Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the work of refining your site so that it shows up as one of the first results on a search results page. You probably already guessed ranking high is important. But, how important is it? According to Chitika Insight's survey, the listings on the first search results page get 92% of the clicks. This stat reveals what a huge advantage those first page listings have over their competitors. Getting on the first page isn't easy and can take several months of work. But, here are 7 tips for how you can begin to optimize your Chattanooga website.
Focus on Longtail Keywords
The first thing you need to do is figure out which searches you want to target. If you don't have a website yet, you can use a tool like Uber Suggest or the Moz Keyword Explorer to see what users type into search engines. If you already have a website, you can use tools like Google's Search Console (more about this tool later) to see which keywords generate impressions of your site.
Of course, you want the keywords to describe your business or service. But, it's important to identify which specific keywords generate the most traffic and in which order. For example, when I was researching keywords for my site, I learned that "logo design chattanooga" and "chattanooga web design" were the two most important keywords. Interestingly, the placement of "chattanooga" impacted how many times that keywords was used.
Longtail keywords are different from normal keywords in their specificity. If I targeted "web design" without the addition of "chattanooga", there's no way I could compete with larger websites like Squarespace, Wix, UpCity, and others. By zooming in to a smaller niche, I can compete because my website is more relevant to local search engine users than some of the big name competitors.
Once you have your longtail keywords selected, you need to place them in a few key places:
- Page Titles and Meta Descriptions - In the HTML of each page on your website, it's necessary to assign a title to the page and a description. Most drag-and-drop builders let you do this in the page's settings. The title is what shows up on the Search Results page in the blue link and the blurb below it comes from your meta description. In a natural way, try to insert your keyword into both locations.
- Heading Tags - HTML uses "heading tags" or simply headings to organize content. Think of those headings like the table of contents in a book. The H1 tag is the title of the book and the H2 tags are its chapters. H3 - H6 are further markings to separate content. Try to insert your keywords into the heading tags.
- URL Slugs - Slugs are the part of your page's website URL that distinguish it as a unique page. In the example below, the logo design service page on my website has a slug of "chattanooga-logo-design". It's only a small bump, but search engines do look at the content of your slug.
- Body Copy - Years ago, search engines caught on to websites overusing or "stuffing" keywords into their body copy and blog articles. Doing that nowadays actually penalizes you and forces you down in search results. But, it's still important to use your keywords in the body copy, ideally towards the top of the page. Make sure to use it naturally or in a way that wouldn't feel weird to someone reading it.
- Alt Text - In your site's HTML, you can assign "Alt Text" to images. Most drag-and-drop builders let you add Alt Text in an image's settings. The main purpose of Alt Text is to describe images for sight-impaired users who are using a screen reader. But, since search engines aren't able to evaluate images, they use the alt text to determine relevance to a particular search. If it makes sense to use your keyword in the alt text, try to fit it in.
Organize your site with a clear link structure
When search engines crawl a website, they follow the links they find on each page. Then, they crawl the new page they found, index the content, and determine how the content on this page relates to the content on the other pages. By offering a clear link structure, you can make it easy for search engines to find each page on your site. That will ensure the search engines don't miss any of the content you've gone through the trouble of creating.
Write a Blog
It's one thing to encourage you to simply "write a blog." It's another thing to commit to writing fresh, relevant, and thoughtful content on a regular basis. As I mentioned in my article on working with a web design agency to develop your website, if you decide to have a blog on your site it's important to have a strategy for content creation. But, once you have a strategy in place, blogs can be extremely helpful in boosting your SEO. To ensure that your blog does just that, I encourage you to do the following:
- Answer potential clients' questions in a thoughtful and well-researched article. If readers click on your link and don't like what they read, they'll just bounce back to the search results page. But, if you've written a helpful article with rich content, they'll keep reading and may go on to explore your site.
- Employ the SEO tactics we've discussed in this article. Identify the best longtail keyword and use it in your article. Include it in the article title (which should be your H1), in the blog section headings, in the slug, and in the alt text for images.
- Make a call-to-action (CTA). At the end of the article, invite the user to do something. If you don't, they may not consider that they can take a next step and that it can be with you. Make your CTA visually distinct from the article itself and visually prominent.
Offer a transcript for videos and podcasts
Earlier, I talked about how search engines use Alt Text because they can't evaluate images. The same goes for videos and podcasts. Search engines don't know what content is in them unless you provide a transcript. Overtime by Dribbble is a great example. At the top of the page, a Simple Cast embed lets you listen to the podcast right away. But, below the embed, you have the option to click on links mentioned in the podcast or you can read the transcript included at the very bottom.
Recruit Inbound Links
When someone links to your site, it signals to search engines that your users will find your site useful. But, particularly in the early days of your website, you likely won't have enough organic traffic to generate those links passively. So, you may need to actively recruit links. For example, a local online news source, Nooga, wrote about a rebrand I helped with for Young Professional of Chattanooga. After the article was published, I wrote the author and asked her if she would credit me for the work and link to my portfolio site. She was happy to help and I won an inbound link. Here are a few other ways to recruit links:
- Share your blog on social media. Someone in your social circle may find your content helpful and link to it.
- Email bloggers. Research blogs in your field and share your website or particular articles with them that they can link to in their blogs.
- Email online directories and ask to get added to their database.
- Research who is linking to your competitors and try to get them to link to you too. You can use tools like Ahrefs or Moz's Link Explorer to get this info.
Utilize Google Search Console
Google provides a free tool called Search Console that is specifically geared to helping you rank higher in searches. It's necessary to verify your site. But, once you do, Search Console will track helpful metrics:
- Keywords. Search Console will list all of the keywords that generate your page as a search result.
- Impressions. You'll see how many times users were shown your website on a search results page.
- Average position. Search Console tracks the order of search results. That means you can measure if your efforts are leading to higher rankings.
- Click-through Rate (CTR). Search Console tracks how many clicks you got for particular searches. Since it also tracks how many times that search is made, it can give you a percentage of how often you win that search result.
Those metrics are incredibly helpful. For example, one thing I do regularly is look at which keywords are generating the most impressions of my website. If my average position is relatively high (remember, being "1" is best because it means my site showed up as the first result), I can tweak my website or add a blog to try and rank higher.
Use Schema Markup to Generate Rich Snippets
Several search engines collaborated to create an open source language called Schema markup. When you use that markup on your site correctly, it can create "rich snippets" in search results. Snippets look like specially configured results. For example, if you search for a band's tour schedule, the actual dates could be listed on the results page under the meta description. Or, a recipe result might display a photo of the meal, how long it takes to cook, its rating by users, and other info.
Admittedly, the research I've done isn't conclusive about how using Schema markup directly impacts SEO. But, it is clear that it helps with click-through-rates. This is likely because there's more info displayed on the search results page and it's displayed more attractively. SEO is positively impacted by high CTRs. So, Schema markup can have, at the very least, an indirect effect on your SEO.
Get your Chattanooga Website to Rank with Serve
If you're reading this article because you're preparing to build a website or because you're considering a redesign, I hope you'll consider us a resource and reach out. I'd love to hear about your project and determine if we might be able to help.