SEO. Meta information. ALT text. SERPs. Have you fallen asleep yet?

Most people see SEO and instantly stop paying attention, which is completely understandable – SEO can be a very dry subject. However boring, SEO is crucial to the performance of your website and it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. With that in mind, here is my very best attempt at making a relatively boring subject pretty… unboring, for lack of a better word. (There are plenty of better words, I know.)

Most “tips and tricks” listicles have at least five items, but I’m all about saving you time, so I shortened the list from five to four. See, isn’t that fun?

1. Tighten the technical screws

The first step is making sure your website is technically sound. Boom, already boring. It will get better, I promise.

This sounds like a daunting task to the uninitiated, but many content management systems (like WordPress) have made it easier to navigate the SEO waters by adding fields to enter meta information and even providing some beginner SEO plugins that lay out some technical best practices. Now just roll up your sleeves, throw on your favorite playlist on Spotify and get the grunt work out of the way. Plugins like Yoast SEO for WordPress help visualize the optimization of your meta information with a color spectrum grading scale – green is good, red is bad, etc. Think of it like a game: how can you get each and every page to green?

The most important thing to remember here is that search engines rely to some extent on meta information, so make sure your meta titles, descriptions and ALT text are all aligned with your keyword goals.

2. Take the highway to the link building zone

If you’ve got a nice brick-and-mortar store full of beautiful product, but it’s located in the middle of nowhere and you have no roads or streets that lead to it, how do you expect consumers to get there?

Each link you get is like a road, street, or alley that leads directly to your store (or website). The more links you have from trusted and reputable sources, the easier it is for consumers to get to your site.

Directories, resource sites, local citations, social media links, authority links – there are many types of links out there and all provide different levels of value to your site, just like there’s many types of roads, streets and alleys out there with varying levels of security.

Directories and resource sites are kind of like the “alleys” of the link building world – they have a bad connotation and overall seem to be pretty sketchy. But, when used correctly in conjunction with major thoroughfares, they can help you get where you need to go pretty quickly. While most directories are nothing but link farms that offer you no benefit, there are some resource sites that can offer tremendous value – especially if they’re on .gov and .edu sites.

The highest-value links will be from sites with relatively high native traffic that are in your niche or a related market. These are the highways of the link building world. The best news – getting links from these sites can be relatively painless, depending on how sociable you are. One of the best link building techniques is basically just being nice.

Find out which sites are linking to your direct competitors and then strike up a conversation with these sites, preferably through social media. After some cordial conversation, inquire about the possibility of earning a link on their website. That’s really all there is to it!

3. Focus on problem-solving content

Google is a nothing more than a problem-solver. If you need an answer to a question, you go to Google. If you’re looking to compare prices of an item before you buy, you go to Google. If you’re bored and trying to find new websites to kill time, you go to Google (and then Reddit, probably). So naturally search engines place higher emphasis on websites that provide value to their users over those who just strictly sell, sell, sell.

We get it, your end goal is to sell more product. That’s fine – it should be. But Google’s end goal is to solve problems, and SEO is all about making your site more appealing to Google. So think about everything that a prospective consumer might want to know about your product and make sure you address that in the form of creative, interesting content – like on-site reviews, frequently asked questions, testimonials, etc.

This will solve problems for both prospective consumers as well as search engines. Each piece of content you put on site potentially addresses a different problem, which casts a wider net into the organic search pool.

4. Appeal to the users you DO get

This is the last tip…but it is by far the most important. At the end of the day, the customers who matter most are the customers you DO get, so give them something they’d WANT to read/use/purchase. Don’t get so caught up in trying to game the system to get better rankings that you forget to create a valuable and meaningful experience for the people actually on your site.

You can set up all the keyword-optimized meta information you want, but if users get to your site and it’s ugly, clunky or just flat out confusing…they’ll leave. And now you’ve missed out on an opportunity. And now you’re sad. And nobody wants to be sad, except maybe sad clowns.

Keep your site fresh, clean and visually appealing and the users you DO get will stay longer and return more frequently. And then they’ll tell their rich friends about your product, who will visit your site and buy tons of stuff. And now you’re happy. And everyone wants to be happy, except maybe sad clowns.

So, what do you think? Pretty painless, right?