Part science, part art form, search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential marketing practice that is undervalued. With the goal of driving non-paying, organic traffic to your website via search engine results pages (SERPs), SEO guides search engine algorithms in order for you to achieve a higher ranking with every query.
The higher you rank, the better your traffic, and the more chances you get of converting your audience into leads.
Competitive and notoriously unpredictable, SEO ranking is determined by a variety of factors that shift frequently. Broken down into two categories: onsite SEO (page titles and descriptions, headings, tagging, internal links, etc.) and off-site SEO (social media, guest blogging, backlinks from high-quality websites, etc.), the practice requires a healthy dose of both creativity and regular analysis. So while being aware of the practice is a good start, dedicating adequate time to it is essential.
Here are few ways in which you can optimize your SEO practice:
Determine your keywords
The goal of keyword research is to target which specific words carry the most weight for your website. Serving as one of the first (and arguably the most vital) steps in SEO, deciphering your market’s most valuable keywords lays the foundation for a high-ranking website. The key? Be specific. Focus on the distinct, niche terms that are found at the intersection of your market and your business. One great, free tool is the Google Keyword Planner, with other options like Moz and Ahrefs providing a more in-depth look at your keywords for a monthly price.
Speed up your website
Statistics show that 53% of mobile users will abandon your page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. In 2018, this is a very generous number. With “site speed” serving as a ranking factor for Google, the loading speed of your website has never been more important to streamline your website.
Luckily there are plenty of website testing tools at your disposal, such as Google’s own PageSpeed, or WebPage Test. A few ways in which you can optimize your website, as a general rule, is to properly format your oversized images; check your browser caching and how your website data is stored and compressed, and dive into your backend to assure that nothing superfluous is floating around and slowing down your load time.
Get creative with meta descriptions
An HTML element that describes and summarizes the contents of your page (at a maximum of 160 characters), the meta description can have a surprising impact on your SERP rank. One of the major setbacks that marketers create for themselves is copying and pasting meta descriptions. With the stakes of SEO marketing sitting so high, be sure not to succumb to this kind of marketing lethargy.
A properly composed and succinct meta description is able to raise the click-through rate of your website exponentially. Keep this in mind when drafting your content, and edit accordingly if you notice that your page isn’t performing as well as before.
Create great content
While this goes without saying, great content will indisputably achieve higher rankings. When it comes to drafting blogs, articles, or straight copy, many marketers fall into the trap of mentioning their target keywords as many times as possible, without focusing on the writing itself. In this new era, these old tricks won’t work. “Keyword stuffing,” as its known, may even hinder your rank to the point where a page could be considered as spam by a search engine.
In short: tread lightly, and keep the content fresh. Never let the reader get bored because your competitor is just a click away.
Share and link your content
While many have been told to stay away from linking their content to websites that are not their own, creating external links to trusted sites is a great step in improving your overall rank. Linking to other reliable blogs and sites – and even getting guest bloggers with a certain level of clout to write for you – are both easy ways to garner inbound links.
Once you’ve drafted and linked your brilliant content accordingly, share it widely. All of your designated social media platforms should be used to elevate your work. Schedule and post your content at the best possible time, according to the platform for optimal traction.
Make your URLs easy to read
This is one of the easiest aspects to fix, and the one that’s the most overlooked. Google, Bing, and other third-party search engines like to see clean, easy to read pages when ranking a site. Get rid of the extra dashes, numbers, and letters on your page for optimal engagement. A comprehensive URL attuned to the human eye will also be bot-friendly.
Make it mobile-friendly
As we steadily push towards an era of ‘mobile first’, it’s more important than ever before to ensure that your website promotes responsive design. It’s not only about proper presentation; it’s about delivering content to your customer in the most efficient way possible. Make sure that your website – regardless if read on a tablet, smartphone, or desktop – reads clearly. Search engines are able to index and better understand a website that belongs to one URL.
Add your website to directories
A simple and cost-effective way to garner more clicks is adding your website to as many online directories as possible. While Google, Bing, and Yahoo dominate the landscape, Ask.com, AOL, and international search engines like Baidu are quickly moving up the ranks.
Analyze and track your data
When it comes to SEO, you’re playing the long game. Before implementing an SEO strategy, make sure to analyze anything, and everything, that could influence your ranking. Make data-driven decisions once you’ve done your homework. Audit your website on a weekly basis, and be aware of the fact that Google, Bing, and other search engines change their algorithms on a frequent basis.
There are a number of tools to help analyze your performance: you have Google Webmaster Tools, Check My Links, SEO Report Card, as well as many more tools that come at a price. Take advantage of social media analytics, as well as those that stem from marketing automation tools (like those available through VBOUT) that aim to optimize your performance in general.
Google and other prominent search engines have developed their algorithms in order to present the most valuable information first. Create great value, and a higher rank and bigger, better clients will follow suit.