Search engine optimization (SEO) is a hot topic and has been ever since the rise of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. These utilities have grown to become so commonplace in the world that, according to Smart Insights, daily searches on Google exceed 3.5 billion, which equates to 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. This has justified the importance of ensuring your website can be found and ranked.
Over the years, people have tried to uncover the secrets to Google’s algorithm and game the system; however, Google has grown even more complex in combatting this attempted manipulation. Currently, there are more than 300 ranking signals that Google and competitors take into account when deciding what page to rank for search queries. The importance of each signal depends on the query and all the possible results. This makes optimizing for ranking signals difficult and, as Google’s John Mueller states, “is very short-term thinking.” However, optimization shouldn’t be overlooked as a part of your website and marketing strategies. While advanced tactics can be implemented to ensure you’re delivering amazing and useful content to users, it’s best to start with the basics.
Have a good foundation
This is a must! You can create a great website that is well optimized, but overlooking the foundation can hinder your performance.
- Crawlable and accessible by Google
The first step to a well-optimized site is ensuring it can be found by Google and users. Creating a sitemap with logical hierarchy and crawlable URLs is a must.
- Quick load time
In a mobile-first world, no one waits longer than 3 seconds for a page to load before moving on to the next result. Having a slow loading site can hurt you by turning away visitors before they ever even see what you’ve created.
As the world moves to mobile devices, Google has followed suit, announcing in March of 2018 that it will now index sites by their mobile versions first. If a site isn’t mobile-friendly in 2018 and beyond, your traffic, conversions and rankings will suffer.
Digital security has been a hot topic lately, and Google has made it a top priority. Moving to HTTPS will help your users and search engines know you take security seriously.
On-page SEO is still important
With conversation focusing on high-quality content, some may overlook the initial tactics to creating a great marketing strategy.
The first step should be research. If you’re creating content without a purpose or a goal based on what real people are searching for, it’s likely not high-quality. Keyword research and discovering what people are looking for is still very important, and should be the start to any content creation strategy.
Once research has been conducted, leveraging the identified keywords to create content is the next step. It’s important to work these keywords and phrases into the content for both users and Google to understand what your page is about. However, both users and search engines are savvy, and don’t need the same keyword stuffed into a page multiple times. Leverage keywords and their variations in the title tag, meta description, body copy and heading tags of the page.
Keep it rolling
Once a site has been built or a blog article published, it isn’t the end of the road. Establish a cycle of looking at analytics, adjusting, optimizing and publishing changes to maintain continued growth.
A ranking signal as old as search engines are, links are still important for ranking search queries. Link-building tactics have advanced, but the core goal is the same — quality links back to your website. Look into guest posting, influencer marketing, content marketing, manual outreach, comment sections and social media promotion.
Blogging is a great way to keep a site updated and fresh, but having the bulk of your site contain highly valuable content is key. What is valuable content? Does it provide the searchers with enough information to answer their questions? Is it authoritative on the subject matter? Is it trustworthy? Having high-quality content also impacts other signals to Google. People will read it, share it, and interact further with your site.
- Engagement metrics
RankBrain is one of the top-ranking signals for many queries. Are users reading your content and engaging with your website? If not, Google will take note and so should you. Look at key metrics in Google Analytics such as time on site, pages visited and bounce rate. If these numbers look low, consider refreshing your content, revisiting keywords, or adding engaging elements such as videos, slideshows or images.
- A/B testing
Don’t set it and forget it! Even if you’ve launched a great website and metrics are above goals, you should always have an A/B testing plan in place to push for better engagement, higher conversions, more traffic, or simply to gain insights on why things are working or how they can be improved.
Inbound marketing is ever-changing, and SEO is no exception. From the evolution of black-hat tactics in a pre-Penguin world to content marketing and shifts in techniques made necessary by Google, Yahoo and Bing making adjustments to their algorithms daily and rolling out major updates, there’s always something new to learn and try in the world of digital marketing. Attend conferences, read articles, stay updated on the latest news – but don’t forget the fundamentals.
Interested in learning more about SEO? Moz has created an updated step by step how to.
GlynnDevins is a full-service agency and offers SEO services. Contact us to learn more about how your site can be optimized.