Do’s & Don’ts for SEO Newbs

This used to be my reaction to SEO.

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However, I have started to come around over the past couple years as I’ve learned more and more about it. I understand that at my job, there aren’t any little SEO fairies who can sprinkle magic dust over my copy and instantly make it rank higher in a Google search (that’s an accurate description of an SEO specialist, right?).

It takes some work on my part as the writer to ensure the people who are searching for super amazing and enlightening high ed content online are finding the stuff we produce on #TeamWebComm.

Now, I read all the posts I can get my hands on from MOZ (start with The Beginner’s Guide to SEO) and Mashable and Fast Company (Try “9 Tips for Boosting Your Website Traffic and Leads“), and I take copious notes when I listen to the SEO pros speak at digital marketing conferences like Oklahoma City’s own Confluence Conference. And I ask my supervisors to enroll me in classes like Poynter’s  online group seminar, “Web Headlines & SEO Basics,” which I’m taking as we speak. 

After sloshing through oceans of SEO advice, I’ve come out on the other side with a pared down list of do’s and don’ts that every SEO novice should know.

Do:

1. Continue to focus on content

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Remember, you want to surprise and delight your readers. Above all else, publish content that makes them “like,” share and link to it. No one is going to put that stamp of approval on awful and unoriginal content. No one. 

On a related note, make sure your content is ever changing. Google favors websites that are frequently updated and offering new content.

2. Include rich, descriptive captions for your media

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I think we’ve all heard that including videos help your content rank higher in search results. But your job with multimedia shouldn’t end once you slap a video on the page.

Do you frequently forget (or — let’s be real — actively avoid) cutlines and video descriptions? As someone who’s now on the SEO up-and-up, you just can’t do that anymore. Write rich, descriptive cutlines and captions that use your keywords because these, too, help SEO.

3. Use 2-4 keywords per page

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Think about what shows up on your pages. For me, with the OU homepage, I have a chance to work keywords into not only headlines, but also story descriptions. Shoot for 2-4 keywords per page on your site.

4. Look for link-back opportunities

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Keep your eyes peeled for link-back opportunities. If you organize a conference and a website rounds up the best conferences for X, Y or Z, reach out whoever runs that website and get yourself on the list! Instead of people finding your content, the idea is they’ll find content that links to you. And then YOU STILL WIN.

5. Employ generosity with your links, too

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Nearly every time I create content for OU, I have the opportunity to link to our departmental pages, pages about OU programs and services — just OU stuff in general. It just makes sense that I link to the things I’m talking up, right?

But think about doing the same for the people, places and things you talk about that have nothing to do with OU. Linking to important or helpful information shows you are trying to make it easy on the reader. And just like we appreciate getting a link, so do the people we link to!

Don’t

1. “Keyword-stuff”

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Use your keywords, but don’t cram them in. Say what you want to say, but just use your keywords instead of those synonyms for your keywords.

Google relies on these keywords and meta tags as guide posts to properly index your pages. So. Be promotional. But still be honest.

2. Be spammy

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A lot of times people who don’t understand SEO will think it’s spammy. It can be — if you aren’t doing it right!  This is one of my favorite examples of marketing gone wrong. It’s a spoof account for Burlington Coat Factory. Don’t be “Not Burlington Coats” @NotCoatFactory and put your keywords where they don’t fit or try to cram your keywords in every which way.

There’s nothing spammy about figuring out what your keywords are, then using your keywords naturally, and with the right frequency, in your content and on your website.

3. Guess what your keywords are

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Experiment with keyword sites like Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Type synonyms for your products and services and see which ones people are most likely to search, write them down, and that’s what you target.

So there are my quick tips — now, what wisdom would you bestow upon SEO newbs?

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