SEO Basics: 7 tips to help search engines find your content

Perhaps one of the biggest questions for website owners and content creators is how to get their website to show up at the top of search results. While you can’t control everything that pushes content to top of Google’s results list, these 7 tips and standard SEO (search engine optimization) practices will certainly help.

1. Don’t try to trick Google

In the early days of Google and other search engines, some website owners would pack a web page with words that people searched for often. This would cause those sites to rise to the top of search results. Over time, however, Google caught on to this trick and it no longer works — in fact, sites that try to artificially trick search engines often end up not showing up in search results at all. Not only is this a bad practice anyway but it also it ends up hurting you, so don’t do it.

2. Know your limits

Remember that Google’s main goal is accuracy in search results. While we’re a WordPress-based web design company, we can’t expect MPWR Design to show up as the #1 search result if someone searches for WordPress. Obviously, will be the #1 search result. This is how it should be, because when someone searches for WordPress, this is what they’re looking for.

Similarly, it’s highly doubtful that your website will never show up at #1 for a broad topic even if you follow all the rules. If your competitors also follow all the rules, how will Google decide which to show first? It all comes back to accuracy. Remembering point #1 above — Google’s main goal is accuracy and it’s a bad idea to try to trick them — it’s important to set realistic goals for your search results and optimize your content accordingly.

Since Google’s goal is accuracy in its search results, your main goal is the same — you want to help Google accurately determine what you’re writing about. After all, if someone finds your page after searching for something unrelated, they’re unlikely to stick around and read anyway. You don’t want visitors to your site to be frustrated, because they’re more likely to blame you for writing what they perceive to be bad content than they are to blame Google for a bad suggestion.

In addition to overall accuracy, consider that Google’s rankings aren’t universal. Instead, location heavily influences search results. For example, a search for “tacos” will yield drastically different results in Texas than it will in California. After all, no one in Texas wants to drive to California for lunch and vice versa. With that in mind, understand that you’ll rank higher in areas where you’re seen to be relevant. If your store or organization has a physical location, make sure to use the name of the city or town where your business is located so Google can show your site in its search results to people in your area.

3. Understand how headings work

In HTML, six heading tags (labeled H1 through H6) exist to help give your site a hierarchy. WordPress allows you to apply these headings easily. In the far left box of the editor toolbar, click “Paragraph” and you’ll see an option of Heading 1 through Heading 6. Remember these tips when using headings:

  • It’s bad SEO practice to have multiple Heading 1 tags on a page. Your page’s title is a Heading 1 tag, so don’t use Heading 1 in your content.
  • Use Heading 2 throughout your content to designate “sections” of your content. For example, the heading above, “3. Understand how headings work,” uses Heading 2, as do the other sections below.
  • Use subheadings when appropriate with the Heading 3-6 tags.
  • Use these headings wisely, choosing words that describe what your particular post or page is about, specifically in your title. Consider words people will search for but don’t add them when they don’t belong. Headers need to accurately describe what a section is about — accuracy, remember?
  • Most importantly, don’t use headings as a way to make text bigger. Headings are designed to be just that. If you randomly enlarge text throughout a page and use headings to accomplish this, you’ll throw off Google’s search bots and hurt your chances at having your page rank highly in search results.

4. Use descriptive text for images

When you add an image to a post or page, WordPress provides 4 boxes for you to enter content — title, caption, alt text, and description. It might be tempting to leave these boxes blank, but remember that search engines need a way to tell what an image is. You can skip the caption if you don’t want one to display below your images, but it’s important to add a title and alt text to all your images. Page readers for the visually impaired also read image alt text in place of images, making the use of alt text a good accommodation to ensure people who can’t actually see your content are still able to follow along.

5. Gain traction across the internet

This is where things get tricky. Google determines what it calls “authority” based not only on relevance but also on things like how much traffic a website generates and how many other websites link to a particular post or page. In other words, content that has gone viral ranks better than content that hasn’t.

Google’s “Authority” might seem like it’s helping the rich get richer, but because search engines are striving for accuracy, they assume people are sharing what other people will want to see. You can’t control whether or not your content goes viral, but a site with very little traction will have trouble ranking in searches. Use these tips to see how authority works and how sharing content on social media can affect your rank. Also see these tips to help you get more views on your site. Some of the tips relate to SEO optimization but there are also several other things you can do to help people find your site.

6. Make your content easy to read — for people and search robots

Most important of all is your content itself. Write good quality content and make it easy to digest. Also follow these tips:

  • It’s a good idea to use small paragraphs so it’s easier for people (and robots) to skim to find the information they want.
  • SEO experts recommend writing at least 300 words in your posts so Google has enough information to determine what they’re about.
  • Search robots place a higher priority on the text in the first paragraph of a page. Make sure your first paragraph covers your topic instead of starting with an unrelated story in the first paragraph and tying into your topic later on.
  • Use the topic in your page title and permalink.

For more tips with your content, check out these tips.

7. Vary your search targets

As discussed before, it’s difficult to rank #1 for a big, general topic. It’s very likely that the more often a topic is searched, the more content is available on that topic. This means you’ll have more competition for a top spot in search results. However, that doesn’t mean you should never aim high and try to rank for a big topic.

Vary your search targets and you’re likely to see the best results. For some posts, write about a big topic. This will allow you others to discover you on some topics that are searched more often. For other posts, write about something more specific. It won’t be searched as often, but you’re more likely to rank highly because specific topics are less likely to already have lots of existing content in their search results. Consider that Google will often feature a result at the top of the page if it’s found to be the correct answer to a question.

Following these steps won’t guarantee your content will suddenly hit the top of Google’s search results, but it will help search engines accurately determine the topic of your content.