Increasing your site's ranking in the search engines involves applying practices and techniques known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It's a very broad subject and a whole industry has sprung up to help businesses do this. There is so much to it that many businesses hire a professional SEO firm or expert to do tasks from a basic site analysis, consulting on best practices, or even completely revamp and manage all aspects of their site's SEO efforts.
TeamUnify does not currently offer SEO services, so here are a few SEO basics to help you get started.
- A fantastic site to educate yourself on all things SEO is bruceclay.com. They are one of the most successful and well-respected SEO firms in the country. Their SEO Tutorial gives you all the basics.
- Bruce Clay is a full service firm with very high end clients, so while their fees are out of reach for most swim teams, they can recommend lower-priced SEO firms that are certified by them.
- Whatever firm, books or articles you utilize, stay away from those offering "black hat" SEO techniques. Instead of focusing on building quality content to attract users, they focus on techniques to "trick" the search engines to rank their sites better. They may offer short term gain, but will harm your site in the long run and possibly get your site black listed from certain search engines altogether. Stick with those that offer "white hat" techniques.
- Social media can be an integral part of your SEO efforts. Consider building a Facebook page, Twitter feed and blog for your swim team, but only if someone will maintain them! People will soon ignore any of those that don't regularly have fresh content. The knowledge base articles below under "See Also" can help you get started.
There is a lot of work you can do on your site to help boost your search engine rankings, and a lot has to do with keywords. Take some time to build a list of keywords and phrases that people would use to search for you. Stay away from very generic terms such as "swim team" and "swimming pool" because they're too broad and generic. If you are on one side of the country and someone on the other side searches for "swim team" and your site comes up in the results, they likely wouldn't be interested in your site, nor would you be interested in them finding your site because it's not relevant to them. What terms would you use if you were searching for your site? That's a good starting point.
You will use some keywords in your "meta tags," which are your page titles and meta keywords. This article on When to Use Meta Tags from Bruce Clay's site, although a few years old, is still accurate and gives a good summary. Here is how to access them.
- Meta Title: This is the clickable link you see in search engine results pages (SERPs). We put your team name at the beginning of each page title. It is found in Team Admin > Team Profile > Team Name field. After the team name we put a colon and then the page title, found in Team Admin > Website Design > click page name > Tab Label field.
- Meta Description: We currently do not offer access to this. This is the description you see below the clickable link in the SERPs. The search engines compose it from content found on the page when the meta description does not exist.
- Meta Keywords: Found in Team Admin > Website Design > Website Layout Configuration, Team Site Meta keywords field. Most search engines either ignore or give them very little weight, so avoid lots of time and effort on this. Be careful to avoid "keyword stuffing" (putting in every variant you can think of over and over) or else the search engines may actually penalize your ranking.
Next make sure all your images you have added to pages have content in the Alt tags. Check out this Bruce Clay article on SEO Tips-ALT tags.
- Before you upload an image to your site, give it a good name with keywords. "shark-swim-summer-team.jpg" is much more meaningful than "IMG2837.jpg." Use hyphens to separate words instead of spaces.
- When you load or edit an image in the content editor, the Image Properties dialog has an "Alternative Text" field. Please take advantage of it with a short description of the image.
Put keywords in your hyperlinks you create and make them descriptive. Making "click here" your link text (known as the anchor text) not only doesn't help the user understand what it will do, it's not a term you want to rank on. "Download Shark Team 2012 summer swim schedule" is much better--it describes what clicking the link will do, and it has terms people might search for. Note how we did that throughout this article.
As you write content for various pages, these 10 Essential Tips on Writing for the Web can help. If you have long content, make sure to use header tags to organize sections of the content. Just like you see bold headings and sub-headings in magazine and newspaper articles, type your headers and then use the "Format" drop down menu in the content editor to format and alert the search engine spiders to their importance.
Finally, you can submit your site to the search engines. The search engine spiders will automatically find your site given enough time, but manually submitting your site may speed up their discovery process. See this article on Search Engine Submission.
Those are only the tip of the iceberg, so we encourage you to learn more about SEO and continually work on it in your SwimOffice website.