Search Engine Optimization or “SEO”, for short, can be a very confusing topic even for seasoned web professionals, so don’t feel bad if you’re unsure about how it all works. You’ll see a lot of promises being thrown around when looking for search engine optimization on Google and Bing. (Hey! The DUCK DUCK GO folks are doing big things too. Don’t count them out!) Be very careful of any person or service promising SEO success, overnight.
Even though proper SEO is on-going, and there’s really no end to the work that needs to be done, a lot of the SEO basics can be done by you, today even without a lot of HTML knowledge. I call this DIY SEO.
There are many different platforms where your website might be hosted at, or built with, so I can’t guarantee that everyone reading this will be able to jump right into their code without some help, but most of you should be able to use this guide with no problems.
Two hugely, popular platforms being used are WordPress and Shopify. If you aren’t brand new to the web, chances are great that you’ve heard of WordPress. Millions of websites are built upon WordPress, and your own website probably is one of them. Shopify has quickly become another widely used choice for those who are selling goods online, so we’ll focus on these two platforms for now. If you’re using another platform, or just need help in general, don’t hesitate to ask!
Website Title Tag
Your site’s title tag controls what is shown at the top of your browser bar and tabs, as well as the main title that is seen in search engine results when someone searches for you or your service. It’s important to make sure each page of your site has it’s own unique title. Don’t leave the same title for every page! Think of what your potential customers would be searching for. Don’t just use your company name unless it’s well known, and it’s actively being searched for.
In a basic HTML file, your title should be placed in between these two title HTML tags:
<title>Place your title here..</title> which will be located inside the
<head> area of your HTML page.
If you’re using WordPress, make sure you are logged into your admin area and over in the left panel, click on “SETTINGS”, then click on “GENERAL”. Make sure to enter your title here for the very basics. To go further, I HIGHLY recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin where you’ll be able to adjust what each page of your site has for a title.
If you’re using Shopify, go ahead and make sure to click on the section that says “Search Engines” that is on all your pages. Enter in your title here. This page on Shopify support area shows you a bit more.
Website Description Tag
Your site’s description tag controls what is shown in search engine results when your website is included in the results that the search engine provides after a search.
Here’s an example:
It’s very similar to the title tag above, but I would say it holds a little more weight as far as importance goes. IF it’s shown. Sometimes only the title of your page is shown. The description area is definitely a great place to insert useful keywords and phrases that your customers might be searching for. Give each page of your site it’s own description!
In a basic HTML file, your description should be placed in these HTML tags:
<meta name = "description" content = "Place Your Description Here"> which will also be located inside the
<head> area of your HTML page.
Just like with the title tag, over in the left panel, click on “SETTINGS”, then click on “GENERAL”. Enter your description here where it says “TAGLINE”. Again, I really recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin and you can adjust your page descriptions for each page of your website. I’ve set it up so that I have my description showing first, then “Preeminent Productions”.
This page on The Shopify Docs shows you that there is a “Search Engines” section for every page of your site. Go ahead and enter in your descriptions here. Make them unique and useful!
DIY SEO CONTENT
You can write content yourself. You don’t have to hire a copywriter. Most of them won’t know your business or industry better than you do anyway. You’re going to want to have your keywords in your content, no doubt, but don’t write like a robot just inserting your keywords where it doesn’t even make sense. Search engines are a lot smarter these days, and you will get “dinged” for doing this. Some people find ways to make this still work, but it only ever lasts temporarily, and they end up getting tossed down to the 1,054th page of search results when they get caught. Just not worth it. Write content that will be useful for people. People who will eventually become a lead or a customer!
It’s becoming tougher every day to be included in generic search keywords anymore. (Example: Someone on Google searches for, “Cake Bakery”.) Instead, get local. Are you a baker in Portland, Oregon? Write about Portland some. Include “Portland” in your site’s description and title tags. Consider having a separate page for each of your bakery items where you can include “Portland Cupcakes”, and “Portland Cookies”, etc etc. Always include your business name and address as well. In addition, make sure you claim your business a Google+ Local page.
DUPLICATE AND COPIED CONTENT
A very important part of SEO that some forget about is having the same content on multiple pages of your site, or even worse, having content that isn’t yours up on your website without citation. When duplicate content is necessary there are ways to tell the search engines about it, but it’s outside the scope of this course. If this is your situation, contact me for help on this. Just know that if it isn’t needed, it can definitely hurt your website by not fixing. If you find content elsewhere that you think your readers will find useful, then give a good description of what it is and link to the meat of it. Don’t just copy and paste it all right into your site. Google and Bing most likely knows who the content originally belonged to, and your site will suffer in search engine rank. In fact, Matt Cutts of Google has stated this:
“If your idea of quoting is including an entire article from some other site or maybe even multiple articles and you’re not doing any original articles yourself, then that can affect (Google’s view) of your site…”
Do exactly what I just did with that quote. It’s surrounded by the
<BLOCKQUOTE> HTML tag. This tells Google that you’re quoting content from another source, and not trying to say that it’s yours.
That does it for your DIY SEO crash course! Like i said above, proper SEO really is ongoing, and it’s not something that can be setup and then forgotten. The basics will give you a great head start over some of your competitors, but don’t quit after that! Do more research on it and make sure you’re receiving my bi-weekly emails for more helpful DIY SEO tips.
This was part of DAY ONE of my email crash course that helps people like yourself improve their websites. Make sure you receive the other 4 courses, as well as the expanded version of this post, by entering your email below.