Search Engine Optimization techniques that give results
Before I come to the most effective 5 SEO techniques, just a brief introduction to SEO or search engine optimization from practical viewpoint.
What is SEO and how it works in practice?
SEO sums up all actions taken to get a website a higher placement on search pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc. It is, in fact, the individual web page needs to be optimized for search, not the entire website.
A web page will come high on research results only when (i) the webpage is indexed by search engines, and (ii) the web page answers search queries.
The secret of effective SEO is hidden in the above sentence. Many hard-working bloggers and website owners fail in SEO because they ignore one of the two.
A web page will get indexed if it has high-quality content.
The index maintained by search engines is huge, with millions of web pages. Indexing is also not a black-and-white affair. Each web page is assigned a rank based on hundreds of parameters (which search engines seldom disclose and keep changing). Web pages with top quality content are ranked higher. If the web page is referred by other people on social media or other websites, that much better. If it gets one or two backlinks from popular and respected websites, it helps a lot.
The second requirement - that the web page must answer search queries - is equally important. A high-ranking web page on Mount Everest will not show up in search results when someone searches for 'mountains in America' or 'differences between mountain and plateau' because that page does not have the information sought by the searcher.
In real life, people use different types of expressions in searching for the same thing on the web. The website owner/ blogger needs to best guess the queries (=keywords) relating to the subject of the web page and use them in a natural way.
SEO techniques that work in 2020
Search engines are getting smarter by the day. They keep changing their web page ranking parameters, finding ways to judge the real intention behind the queries, taking actions to be one step ahead of crooks who tweak web pages to artificially bring them on top of search results. So, even the ethical techniques that were effective some years back do not work well today. Some of these are now even regarded as unethical.
I list here the SEO actions that are loved by search engines and are simple and effective in 2020.
Understanding how SEO works is the best way to develop an effective search strategy.
SEO is, as explained above, nothing but effort towards giving the best solution in response to a search query. Think of each action from people's point of view more than search engine's. Ask whether your article answers questions that are being asked on your subject, whether you have written the article with enough ground work, whether it is nicely composed and reads well. If yes, half of search engine optimization is done.
List out the things that you can do so that each web page or blog post provides answer to one or more query in your field. These will obviously include:
- Finding out the type of queries people make in your subject (through tools, analyzing the top search results, searching yourself, checking Q-A sites, etc).
- Writing highly informative and useful posts with focus on one or more queries.
- Writing in a lucid style so that once someone comes to the post, he finds it readable, interesting.
- Optimizing individual web pages rather than the home page of the website/ blog.
- Interacting offline and online with others (they can be experts, people like you and your potential readers/ clients).
Make headlines 'keyword headlines', sub-headings 'SEO headings'.
Out of many small actions that you should take on each article, I have chosen this one because headlines are the real hook - for people as well as search engines. For making post title work like charm on visitors, make the headline provocative, seek action, show urgency or offer help. For the sake of search engines, you can tweak the title/ main headline in these ways:
- Put the main keyword (or likely search query) in the title of the web page. [So that you don't confuse between title or the main headline of a web page, I am using them synonymously though they are not the same.]
- Have one or more sub-headings in the article. They make the article more readable and also give many positive signals to search engines about the subject. Put related keywords, but avoid repeating the main keyword exactly.
- Do not just make the sub-headings bold or colored to make them prominent. Take care that you raise the level of title and sub-headings to H1 and H2/ H3 levels.
SEO calls for expertise and authority over the subject.
Google itself has stated that expertise and authority over the subject makes a website rank high in the eyes of search engines. Well researched articles that are correct in information are valued also by visitors.
Once in a while, write very well researched articles of big size (over 2000 words). Consider focusing on one narrow topic in such a way that it answers many queries on the subject.
If you do not have expertise over your subject, read a lot and assimilate all that you can.
Social media optimization helps SEO.
As people now browse a lot on smart phones and are active on social networking and messaging apps, it helps a lot to share blog articles on social media. It has been reported that search engine algorithms consider comments and shares on social media for assessing importance and usefulness of a web page.
Share articles/ blog posts with link back, on social media, but do not spam.
Use SEO tools but don't be their slave.
This is perhaps the most important technical way for SEO. SEO software packages come with many tools bundled in them. Some tools are standalone. There also are browser extensions and apps to perform various SEO actions. Some website making and blogging platforms come withe SEO add-ons and plugins.
There are tools to check web pages and the complete website/ blog for keyword density, internal and external links, backlinks and social references to the webpage, use of HTML tags and attributes, and so on. Some tools also give the web pages and websites a comparative score or rank. There are tools also for finding keywords. A few tools gather data about search queries, e.g. traffic per month, ranking difficulty, competition etc. Some compare a particular website with competitor websites on different parameters. The list of data that SEO tools generate is very long.
There are so many technical details that some of these tools give is that you get more confused and feel overworked. So, do not go for very exhaustive tools unless you have a lot of time in hand that you cannot use for better work. Do not get carried away by the data, jargon and claims. If you find that simple SEO and good writing is not getting you enough search traffic, engage an SEO expert rather than depend on sophisticated SEO tools: that will cost you some money but save you a lot of time.
However, use one or two simple SEO tools that suggest improvements on the web page. If you are on Wordpress, you can use one of its SEO plugins, e.g. Yoast. Search Console of Google is also worth using as it gives you enough data on search traffic etc on your website and individual web pages.
If you are interested in knowing what Google itself tells about SEO, visit this link. Mind it, it is rather longish.