Don't Be Intimidated
Oftentimes, people tend to overcomplicate or are intimidated by SEO and fail to understand some of the basic things that you should know about. From the outside looking in, it can seem quite intimidating because there is so much you can do, but in this article we are going to break down the most essential no-brainers that can improve search engine rankings for your business.
Search Engine Optimization is actually a very straightforward concept – you are simply optimizing your website so that it performs best with search engines. Google, who overwhelmingly dominates search engine market share across the globe, connects users to the information that they are looking for and favors websites that do it best. This is why websites that comply to the rules set forth by Google are rewarded with higher rankings and increased visibility.
In order to understand what you can do to better optimize your site for search engines, I think it makes sense to split up these tasks into two categories – technical and content/strategy. Looking at these two buckets, here are the most simple yet important ways you can improve your current standing with a search engine like Google.
Technical SEO is all about the setup and configurations necessary in order to help search engines access, crawl, interpret, and index your website without any problems. These are very binary, straightforward steps - either they're done or they're not. There's not much room for how you can do them. Unlike looking towards content for improving SEO, where there are many ways to go about it – but we'll get into that later...
To name a few, here are some of the most important steps when paying attention to technical SEO:
Setup a Google Search Console account and submit your sitemap. Search engine bots follow sitemap files to crawl and index your website. These robots look at every page of your website and how it's structured to determine how to display the website's pages and content in search results. This manual action provides a sitemap directly to Google so that your website can be properly indexed the way it needs to be. Without this, Google has less information on how to index your site and the implications of this can be quite negative. This step is crucial if you have never done this, when your site first goes live, or anytime it undergoes major changes.
Create a Google My Business profile and fill out all of your businesses’ information. Have you ever searched for a business and had a huge Google-curated card come up with information all about that business? That is from having a Google My Business profile, and it can be extremely useful. Especially for showing up locally, both in search and in maps. This can be a bit of an "SEO shortcut" because your Google My Business listing can often show up first or even when your organic text listing does not show up at all.
Ensure that the front end of your website is well-built and the code is sound. Having a semantic site structure so that it can easily be crawled with a proper H tags and HTML 5 tags goes a long way in terms of helping search engine robots crawl your site. This is how you can emphasize keywords and define a hierarchy of importance to robots by using heading (H1), subheading (H2), paragraph text (p), etc. Properly using H tags also effectively categorizes your content on the front end and helps the user easily digest what is on your website.
Ensure that you have a responsive and device-friendly website. Google detects websites that provide a good mobile experience and work well on other devices. These websites are prioritized since they provide a better user experience to a wider audience.
Make sure that your website is secure and you have an SSL certificate installed. An SSL certificate is a type of digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and enables an encrypted connection. These certificates communicate to the client that the web service host demonstrated ownership of the domain to the certificate authority at the time of certificate issuance. You can quickly check if you have an SSL certificate by seeing if "https" is shown before your website's domain. Google does not like websites that are not secure and typically will not rank them as high.
Ensure that your website's pages load quickly. When a site does not load fast enough, your bounce rate increases (meaning users quickly leave your website) and this does not look good in the eyes of Google. Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to test your site speed and find opportunities to improve it. A few of the most common opportunities to increase site speed is to reduce image file size through compression or making them smaller (or both), delete unnecessary CSS, etc.
Content & Strategy SEO
Now that we have discussed SEO from a technical standpoint, we can get into how you can continually improve your website's rankings over time through the content of your website. Like I mentioned earlier, these technical tasks are just a matter of checking the box, where as content is an ongoing initiative that has many different opportunities.
To keep it simple, we are going to talk conceptually about how you might use content to help increase your website's search engine visibility. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when thinking about a content strategy for SEO:
The most important thing when it comes to a content strategy is determining an effective keyword strategy. The first thing to do is simple – just think about what search queries you would like to show up for in Google that are most relevant for your business. For instance, if you are a flower shop in Austin, an ideal keyword phrase to rank for would be "flowers for sale in Austin".
Once you have determined keywords or keyword phrases that you want to rank for, it might be a good idea to use a tool such as Google Keyword Planner to find the certain keywords that have a sufficient amount of search volume while still not being too competitive. These are the ones that you should prioritize. Oftentimes, these are the more specific long-tailed keywords.
Then, it might be a good idea to research your market and take a close look at your competitors. There are tools available such as SEM Rush that allow you to gain valuable insights into your competitor's keyword strategy and will give you the information necessary to emulate what they are doing best or compete and steal market share away from them.
Now, it's time for the most important part - incorporate these keywords into your website's content. A good place to start is by ensuring your page titles and URL structure have keywords that properly reflect the page and its content. Then, look at the metadata for your pages and check if they accurately represent that specific page as well. Although that metadata is no longer a direct ranking factor for Google, the reason is that it is so important is because it's what makes a user decide to click on your search result or not.
For on-page content, be sure to prioritize the keywords you want to rank for by putting them in the headings and subheadings of your pages using H1, H2, & H3 tags.
Don't forget about images, either. Many often overlook the relevance and file names of the images they use on their site. However, this is actually another great hidden opportunity to add those ideal keywords into your site. Put these keywords into the image file name, title, and alt text. If done properly, you can start driving traffic to your website through Google's image search.
Perhaps the best opportunity to use content for higher keyword rankings is to create a blog. This opens the door to adding significantly more content to your website and in turn, ranking higher for more keywords. Blogs are also posted regularly or at least periodically, which is a great opportunity to update your content and keep your website fresh. Without a blog component, websites might only be updated ever so often for simple, minor changes only.
All you need to do is pick a topic that's relevant to your business, create a compelling title that includes the keyword, then use your primary keyword in the first few sentences. For the rest of the blog, use your keyword and related versions of it throughout the content. A good rule to keep in mind is write for humans first, optimize for SEO second. You don't want all of your efforts to go to waste by creating a blog that reads robotically and is uninteresting. Readability is also a huge factor that Google takes into account to score your content. At the end of the day, it's still imperative that your blog makes sense, informs, and is entertaining to read.
From here, use Google Analytics to monitor your website's content and how it is performing. This will inform you of what's working and what isn't. Through a process of trial and error, you will quickly learn what people are actually interested in and what will bring traffic to your website.
Lastly, you must ensure that your website has a favorable domain authority and do everything you can to increase it. This can be achieved by linking to internal (on your website) and external (other websites) resources as much as possible. Having your website be linked by other websites (especially high-ranking, high-traffic) websites goes a long way in building your domain's authority. These links are known as "backlinks" and the goal is to have as many as possible. Essentially, the idea here is to build credibility for your website so that Google deems it as reputable and legitimate.
Other ways to increase your domain authority include social media and directories. Having your website linked to different social platforms or directory networks will increase the amount of referral sources you have. Referral sources are simply links on other websites that take users to your website, quite similar to backlinks.
I know this might all seem like a lot to think about, but it is totally manageable for anyone as long as it is taken step-by-step. Executing a content strategy to improve SEO is a never-ending process and you should always keep this in mind to avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. Simply implement these steps one by one, over time, and you will see results - and those results will keep you going.
SEO is easily one of the most important factors any business should pay attention to when thinking about generating more leads or increasing revenue. Everyone uses Google to discover a product or service they are looking for, and the vast majority (95%) don't bother to look past the first page.
There is a direct correlation between search engine visibility and revenue. I like to think of it as if you are losing out on dollars the lower your website's Google SERP (Search Engine Result Page) ranking is.
One of the best aspects of all, is that SEO is free. There is no ad spend required. And better yet, these visitors are guaranteed to be interested in your website because they are coming organically, on their own accord, rather than being pushed there from an ad.
The purpose of this article was to simplify the concept of SEO and provide a few simple ways for those, who might not be the most tech savvy, to understand how they can improve their search engine rankings.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO strategy, but, hopefully, these tips are a great start to improving your businesses' online presence.
SEO is an ongoing, never-ending process and you can always go deeper, but we hope this information will help you begin your journey to eventually reaching that sacred #1 position on Google for your most ideal keywords.