Although Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a part of every website and brand’s strategy, only 30% of small business owners have an SEO strategy. By ignoring best practices in creating a strong SEO strategy, websites are depriving themselves of the opportunity to get their content out in front of as many people as possible — leading to more conversions.
But it’s not just about getting content in front of people. Quality content is both the precursor to rankings and a powerful aspect of a campaign of any size. For a quality SEO strategy, one must come up with a cohesive strategy that doesn’t consider rankings, content and results as separate pieces — but regards them as interlocking pieces of the same puzzle.
1. Rankings: Crawling, Indexing, Formatting and Links
Because Google accounts for more than 75% of desktop searches and over 86% of mobile searches, Google ranking factors are most important for your SEO strategy.
With almost 89,000 searches pouring into Google every single second, how do you get your content to start ranking on Google? Although Google algorithms change an estimated 500-600 times per year, becoming ever more finely-tuned to customers’ expectations, Google does offer some helpful advice to marketers and business owners.
Crawling & Indexing Basics
To sift through the billions of pages of content on the web, Google’s bots crawl your website and index your pages. This is the only way Google knows which users will benefit from your content.
To help get your content indexed, make sure to submit updated site maps through Google Search Console.
And remember: the more quality blog posts and content you produce, the more pages will be indexed for your site.
Best Practices in Formatting
- Provide page titles and snippets that accurately describe what content is on the page.
- Use Description Meta Tags to help potential visitors understand what your page is actually offering.
- Use heading tags to organize your page more efficiently, in a way the search engines understand. For example, use the H2 headings to highlight sections of your text.
- Use simple, short URLs that clearly describe the post.
Make Your Site…
Mobile friendly. Mobile friendly. Because almost 51% of web traffic in the world comes from smartphones alone, Google rewards mobile-optimized sites. Tools like the Mobile Friendly Test show how your site is doing.
Easy to navigate. Use menus to your advantage on web pages to make sure that your site is simple to navigate.
Up to speed. Search engines reward sites that load faster. Use tools like Pingdom to make sure your site is literally “up to speed.”
High Quality Links & Keywords
Keywords. Search engines analyze your keywords to determine how and where to rank your site. Though you will be penalized for “stuffing” keywords, there are free tools that can help you understand which keywords are popular.
Links. Google expects that a reputable site will eventually be linked to frequently from other sites:
“… most of the links to your site will be added gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it…”
- Quality links from other sites can help prove your site’s authority and improve rankings. Once you become an authority on a topic, those links from other sites will naturally increase.
- Using quality links on your own pages can help with rankings as well. However, “excessively linking” or linking to sites with a bad reputation can hurt your reputation with search engines.
- Internal links encourage readers to remain on your site longer.
2. Quality Content: What Sets Your Website Apart
“Make pages for users, not search engines.”
There was a time when websites stuffed with keywords would rise to the top of searches. Google obviously grew wise to this scheme and started penalizing fluffy posts crammed with keywords.
Emphasize quality in your pages and posts with these tips:
Provide value with your content
Ask yourself what purpose your page or post offers viewers. If your answer is simply to “improve rankings,” that’s not good enough for quality metrics. Your content needs to be authoritative, useful and actually provide answers to questions. Search engines, remember, are trying to provide users with the best and most clear answers.
Provide unique content
First of all, there are huge penalties for unoriginal or spun content. Aside from not generating value for your potential users (and probably increasing your bounce rate in the long run), this will not make you popular with search engines. Go for quality, unique content that sets your content apart from other businesses and websites.
Provide long (enough) content.
The average first-page result on Google has 1,140-1,285 words. his all comes back to Google’s goal to provide quality content. How much can a user really glean about a topic that’s described in 100 words? Search engines want to give their users the absolute best experience, and part of that is making sure they’re being directed to useful, direct, long form content (That said, there’s nothing wrong with a pithy social media post or Tweet!)
Re-purpose old content
If you’re concerned your old content isn’t up to par, since it was created a while ago, no worries: you can repurpose old content to improve its quality. You can have incredible results by re-using and updating old blog posts by adding images, infographics, videos or other interactive elements.
3. Measure: Integrate your SEO strategy
The ever-shifting nature of algorithms and search engines means it’s important to keep on top of best practices in SEO. And it’s key to a good SEO strategy to keep track of your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to see where your strategy is succeeding — and where it could use some help.
Use ranking tools to discover how high your site is ranking on search engine results. This provides a good overview of where you stand.
Are you getting organic traffic? Is your content linked to from other sites? It’s important to know where your traffic is coming from so you can optimize accordingly.
Are users pressing the “backspace” as soon as they click on your page? That’s a sign that your content is not engaging users.
Average time on page
How long are viewers staying on your site? Depending on what sort of content you’re offering, you can tell a lot from user engagement by how long they’re staying. If you’re providing long-form articles and people are still staying on your page for mere seconds, there may be a problem.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
This measures how many users, out of those who see your content, actually click on it. This can help you determine if your titles are compelling.
Although not technically an SEO factor, there’s definitely a correlation between rankings and social engagement. You want to make sure that your content is being shared on different social media platforms.
After you’ve analyzed your results, this is where you truly start to see the puzzle of SEO fitting together. If your organic traffic is low, is it possible you’re not optimizing your content for keywords customers are looking for? Perhaps you need to produce more content to improve your indexing and visibility.
If your click-through rate isn’t up to par, are you providing enough value to interest potential visitors? Do you have an alarmingly high bounce rate? Maybe there’s an issue with the quality of your content.
When it comes down to it, you want to add value to the content that you’re producing. You want to generate engagement from users to try your services, pick up the phone and get in touch. A solid SEO strategy isn’t a simple, cold algorithm — it’s a living, breathing methodology for judging your success with consumers. It’s an incredibly complex, ever-changing field that encourages websites to produce top-quality content, format and organize their material optimally and keep up to date with the results.
Need help refining your SEO game plan, or looking for a place to start? Contact us today!