The ABCs of SEO: How to Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Do the three letters S-E-O make your head spin? Search engine optimization is an important part of any website design, although it is often one of the most confusing and least fun elements of creating an online presence.

Search guidelines frequently change and can be somewhat hard to master if you aren't versed in the language of SEO. Here, we have a guide with everything you need to know to make your website easier to find through search engines and how to do it all using Weebly.

Alt Text

Alt text is optional text that you can add to an HTML element, making something with no words "readable" to search engines. Currently, search engines can only read words; they don't "see" what's in photos or videos. By using alt text (also called alt tags), you explain to search engines what information is in a photo and how it relates to your content.

Ideally, the alt text includes a short description of what's in the image and the primary keyword for the page it appears on. For eCommerce, make sure to include a short product description. Ideally, these descriptions are 125 characters or less.

How to do it: Every image on your website should include alt text. To add an alt tag in Weebly, upload the image, then click on the image and Advanced > Alt Text.

Breadcrumbs are a navigational tool that show users the path they have taken on a website. While they aren't common on small websites, breadcrumbs are important for eCommerce or online shops and websites with a lot of content because they keep users from getting lost.

According to Google, search uses breadcrumb markup in the body of a web page to categorize the information from the page in search results.

How to do it: Adding breadcrumbs does require a little knowledge of HTML and CSS. Add custom code in the Weebly editor if you want to include breadcrumb navigation.

Crawling

Crawling is what happens when a search engine bot "reads" your website. The information is kept in a massive index that websites such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing use to direct traffic.

Your biggest job is to create an easy-to-read website to avoid crawl errors, such as DNS errors, server connection slowness or code bugs, that can impact search rankings.

How to do it: By using Weebly, many of these issues are already taken care of. Your Weebly design comes with clean, readable code that search engines can understand. But you can ask Google to recrawl your website if you have made major changes.

Deindex/Delisting

Whenever a search engine removes your content from its results, the content has been delisted or deindexed. This can happen if you delete a page or violate best practices (such as using black hat SEO techniques); it can also happen if your website has been flagged as malicious or infected with a virus.

Deindexing can be temporary or permanent.

How to do it: There's nothing for you to do here. Search engines will automatically delist URLs/pages if they are deleted from your website.

Each time you link to something on your website, search engines take note. External links go to any website that is not your domain.

Search engines learn your content and understand your place in the world of everything out there using these links. Links establish your credibility as a resource for what you offer, as it pertains to keywords and other websites that understand your authority.

Focus on linking to high-quality, reputable external sources. Cramming your website with links isn't effective. One or two external links per page are typically enough.

How to do it: Link purposefully and to content that relates to yours. Opt for high-quality links – to domains that end in .edu, .gov and .org as authoritative sources – and .com websites that pertain to your content.

Featured Snippet

High ranking searches sometimes include additional information from the source about what was searched, this is known as a featured snippet. Featured snippets most commonly appear in Google search results when the user asks a question (who, what, when, where, how or why) and the answer includes easy to understand information (often in the form of a sentence or list).

This is the ultimate location in search for content and is also known as "position zero."

How to do it: Weebly apps can include snippets, which is built using a bit of HTML code. Snippets are usually used to generate a script tag and should use a non-blocking method of loading external scripts.

Googlebot

A Googlebot is the primary search bot used by Google to index and rank sites. It crawls pages.

How to do it: There's nothing to do here, but knowing that bots and automated processes impact search is half the battle when it comes to optimizing your website for search.

Headings

Heading tags might be the most important element you can create when it comes to search. These SEO terms – H1 through H6 in the code – tell search bots what's most important on your pages. Plus, when styled with a little CSS, these elements can make your website easier for people to read as well. (Using H1 through H6 is how you make every headline or sub-headline look the same way.)

Headings are ranked in priority of H1 (highest) to H6 (lowest). Most websites use H1 for page titles, H2 for sub-headlines throughout the copy and H3 for smaller headers (such as names of lists or other information). H4 through H6 are not used as frequently.

How to do it: Use headers to help organize content. Aim to have multiple sub-headlines (H2) on each page of content. Create a style – font, size, and color – for headings from the Weebly dashboard's theme design options. Click on the headline or sub-headline buttons in the header area or paragraph titles button in the general section to customize elements.

Inbound links are links coming to your website from other sources. Just like external links they, help build credibility between websites.

How to do it: You want high-quality links coming to your website from sources that relate to your product or content. Writing content for other blogs that link to your website is one way to build partnerships and create inbound links.

Juice

Juice is the SEO power of a website. High-ranking websites have more juice than low-ranking sites. External and inbound links with a lot of juice can positively impact your search ranking as well.

How to do it: Using SEO best practices (such as those outlined in this article) are your best tool for increasing your website's juice.

Keywords

The words or phrases that identify content on your website are called keywords. These can be words people use to search to find you or words you identify with to draw users to your website.

The words that are most used on a website help search engines determine what the site is about and what pages are most relevant or related to certain types of content.

How to do it: Make sure to use the words and phrases that communicate your product or service throughout the website design. Use these words in natural language as you write the copy, but don't overstuff. If it feels like a word is repeated too many times, it probably is.

Local SEO

Local SEO helps you get your brand in front of customers that are in a physical location near you. (Think of how often you search "food near me" when looking for a place to eat.) Local SEO helps you find those locations.

How to do it: The biggest thing you can do to make sure you are visible in local search is to include your name, address and phone number on your website. (The footer is a great place to put this information.) Use the same NAP (name, address, phone number) when you create listings on other websites.

Meta Description/Tags

The description of your website – coming in at about 300 characters – provides additional information about the website via snippet description. While it doesn't contribute to SEO per se, it can help generate more organic clicks, which does boost search ranking.

There are other types of meta tags used throughout your website as well, such as descriptions for each page, images (see alt tag) and the title tag.

How to do it: If there is a place to fill in descriptive information about your website, do it. You can find much of the meta information in the SEO Settings tab under Pages in the Weebly dashboard. Make sure to fill in fields with text that relates to your website, and that is free of errors.

Noindex

A noindex tag tells search engines not to index a page, excluding it from search. This can be great for pages that you want to keep private, such as special landing pages for deals, staff information or even your website style guide.

How to do it: You can set a page not to index from the Weebly editor. From the Pages tab, select the page, then SEO Settings. Copy and paste this code into the Header box:
< meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

Off-Page SEO

Some of the most important promotion you do for your website might not be on your website. Off-page SEO refers to all the other stuff you do to help build brand awareness (and get people to your website). This includes link building, social media marketing, content generation and publishing, email marketing, and print advertising.

This all proves how important it is to have an integrated strategy when it comes to your website, brand and small business or online shop. Every piece and element you put out there contributes to your overall brand image … and SEO.

How to do it: Create a brand strategy from the start. Grab social media channels with the same name and handle that connect to your website and start sharing.

PPC or Pay-Per-Click

Pay-per-click or PPC ads are digital campaigns that get users to visit your website. Google is one of the largest sellers of PPC ads in the market, through Google AdWords. And PPC can help drive users to your website, increasing search ranking.

The best strategy is to add some PPC spending to your overall digital strategy if you have the budget for it. Make sure PPC messaging and ads use the same keywords and imagery as your website for a uniform presence online.

How to do it: Get started with the Beginner's Guide to Google AdWords from Search Engine Watch. It explains how the platform works and how you can learn to use it quickly.

Query

The words a user types into the search bar are a query.

How to do it: This one is easy! Visit your favorite search engine, type something in and see what results pop up.

Redirect

A redirect, temporary or permanent, sends users and search engines from the page requested to another location. This commonly happens when content is moved to another place or when URLs change for another reason.

The two types of redirects are 301 Permanent redirects and 302 Temporary redirects. Regarding SEO, a redirect tells search engines that everything from an old page (or everything important) has been moved to a new location.

How to do it: When you move from another website to Weebly, it is likely that you will need to set up a redirect in the Editor. You can do this from the Settings tab and then click SEO.

Schema

A schema is a type of microdata that creates a rich snippet in search results. It provides contextual information for search engines to better understand what's on a website.

Adding structured data is pretty complicated, and there are questions as to whether is provides real value. If you have strong, quality content in the website design, you probably don't have to mess with schema markup.

How to do it: While it is good to know what schema is, you probably don't need to use it.

Title Tag

The meta tag that is the title of a web page is the title tag, and it's probably the most important thing you can do for on-site SEO. It is the title search engines use and display, so it should use keywords relevant to your overall website.

But it has to be more than just a keyword because people will read it to choose whether to visit the page or not. The title should be written in a purposeful and sensible manner concisely (typically 65 characters or less).

This text will show up as a clickable title in search results and browser tabs.

How to do it: With a Weebly website, you can have unique titles for each page. Enable this setting from the Settings tab, then click General and Site Title. Uncheck "show title on top of your pages." Adjust individual page settings for standard, product and storefront pages as well as blog posts. (Note that the Weebly editor calls title tags "page titles.")

Unique Content

Websites with strong content that isn't duplicated on other websites get major credibility – and SEO points – from Google. This unique content can be a major driver of traffic to your website.

How to do it: If you have an online shop, consider product reviews to boost your unique content offering. Try to provide useful information to users that they can't find anywhere else.

Voice Search

"Hey, Siri." Anytime someone asks a device to perform a search, that's voice search. It is one of the most rapid growth areas in search. Voice search is expected to account for half of all searches by 2020, according to a recent report.

The way users search when speaking versus typing tends to be quite different. Users would likely type "pizza near me" but might ask "where is the best place for pizza?" Thinking about how search queries are posed can help you better form the answers to use as part of a question-and-answer format on your website.

How to do it: Make the most of voice search by creating content that asks and answers questions that relate to your product or service naturally. An frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is an ideal location for this kind of content. Weebly has an FAQ app that can help you create an easy to manage FAQ page with just a few clicks.

Word Count

The number of words in a copy block on a webpage matters. Too little content can reduce search credibility, flagging content as low quality.

While the specific change from time to time, the recommendation is to include 300 words or more on each page so that crawlers find enough content to count it as good quality.

But you have to create quality content. Users won't fall for the 300-word trick, and everything on the page needs to be interesting and engaging to hold their attention. Text that gets read will keep users on your website longer, and that's a good sign for search engines as well.

How to do it: Plan your website design with purpose so that each page contains quality content organized logically. Don't create pages with just a line or two of text, find ways to incorporate those small elements into other locations.

XML Sitemap

The XML sitemap is a list of all the pages on a website that a search engine needs to know about. It does not include a listing of noindex pages.

How to do it: Weebly automatically creates an XML sitemap for you. To access it, add /sitemap.xml to the end of your homepage URL. You can then submit the XML sitemap to Google to make sure every page gets crawled. (Find instructions here.)

Yahoo!

Yahoo! was the first popular search engine. It's been around since 1994. Now, the leader in search is Google. It is followed by YouTube (which is owned by Google), Amazon, Facebook and Bing.

How to do it: When thinking about SEO, prioritize your thinking to put Google first.

Zone File

The zone file, often referred to as DNS information, is instructions as to how traffic for your domain name should be directed. The file turns a URL into a set of numbers (IP address) that goes to a host and returns content to a user.

Making changes to a website, redesigning a site or changing hosts can have implications for the zone file.

How to do it: This is all taken care of with a Weebly account. Users with a custom domain are automatically connected to the proper IP address and host and don't have to worry about DNS changes. (This is a major advantage of using Weebly to build your website, particularly if you aren't a web designer or coder.)

Conclusion

Weebly has other tools to help you navigate the world of SEO as well, including a guide to understanding keyword strategy and research and a great checklist to make sure your website is ready for crawlers.

Building search engine credibility takes patience and hard work. Start with essential elements and good website design practices, then pair that with elements such as off-site SEO and PPC, if it is part of your budget. A website that gets a high ranking is due to a variety of factors that start with building a clean website with high-quality, user-friendly content. (Good for you, Weebly has everything you need to get started or build your website reputation with easy-to-use tools.)