Few things in life apply to all people
So, don't take my word for anything
If something resonates
check it out
see if it's right
So, don't take my word for anything
If something resonates
check it out
see if it's right
Once you have the information, you can make an informed decision about whether you want to handle building great SEO for yourself or hire someone. And, if you choose to hire someone, you can be smarter about choosing the right person or firm.
The truth about SEO
Get the definitive SEO guide
The first, and maybe only, place to go to find out what the current website rules are, is Google's SEO guide. Google is still the leading authority internet search engine, so use their guide. Really. Get it. Download it. Print it. Use it. Repeat every year or at least every few years.
If you are not doing your own website, then please insist to the person who is, that they follow Google's SEO guidelines. A shocking number of website designers either refuse to do this or assume that whatever they learned in a class is still valid. Not true. The rules change year-to-year, so someone has to stay on top of them. It's kind of like how the rules regarding taxes change every year, ya know?
Some website hosting platforms (ie. Weebly, Squarespace, Wix) are consciously geared toward maintaining at least a minimum of coding integrity aka standards. So, just choosing them to host your site is half the battle won. Sites like these are highly recommended for sole proprietors over coding from scratch or hiring someone to code from scratch. Wherever you decide to host your site, I strongly urge you to go with whatever website document type is the latest and greatest (e.g. HTML 5 or XHTML 1.0 Strict) or at least still respected. This will help you not only maintain the latest standards, but also keep you abreast of them when you notice errors upon validation, something I show you how to do, further down. Another reason to keep current has nothing to do with SEO and everything to do with that feeling you get when you go to a website that loads slow and looks old: You just want to run, right?
A note about meta tags and keywords, because many people really get this wrong:
Most people over-do meta tags and keywords and it degrades their SEO. Again, the free Google SEO guidelines tell you how to do them correctly.
Update, update, update
Always, always, always update your website on a regular basis. There are times when the only thing I could change was the wording of a sentence or a date. But regular changes, at least once weekly, tell the search engines that somebody cares about the site and they will reward you for it by giving you more respect. In most cases, you do not need to know how to code to update a website! At most, you may need to learn how to access it and upload your changes safely, but it is really not much different in a way than using a standard word-processor.
The need for regular site updates is the reason that most people, wisely, put a blog on their business site. A blog is a place to add material that benefits your clients without mucking up your site. A blog will entice readers looking for something interesting, and if you add to your blog regularly, you automatically satisfy the "update your site consistently” requisite. Don't post just anything to your blog; again, reading the Google SEO guide will remind you that quality of content matters and the guide will explain why.
The power of business directories
Getting listed in the business pages of the major browsers, maps, directories, and networking sites and apps, is an important side dish to SEO. It is initially tiresome, tedious work, but well worth it. Once you are in, you only need to re-check at most once a year or if you make major changes to your business, like hours or days of operation or have a change of address or phone. Don't forget to keep a list of where you are listed, so that it's easy to do updates as the years progress and your business thrives.
The major search engines: Google, Bing, etc., have free business directories, so those should be the first ones you set up. For minimalists, those can be the only ones you set up, simply because most other directories scrape from the big ones at least once a year to fill themselves up.
Google Maps should be automatic if you add your business to Google, and now Apple Maps is also where you may want to be, assuming they follow through on getting better at it.
Free app directories like Foursquare may also be useful particularly if you accept walk-ins, and Thumbtack does a decent job of vetting you and hosting you, with very little cost involved, although it seems to be used more by bargain hunters and quality of listings always seem to decline within the massage field - and they have declined at Thumbtack in this author's location. Yelp is only for the brave and mature business person, and has very different rules, so read their business guides, all of them, before putting yourself there. Yet, Yelp is a good place to be because people still like and use Yelp for almost anything. Again, it may depend on your location.
Staying on top of which directories are on top, is another annual project, but may be optional now, whereas it was once necessary. I suggest you do an Internet search on "most popular search engines with business directories" and read and select judiciously. Don't try to get on all of them. Be picky and tailor them the best you can to your own business and where you think you will find the clients who are looking for you. If you need help evaluating a given directory, give this article a try: Do-It-Yourself Directory Research and Evaluation from SearchEngineWatch.com.
A note about directory listings
Make sure your business name and address are *identical* from listing to listing. Format your address correctly like the post office and carriers like UPS and FEDEX expect.
How do you know where your site stands?
Numerous sites are offering you free analysis with the hope that you'll sign up with them to get automatically pushed to the various directories; these are the directory listing services I mentioned, above. An informative, no-cost, do-it-yourself site, originally named Getlisted.org is now gone. I discovered this as I wrote, so I don't have a replacement for you. Woorank is an option. Its competition, Moz, appears to have eaten Getlisted. See what I mean about how fast things change?
The latest trend is for places like Yahoo, Whitepages, and MapQuest to outsource the management of their (free) business listings to companies that charge you to maintain your listings under the guise of needing them to do ALL your listings for you. When they removed your ability to maintain your own listing in a free directory, they crossed the line into illegal activity, in my not-so-humble opinion, because now you cannot make your own changes without paying. I shame the directories for allowing this to happen. Fight back, folks, however you can.
A note about CitySearch
CitySearch is a popular directory, and a difficult one to get on when you are a solo practitioner. However, your business can get included if you email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them that you are a sole proprietor and this is your website/business and you would like to be listed. Weirdly, it works, and few people know about it. But, you do have to be patient.
The business version of a nanny cam
If you are smart, you are wondering how you can be sure your website developer is coding to meet the latest standards. It's easier than you can imagine. I won't put the exact how-to in here, but the steps are:
Finally, there are now apps available that will scan the pages of your site and let you know about any broken links - another SEO degrader! If you want more reliable SEO, search at least annually, if not quarterly, for an often free, "broken link checker" and run it. Internal links are easy to keep up with, it's the external links that can change without your notice, because, by definition, an external link is outside of your own website and that means it's probably someone else's site, and not everyone is as awesome as you are going to be at maintaining their site. Don't be surprised if your report reflects broken external links buried in the comments on your blogs. Best to just delete the associated comment if you can't delete the link associated with the commenter. Also, don't have external links in an attempt to game the search engines - you know by now that gaming is not how you win with SEO.
Ask Your Site Host for SEO Help
Wherever you host your site, look or ask for articles on how best to address your site and page titles, descriptions, keywords, and meta tags. Weebly has done a very nice job of this, and is more proof that you can do this yourself and/or check up on whomever is doing it for you: 4 Weebly SEO Features You Should Be Using Right Now.
If you run my site through an SEO analyzer, you will find I am sometimes behind on following my own advice. However, over the years I have still managed to maintain respect of the search engines simply by following the basic rules to the best of my ability. I've even undergone a website and personal name change with only a few and temporary repercussions.
What Google Wants
Here's what Google was looking for within your site in 2015: What Google Wants In 2015. Now, compare that to What Google Wants in 2018 and Later. For more and easily digestible detail, try: How Does Google Search Work In 2018?
Always be on the lookout for new, fresh articles, though, because changes are always happening in the online world just like in life: How to Rank on Google.
My article pick for 2019 comes from Thryv. Another option is to monitor the changes in this Google Webmaster article.
In Essence ...
Website SEO success is similar to appropriate, wise, social success: Etiquette matters. Manners change and evolve and civilizations change and evolve, yet wise civilizations are sure to maintain core values (like integrity) even as the times and technology change. In the online world, technological tools may always be changing, but the underlying core values should remain: Be aware, be respectful, be a positive contribution, and be wise to the value of organic and cultivated growth over the long term. In other words, may we all do our part to prioritize integrity in all our Earthly transactions.
This article was originally written in 2014, but gets updated on occasion, so the latest revision date is at the top of the article.
Solutions to everyday stress involve identifying where we are emotionally unhappy and then taking action to correct or curb the circumstances involved. I love this kind of healing-based problem-solving and happily share for those seeking similar unique yet ubiquitous solutions. Consequently, the topics here may vary within health, lifestyle, and work/business.
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