How To Navigate The Complex World Of Search Engine Optimization

Marketing Director at FST Logistics in Columbus, Ohio, a leading provider of temperature-controlled warehouse and transportation solutions

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an evolving and often complex area of digital marketing. For even the most seasoned marketer, it may feel like it is nearly impossible to get right. However, with the right plan, there are many things any marketing professional can do to make sure their website is performing well. Here are five approaches to navigating search engine optimization for any website:

1. Set up Google Analytics, Google Search Engine Console and Google Lighthouse.

First and foremost, be sure that all three of these tools are set up and connected to the website. Google Analytics will provide insight into website visitor behavior, such as top-performing web pages or sources of organic traffic. Google Search Console will show how a website is performing and whether the site is indexing properly. Lastly, Google Lighthouse has built-in capabilities that can point out ways to improve the quality of your web pages. These three tools are free (although there is a paid version of Google Analytics) and provide a good foundation for collecting data and for identifying areas of opportunity for most websites. Google provides free training for each of these tools through the support section for each tool as well.

2. Forget keywords and go back to the basics.

A few years ago, marketers were so focused on finding the right keywords, and then we were concerned about long-tail keywords, and the list goes on. Now, search algorithms are also focused on the user’s search context. When considering what webpage content to show, Google now evaluates the intent or meaning behind the query. For example, by using location information or other forms of artificial intelligence, Google can understand the search better and provide more relevant answers for the user. When creating content for a webpage, consider solving a problem or answering a question. 

3. Claim a Google Knowledge Panel.

Knowledge Panels “are meant to help you get a quick snapshot of information on a topic based on Google’s understanding of available content on the web.” In my experience, these Knowledge Panels can greatly influence SEO strategy and how a website ranks on specific topics for search queries. Google often pulls quick information about specific topics and condenses it into the Google Knowledge Panel to help users find information quickly. To understand the steps for verification and to claim a specific Knowledge Panel, follow the instructions here.

4. Don’t forget the essentials; make sure all webpages are optimized for search with proper titles, meta descriptions, alt tags and h1 tags.

Search engines need to find the information users are searching for, and the easiest way to make sure pages are ranking properly is to verify that each page has a strong foundation. This includes checking title content and length and verifying that meta descriptions for each page contain relevant keywords. Determine that any images used contain alt tags and that each page has an h1 tag as well. These approaches can help any marketer maximize their return on investment when allocating time and resources to SEO projects.

5. Take advantage of user-friendly SEO tools when appropriate.

Many organizations have an abundance of search engine tools in their existing marketing tech stack. Use these when possible. The tools can often quickly integrate with existing websites and can regularly “scan” a website to ensure that each page is optimized. If not, the tools can generate a report to identify problematic pages with (usually) easy fixes. Some can even generate a site health score, which can create a list of specific opportunities to help improve a website’s overall performance in searches.

Running an effective search engine optimization program doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. All it takes is a basic understanding of SEO principles and a desire to increase high-quality traffic to a website. While this should not serve as a comprehensive list of things to entirely optimize an SEO program, it can serve as a checklist from which to start.

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