Thanks so much Melissa Cales for contributing this! We want you to check out her site here!
Two years ago when I started my business and created my first website, I had this Field of Dreams mentality: If I built it, they would come. I would hit publish on my website and the phone would start ringing. Nothing could have been further from the truth. After a couple months with no one looking at my site except my mom, I realized that Google searches are too powerful of a business tool to ignore. Having the right website with really great SEO would be one of the best form of free marketing I could get my hands on, so I started doing my homework. Several of these tips are specific to WordPress blogs and blogsites and some are universal to every website. If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start when it comes to improving your websites’ SEO and Google search traffic, trust me, I’ve been there. So grab a cup of coffee and read on my friends.
1. Ditch the Flash
I know we all like the slick flash sites, but there are some legitimate reasons you should consider ditching one faster than a bad boyfriend. Search engines like Google do their searches based on a websites’ index; flash and HTML index very differently and a flash index can’t be read very well by Google. A lot of flash website companies build in components that let you add in keywords that can be searched, but the text content on your pages cannot be read and that is a valuable tool. Unless your flash site has an HTML mirror site, it might be time to consider a breakup.
When was the last time you pulled up a website on your fancy iPhone? As of November 2011, Adobe is no longer supporting mobile flash. HTML5 is the new guy in town and he looks just as good as flash, but is a way better boyfriend. I don’t know about you, but I pull websites up all the time on my phone and a mobile friendly site is very important to me.
2. Blog More
This is possibly the easiest and maybe even the most important tip on this list. Blogs are good for SEO because they’re easy for Google to read: they’re HTML and they have lots of text (hint: Google likes text). Google also likes fresh content, it wants to see that your site is updated regularly because this gives your site more validity. If you don’t blog or update your site for a few months, your Google rank will slowly decrease.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of blogsites. Blog + website = blogsite. I have one single home on the internet that is jam packed with keyword heavy text and metatags, plus since I’m in the back-end several times a week to blog, I have no excuse not to keep my portfolio galleries and informational pages updated. A blogsite may not be for everyone, but if you’re in the market for a new website and/or blog, I suggest considering one!
3. Links Within your Site
This one is so easy you have no excuse NOT to do it. Adding links on your site to other items on your site helps Google see that you are a real site with good information. So for example, if I photograph the Smith family every fall I might link to their old blog posts when I add their new photos to my blog. Or, if I’m blogging a Senior session, I might link to my Senior portfolio gallery or Senior rep application. Another easy way is to add a plugin to your WordPress blog that links to other similar posts based on the keywords you give the posts. I would reccommend the Related Posts Thumbnail plugin.
4. Link to your Site
Just like links within your site, links to your site are good for your rank too. Definitely post links all day long on Facebook and Twitter, but keep in mind that social media links have a lower effect than links from other legitmate websites. Don’t worry though! This is easy to remedy by regularly commenting on your favorite blogs and leaving the link to your site in the website field and getting your website included in directories like PPA find-a- Photographer.
5. A Good SEO Plugin
A good seo plugin will optimize your site by adding keywords and descriptions exactly where Google is going to look for them. The default fields in WordPress are pretty good, but to go one step further, I suggest going with the all-in-one SEO pack for WordPress.
6. A Good Sitemap Plugin
Submitting a sitemap to Google gives your website more authority, which helps Google’s ranking formula. It also tells Google exactly what info is on what pages, allowing the pages to be searched more easily & accurately. Adding a plugin and telling it when to resubmit the sitemap takes care of the maintenance work on this for you. I use the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
7. Become BFF with Google Adwords
You can get a Google Adwords account for free, and no, you don’t have to run ads. But this powerful tool allows you to type in a keyword, say “chicago wedding photographer”, and see its’ popularity as well as other similar keyword searches. Spend a little time with Adwords to come up with the top keywords you want to be found for and use those on your site.
8. Image names & Alt Tags
How you name things matters. “image-001.jpg” isn’t going to do a darn thing for you. “chicago-wedding-photography-001.jpg” will get those images and the post or page it is on showing up when someone searches Google for “Chicago wedding photography”. Alt text is the text that pops up when you hover over an image, it’s helpful to add the alt text info when you are adding images to your blog posts. Ever do a google image search? Image names and alt text is what Google is pulling from to show you the search results. A couple extra minutes when naming & blogging images will pay off huge in the long run.
9. Page Titles & Page Text
Page titles show up in the top of the browser and the Google search results, so naming pages or posts so they accurately reflect the page content is pretty important. The first 70 characters of a page title is the most important. The page text is a great place to describe what the page is about while using some of the keywords you’ve targeted after becoming BFF with Google Adwords. The first 160 characters of your page text is what Google will be looking at.
10. Patience & Hardwork
Sadly, it doesn’t happen overnight. Even the companies you can pay tons of money to do your SEO can’t do it overnight. Managing and improving your SEO takes time. SEO is a lot like editing…the work never ends. I suggest coming up with a blogging schedule and sticking to it. Include working on your SEO in that scheduled blogging time. The more work you put in, the greater results you will see. If you don’t already have one, sign up for a free Google Analytics account so you can measure your success.
To give you a glimpse of how this can pay off, I used Google Analytics to pull some comparisons from my website. I started doing all of my SEO work last spring, so I compared two one month periods: February 15, 2011 – March 14, 2011 (prior to my SEO work) and December 15, 2011 – January 14, 2011 (the most recent 30 days). My overall site traffic for the past 30 days is up 414% over the Feb-March 2011 30 day period. The number of unique visitors is up 441%. My traffic from Google is up 1,816.67%!!
Thanks so much Melissa Cales for contributing this!
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