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SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

Today 94% of consumers and businesses search the internet before buying a new product or service. They submit their question (query, keywords) to google. In return, they get a list of relevant websites. People tend to visit the websites that are at the top of the list.

Every time you search, there are thousands, sometimes millions, of web pages with helpful information. How Google figures out which results to show starts long before you even type, and is guided by a commitment to you from Google to provide the best information.

Even before you search, Google organizes information about web pages in the Google Search index. The index is like a library, except it contains more info than in all the world’s libraries put together.

In a fraction of a second, Google’s Search algorithms sort through hundreds of billions of web pages in the Search index to find the most relevant, useful results for what you’re looking for.

To help you find what you’re looking for quickly, Google provides results in many useful formats. Whether presented as a map with directions, images, videos or stories, we’re constantly evolving with new ways to present information.

While advertisers can pay to be displayed in clearly marked sections of the page, no one can buy better placement in the search results.

Factors affecting SEO

In general terms there are two main areas that affect your SEO rankings.

  1. On Page SEO – On-page SEO focuses on optimizing parts of your website that are within your control. Content, Optimized Titles and Meta Descriptions, Interlinking, and website design and organization.
  2. Off Page SEO – off-page SEO focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through content creation and earning backlinks from other websites.

Put simply, what you rank for is largely determined by on-page factors, while how high you rank in the search results is largely determined by off-page factors.

SEO Optimization Affect Your Rankings

On-page SEO focuses on optimizing parts of your website that are within your control, while off-page SEO focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through content creation and earning backlinks from other websites.

On-Page SEO Checklist:

Title Tags

Put your targeted keywords in the title tag of each page on your site.
There are many best practices that go into writing an effective title tag.

  • Limit your title tags to 55-60 characters including spaces.
  • Try pushing the keyword closer to the beginning of the title.
  • Don’t stuff your keywords to the brim.
  • Include brand at the end of the title tag, separated by a pipe bar.
            Example:  “Your Course Name | Orlando Public Golf | Orlando Golf”

Headings (H1, H2, H3)

Headings are usually the largest words on the page, and for that reason, search engines give them a little more weight than your other page copy.  It is a good idea to work your target keywords into the headings of each web page but make sure you accurately reflect your page’s great content.

Make sure your H1s are limited to one per page, all other headers are H2 or H3

URL structure.

Put keywords into your URLs if possible. However, do not go changing all of your current URLs just so they have keywords in them. You shouldn’t change old URLs unless you plan on redirecting your old ones to your new ones. 

Label your directories and folders in a way that makes sense for users.

Don’t repeat keywords in your URL more than once. Keywords are
helpful, but overdoing them affects the user experience

A Bad Example: /best-public-golf-course-best-golf-course-best-golf?

A Good Example: /best-public-golf-course-2021

Keep URLs as short as possible while being as descriptive as possible.

Alt text for images

Any content management system should allow you to add something called “alt text” to all images on your website.  This text isn’t visible to the average visitor – alt text is in fact used by screen reader software to help blind internet users understand the content of your images. Search engines crawl images in a similar way, so inserting some relevant keywords while accurately describing the image will help search engines understand your page’s content.

Writing an alt attribute for each image keeps your website in compliance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.) Keep the following things in mind when writing alt text:

  • Thoroughly describe the image in 8-10 words.
  • Include your targeted keyword where it sounds most natural.
  • Include, if relevant, a geo-locator (e.g., Chicago).

Fast-loading pages

Google wants to help its users find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible to provide the best user experience. Therefore, optimizing your pages to load faster helps your site rank higher in the search results.

Google has a tool called PageSpeed Insights that will analyze your site on both mobile and desktop. and then suggest tips to optimize page speed. There are also several quick fixes to eliminate whatever is bogging your site down and slowing your page load time. 

Key site speed factors to consider:

  • Minimizing HTTP requests
  • Making sure server response time is <200ms
  • Setting browser caching to at least a week or longer
  • Enabling Gzip compression
  • Having image sizes under 100kb (.jpg, .png, .gif)
  • Placing all CSS in an external style sheet
  • Minifying all JS, CSS and HTML
  • Prioritizing above the fold content loading
  • Mobile Friendliness

In recent years, Google has prioritized mobile page loading speed as a key ranking metric. 

How do you know if your website is mobile-friendly? You can plug in the site’s URL into this test, and Google will tell you how friendly the website is based on its current algorithm. 

Page content

The content on your pages needs to be useful to people. If they search for something too specific to find your page, they need to be able to find what they’re looking for.  It needs to be easy to read and provide value to the end user. Google has various ways to measure if your content is useful.

Aim for at least 500 words of copy. Although there is no exact formula for how many words a page should have, Google seems to prefer when a page has a lot of great content surrounding your targeted keywords

Copy must be unique to each page, not duplicated from other pages on your site, and should directly address your visitors’ search queries.

Push the keyword closer to the beginning of the title, but ONLY if it sounds natural.

Internal Linking

Linking internally to other pages on your website is useful to visitors and it is also useful to search engines.  Here’s an internal link to another blog post on our site.

When adding internal links, make sure to have relevant anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink (usually indicated by blue font color and underline). To optimize your anchor text, make sure the selected word or phrase is relevant to the page you’re linking to. 

On-page SEO ensures that your site can be read by both potential customers and search engine robots. With good on-page SEO, search engines can easily index your web pages, understand what your site is about, and easily navigate the structure and content of your website, thus ranking your site accordingly. As a best practice, make sure your page content includes 1–3 relevant internal links.

Social Tags

Having your content shared on social tells Google that people find your content relevant, helpful and reputable. Make sure to share any new posts to your blog on social media. This creates an inbound backlink from social platforms to your site.

Make it easy with “tweet this quote” links, or social share buttons for each post.

What is Off-Page SEO?

Off-page SEO focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through the act of getting links from other websites.

The more links your website has pointing to it, the higher it will rank in the search engines.

This is how a site like Wikipedia ranks for almost every term you can think of.  It has so many inbound links that any pages it adds rise to the top.

Domain Authority” (DA) is a measurement that calculates how authoritative your website is compared to other sites. If your domain is new it will have lower DA.  If your domain is older 15–20 years it will likely have more inbound links and have a higher DA.

The biggest off-page SEO factor is the number and quality of backlinks to your website. Some examples of ways you can build links to your website are:

  • Creating awesome content that people want to link to because it is valuable. Golf Tips, Lessons, tournament results.
  • Social media shares of your content that ultimately generate links.
  • Outreach emails to influencers in your industry that ultimately link to you.
  • Guest blogging on sites related to yours.  These guest posts will have links back to your site.
  • Directories like The Chamber of Commerce, Golf review sites, Local Golf News Writer, Golf Course Directories.
  • Articles written about your golf course on blogger sites or online newspaper articles.

While link quantity is still important, content creators and SEO pro’s have realized that link quality is now more important than link quantity. 

Google My Business Listings (Your Secret Weapon)

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. To help customers find your business, and to tell them your story, you can verify your business and edit your business information. To do this you must own or have verified ownership of your GMB page. The information you provide to Google in your Google My Business account affects your ability to show up in maps listings. Check out this article on optimal GMB settings

Local search queries trigger the map listings.  Maps offer a way for smaller businesses to compete with larger more prominent websites that might be dominating organic results. Maps listings generally always show up  first before the organic listings. So if you are tired of having Golf Pass, Golf Now, and other 3rd party websites outranking you in search, your GMB page is the secret weapon.

With the right approach, SEO will be your website’s super power. Here at fMS, we have seen firsthand the difference effective SEO can make on website traffic and online sales. Don’t take our word for it—implement these tools yourself or have fMS implement them for you.

Not an fMS client? Get a demo today to see the difference.

Mark Farrow

Mark was a golf course owner-operator, a PGA Member for 24 years, served as executive director for the Florida Golf Course Owners Association, was the Director of Acquisitions at one of the largest golf management companies, and is passionate about growing revenues through digital marketing at foreUP.

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