Seventh in a Series

Your website needs to buddy up with Google. And, like most friends, the more you make Google happy, the more it will do for you. Like introducing your site to – well, pretty much everyone. More specifically, and more importantly, Google can provide introductions to all the right people. When your site plays nice with Google, you get higher search-results rankings.

And because Google is picky about its friends, it’s important to know how to dress and act around it in order to get noticed. This process is called search engine optimization, or SEO to those who like to toss around initialisms.

Here’s a check-list to help you prepare for your play-date with Google.

• Know the words/terms that would attract the most people to your site.

• Make sure your key pages have two to three paragraphs of keyword-rich content.

• Give each page a unique meta-description (fewer than 160 characters).

• Use unique title tags, H1(main headline) tags and permalinks to maximum effect.

• Put important information in text (not images) so search engines can read it.

Search engines have to be able to find your site and put your content into their databases. They serve as the primary mode of navigation for almost all web users. Optimizing a website for search engines requires an appraisal of visuals, content, functionality and more. SEO drives traffic. And the best thing is – it’s not just random traffic. It’s people who are specifically looking for what you have to offer. At that point it’s just like getting feet in the door of your brick-and-mortar store – you have to convince them that you have what they need. And, of course, you can’t do that if they never even make it through the door.

There are many elements to consider when working to optimize your site for search engines. It can be a bit of an art rather than a science – there certainly are no cookie-cutter solutions. Each website, each business, is different with unique goals. Here are a few of the more important considerations.

• Keyword research. Starts simply by brainstorming the terms people would use to search for what you offer. But the only way to know for sure is to test those words.

On-page optimization. Includes basics such as ensuring that you have descriptive title tags, well-thought-out meta tags, smart keywords, tags for images so search engines can read them.

Site structure. Thoughtful navigation and an organization that keeps most of your pages within a link or two of your home page helps keep your full site stronger in the eyes of search engines.

Link building. Basically, this means working to get other sites to link to you. Such links greatly increase your search profile. Strategies to build links vary widely and depend on the nature of your site.

Brand building. Boost your brand and you’ll also boost your search profile. As search engines become more sophisticated, it’s harder to fool them. You have to be good – you can’t just try to look good.

Adjusting. Pretty much what it sounds like. Periodically review your pages, see what’s working and what isn’t, and make adjustments that take advantage of this real-world knowledge.

Take our website scorecard test and see how your site stacks up. 

Next week: Website marketing.