience improves with original content, quick page loading, pages that fulfill their promise and easy site navigation. Authority enhances a site’s longevity, and the quality of its backlinks plays a major role in this. If you are linking to good sites, and they are linking to you, then you gain authority. Authority sites also get indexed quicker and deeper.
For those just getting started in SEO, it will pay in spades to study Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Elements. It will help you learn the ropes quickly!
The sitemap tells search engines about all the pages on your site, even those that might not be easy to find. A sitemap is very helpful if your site is dynamic or if it has pages with images or rich AJAX that can be hard for bots to discover. It is also helpful for new sites with few links, or sites that have numerous pages not well linked. Sitemaps help search engines do a good job of reading your website and finding your site’s content.
While Google is the big dog when it comes to search engines, don’t forget about Bing. It does hold a considerable share of the search market. While focusing on user experience as we’ve advocated will work for Bing as well, you should do technical audits of your site for both search engines, to make sure you have not missed any important element.
Make an account with both Google and Bing, and access each Webmaster Tools (Google recently renamed Google Webmasters and it’s now Search Console) area to ensure your website has proper indexing. Beyond indexing, they help you evaluate your internal links, diagnose or fix problems, as well as your website’s backlinks and which keywords are sending you traffic. Once you get into Webmaster tools you’ll see tons of valuable data. One very important piece of data we love relates to traffic your site gets now. You can see the clicks it’s getting, the ranking positions it’s showing up for on average, the impressions and your click-thru rate (CTR). This data will help you identify low hanging fruit and help you target keywords that can dramatically increase your sites traffic. You never know, you may find that the keywords your tracking and going after are very different than the ones you should be going after.
Leveraging exceptional content is the right way to engage your audience. SEO combines art with science, and content is the way to get maximum results. It can help you create your brand, draw backlinks from relevant quality sites, build relationships, and position yourself in your industry. Keep in mind that quality and consistency are crucial. With that said, here is a good content marketing strategy for a small business:
- Create infographics around your industry, at least once every two weeks or even one per month. Infographics can be simple. They don’t have to be full of tons of data or tons of information, but they do have to be interesting and creative.
- Write two high-quality blog posts of more than 1,000 words each week.
- Create an e-book or guide every three months. (Give it away in exchange for something!)
Remember, great quality and lengthy content will work best, both for users and search engines. Studies have shown that long content consistently ranks higher than thin content. Consistency is crucial; maintain a regular publishing schedule. Choose three primary keywords and have a list of others to target. When you improve those keywords, choose three more. Push your content to your social media profiles by integrating it with your blog, but don’t do it in a manner that’s “me, me, me” share other things too. Facebook and Twitter are two of the highest traffic referral sources for some sites, so be sure that you have profiles and are active regularly on both. People love to know about companies, so share company events, company awards, employee new hires, and most importantly, share information related to your industry that is not related to your company often. No one wants to talk to someone that consistently talks about their-self.
Conversions are Truly the Only Thing that Matters
Getting people to your website is great, keeping them there is better, but converting them to subscribers or buyers is the ultimate! The Internet highways are becoming more crowded by the day, and subscribers will help maintain a steady flow of traffic and help keep your brand top of mind. Be sure to set up conversions using Google Analytics, so you know your conversion rate and can improve it by tweaking things on your site. Tip: Tweak one thing at a time and make a note of when and what you changed, so you can see what affect it had on conversions. Additionally, there is software available (even in Google Analytics) that allows for split testing and if you’re a wizard, you can even setup multivariate testing scenarios.
Keyword research tools will help you find the popular phrases and keywords to target that are not super-competitive. These tools include Ubersuggest, Keyword Explorer, SEMrush, ahrefs, Keyword Generator, Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner to name a few (some are free and some are paid, the free ones are sufficient). You can also analyze your website to see which keywords are drawing traffic and sales already, and look for related keywords or create new content that includes theses keywords. Another tip is to check out your competitors’ top pages and see which keywords work best for them, keeping in mind that long-tail keywords are more natural, can be more effective and are generally easier to rank for. Here are some more onsite tips:
- Satisfy your users’ intent. Give them the information they seek! Perhaps they are searching for formal wear. So, you are trying to rank for those things, tuxedos and formal dresses or wedding outfits, which are tough to rank for. However, content such as “The best dresses for this wedding season” or “Tuxes that show your style” can fill your user’s intent while also bringing them to a page where they can find that type of clothing.
- Make sure your site is up to par. Speed is critical; the user experience is part of how Google interprets our sites. People give up on pages that are slow to load, and this includes e-commerce pages with shopping carts! Mobile users are especially impatient with load times. Fast-loading pages earn more links and amplification, and receive more engagement. Tip: Research shows that always showing users what items are currently in their cart can increase conversions.
- Build trust and engagement. Build these through the aforementioned speed, plus content that speaks to their needs. The combination of those two things also makes your site mobile-friendly, so they get a good experience on any of their devices. Additionally, use an SSL certificate to ensure their data is protected and if you hold credit card information on your server, make sure it’s PCI compliant. Finally, use logos from services you use to help ensure user data is secured. It may be a SSL certificate logo, a BBB+ rating logo or a logo showing that your site is insured for consumer losses.
- Avoid elements that annoy visitors. You might think that a cool pop-up will make people sign up for your great e-book, but that popup might just as easily make them surf away from your site altogether. Keep in mind, when a searcher goes to your site, then quickly clicks the back button and chooses another result; Google and Bing are not looking kindly at you. Move that pop-up to the lower right corner or make it smaller. Many experts believe that showing a pop-up as a user goes to exit the site is a good way of implementing a pop-up asking for user information.
- Employ keyword targeting. This is the classic ranking signal for on-page optimization, and it is still critical today. It does need to balance with the other on-page elements as well to be most effective. Use Brian Dean’s On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page guide to ensure your site pages are fully optimized.
- As a continuation from #5, Title (Your Page Title and H1 Tag) elements should have the keyword term or phrase you are targeting in them. Page elements like page content, URL, and external anchor links are still very relevant in 2016. Your keyword should be in your page content (first paragraph if possible), in your external anchor text links, and in your URL when possible. You should also put your keywords in your alt attributes for images you use in your text, but only if it makes sense to do so. Also, use your keyword in internal links when it looks natural.
Moz’s Elements to an Optimized Page is Worth Retaining to Memory
Web Optimization Best Practices and Techniques
Consider the following techniques and best practices.
Infographics are some of the best content you can use to draw traffic to your website, so we thought using a good one here would help show you what it can do. This particular infographic is from the SEOBook website, and shows how search works, beginning with the creation of a piece of content, and then following it as it’s indexed and helps with search engine optimization.
Related Topics Targeting
The concept of related topics means that when you see a keyword such as “weddings,” you’ll likely also see flowers, wedding dresses, tuxedos, photographers, and caterers. Google sees these related keywords frequently associated, and builds graphs between them. Therefore, when you are working on SEO or search marketing, you need to be aware of related topics and include them for optimal ranking. This is related to Latent Semantic Indexing.
Snippet Optimization (Also Known as a Meta Description)
With each page we create, we attempt to drive the ranking and clicks as well. We want our page to have the best-optimized snippet in the search results. When someone searches for wedding wear on his or her smartphone, that person might find your snippet that says, “What to wear to a beach wedding,” dated June 15, 2016, so its timeliness is apparent. This is essentially your ad; here is timely advice on beach wedding wear! Click. Optimize that, make it interesting, remove the date, unless you’re going to update it regularly. Meta Descriptions are very important and play a major role in how many people are going to click on your listing and visit your site (people clicking from the search result to your website). It’s your chance to create an amazing ad that is interesting and entices them to click. Don’t forget, Google does reward websites that get high click through rates (CTR), so craft each meta description carefully.
There are increasing opportunities to use schema markups, depending on your niche. There are numerous schema opportunities for news, recipes, and even fitness video. As time goes on, there will increasingly be more and more opportunities to use schema to enhance your website, tell Google more about your website and make how your website shows up in search results better. Google prefers JSON-LD markup, so we recommend using it.
Example of JSON-LD Code
"name": "Bill’s Burger Bonanza",
"streetAddress": "123 E Indian School Rd.",
"description": "Bill’s Burger Bonanza is well known for making the best burgers in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. If you have a hankering for a hunk of beef, Bill’s Burger Bonanza can’t be beat.",
"openingHours": "Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr,Sa 09:00-22:00",
Getting your content out there and shared generously should be your goal. Make sure the content is better than what already is ranking for your keywords; provide unique value and a fresh perspective on the topic. Consider your exposure options for your content, and get your content out to as many options as possible. This will help in a variety of ways including giving your content more opportunities to be linked to from other websites.