Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”, is extremely important to any business that wants their content to show up to users on search engines. Who wouldn’t want to do this? SEO is constantly evolving and continues to shift as search engines change and adapt to search behavior. There are early SEO techniques that have long since been disproven or are no longer recommended, along with new strategies and ideas popping up all the time for how to get content to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
It’s a common misconception among companies and marketing professionals alike that SEO is done solely at the beginning of website creation and not looked at again after initial launch. There is a ton of work put in at the beginning to ensure websites run smoothly and are easily crawlable by search engines (looking at you, Google) and ensuring that content is optimized for search, but many sources stop there when talking about SEO.
In this post, we’ll overview those first SEO basic steps that you should be following to ensure content is set up from the beginning to optimize for search engines. We’ll then drive a bit deeper past initial website SEO optimization to review what ongoing methods you should use to continuously ensure your website meets SEO best practices and guidelines. Additionally, we’ll discuss how to continuously optimize your content for ever-evolving search behavior.
Optimization from the get-go: How to integrate SEO into your website build
Beginning with a strong foundation of search engine optimization in building a website will go a long way. It’s important to note that SEO is a long game and building a solid foundation will allow for strong optimizations as the website grows and user behavior evolves.
Steps to optimize for search engines from the ground up:
Pay attention to website structure
Make sure your website is structured in a way that provides a positive user experience and is easily crawlable. This is especially important when you are aiming to show up for sitelinks. The way your website is structured is extremely reflective of how your content will show. Websites with a clearly established hierarchy and navigation make it easier for search engines to understand how the content on your site relates to itself and to establish credibility with search engines and users alike.
Norman Group has a great deep dive into website hierarchies and how they affect discoverability.
Internal links provide search engines with which content is relevant to other content on your site and help transfer link equity throughout your website. Internal links also aid in establishing the hierarchy of your website. A common internal linking structure that has gained traction in the past few years is the topic cluster model. This model establishes a main topic or “pillar content” with hyperlinked relating topics surrounding it – forming a “cluster” of related content.
Develop a clear content strategy
Content should be developed so that each page delivers a main idea or topic. A page should have a set focus keyword with variant keywords (similar keywords that reflect the topic), to optimize content towards the specific topic – i.e., what is the overall concept that you are providing to the user? Remember that user experience is a top priority for Google. Content should be clear and easy to digest for the target audience.
Page layout is a key performance enhancer in SEO. The way your content is laid out on the page is important not only from a user experience perspective but allows search engines to best organize and digest the content that you are providing.
The way your content is organized also allows for potential featured snippets to appear on the Search Engine Results Page. Don’t get these confused with Rich Snippets or Rich Results. These require a more technical SEO setup known as structured data markup (a bit more to come on that down below).
Integrating highly searched keywords into your content is one of the most well-known SEO concepts. This tactic is one of the most important optimization steps since it aids search engines in determining the context of your content and increases search relevancy when your content includes the keywords that a user is inputting into the search bar.
Keyword optimization begins with keyword research – determining what keywords your target audience is utilizing and which of those keywords are attainable to rank for in search results. Once keyword research is conducted, integrating those keywords into page titles, headings and copy increases your ranking ability.
A more advanced optimization step to increase SEO efforts is structured data markup. This tactic utilizes structured code snippets that determine what a piece of content is and conveys, to allow search engine crawlers to understand your content more easily. Structured data can add an additional boost to your SEO efforts by encouraging enhancements to regular search results and provide a better user experience. They have also been known to increase click-through rates.
SEO isn’t a one-time deal – Optimization is continuous
The basic principle of how users search for a topic on Google or other search engines has stayed relatively the same, but which keywords users are inputting, what devices they are using and the level of context that Google can understand has been constantly evolving since the beginning of the search engine. It is important to continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are getting in front of the right users/potential customer at the right time for them to see your content when they are searching for it.
How do you continuously optimize for SEO?
Monitor search trends
What are users searching for as current climates change? How do search keywords change as climates evolve? Utilize tools such as Google Trends, Moz and SEMrush to monitor trending topics and historical search trends.
Create content based on search behavior
Give the user what they are searching for based on what you have to offer. Use search trend research to determine which content to run at what time periods throughout the year for optimal performance and to get your content in front of searchers at the right time.
SEO and SEM Integration
Have you run paid search ads in the past or are you currently running Google Ads or Bing search campaigns? Leverage SEM keyword data to identify well performing keywords that resonate with your target audience and integrate these into your SEO strategy. Paid search ads are a beneficial test for how keywords perform and should be used alongside SEO to capitalize on user search behavior.
Integrate highly searched keywords into your content
Start with creating content that is highly relevant to your target audience and use these specific terms in your content by conducting in-depth keyword research.
While keyword optimization may not be the end all be tactic for number one ranking anymore, it is still extremely important. Google and other search engines still crawl your site, and while their algorithms are getting better and better at determining context, integrating focus and variant keywords into copy is still advantageous to SEO success by aiding search engine algorithms in telling them what your content is about.
Integrate high volume, low competition keywords from organic research and well-performing SEM keywords into your content.
Google also bolds exact keywords that show up in snippets, meta descriptions and titles on the SERP as well, adding relevancy to the first content a user sees even before that first click.
SEO is a crucial element of today’s online world and is seen across search engines, social media, gif platforms and podcasts alike. Pretty much any platform that operates as a search engine has the opportunity for SEO. In other words, if you AREN’T optimizing for search in today’s world then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.