SEO (search engine optimization) is effectively describing your site to search engines so they recommend its content to to the right people. Who are the right people? People searching for terms and topics that are relevant to your content.

Without SEO, your content won’t appear at the top of search results for Google when you want it to. And, your content won’t work well with your own website’s search function. (For a refresher on why SEO matters, read our SEO Fact Sheet.

Good organic SEO starts with a sound content foundation. To help you lay that foundation, let’s walk through the essential steps.

Six Basic Steps To SEO

1: Define your content objectives.

What are you trying to accomplish through the content you want people to find? Who are you trying to reach? What do you want people to do with your content after they find it? The clearer your objectives, the better you can describe your content to search engines.

2: Research relevant keywords that users actually use.

Search engines sift through your content to find matches with the keywords people use. Find words that people commonly search for and yet are unique to your message. Compile a list of useful, relevant keywords. Think in terms both broad and targeted to cover your bases. Then, use those keywords throughout your content.

Note: With search engines, too much of a good thing is possible. Search engines will penalize content that uses a keyword too often. 

3: Plan quality web content.

Give each page, screen, or component a specific focus that aligns with your keywords. For each page, screen, or component, plan quality content. Why quality and not quantity? Google just changed their search engine algorithm to punish “low-quality” sites, such as sites that simply copy other sites’ content, and benefit sites that provide original, quality content.

4: Get down into the details of page elements and links.

When designing the content for each page, pay attention to individual elements that benefit SEO. Page titles, for example, are important because they display on search results. Make your page titles descriptive as well as unique to each page. Be accurate about the purpose of the page but not verbose. This goes for meta descriptions as well. Also important are the links within your pages. For example, “Click Here” will not cut it. Make your links descriptive, unique, and use your keywords.

5: Describe content that isn’t text (images, videos, podcasts, and more).

A picture is worth a thousand words to people, not to search engines. Search engines don’t see photos, videos, podcasts, and other non-text content the way we do. You have to explain those types of content. Describe them accurately in ALT tags, captions, filenames, and the surrounding text. Use those keywords again when appropriate.

6: Keep search engines coming back with fresh content.

Regularly update and, if needed, add to the content on your site. This step can involve everything from rotating your site features to publishing blog posts to integrating feeds from your social networks.

That’s A Lot, But That’s Not All

We’ve covered the essential steps for making your content friendly to search engines. In my next post, I’ll share tips for working with other team members on SEO through a project lifecycle.

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in July 2012.

The Author

Lisa Clark is the award-winning Creative Director for Content Science, specializing in visual branding, visual identity, and visual content strategy. You can contact Lisa at Content Science.

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