How to Make Search Engines Work For You

Search Engines can seem scary, and it can seem like they have no rhyme or reason as to how they find top results.  Sure, you know about crawling, indexing, and ranking, but is there a way to know what exactly Google or Bing are looking for in those steps?  In fact, there is! Both Google and Bing have laid out exactly what they look for when doing a search in their Webmaster Guidelines. This article will go over the broad strokes to help you get started.

What Are Your Website’s SEO Goals?

You may have read that header and thought, “Aren’t my goals going to be higher rankings and increased traffic?” and you’d be half right.  Higher rankings and traffic are good for your website’s SEO, but they aren’t the most important. Just because someone goes to your website, which will boost your ranking and traffic, doesn’t mean they will interact with your site in an effective way.

Perhaps the best way to think about this is what do you want visitors to do once they get to your site?  Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to download a document? Sign up for an email list? Fill out a form?  If you are a local business, do you want them to click on your address for directions or your phone number to call? These are what’s known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and will help you figure out which areas to focus on.

SEO for Google

Google is the most popular search engine, so it makes sense to start here. You can read more about the webmaster guidelines for Google here, but here are the basics on what to do and what to avoid doing:

Basic Principles;

  • Make your website for the users, not what you think Google would like
  • Don’t trick users
  • Don’t trick Google
    • How would you feel about explaining your SEO to a google employee?
  • Why is your website unique/valuable?

What to Avoid:

  • Copied or non-original content (this could also be considered plagiarism)
  • Cloaking (what crawlers find is different than what users see)
  • Hidden text and links
  • Doorway pages

Local Business on Google

Depending on your business, you may be eligible to sign up for a Google My Business listing.  If you have a storefront or meet with clients face-to-face, this may be something to look into.  This also has its own set of guidelines to follow:

Basic Principles:

  • Be sure you qualify
  • Honestly and accurately represent your business
    • No false information

Things to Avoid:

  • Create Account while not eligible/before you qualify
  • Misrepresent/”stuff” Your business info
  • Use PO boxes or virtual offices instead of a physical location
  • Bloat your reviews with fake positives
  • Making avoidable mistakes due to not reading Google’s Guidelines

SEO for Bing

Bing is the second-most popular search engine, so it’s important to also optimize your SEO for it as well. Here is the complete webmaster guidelines for Bing, and below is the basics to get you started:

Basic Principles:

  • Provide clear, deep, and engaging content on your easy-to-navigate site
  • Keep page titles clear and relevant
  • Links to your site from others are a signal of popularity, Bing rewards this
    • Social media shares are important, especially in the long-run
  • Page speed and good user experience is important
  • Use alternate attributes on things like images so Bing can better understand content
    • Image descriptions
    • This is good practice anyway, as it helps people with visual disabilities

Things to Avoid:

  • Thin content, pages filled with mostly ads, affiliate links, or redirecting links
  • Abusive links like link schemes
  • Dynamic links that can cause duplicate content issues and dirty up your URLs
  • Burying links in your code
  • Duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Cloaking

Same Goals

You may have noticed that the do’s and don’ts of the two search engines don’t contradict each other.  Remember, search engines want you to succeed. Though Google and Bing may have different things they look for in results, they both want to deliver the best overall user experience.

How to Make Search Engines Work For You

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