They keep changing the rules! It’s difficult to keep up with the best practices that will push you up the rankings in online search, but there are certain things you should keep in mind that will help your business increase visibility, website traffic and consumer engagement. Here’s a rundown of ten of them…
1 - Link building is good, but good content is better
Gone are the days when you could simply load up on links in your website to rank highly in search, and while link building is still an important part of the ranking algorithm, it is more down to the quality, rather than the quantity of those links.
How do you ensure you incorporate good quality links? By focusing your efforts on producing great content that will naturally include authoritative and relevant links to other sources. By creating informative, well-researched and helpful content (and not just clickbait) – on web pages, blogs, offers and downloads - it follows that you will have a diverse set of sources that link to other relevant pages, and by providing useful information, your own website will rise in the rankings.
What will having great content do for you? Returning to the issue of links, it will result in more external links citing your content, thus improving your standing even further.
2 - Security is important in more ways than one
Take a look at your website’s URL (quickly, then come back to me).
Does it begin with ‘http://’ or ‘https://’? Notice the difference? Google does. The ‘s’ in the latter stands for ‘secure’, and means your connection to that website is encrypted so those nasty hackers can’t intercept or access your data. Security is becoming more and more important in today’s online society.
Google puts a lot of stock in this Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and browser, and since 2014 has used it in its ranking algorithm. Since January of this year, the stakes have been upped further with Google announcing that Chrome will now start to flag HTTP pages as potentially unsafe, as part of a plan to eventually mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. This will be bad news for anybody who doesn’t get that little ‘s’ on their URL, because if you are signalled as non-secure, your SEO will be non-existent.
3 - It’s not all about ranking
Sure, it’s great to be positioned first in search rankings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guaranteed more website traffic, higher click-through rates or more lead generation. While the top three results in search tend to have a lot of visibility, so too do the top three on the next page of results, and even results further down the page can do well if they include snippets that give a concise description of their value and relevance.
Even with a load of visits, you are not guaranteed click-throughs and meaningful engagement with your website. Whether your keywords are not relevant to your industry, product or service, or your metadescriptions are not appealing, there are many reasons why online consumers may well see what you have to offer, but not find anything of interest.
Think of it like this: at a market, the shop at the very front is going to be seen by everybody who comes to it, but if that shop sells nothing of any use or value, chances are nobody will go into it. It’s the very same for online content.
To achieve real SEO, you need to make sure that your content is not only found easily and ranked highly in search, but that it offers a reason to take a closer look, to click through, to download further content, and to eventually enter the sales funnel. This includes great, useful content, compelling CTAs and effective landing pages, to mention but a few components, all designed to enhance the user experience and bring them along the conversion path.
4 - Metadescriptions don’t affect ranking, but they do affect click-through rates
Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages, commonly seen as preview snippets. Although they don’t directly affect search rankings, they do enable you to show users that your content is worth looking at, so they have a major bearing on traffic and click-through rates, which is a factor for search engines.
5 - Keywords need to follow the rule of intent
The rules for keywords have changed considerably over the last few years. Just as loading your content with links is no longer the proper way to go, keyword stuffing, as Wordstream points out in this blog, is now very much frowned upon, and ineffectual.
We no longer need to stuff every possible variation of our keywords into our content to try get an exact match for an online search, because search engines have become so much smarter in recognising the intent behind that search.
Google’s use of machine-learning algorithm RankBrain means it can find keyword topics that are related to each other, and even guess at the meaning of unfamiliar searches, and filter them accordingly.
This means that you no longer have to face that awkward and sometimes excruciating task of shoehorning keywords word for word into your content, because Google aims to match the intent behind a user’s search to the most relevant and best quality content that will provide positive results.
It’s important to keep in mind that keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content (thankfully). In a headline, in particular, you want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience, not just fill it with a bunch of keywords that don’t even make sense as a written sentence.
Forced headlines are immediately noticeable, and today’s online users avoid them like the plague.
It is also important to note that this applies to all of your content. It should be written for the reader, not for the search engine.
6 - Your homepage should be the maitre d’ of your website, not the dogsbody
First impressions count, and your homepage will quite often serve as that first impression for visitors to your website. It is the gateway to your business, and should work accordingly. Visitors should be met with a pleasing, easy to navigate page that gives them the up-front information they need, and details on where to find other content. It is like the maitre d’ showing a party of hungry diners to their table, then producing the menu and wine list.
The homepage should concisely explain who you are, what you do, the value you can bring, your specific location (if a local business), and a clear path as regards what to do next.
Many websites tend to try to do too much on their homepage, to fulfil too many roles and become the general dogsbody that covers all aspects and areas of interest, using all the bells and whistles they can, with snazzy design features and a severe case of information overload. This is not the best way to optimise your online content and will leave visitors confused.
Find the balance of just enough information to explain your function and why you can be of value, but leaving the visitor intrigued enough to want to find out more on other areas of your website that go into more detail.
7 - User experience is essential
Google’s aim is essentially to match a user’s search with the most relevant and accurate online information they can in order to offer the best user experience. If the results they bring up for a user turns out to be useless, irrelevant or just plain wrong, they face the risk of that user going elsewhere to make their searches, and they, just as with all other search engines, don’t want to lose users to the competition.
Therefore, they place a lot of importance on a website’s ability to provide a positive user experience, because they are in essence endorsing it by including it in their results.
This means having good page load times, easy navigation, links that work (obviously), and most importantly, useful, interesting, relevant and entertaining content. If all of these are present, you stand a good chance of ranking high in their search.
8 - Being local is getting more important
While the internet is a global entity, local SEO is becoming more and more important. It all comes back to the concept of relevance and intent. For instance, if a person in Dublin wants to have a nice cup of coffee and searches for ‘coffee shops’ there is no point in delivering a list of cafes in Montevideo to them in their search results.
Google’s Pigeon algorithm, as Search Engine Land explains, treats local search rankings like traditional search rankings, evaluating distance and locale when determining ranking of results, so having the geographical information relevant to your business on your site is key, so you need to take steps to make sure you are found, including creating and optimising a Google My Business Page and using local consumer citations effectively.
9 - Images need descriptions
Images are important for readability, the overall look of your content and user experience, but the data behind them can also serve to boost your SEO. Alt text and image file names should be optimised just as any other piece of content would be. Not giving your images metadescriptions will prevent your website’s SEO from being the best it can be, and as SEO means optimisation - making something the best it can be – it follows that you should improve the effectiveness of your images.
Search engines cannot see images on websites, so you need to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. It also helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image, too, so always try to reference your images in your text, preferably close to where it lives on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image. Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant.
A handy tip: Google can index BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG images, so be sure to only use these image file types on your website.
10 - Mobile optimisation is a must
Since 2015, Google has included how mobile-friendly a website is in their algorithm to determine ranking, which makes sense considering the majority of online users now use their hand-held device to access the internet.
You may have created a great website several years ago, but it needs to be updated to accommodate the shift towards mobile use, so if you just got an email from 2009 saying it wanted its design back, it’s time for a redesign to optimise accordingly and meet today’s consumer expectations.
This means having, among other key components of a killer website, responsive design in place so that your content can adapt to the device it is viewed on and display at an appropriate size.
If you don’t have the technological know-how to make this happen, it might be worth considering adopting a platform that can do this for you automatically. HubSpot’s COS is mobile-friendly by default, so whatever content you create can be tailored to different devices easily, ensuring it is optimised.
Keep these ten SEO facts in mind to optimise the content on your website and you will see not only a marked increase in traffic to your pages but more consumer engagement, higher lead generation and ultimately, more customers.
If you want to learn more tips and advice on creating an effective lead generation strategy, book a call with us to discuss how Get Focused can maximise the potential of your online presence, and download our Lead Generation Survival Kit.