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AKRON — In journalism school, students are taught when writing a news story to answer the questions: who, what, where, when and why?
You're taught to begin, or lead with the most relevant information to the reader and to create an "inverted pyramid" with story content. You're taught where to place the emotion, the best quote in the story, and where to place the paragraph that puts things into context.
That was then. This is now. It's no longer as simple as the person writing with the most integrity wins, or the newspaper or magazine with the most information gets the readers and advertiser's money. Today it's all about who gets their news in front of the reader, whose search results are highest ranked, and who has information that is repeatedly so timely that readers feel no need to go anywhere else to get it.
Factual, good writing is important — but it's more assumed than it used to be. Readers are not going to return if your writing stinks and your facts are fake.
Interesting. But not blogworthy, right? OK. Then I'll get to my point. The key to getting your information or your business to the reader first is SEO — search engine optimization. Search for tires in Youngstown, Ohio, and you will see the first result is Flynn's Tire and & Auto Service. Search Engine Optimization is the term that describes why Flynn's is first and West Side Tire & Service is not, or why B&R Wholesale Tire & Wheel is not the first search result.
Focus on keywords to get started
Keywords help connect your site to the search engines when someone does a search. The words and phrases will help people find you. Developing a good, strong list of keywords is one of the most important steps in getting your site search engine optimized. Do some basic research to find out what your customers are most likely to type into Google or Bing to find a tire dealership or a service center. Base your keywords off the best and most common results you hear.
OK. Now that you've got your keywords, you're done, right? Your site will be on top of Google's ranking automatically? No. You have to do something with them. Include relevant keywords in a number of prominent areas on your site, from the titles and body text of your pages to your URLs to your meta tags to your image file names. For example: http://www.tirebusiness.com/INCLUDE-KEYWORDS-HERE.
Use sharing buttons for social media
When you think searchable, be sure to also think shareable. Social media sharing on the major social media sites — Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn — all affect a site's search-engine rankings. Each time a person on social media shares, recommends or reposts something you've put on your website or on your social media site, you're seen as having a good reputation. Google takes social signals when determining rankings, and the better your reputation, the more willing Google becomes to recommend you in search results.
Remove duplicate content
What is duplicate content? What is duplicate content? Duplicate duplicate content content (OK. I'll stop.) is when you have the same exact or very similar content on multiple pages or URLs of your site. Search engines can't tell by looking which version should be included when indexing your site for search results. So eliminate duplicate content where you can.
A lot of sites have printable version of their site. That can be seen as duplicate content too. But you can tell the search engines to look at the real version of the page, and not the printable version. Include a tag as part of the HTML head of a Web page. A tag can tell the search engines not to look at this content. For example:
Remember, when it comes to SEO, fresh is best.
Google and other search engines will score or rank your content based partially on freshness. The goal of search engines is to recommend to the user results that are most relevant based on the search. Old content can be outdated, wrong and not worth recommending.
You can do a few different things to help freshen up your content. Get sites that already have great freshness levels to link to your site. Make changes in your main body text on your website because it's considered a more relevant area than the navigation or another lower section of your site.
Don't just make small changes. The more you change your content, the fresher your site will be. So I'm not talking about just changing the word "and" to "also." Try to add different specials periodically, or update the products or services you offer, or add customer testimonials or offer stories from the company's past. Editing the way you message to customers will help you be a fresher search result and make you easier to find.
Create new pages on your website. Instead of only updating what's preexisting, create new pages on your site. Consider adding or adjusting the pages that are linked from your navigation. Instead of our company's history, change the page to include daily or weekly specials or create a photo page about your company.
Improve on page content structure
Improve on page content structure. Don't get scared by these terms. Content isn't frightening if you break it down. I am not speaking geek. The content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. All this means is to correctly order the information on the page to draw attention to the most important parts of your page. If you've ever seen a newspaper, odds are, you've heard the phrase, below the fold. On a website, the fold is where the user has to scroll down to see more. Place your relevant information above the fold on your site.
Don't fall into the trap of saving the best information to the end to make them continue reading. Unfortunately, you can probably assume the majority of people won't continue scrolling.
This is where I'll get geeky. You'll have to use something called H1 header tags, italicize, or bold what's important on your page to show the search engines. The target phrase for a page should appear in the Title tag and should be used in the body of the text. That's a short phrase that tells the search engines what your page is about.
You may avoid some of these because they sound scary or like something only a technical person can do. I get it. But this next tip is the easiest thing that can be done to improve SEO. It's something anyone can do in a short time. So I don't want to hear excuses.
Find out what websites are also found easily during searches, and that your site may have a tie to. Ask the administrators of those sites to link to your company. For example, when Tire Business writes a story, we will typically link back to the company we're writing about, or if we're writing about a new website, we'll link to it. Those link backs tell search engines that the site is valuable to others and is reputable. The search engines are more likely to recommend your site. The more referenced you are by others — through social media sharing, or on other websites — the better.
There's a mad dash to be first in the business world. Everyone wants to get people to notice them over a competitor. Commercials can be expensive. Radio ads take time to come up with a concept. But SEO is one way to improve without breaking the bank and without having to throw the resources at this to improve it. It's quick, easy and usually free, unless you hire an expert to help.
And they all lived happily ever after.