Carrying out SEO at the highest level will require a fair amount of technical know-how. It is a job that demands a healthy combination of coding savvy and general computer science acuity. That's what it takes to rise to the top.
But those prerequisites are far from necessary for making all types of SEO improvements.
That's right, a good chunk of SEO methodology is actually based around improvements that are highly achievable for someone with just a minimal understanding of how websites work. All that's really needed is the diligence to follow these simple steps for success.
This article is for that crowd; for anyone who wants to cover those basic SEO bases and make the type of quick fixes that would be foolish to ignore. They won't be the only fixes you'll need to make if you want to rank first, but they're a great starting point.
1) Create Valuable, Unique Content
It all starts with content.
As SEO has changed throughout the years, one constant has been the importance of creating valuable, unique content. Posting content on your website serves the dual purpose of giving search engines more reason to crawl/feature your pages and improving the visitor experience by giving them more options to check out.
"Valuable," in this case, just means something that a visitor would be enriched by in some way. You don't have to go out and write a Pulitzer Prize-winning blog post or create a Webby-nominated video tutorial. Just find a way to to teach, entertain, or mentally stimulate visitors, and try to do it on a regular basis. "Unique," as you might have guessed, means non-plagiarized content—or, better yet, something with an original viewpoint.
2) Use Headings Properly
Headings are a fantastic tool. They split up text on a page and tell readers what the focus of a particular section will be. Almost all textual content will feature some kind of heading beyond the title.
But with lots of headings and sub-headings comes the potential for confusion. You can be writing content and forget where one type of heading is supposed to pause and the next is supposed to kick in. I say that because in SEO, it's a cardinal rule that you want to establish a consistent hierarchy with your headings (e.g. in an article about travel, using h2 tags for sections about countries, h3 tags for provinces, h4 for cities, etc. And something to that effect for other subjects). Doing so will help search engines crawl better for information and allow visitors to comprehend your page better.
3) Link Internally
Have you noticed any of the highlighted blue text showing up on this page? Or, perhaps, clicked on it? If so, then you have successfully followed an internal link!
As the name would suggest, internal links are hyperlinks that direct you to another page within a website. Like headings, they give search engines another clue with which to better understand your content; but more importantly, they increase the likelihood of visitors sticking around on your site. There's a much greater chance of a visitor checking out another page when the link is presented right in front of them, as opposed to hidden behind other navigation paths. Might as well take advantage of that.
4) Make Descriptive Anchor Text
Building off of the previous blurb, one way that you can further refine your internal linking practices is by including more descriptive anchor text. What anchor text refers to is the textual content of the hyperlink that leads to either another page—either internal or external. From an SEO perspective, descriptive anchor text helps by adding clarity to your navigation process. It makes a search engine far more likely to understand your intentions, and by extension, to feature your pages.
It's also extremely easy to implement! Sometimes all it takes is a simple tweak. Like changing your anchor text from "check out the SEO starter guide here" to "check out the SEO starter guide." Even though both sentences convey where the link goes, tying the text and link together is the preferable strategy.
5) No Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a huge red flag in SEO. It may not seem like a big deal to have repeating content on different pages of a website, but it is to search engines. For them, it creates confusion and unnecessary work in the crawling and indexing process. Do your best to ensure that duplicate content doesn't happen.
6) Optimize Images
Ironic as it may be, the key to optimizing images for search engines actually has to do with text.
When you include images in a piece of content or on a webpage, you have the option of adding something called alt text, which serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it serves as a description that pops up when an image is unable to be displayed. So on that front, it improves things for visitors. But it also serves as an extra method of description for search engines, adding another reference point for them to use in assessing your website.
The other textual modification you can make to images is to their file names. It's bad form to have unclear or cumbersome file names for your pictures. For example, if the image is of Banff National Park, don't write "thatplaceiwentonvacation.jpg," write something like "banff.jpg" or "banff-national-park.jpg" (use dashes to indicate spaces).
7) Have Succinct, Relevant URLs
A similar methodology applies to URLs that applies to file names: keep things relevant (though not necessarily succinct). URLs are the full addresses that are assigned to a page and lead to them when their text is entered into a web search (e.g. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-party-leaders-mostly-silent-on-marijuana-opportunities/article34916354/). As you can see in that example, lots of information is conveyed from that structure. It's easy to tell that you're looking at a BC-specific news story about marijuana. When you let the publishing software generate a headline on its own, it may produce something generic like "http://www.somethingaboutsomething.com/folder1/43568156/x888845326/." This complicates things for search engines and turns off users. Relevancy wins every time, so take the time to generate a relevant URL.
8) Think of Accurate, Enticing Headlines
A great headline or title can make a world of difference for your content. Popularity is something that helps drive search engine rankings and one of the best ways to achieve popularity on the Internet is with a top-notch headline. Whether it's list-based ("10 things you absolutely need to know about..."), shock-inducing ("___: the secret killer that was hiding in plain sight"), or intellectually stimulating ("How Trudeau can turn around the economy in a hurry"), there are lots of ways to get the job done. Just make sure that they aren't false or misleading headlines.
9) Keep Navigation Simple
A website should not be a corn maze. You don't want visitors scrambling around in it for ages before finally reaching what they were looking for. They should be able to do so in a small amount of steps—three is usually a good number to cap it at.
Once you have a website template in place, setting up navigation doesn't take much technical know-how. Really, it's all about organization and putting yourself in a visitor's shoes.
10) Write Strong Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions may sound complicated to an uninformed individual, but they're actually fairly simple. They're essentially just 150-characters-or-less descriptions that give readers a good sense of what to expect from your page; which is why search engines often use them as the snippets you see underneath a title and URL on a results page. The better your meta descriptions are, the higher the likelihood is of you receiving a high ranking and the higher the likelihood is of someone actually visiting the page.