The Internet is saturated with content. Every blog, eBook, image, and hyperlink vies for impressions, clicks, and conversions. So what allows some websites to show up on the first page of search results when others seem to be banished to the second page and the great beyond?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to your relevance online, including appropriate keywords, use of titles and tags, the quality of your content, and many more. However, to make all the elements of your website work in conjunction with each other, you need to optimize your website for search engines as well as for your readers.
Let’s back up for those unsure about what exactly search engine optimization (SEO) even is. SEO is the marketing science of increasing the quantity and quality of visitors to your website by targeting particular keywords and phrases, boosting trust and citation flow, and systematically creating content around your target market’s search queries.
Black hat digital marketers often sell SEO as if it’s a one-time item or it’s something they can pull from a box, but in practice SEO is an extensive, ongoing service with a strong focus on high-quality content. Be wary of agencies that promise an unrealistic amount of monthly backlinks or “growth hackers” who try to disguise keyword-stuffed nonsense as content, as these “traffic boosting” methods can actually do damage to your website’s authority.
What to Do with Keywords
Think carefully about the words and phrases that people may be using to search for the information that’s on your site. Check out Moz and/or Google’s keyword research tools for additional insights into keywords you should consider using. When Google’s spiders start crawling your site, they’ll take note of the topic and the information provided and measure its relevance, accuracy, and breadth.
Once you find relevant, high-quality keywords and phrases, include them not only in your content but also in your headers, page titles, and URLs (when applicable) to attract readers and boost your site’s authority. Research by Moz suggests that keyword agnostic features account for nearly 10% of Google’s ranking algorithm.
Produce High-Quality Content
While keywords are important to draw readers in and ensure better optimization, make sure your content goes beyond catchphrases and buzzwords. Search engine users are typically looking for a specific answer to their inquiries, be it a product or service to solve their problems, or simply the information that answers their exact question—so make sure you’re giving it to them.
According to Google, the single most important action you can take to increase your ranking is to provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. When your pages contain valuable information, other webmasters, bloggers, and even the general public are more likely to link to your website.
It’s also helpful to stick to a specific topic per-page and provide clear, accurate, helpful content about the subject at hand. According to ConversionXL, 36% of people prefer headlines with numbers, such as “15 Ways to Boost Creativity at Work” as opposed to those that pose a question or address the reader (that being said, don’t go crazy writing listicles). Data from Hubspot shows that 2100 words is the sweet spot for long-form content.
However, while you want your content to be comprehensive, sometimes less is more. Readers, especially mobile readers, have short attention spans and oftentimes don’t read the entire page. According to a Chartbeat study, 55% of clicks get less than 15 seconds of attention, indicating that people aren’t reading in-depth when they go online. For that reason, well-formatted, short, and to the point posts make it easier for an audience to understand the key takeaways and they often perform better on social media.
Title and Tag It
Specify the gist of your web page by creating a relevant, click-worthy headline, otherwise known as a page title or title tag. Page titles are displayed on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and at the top of your browser. While it’s tempting to list every service you provide in your browser titles, keep these to 60 characters or less as anything longer will be cut off on the search page. Plus, you need to save some verbiage for your meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions should provide a brief summary of the information on your page and include at least one good keyword or phrase. These blurbs shouldn’t exceed 160 characters as anything beyond that limit will be truncated. Moreover, ensure that each description is unique across your website, otherwise Google will flag these redundancies and knock your ranking.
Every Link in the Chain
A search engine’s goal is to organize information, decide what is most relevant to a browser’s specific search terms, and make it easily accessible. This is precisely why internal and external links are so important. In fact, a survey by Moz suggests that nearly 21% of Google’s ranking factors are based off domain-level link authority features.
These features include quantity of links to the domain, trust/quality of links to the domain, and domain-level page ranking. In order to earn these backlinks, however, it is necessary to create consistent, high-quality content to which people want to link back.
Create the Ultimate User Experience
With today’s heavy emphasis on mobile content, user experience (UX) has to be a main priority. In fact, Google states unequivocally in its Webmaster Guidelines to “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
Moreover, as of April 21, 2015, Google made a site’s mobile friendliness a search ranking factor. If that alone doesn’t make you eager to have a mobile-friendly site, know this: 51.3% of web traffic is now coming from mobile devices, according to research by StatCounter.
With so many cyber scammers, phishing attacks, and data breaches, security is increasingly becoming a main priority for Google. Because of this, sites with an SSL Certificate (HTTPs encryption) are being ranked higher than those without. According to Google’s blog, “it’s only a very lightweight signal [however] we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPs to keep everyone safe on the web.”
The other factor that may play a big part in Google’s ranking factors is ADA Compliance. While there are no direct statistics that link the accessibility of a website for people with disabilities with optimization, the factors that make a website compliant are all elements that play a part in SEO. For example, in order to be ADA compliant, your site requires clean code, accurate page titles, alt tags, video transcriptions, and many other design, content, and development components.
The Down Low on SEO
It’s important to remember that Google’s algorithm can identify weak content, keyword saturated copy, and spammy backlinks in a second. So whether it’s a short blog or a long form eBook, be sure to provide information that is relevant and reader-friendly. If you’d like to learn more about search engine optimizing your site and how it can help you, click here to contact us.