Website designer-developer and digital marketing consultant Jason Nevin shared search engine optimization (SEO) tips with members of EFA’s Georgia chapter in February as part of the chapter’s ongoing professional education series.
Nevin kicked off the presentation with the fundamentals, citing Wikipedia’s definition of SEO: “The process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a webpage to users of a web search engine.” Nevin pointed out SEO is frequently confused with paid advertising, and he stressed that SEO is “organic” or unpaid.
Despite the existence of numerous search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo, Nevin focused his presentation on best practices for Google, pointing out that Google controls eighty-eight percent of all web searches. “Google is always adapting and changing its algorithms to stay on top and provide the best results––they want to stay ‘king.’”
For editors and any business owners wanting to increase their visibility through SEO, Nevin said, “The first thing to look at is content. Every couple of months they [Google] crawl the websites, look at the content, analyze, and decide where you should rank. Is what you have going to be up to par and is Google going to like it?” Nevin outlined three key areas for editors to review and update in their websites: content, integrating Google products, and site structure.
- Don’t “keyword stuff” (use the same terms repeatedly) because the algorithms have changed and that doesn’t work any longer. Google will demote you for using that practice.
- Content should sound natural while still including key words. As editors, work in the key words that relate to your business, such as editing, line editing, proofreading, editor in Atlanta, etc.
- Be specific about your services. For example, if you edit only fiction or offer only developmental editing, indicate those parameters.
- Sometimes people want to work with someone local, so add in geographic info.
- Add links to other reputable websites, such as the EFA or the Chicago Manual of Style Online. All things being equal, these incremental additions might rank you above a competitor.
- Keep the content reader friendly. Use Word’s built-in Flesch-Kincaid tool (Google uses it) to determine if the content is accessible and readable.
- Longer content, approximately 1500–2000 words, is the new standard, which allows you to include more information and more keywords.
- Blog posts should also be approximately 1500–2000 words and posted on a consistent schedule. Write posts in advance so you have content ready to go.
- People won’t necessarily read all the content in your website, so use good quality headings and subheadings to help them find specific information.
- As in journalism’s inverted pyramid format, place the most important content at the top.
- Make sure your website has the latest Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security update (the URL will begin with “https” rather than “http”). If not, visitors to your website will see a warning message indicate the site is not secure.
- Incorporate Google Products
- Create a video tutorial on YouTube and link it to your website.
- Ensure your website loads quickly (under three seconds is ideal) or Google will drop your rank because the website doesn’t provide good service. Two options to check the speed:
- https://gtmetrix.com (because GTMetrix is not a Google product, it doesn’t skew toward Google analytics, and it provides a report on what needs to be corrected to improve speed).
- Set up a free Google My Business This account is what creates the “near me” messages you see on a search, and it adds legitimacy to your business.
- A brick-and-mortar store is NOT required for a Google My Business account.
- You will need to provide an address for Google to mail you a postcard to confirm your address and complete the setup. A home address is fine because the address you provide isn’t displayed anywhere.
- About five days later, you’ll receive a postcard from Google, which contains a verification code you’ll enter to complete the setup. After you’ve entered the code, you’ll have a Google My Business page. It will show you some of your analytics, and you can also change your information, hours, phone number, areas you service, link to website, etc.
- After your account is set up, you must post new content (even brief content is fine) every week to keep it active. Posts disappear after seven days.
- Site Structure
- Google prefers websites that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and ADA guidelines ensure people who use screen readers can easily navigate websites. If the site is structured for ADA compliance, the better it will be for all users.
- Use well-named, specific URLs. In addition to your home page/business page, make sure subpages are clear and specific. For example, on your “about” page, use your name or your company name, rather than “page 2.”
- Correctly name images and add alt tags. For example, if your website has an image of a red rose, add an alt tag that identifies the image as a “red rose.”
- Use “H” tags for headings. (Google uses alt tags and headings for SEO purposes.)
- Write your own meta descriptions. (In search results, the meta description is the information that comes up with your website.) For example, describe your company in a sentence or two. If you don’t have a meta description, Google tries to create one for you, which may not make sense.
- Many websites, especially WordPress websites, have SEO tools that enable the owner to edit meta descriptions and other SEO data.
- Having a mobile responsive website is important. About fifty percent of web traffic is on phones.
Nevin reassured EFA members that even small changes can pay off. “If you’re doing anything, you’re doing a good job. If you’re writing blog posts and getting any kind of content out there, you’re probably ahead of a lot of your competitors.”
If you’d like to view the complete presentation, please contact Christi Martin, EFA Georgia Co-coordinator. If you’d like to check in with Jason Nevin, feel free to contact him through his website at https://leanonmewebdev.com/.
Mari Ann Stefanelli
Georgia Chapter Co-coordinator