Whether we like it or not, the fact is that being found easily on search engines, especially Google, is still a very important part of the marketing game. Indeed, with the near extinction of resources like phone books, web search is perhaps the best possible way people can find you and your cause.
When people hear the acronym SEO (Search Engine Optimization), however, they sometimes really hear “snake oil.” A lot of SEO firms over the last few years have engaged in a lot of “black hat” tactics that have actually ruined companies rather than help them. Caution is good, but avoiding search engine optimization can really spell doom for your organization. With that in mind, here are just three tips to consider as you ponder optimizing your website.
1. Build Backlinks
When SEO first was getting emphasized, the primary focus was on tactics that could be done on your own website, like updating metatags and header text. In recent years, however, the focus has turned a little more to building backlinks. Backlinks mean that your website has a link on another website. The more credible the website that is linking to you, the better Google likes it. The best kinds of links to get are from websites that have .edu, org, or .gov URLs.
If your organization sponsors a college event or if someone from your organization presents at a university, see if you can get a write-up on their website that links back to yours. This is a great way to optimize your site. One of the black hat tactics that has emerged in the wake of backlink importance is to have “link farm” sites link back to your site. While quantity may seem important, where backlinks are concerned it is all about quality.
2. Reach Those Who Don’t Know About You
One of the most common mistakes companies and organizations make is to choose keywords that are meaningful to them from inside their industry or cause. You naturally assume that people are going to think about your organization the exact same way you do, and therefore they will be searching for words and phrases that you emphasize. It is not so! You have to assume when you are optimizing your site that some people will be searching for what your organization supports but they may not know the best search term to use.
They almost certainly won’t know some of the “pet” words and phrases that you use every day. A good SEO firm will help you understand how many searches occur for some of the keywords and phrases you want to optimize your site for and they will let you know whether they really think optimizing for that word will help you out.
3. It’s About Context, Not Just Keywords
Deciding what keywords and phrases you want to optimize your site for is a great first step, but that won’t do any good if you don’t then do something with those important words and phrases. In the past, companies and organizations have inserted keywords into header text, photo captions, and tags, but SEO Moz recently argued that in order to really win the SEO game, you need to offer great context as well.
Think topics instead of just keywords. This makes sense because it is aligned with Google’s objective to offer increasingly relevant content. Google wants to know that it is finding not just a keyword on a page but a lot of credible content that has to do with that keyword. It wants to know that it is serving people the best possible result tied to their search.
These tips are of course just the very beginning of what you need to know about how to optimize your organization’s website. SEO is a game that requires persistence and patience, but investing in the process can pay huge dividends for your cause down the road.