The Ultimate Guide to SEO
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Getting your website to rank well in the search engines can make all the difference when it comes to your business accomplishing its goals or failing terribly. People who successfully implement their SEO strategy (search engine optimisation) can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a month to their site, and every one of them is a potential lead.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation is the process of optimising a website to give it the best possible chance of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and generating more visitors. To decide where a page ranks in its results pages, Google uses a number of (200 odd) factors to evaluate websites. SEO strategy allows webmasters to maximise their website’s performance in these factors to help it move up the rankings and get more clicks.
How Can You Use SEO Strategy to Get More Clicks?
SEO is about generating more clicks to your pages, but it’s also about getting the right clicks. There’s little point getting someone to visit your online retro sweatband store who is looking for a new vacuum cleaner, so it’s about balancing the volume of clicks with quality of clicks. If you’re going to use the search engines to get these clicks, then you’re going to have to follow a set of rules to successfully navigate your way up the rankings. How do we know these rules? Well, for the most part, Google tells us. Google wants to send its users to quality content, so it makes sense that it wants to give you the tools that allow them to discover your content. The difficult part isn’t necessarily knowing what to do; it’s about actually doing it on a consistent basis.
Here are some of the key areas you need to be taking care of, if your website is going to rank well and start to bring in lots of organic traffic.
Top Quality Content
Search engines allow people to search the internet and provide them with the results that are most relevant to their search. The more relevant and higher quality the results are, the better the search engine has performed its job. Based on this assessment of search engines, your content should always be one of your top priorities if you want to rank well. Google wants to send its users to the best content possible, so the way to rank number one is to be the best content out there. There’s no substitute for great content, and the better your content is, the better it’s likely to rank. Make sure your articles are focused, in-depth, and give your readers real value. The longer your reader stays on the page, the more this signals to Google that you’re worthy of ranking highly.
If you feel like you can create this content yourself, then great, but sometimes you need a little help, in which case there are content writing services that can make sure you’re always putting out the best content for your SEO strategy.
We All Want to be Entertained
How do you feel when you go to a page that’s just 2,000 words of block text? The chances are, you’re not going to be excited to read through it. Creating quality content isn’t limited to giving your readers the best information; it also involves doing so in an entertaining way. Make sure you mix things up by using images and videos to supplement your text. You want people to stay on your site for as long as possible, so make your page appealing to everyone. It’s easy to get carried away with text, but not everyone wants to read a lengthy article.
Optimise for Keywords
We mentioned that your pages should be focused, but what should they be focused on? If you’re going to earn traffic through SEO, then you need to do some keyword research and optimise your content for your keywords. For most websites, long-tail keywords are going to be the best path to achieving good organic traffic. For example, there is a huge difference between the keywords “business plan” and “woodworking business plan.” The first may get a lot more searches, but your chances of ranking on p1 for such a keyword are severely limited. Your keyword selection needs to balance your ability to rank for that search term with the number of queries. Once you’ve got your keyword, make sure you follow through by optimising your page for that keyword. Ensure it features in headings, subheadings and enough times in your body texts.
Other Ways to Optimise
There are lots of other ways you can optimise your page around your keywords. While they have varying importance in Google’s algorithm, the more of these small things you can get right, the better your chances of ranking well. For example, you want to have a URL structure that is concise and contains your keyword. Google likes to see structure, and if your URL is too complex and long, then it sees this as a bad sign. In the woodworking business plan example, you want your URL to look simple and organised like this:
Similarly, it’s important to pay attention to your meta descriptions. When you see a results page on Google, the meta description is the text you see under the URL. Not only does the meta description signal to Google what the page is about, but it’s also like your advert, convincing people to click on your link. Writing great meta descriptions that are focused on your keyword can really boost your click-through rate (CTR), earning you more clicks. It just so happens that CTR is also one of the metrics Google considers when deciding where your page ranks, so it’s well worth putting some effort into your meta description.
Signal that You’re Trustworthy
How do we know that Mars exists? None of us have been there, and most of us aren’t scientists, so why do we believe that it exists? We believe it because someone discovered Mars and reputable people have confirmed the finding. Therefore, we trust that Mars exists. So how does Google know that what you say is trustworthy? Well, it uses much the same principles, just slightly adjusted for the online world. Google believes that if you produce good content, then other websites are going to confirm that by linking to the content.
If your friend Bob links to your website, then Google sees it as you would see your friend Bob confirming that Mars exists. It gives you a little bit of confidence, but not as much confidence as when an expert, say your university astronomy professor, confirms it exists. In the same way, Google is going to have much more confidence in your content when authoritative domains link to your site. Essentially, not all links are created equal. Google gives more weight to links from websites it already trusts, and it gives more weight to links from website in similar niches to you.
Internal and External Linking
Linking is not just about what websites link to your domain; it’s also about how you link to other domains and how you link your pages together. Just as Google wants to see experts linking to your content, it knows that when you link to another site it already trusts then this will add value and authority to your content. This is called external linking. Using external linking can help your page’s ability to rank because it adds that little bit of extra authority to your content and offers your readers extra value. Of course, you’re not going to link people to your biggest competitors, but it’s always useful to use links that can add something extra to your article.
Another important aspect of linking is internal links. These are the links that send people to other pages on your website. Internal links not only help you keep visitors on your site for longer, but they also create structure and show the search engines which of your pages are the most important. When creating your content, you need to make sure you include both internal and external links to help boost your ability to rank. They help to verify the information you provide and enhance your user’s experience.
Ensure a Good User Experience
Many of the important metrics Google uses in its algorithm can be heavily affected by user experience. Metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, and the number of comments all factor into the algorithm to different degrees, and they’re all negatively affected by a poor UX. If we return to the reason search engines exist – to send people to the page that best answers their query, then it seems obvious that poor user experience is going to severely limit a websites’ ability to rank.
If every site Google sent people to had a terrible user experience, then people would stop using Google in favour of a search engine that gave them better results. Needless to say, Google doesn’t want this, so it’s not likely to send people to your site if it’s not offering good UX. Try to keep things uncomplicated and do the simple things well. Do you really need to bombard people with all those pop-ups or put so many adverts on your site?
The Way We Consume Content is Always Changing
In 2013, organic traffic from mobile devices represented 34% of total organic traffic; today, that figure is 64%. In 2013, it was a bad idea not to optimise for mobile devices, but it might have been something you could get away with. Today, not optimising for mobile devices is just a sure-fire way of ensuring you won’t rank. The way we browse the internet and consume content is always changing, and your user experience must be able to adapt to the trends. If your site doesn’t work well on a mobile, then you’re going to find it much more difficult to rank well. Another example is voice search. According to ComScore, 50% of all searches are likely to be voice searches by 2020. If your website isn’t capable of responding to this change, and provide users with the experiences they want, then you’re not going to get the traffic that you crave.
Finally, if your website is slow, then all the previous points won’t matter one bit. People don’t have to wait for slow websites, and they won’t. They’ll leave before your page loads, and they’ll never get to see your great UX, or get to read your amazing content. Every second your website takes to load has a massive impact on your bounce rate, which means that site speed must be high up your list of priorities. People can get carried away with all the capabilities of their website, but if it can’t deliver those capabilities quickly, then it’s all for nothing. When people are trying to diagnose why their website isn’t ranking well, they’re quick to think of things like keywords and backlinks, but sometimes the problem is much simpler – your site is too slow.
Optimise Images and Limit Plugins
When we talk about loading speeds, we are getting into a slightly more technical side of SEO, but there are still some simple steps you can take to improve your site speed. Images and plugins are both areas where you can find big-time savings. Images are often the big culprits if a certain page is very slow to load. If an image hasn’t been optimised, then it will slow down your website. If you’ve got lots of these images, then things really start to add up, and you can see a big difference. Plugins also have a similar effect. They’re extremely useful tools, but the more you have, the more they can slow your site down. The right plugins can add a lot of value to your site, but you need to decide which ones are essential and which aren’t. If you get rid of the ones that aren’t necessary, then you can speed up your website whilst still giving your visitors a great experience.
The benefits of effective SEO are numerous, but you’ve got to put the work in on a consistent basis. There is no way to cheat the system and put your page at the top of the rankings, and if you do try to take shortcuts, then sooner or later, it will result in you losing the traffic you do have. Companies like Google and Bing tell you everything you need to know about SEO; the challenge is doing it effectively and consistently. It’s not easy, but if you can keep ticking the boxes and implementing good SEO, then you will start to rank and see more and more visitors.
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