Search engine optimization is one of the cornerstones of inbound marketing. After all, how do you expect to bring people to your site using an inbound strategy if your website isn’t optimized for search? Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed before, the “build it and they will come” mantra doesn’t quite apply to digital marketing.
Simply put, SEO is the process of optimizing your website for search engines, so that search engine crawlers will be able to find your content with ease, categorize it, and display it on search engine results pages (SERPs).
While the exact algorithm behind this process can be a bit of a mystery, there are certain SEO attributes that you should always be conscious of. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that you should focus your time and budget on if you want to attain one of the coveted top spots on SERPs.
When it comes to keyword selection, you’ll want to select keywords that have the best combination of the following three factors: relevancy, a decent monthly search volume, and low competition. You can use a tool like Google Keyword Planner, which pulls historical data from paid search, to evaluate these factors by inputting three to ten keywords and analyzing the results. (See our previous article for more information on how keyword data and SEO strategies are being impacted by recent updates to Google keyword search). Consider choosing both a primary and a secondary keyword to use for your optimization efforts.
While it’s important to employ SEO tactics so that your content gets found, it’s even more important to write quality content that your visitors will find compelling. Your content should be authoritative, which means providing the exact information that your visitors are looking for. It should also include both your primary and secondary keywords as close to the beginning of the article as possible, and then peppered throughout (keep in mind — your SEO keyword density should be between 5-7% of your overall content).
3. Title and Meta Description
The Title Tag (what you see in the browser heading) is one of the most important signals to search engines. You’ll want to include your primary keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible — but try to keep everything under 67 characters. The meta description (the string of text that will display beneath your title on search engine results pages), on the other hand, can be longer. Again, you’ll want to be sure you include your primary and secondary keywords, if possible.
A common error is to have the company name first and to not include other critical points of data. A rich title would be “Marketing Automation and Lead Management by Pardot” rather than “Pardot – Marketing Automation”. Keep the most important information at the beginning of the <TITLE> tag.
Your page URL is another important aspect to consider, and is an easy win as far as SEO is concerned. Many blogging platforms like WordPress will automatically pull your Title Tag into your URL, but if not, make sure your URL includes the keywords that you are trying to optimize your page for. Keep in mind — you should always use a hyphen (-) in your URL rather than a space or underscore (_), as spaces are replaced by “%20” and underscores are treated as word joiners.
Images are another easy SEO opportunity that many marketers overlook. Remember, search engine crawlers are robots, which means they can’t see the images that are placed on your site the same way that humans can. All they can see is the code behind the images, like the image filename and the ALT attribute. Make sure you are optimizing both of these by including your keywords in each (but your ALT tag should still accurately describe your image).
6. Internal Links
Internal links, or links from one page on your site to another page on your site, are powerful signals that reinforce what your page is about, especially to search engines. Try to link to pages that are optimized for the same keywords to make the content of your article even stronger. One of the most impactful ways to increase the number of internal links is blogging. A corporate blog can raise your PageRank because each blog post represents an internal link to the homepage.
7. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the visible text of a link on a page. For example, if a link is simply called “Pardot” but links to www.pardot.com, “Pardot” is the anchor text while www.pardot.com is the URL. Not only is this anchor text important for internal links, it is also a major factor when it comes to search crawlers. Anchor text on other sites linking to your own can tell search engines what other websites are saying about you, which can either help or detract from your search ranking.
8. Inbound Links
Inbound links have traditionally been one of the most important parts of Google’s search algorithm, although they are becoming less important over time. These are links on other websites that link back to your own, and are signals to search engines that your website is an authority on a certain subject. And the more authority you have, the higher you’ll rank in search results.
It’s important to note that both quantity and quality play a role in inbound links. Only a few links from highly rated sites will improve your PageRank, while a high quantity of links from low-rated sites (such as link farms) can actually hurt your PageRank. Good inbound links can be generated from places like off-site blogs, industry forum discussions, high-profile media outlets, press release posting services, and social media posts.
Want additional SEO resources? Take a look at our SEO Handbook for helpful tip sheets, worksheets, and checklists to help keep your SEO efforts organized.