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SEO Beyond Keywords: Strategies for New Websites

For beginners, search engine optimization can seem a mysterious enterprise. In reality, it’s mostly very straightforward. The main challenge lies in thoroughness: capitalizing on all the available SEO techniques to gain more prominence in search results and more eyes on your page.

In other words, you’ll want to go beyond keyword SEO; merely populating your content and HTML tags with a keyword phrase. Don’t skimp on these other strategies that may help your new web page gain an SEO edge:

Local Search Optimization

  • Capitalizes on search engines’ emphasis on proximity
  • Provides a venue for customers to independently post reviews of your business

For some searches, such as searches for brick-and-mortar businesses and services delivered locally, nothing is more pertinent than proximity.

The major search engines even maintain their own local search indexes, specifically to answer queries for which closeness is key. Take advantage of this by optimizing for local search.

Local search optimization is smart strategy above and beyond keywords.

For brick-and-mortar businesses and services delivered locally, optimizing for local search can ensure a spot on page one of results.

Setting up a free Google Plus page for your business is an important step. Local businesses with complete and optimized Google Plus pages make it to page one of Google results, along with star ratings, location markers and links to their websites.

Bing and Yahoo have similar programs where you can register your local business for free.

It’s also wise to indicate your location in your site’s meta information, in geotags.  Geotags specify your geographic coordinates, for search engine web crawlers to index.  Free geotag generators are available on the web that will provide you with the complete tag (including your coordinates), which you can paste into your code.

. . . And remember that mobile users are a big part of local search web traffic.  Be sure that when they visit your site on their devices, it looks good and functions well for them.

Directory Optimization

  • Capitalizes on the strength of popular directories’ SEO
  • Brings traffic from people who search the web using directories
  • Boosts your ranking in local search results

Listing your site in online directories is like having additional “tickets” in the search results lottery.

Piggybacking on the popularity and visibility of directories is smart SEO strategy for new websites.

Increase the odds that you’ll get found. Your directory listing can show up in Google results or in searches of the directory.

Directories such as Yelp, CitySearch, Yellow Pages, and Foursquare are typically search engines in their own right. Users can find your site through them.

. . .But as importantly, their listings are often optimized to rank well in standard search results. If your business site doesn’t rank well on Google or Bing, perhaps your listing in one of the many directories will rank well and send visitors to your site that way.

What’s more, the ubiquity and consistency of entries for your site in directories is thought to contribute to your rank in local search results, by signaling authority.

Claim and optimize your listings in as many major directories as you can.

Social Media Optimization

  • Likely contributes to your page’s rank in search results
  • Helps you build relationships with customers and gain insights into their needs

The Google algorithms that decide a page’s rank are closely guarded secrets. There’s even a bit of intrigue in the mix — Google says it doesn’t take social signals into consideration (Facebook “Likes,” for example) though many search engine experts are convinced Google does.

In fact, most search engine experts believe that social signals are the future of SEO.

One thing is sure: Google has a social network of its own — Google Plus. It’s likely they’re taking at least their own social signals into account (Google “+1” for example) when weighing sites for authority and popularity.

Like this article? Give it a “+1.”

Adding a Google +1 button is a good start on social media optimization. Facebook “Likes,” “tweets” and other social signals are also likely to weigh in page rankings. Facilitating the sharing of your content through popular social media is smart SEO.

. . . Then there’s “reaching out.”  The other half of social media optimization is less about the audience coming to you than you dropping in on them: posting on forums, joining online groups, and using Twitter, for example.

Being an active member of online communities allows you to build relationships with your customer base and subtly publicize your site. It also helps you gain insight into your customers’ interests, gripes, and the problems your content can solve for them.

Microdata and “Rich Snippets”

  • Adds “eye-catching” elements to your search results listing
  • Provides extra data in results that can inform click decisions
  • Helps search engines more precisely match your content to search queries
  • “Future-proofs” your SEO efforts

For human readers, understanding the meaning and context of your content is easy. For search engine bots, less so. “Microdata” helps you precisely define your content for the bots, so that they retrieve it more accurately and display more informative data in results listings.

You weave microdata into your standard HTML code. It has no effect on your page’s appearance, but it can enhance the appearance of your page’s listing in search results.

Make standing out in results part of your new website's SEO strategy, with Google rich snippets.

The Google “Recipes” tab results include star ratings, prep times, calorie counts, and more — richer data, thanks to microdata on the web pages.   These enhanced listings are called “rich snippets.”

Google calls these enhanced listings “rich snippets,” for the richer information they display.

Conduct a search using Google’s “recipes” tab, for example, and you’ll see cooking times, calorie counts, and dish images right in the results listings, thanks to microdata in the web pages.

If a searcher needs a low-calorie recipe or a dish with a festive look, your recipe might win their click, thanks to your microdata.

On the wider web, rich snippets draw on microdata to display such informative extras as star ratings for books and movies, prices for products, contact information for businesses, and dates and times for events.

Attracting eyes to your results listing is an under-appreciated way to optimize beyond keyword SEO.

Author images in search results can arrest the eye and boost clickthrough. “Breadcrumb” links offer extra click options, increasing the odds users will click to your site.

Microdata can also be used to achieve the author “head shots” you’ll often see in results for articles, and the “breadcrumb” links that offer searchers extra options to click in a single listing.

While microdata doesn’t affect your rank in results, all this extra data and color can draw eyes to your listing and inspire click-through.

Microdata tags are available to mark information well beyond the kinds that Google rich snippets display. There are microdata tags to denote specific types of businesses: “EmploymentAgency” or “RealEstateAgent” for example, along with tags to define their offers, contacts, and associated brands.

As search engines evolve, the value of microdata in your current pages can only increase. Visit Google’s “About Rich Snippets” page for more information, and once you’re up to speed, have a look at schema.org for microdata tags that might apply to your content.  Its “LocalBusiness” schema, for example, has markup for more than 25 types of businesses and over 100 sub-types.

Link Building

  • Boosts your rank in search results
  • Draws visitors from other sites

Garnering links to your website — ideally from authoritative sources and ideally with your keyword phrases in the link text — is no easy task. This part of SEO requires the greatest investment of time and energy by far. It’s also the part that classically has contributed most to a page’s rank in search engine results.

As optimization evolves, abundant links to your site from quality sources are sure to continue to indicate your page’s authority for a given search term.

Link building requires both creating content worth linking to and letting the world know about it. On the other hand, don’t forget to grab the “low hanging fruit”: links to key pages on your website from its sister pages, and links to your pages from websites run by friends, family and associates.

Article directories,  press release sites, and guest-blogging offer other opportunities to seed the web with “keyworded” links to your site.

Stick with the “organic” links, however (those you’ve earned through your content or your relationships). Don’t be tempted to purchase links or enter link exchange schemes. New Google algorithms punish signs of artificial linking, such as links from sites that are known to be connected to such schemes.

Site Structure SEO

  • Makes your content more appealing and “sharable”
  • Demonstrates the “authority” of your page
  • Helps search engines index more of your content

If there’s one sure-fire way to optimize your site, it’s by offering an optimal user experience to your site’s visitors. Quality content in an appealing presentation keeps eyes on your site longer, keeps them coming back, and gets your site shared via links and “likes” — all of which help your site’s rank grow naturally.

People love a well-put-together site, so when ranking sites, search engines look for structural elements that suggest visitors will have a positive experience. Structure that hints at more professional design, such as quick load times, fewer ads in proportion to content, fewer coding errors, and a low “bounce rate” will help your site rank higher.

Pay attention to the basics of good content and structure for a “head start” in the cumulative game of SEO.

Infographics and flow charts make great content, but web crawlers can't process text in images.

Use metadata to tell web crawlers about content delivered in “crawler-shy” formats.

Another important goal of site structure SEO is to get more of your content indexed. The more that’s indexed, the more likely your pages will appear in search engine results — so build your website “crawler friendly.”

Start by avoiding page elements that obscure their subject matter from search engine bots “crawling” the web to index content. Common culprits are text in images, Flash objects, and Javascript that creates content on the fly.

If you can’t avoid using items in these opaque formats, elucidate them with metadata. Everything from “alt” text to captions to “microdata” can help crawlers understand the relevance of objects on your page. (. . . And of course, where it’s convenient, populate “alt” text and captions with the keywords you’re targeting.)

An illustration of how to point web crawlers to your sitemap, guiding them to index more of your content.

Roll out the red carpet for web crawlers: Add a “Sitemap:” line to your robots.txt file.

You can also ensure that your content is thoroughly indexed by making an XML site map available. Point crawlers to its location using your robots.txt file, and submit it directly to Google and Bing, via their free webmaster tools.

Your site structure should also offer a positive user experience for visitors on mobile devices. Minimize the bounce rate by using a responsive design that adjusts to various screen sizes, or post a separate mobile site.

Thorough Keyword Research

  • Compounds the value of your keyword SEO
  • “Prequalifies” your traffic for conversion

Of course, whatever SEO methods you choose, the minimum you’ll want to do is good ol’ keyword SEO: populating your HTML tags and content with a “keyword phrase.” This is the better part of what tells search engines how relevant your page is to any given search term.

However, even before you set about that, you can gain an edge — by choosing the right keyword phrases to become relevant for. The trick lies in finding a keyword phrase that has robust search volume, reflects the nature of your content, and has few competing web pages well-optimized for it.

It’s not an easy mission, but finding such a “gem” can help you stand out in search engine results. Optimizing for the right keyword phrase can also help attract just the right audience to your site.

Take the time, do your keyword homework, and find those phrases that customers are googling but competitors have overlooked.

  • SitebySunrise weaves SEO into each site we create. Local search and directory optimization for “brick-and-mortar” business sites. Microformatting for sites marketing products and services. Basic keyword research and technical SEO for all. Need an attractive, optimized site, complete with effective copywriting, SEO and promotion? Take advantage of the SitebySunrise Website Package. Start with a free consultation.
SEO Strategy for New Websites: Gain an Edge By Going Beyond Keywords
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