Becoming A Google Search Engine Optimizer
As the owner of SkipTheDrive, I’m always on a mission to improve our search engine rankings. The more I learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the more fascinated I become with how search engines nowadays (especially Google), are becoming more human-like when deciphering the results to return for a given query.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
SkipTheDrive has been live since February of 2013. Since then not only have I learned a lot about running a business, but I’ve also acquired a great deal of knowledge with regards to SEO. This brings me to my point – I think that working as a SEO consultant (especially a Google SEO consultant) would be a fantastic option for freelancers to consider! According to ComScore.com, 67.6% of all searches conducted on the web in the U.S. were with Google, with Bing at a distant second place (18.7%). For this reason most SEOs focus on optimizing for Google, with good reason.
If you’re interested in becoming a Google SEO, the information below will give you a basic understanding of the fundamentals.
Google Webmaster Tools
My first recommendation to anybody considering going down this path is to sign up for a Google Webmaster Tools account. Think of Webmaster Tools as how Google views your site on the web. It will not divulge all of the information regarding your site, however, staying on top of suggestions should be the first step of action for ensuring a Google-friendly site. Webmaster tools will provide you with valuable (and sometimes critical) information such as keyword statistics, penalties, errors, and potential security risks. Fixing penalties and errors should be priority #1. Check this tool regularly, but keep in mind that any changes made to your site could take days (or weeks) before those changes are reflected.
Google is constantly making changes to their algorithm to sift out useless content and reward those with quality content. This is where you need to get out of the SEO mindset for a minute and make your pages and/or blog articles for users first, SEO second. Why is your website different or better than other sites in your niche? It’s important to emphasize these points, especially on your homepage. Doing so can reduce the bounce rate (the rate at which people view a page and navigate to another site) and encourage users to stick around and visit other pages on your site. Does your site provide information above and beyond what your competitors have? Why should people stick around your site as opposed to navigating away to a competitor’s site?
Once you’ve gone through the content on your page and it reads well, focus on optimizing the title and description of the page. If you have any images, make sure to use ALT tags so that Google knows what the image is about. Use links sparingly and only where it makes sense for the user.
Keep It Clean
Gone are the days where people can manipulate rankings by using tactics such as keyword stuffing and link farms. Google’s algorithms are too sophisticated for that, and one could easily be penalized for using such tactics. Though it’s easy to slip into the mindset of ‘What does Google want?’ when approaching SEO, it’s very necessary to take a step back and focus on what your users want. If you have a one-track mind and are too focused on SEO as opposed to improving the user experience, your rankings will suffer. There must be a balance.
Google keeps getting smarter. If you’re new to the game of SEO, keep in mind that using black hat tactics (tactics used to manipulate search algorithms) will not work in the long run and will only hurt your site’s rankings. Google has many quality guideline checks in place, so if you are not familiar with them it’s well worth taking your time to read up and ensure that you’re not engaging in any of these frowned upon activities. Many website owners have painted themselves in a corner, and out of desperation will end up ditching their site and starting from scratch. Don’t get into this predicament. Rule of thumb – if your SEO efforts can’t comfortably be explained to a Google employee, stop doing it!
This article is by no means an exhaustive list of best practices, however, by following Google’s guidelines and using Webmaster Tools, you’re well on your way to understanding the basics of SEO and staying out of trouble. If you’re new to the search optimization world, I’d recommend reading The Beginners Guide To SEO by MOZ.