What is your SEO strategy? If you can sum it up in a few quick sentences, then you may be unnecessarily limiting yourself, and missing out on some of the best practices available for boosting your search engine results.
Just as you wouldn’t eat the same two or three meals every day of the year or wear the same couple of outfits, you need to make sure that you’re aware of every effective tool available and that you use as many of them as suit your particular business. That’s the way you’re going to make sure that you’re casting a wide net and attracting the customers you’re looking for.
There are new methods and opportunities being created every day, but here is a list of our 12 favorites, from the most basic to the most elaborate.
We all think we know about keywords, but are you using the best practices that take their effectiveness to an entirely different level? Here are the tips that will make a difference:
- Do your research. There are plenty of tools that will provide you with a roadmap to what your target audience is looking for, and which words will put you ahead of the competition.
- Be strategic with your keyword placement. It is tempting to throw as many of your keywords onto each page as possible, but doing so can work against you in search rankings. Instead, chose a single primary keyword for page and don’t use it as the primary keyword for any other pages. Once you’ve selected the page’s keyword, make sure that you’re making the best use of it by including it in the page title, the page’s URL, the first paragraph and at least one subheading. In all instances try to use the keyword as early as possible to attract the attention of search crawlers, and try to keep your URL structure to less than 128 characters.
- When writing your content, use your primary keyword as naturally as you can. This should be easy, as you’ve chosen it because it makes sense. Though it may be tempting to use it as often as possible, resist! The primary keyword shouldn’t represent more than 2% of your page’s content, so use it wisely.
- Don’t forget secondary keywords. They are additional search terms that relate to the primary keyword. As a result, they too should fit into your content naturally. Make sure to use a secondary keyword at least once per page. They will help crawlers understand your content and lead to your page.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
Once you have your pages written with the strategic use of keywords, take their use one step further and include it in the meta title and description. Not sure what that is? It’s the headline and description that follows that appear on a search page. You want your primary keyword to feature prominently in both, as it is what web searchers are skimming to determine whether a result is what they are looking for. To make sure that your meta title gets read, keep it down to 65 characters or less so that it can be read at a glance, and again – use the keyword in your first couple of words. The same is true for the meta description.
Keep Your Page Content High Quality and Current
Don’t underestimate the importance of having high quality content that is valuable to your site’s visitors. Though there is a rule of thumb that every page’s content should contain at least 300 words, there are situations where that doesn’t apply. What always does apply is that the visitor should be able to get value from having visited and read what’s there. Sometimes that’s accomplished with less than 300 words and sometimes it takes a whole lot more. Make sure that you’ve answered all questions using language that is clear, compelling, and comprehensive. Readability is the key.
You want the content on your page to be applicable, well written and fresh. Your language should sound natural, even with all of your SEO work. If you can’t read it out loud without sounding like you’re using the same words over and over again, rewrite it. The same is true for whether it’s understandable or not. Research has shown that the sites that do the best are written to an eighth-grade reading level that is easy to scan, so use short sentences and paragraphs, and plenty of bullets and bold font.
Search engines want to deliver results that are active and valuable, so don’t rest on your laurels once you have a page written. Scheduling regular reviews to make sure that the information is still applicable and relevant is an excellent practice to make sure that your search rankings remain high.
Avoid All Duplication
Staying fresh and relevant also means that you can’t just copy content from one of your pages and paste it onto another, and you DEFINITELY can’t copy from another source. Even if the information is appropriate, duplicating content from your own site will reduce your page rankings and make it harder for a search crawler to understand what your site is about. Taking it from another site will land you in SEO trouble. If you absolutely positively have to copy content from your own pages or another site, then you can avoid SEO penalties by using a canonical tag that essentially instructs search engines to ignore the copied content and pay attention to what’s original. The same is true for meta titles and descriptions – each one should be unique, with titles less than 65 characters and descriptions less than 320, without special characters.
Use Images and Graphics
If you want to make your site attractive and get the added bonus of good search results, make sure that your pages are adorned with plenty of attractive graphics and rich media, including images and videos that are relevant to your content.
Smart Image File Names
Before an image is on your page, make sure that you’ve saved it with a name that is descriptive and uses the page’s primary keyword. Search engines will scan your site for every element, so make sure that you’re optimizing every aspect.
Smart Image Alt Tags
Just as each of your images have names, they also have their own tag called image alt tag, and if you’re not making SEO use of it, then you’ve wasted a valuable tool. Image alt tags get searched by search engines in the same way that other components are, so go back to your primary keyword for the page and use it.
Internal and External Links
Every page on your website is an invitation to your audience to learn more, so you should definitely use links to help them do so – but you need to be smart about their usage. Too many will make your site hard to search and navigate, and may even lead your visitor off of your page permanently. Over 100 per page is probably too many, and over 1,000 is to be avoided entirely.
Strategic use of links involves guiding your visitor around your own site for additional information as well as to other high quality websites. Not only will they help your reader, but they serve as valuable tools for search engine crawlers to help them make sense of the information you’re presenting and show that you’re information is relevant. For internal links, your anchor test should include the page’s target keyword and should avoid redirects. If you can’t avoid them, set up your server so that it provides visitors with a permanent 301 redirect rather than a temporary 302 redirect. External links should always add value, context or both.
- One important note. Setting up a link to another site or resource is a great way to provide additional value to your visitors, but you don’t want to lose them in the process. When setting up the link make sure that it opens in a new window, and double check to make sure that they work so that visitors don’t get frustrated. Broken links not only reflect badly on your pages, but also can hurt your SEO rankings.
Work on Getting High Quality Backlinks
There are few things that can boost a site’s search results like back links from high quality, highly respected websites. The more you have, the better. However, it’s important that you’re selective, and you need to guard against attracting backlinks from low-quality sites. If you find that there are sites whose links are working against you, use Google’s Disavow tool, or reach out directly to the other site’s administrator and ask them nicely to remove it.
Focus on Local Search
There is tremendous power in local search, so don’t forget to take advantage of it. This starts on your own website’s footer or header, which should include the address and phone number of your business location or locations in order to make sure you show up in local search. Your available Google My Business page is invaluable, and so are the many local business directories that you’ll find online. There are big names like Yelp and Angie’s list to local neighborhood community pages on Facebook, and you need to be on all of them, with the correct NAP (name, address and phone number) entry. Once you start looking you’ll be amazed at how many different digital opportunities exist in your area, as well as specific to your industry. Don’t forget to include all of your digital addresses, including your website and any social media links like your Instagram page or Twitter account. These are invaluable to local business, and especially to brick and mortar storefronts.
Brand Yourself as A Secure Site
You may not notice when you’re browsing, but some website URLs are marked “http” while others are “https.” The addition of that “s” is far from insignificant: it means that the business has an extra layer of security called an SSL certificate that search engines read as being safer sites to which to direct visitors. The lack of an SSL certificate can work against you.
Tech Up Your Site
Do you get frustrated when you’re on a site that’s running slow or that’s hard to read on your smartphone? So will visitors to your site. Surveys have shown that outdated tech or even a two-second delay can make a huge difference in whether a visitor stays or finds another resource, make the technical changes that will vastly improve the quality of your users’ experience. You’ll boost your conversions and make it much easier for search engines review all of your pages. Here are a few of our favorite tips for tech:
- Review your design. The more mobile friendly it is, the faster its response will be, and the longer visitors will stay.
- Convert to AMP pages. These make your content load more quickly on mobile devices and also make them easier to read.
- Create webmasters accounts for both Google and Bing, which are two of the most popular search engines. Once you have these accounts in place, submit your sitemaps to them.
- Are you using robots.txt files? They help you hide the pages that you don’t want search engines to find and reveal the ones that they should be able to access.
- Send better signals to search engines. You can do this through the use of structured data code that give the search engines higher quality technical information to boost rankings.
- Make sure that all of your host names point searchers to your site so that you don’t miss any visitors. That means you need to use the proper code to make sure that visitors that enter “www” before your website title arrives at the same place as those who enter “http”.
- Organization is key, even when it comes to your page hierarchy and structure. The more sensible and well-structured your site’s architecture is, the more easily search engines will understand it and find it.
- Once you’re set up, don’t forget to track your results. Gauging website activity through analytics is the best way to tell whether what you’re doing is working and whether improvements are helping or not. There are valuable tools like Google Analytics that and help you identify areas that need optimizing and how your users are using your site.
How About Some Help?
No matter how much you try to boil SEO down to simple steps and checklists, it is still a lot to remember. If you’d like to boost your site’s performance and improve your users’ experience, contact us today to see how we can help.