As I mentioned in an earlier post, SEO is certainly not dead. It is alive and kicking, and should be an important part of your digital marketing strategy. It can seem like a minefield to many business owners, and a pretty complicated one at that. If you look past the jargon however, there are a number of really simple practices that enable even the most SEO-phobic to start on the right foot, get ranked by search engines, and drive more traffic to their websites. For businesses that rely on online marketing to gain customers, this can be the difference between success and failure.
Of course there are other ways to get found online (e.g. pay per click advertising), but getting the SEO basics right is not just cost effective marketing, it’s a no brainer. To “Google” something is no longer internet slang, it is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary – so you know this is serious! A quick look at live internet statistics shows that at the time of writing this (just after 12pm, 15/02/18), there had already been nearly 3 billion google searches worldwide! This doesn’t even take into account other search engines such as Bing/Yahoo!, and so on.
5 Simple Steps for Better SERP Rankings in 2018
Even if your main source of lead generation or sales isn’t your website, just think how many potential customers your business could be missing out on. So here are my tips to get your SEO moving and your website climbing the organic search engine results:
1. Website Optimisation
The importance of user experience – UX.
Before you even start thinking about content, backlinks, keywords and so on, you need to make sure that Google’s (other search engines are available) search bots/spiders/crawlers can find your website, and like the basics of what they find. In other words, your site could have the most amazing content, but if there are fundamental problems with its construction, interface and structure, it will have a negative impact on any SEO efforts.
Here are some things to bear in mind when analysing the state of an existing website, or building a new one:
- Mobile Friendly – if your website does not work correctly on a mobile or tablet, it will have a negative impact on user experience, and therefore its ranking.
- Secure Site Connection – this means the HTTP or HTTPS prefix before your website domain. The latter (https://) is a more secure communication protocol. Sites with the less secure protocol (http://) will be penalised.
- Broken Links (404 errors) – if your website has pages that no longer exist, or links to pages that return a 404 error, these are still being indexed by search engines. These URLs should be redirected.
- Site Loading Speed – how long do you stick around if a website takes ages to load? Search engines know that this is not desirable for users, and will rank sites with faster loading times higher.
- Design and Structure – how easy is it to navigate from one page to another? If content is hidden away and doesn’t have relevant internal links, this negatively impacts user experience, and you guessed it, search engine rankings.
In summary, a user friendly website (fast, secure, easily navigated and functional) is the foundation upon which the SEO house needs to be built. If a website fails on any of these counts then… well I think the term “pissing in the wind” is appropriate here.
Who, What, Where, When & Why?
Now you know about the fundamentals that need to be in place for a site to perform better in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), the next logical step is to start thinking about your audience. Who do you want to find your website, what will they be looking for that your site can offer, and why should they visit your site?
Once you know what the keywords are, when and where should you be using them in order to show that your site is relevant, and will provide the user with the information they are looking for? Keywords could include products, services and locations.
- Research – does your audience use the same terminology as people in your business? This is not always the case. Brainstorm and use tools such as Ubersuggest or Answer the Public to aid this process.
- Page Titles – featuring your keywords in page titles helps with rankings and for users to quickly see how relevant your page is within the results. This can often be done via your CMS or an SEO plugin.
- Meta Descriptions – these summarise what your post is about, and should feature your keywords alongside an enticing snippet that makes people want to click. Again, these are often edited via CMS/SEO plugin.
- Body Text & Headers – using keywords and related terms through well written copy, structured nicely with header tags (H1, H2, H3) is a must. Don’t overdo the keywords as well written copy is more important.
- Images – images break up copy nicely. When they have relevant names, alt text and descriptions, and are placed correctly, they can help to boost rankings for your keywords. Don’t forget to compress them to help loading times.
The old adage of “quality over quantity” rings true here. Use the relevant words in the right places, but emphasise well written and engaging content over keyword spamming.
“Content is King” – said Bill Gates in 1996, and he was nearly right.
If a website is static, or in other words is constructed and then never updated, it will become less and less relevant to search engines. Times change, and website content should change with them. Adding quality content to your website on a regular basis gives your existing audience reasons to keep coming back, and for new visitors to come to your site in the first place.
The important thing is that content needs a strategy. It has to work alongside all your other marketing channels and efforts, to target the right people, build credibility for your brand, and generate inbound sales enquiries. When your content strategy works, your SERP rankings will benefit too.
- Blog – well this goes without saying as you are reading mine. Get people within your business to contribute ideas, write posts, or contact a freelancer and get them to do it for you! If you are an expert in your field, make Google think you are too.
- News/Case Studies – talk about your business and recent developments. Link these developments and projects to the services you offer. If you are busy, make it look that way.
- Distribution – if you have great content on your site you need to shout about it. Share it on social media, and hopefully others will too. The more people like, share and retweet your content, the more relevant your site appears to search engines.
- Solve a Problem – what are people looking for when they “Google”? Often it is the answer to a question. If your content answers this question then it solves a problem. If your blog post is only 300 words long it probably doesn’t.
- Video – often neglected as a content format, video is perfectly suited to reaching mobile audiences, and we know how much Google likes this already.
Don’t post content for the sake of it, and try not to duplicate. If your business has something interesting and/or useful to say, say it on your website.
4. Off Page SEO
Optimise your presence all around the web.
Whilst getting things right from an SEO perspective on your website itself is essential, this isn’t the only place where you can be found on the web. Businesses are listed in directories, local pages, and have social media accounts (as do the employees that work for them).
There is also nothing to stop other sites from mentioning your business or providing links back to it. If these come from other relevant and highly ranked websites, it will help to boost search engine rankings, so it makes sense to actively promote and build good links.
- Business Directories – make sure the information is correct, and that any citations include a description of what your business does, with a link to your website. Google’s My Business is a good place to start.
- Social Media – create accounts that are relevant to your business and your potential customers. Again, make sure all the business information is correct. Use them to promote your content, and link to relevant pages on your site.
- Backlinks – check for bad or broken backlinks. Promote links back to your site from relevant authorities and directories, magazines and trade publications. Use references and testimonials from customers and suppliers as an opportunity to create links.
By keeping on top of these things, you can make sure that any links to your website are beneficial rather than harmful. The results at the top of the SERPs will often have the most relevant and highest quality references, making them look trustworthy in the eyes of a search engine.
5. “All Things Come to Those Who Wait” – Violet Fane
Stick at it and keep these things in mind.
Nobody made it to page one on Google overnight. SEO is something that needs consistent effort and a clear strategy. By combining some of the simple practices I’ve outlined above, your website should eventually start to creep up those rankings.
While you plug away, there are a few other general tips and housekeeping tasks which can keep things on track.
- Search Console – register your site here. The Google search console has loads of useful tools to analyse your website and provides tips on how to improve your ranking.
- Google Analytics – analyse what works and what doesn’t. Are you targeting the wrong demographic? Did one piece of content work better than another? Is most of your traffic from mobile? Are people leaving the site on a particular page?
- YouTube – I mentioned video content above. Create a YouTube channel and post it there too, creating backlinks and optimising the video.
- Build Your Following – use newsletters, email and social media to build your following. They will help to do your SEO work for you.
- Stay Updated – search algorithms are evolving and updates to these can affect your ranking. Make it your business to know when they happen and how they might affect your website.
Above all, SEO doesn’t stand alone. It needs to work alongside your other digital marketing efforts, complementing them, and forming part of a comprehensive and clear strategy for your business.
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