Better understand what search engines are looking for, and discover how you can ultimately improve your rankings
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of making websites as search engine friendly as possible, so when users are searching for terms that are relevant to your business, your website will appear higher in the list of results. You can’t pay for this as it’s organic – it’s a mixture of skill, relevancy and some would say black magic!
Naturally, people will be better in certain areas of SEO than others, although each of us will always benefit from ongoing improvement, understanding and refinement. It takes resourcefulness, dedication, persistence and creativity to hit the top spots; this is particularly relevant with the ever-changing nature of the Google algorithm and the need to keep up to date and informed.
The following will help you to have a better understanding of what the search engines are looking for, and how you can ultimately improve your rankings.
By stripping back SEO and breaking it down to what matters, we can focus our attention on what’s needed to achieve those gains, without being penalised.
We will start with what really matters, understanding Google’s latest 2017 ranking signals, and how to optimise for both humans and the search engine crawlers. We then create a workflow and move onto tasks associated with it. Let’s get started.
Onpage SEO is a absolute must
Google’s ranking is made up of 200+ components, or ‘ranking signals’. On page SEO is a critical element to fully take advantage of. Content relevance has to be both original and relevant to the search phrase to rank well, as well as optimising meta titles, descriptions, headers, image alts and the URLs.
User experience and trust
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) click-through rates can have a massive impact on rankings. The only efficient way to make your listing earn actual clicks from real users is to make it appealing and click-worthy. We utilize the meta tags for this with clear CTAs, combined with great user experiences to gain trust.
Pay attention to technical SEO
If your page isn’t optimised for mobile devices, it’s likely to be discarded from mobile search results completely. Google has also oficially confirmed that it uses page speed in its ranking algorithm, which can influence your SEO indirectly. 4xx and 5xx errors will also afect your site’s indexation and have an impact on user experience.
Take advantage of backlinks
The number of backlinks and linking domains is still a major ranking signal and has a massive impact on your ranking potential. Run regular link audits to spot any dangerous links early and have them removed in time. To acquire more high-authority links, look at your competitors’ profiles and try to win some of their links for your own site.
Create a workflow
From these search engine algorithm insights we create a workflow of actions, to actively execute your marketing strategy. These actions include: goals, actions, insights and reporting – the tasks that follow are associated with your workflow.
A good strategy starts with goals
When you have a clear idea about where you want to go, it’s easier to get there. Begin your marketing strategy by outlining what you would like to accomplish. Once you pinpoint your goals, set clear objectives for each goal using SMART goal planning and create Goal and Event Tracking within Tag Manager and Analytics.
Develop your buyer’s journey
One of the most important elements in building an SEO marketing strategy is empathy for your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for, you can efectively reach and keep those users. Develop your buyer’s journey, by outlining what your target customer is thinking during: awareness, consideration and decision.
Ensure your most important pages are reachable from the homepage and they are arranged in a logical tree-like structure. The names of your URLs also reflect your sites structure and use breadcrumbs to facilitate navigation.
Understand the First to Last Interaction in line with the buyer journey. What digital touchpoints do your users engage with at each stage? For example, during the awareness stage, what is your customer experiencing as they become aware of a problem they are having? What are their pain points and where do they go?
Keyword analysis and research
Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole. It’s not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind.
After you publish a piece of content, your next goal is to get people to engage with it. People share content from sites they trust, so reach out to your network and establish connections with influencers.
Be findable by search engines
Search engines won’t rank your site unless they can find it. It’s extremely important to make sure search engines are able to discover your site’s content, and that they can do it quickly and easily. Keeping a Logical Site Structure and utilising ‘rel=next and rel=prev’ will help with this greatly.
XML sitemap and RSS feeds
The XML sitemap helps search bots discover and index content on your site. Make sure it’s up to date and added to webmaster tools. RSS feeds are another great way to notify search engines about any fresh content you add to the site.
Google’s Panda ranking algorithm update sifts out pages with thin, non-authentic, low-quality content. Improve content quality by revising your brand messaging, aligning it with the projected path of your business and your target audience. Create useful, expert-level content and present it in the most engaging form possible.
Utilise canonicalisation correctly
Canonicalisation is a way of telling search engines which page should be treated as the primary version when several URLs return virtually the same content. The main purpose of this is to avoid internal content duplication on your site. Mark canonical pages using the rel=canonical attribute.
Improve UX and engagement
UX-related metrics have made their way into Google’s ranking algorithm. For example, site speed, mobile-friendliness and the HTTPS protocol. Striving for greater engagement and higher click-through rates also tends to bring better rankings as well as indirect SEO results in the form of attracted links, shares and mentions.
Earn social signals
Your Google+ posts can make it to Google organic search results, which is a great opportunity to drive extra trafic and gain more real-estate. Attract social links and shares with viral content that is easy to share. Create incentives to get more positive reviews and citations across the web.
Leverage rich answers
A rich answer is a snippet that already contains a brief answer to a search query. It appears above other organic search results and thus enjoys more exposure. Any website has a chance to be selected for the rich answers section. Identify simple questions you might answer on your website to increase your chances.
Make use of schema markup
Schema markup is used to tag entities (people, products, events etc) in your pages and content. Although it does not affect your rankings, it helps search engines better interpret your content and gives you more search engine real-estate. Never a bad thing.
Google’s Penguin ranking algorithm update detects artificial backlink patterns and penalises sites that violate its quality guidelines. Keep your backlink profiles looking natural, earned through others quoting, referring to or sharing your content.
Review your local SEO plan
Good marketing does not attempt to reach all people; it’s targeted to connect with a few specific and defined audiences. Capitalise on these audiences locally, by optimising your Google My Business listing (G+) and create incentives to get more positive reviews and citations across the web.
Don’t forget reporting
Measurement is an imperative element of all marketing activity. Ultimately, any report needs to focus on your KPIs. Perform these regularly to gain insights for your next steps and tests; the most common source of trafic information that will help is Google Analytics.
What to look out for?
Consider implementing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), a Google initiative to build a more user friendly mobile web. Also be prepared for HTTP/2 a new network protocol that should replace the outdated HTTP/1.1. In terms of SEO, you will be able to gain some ranking boost due to the improved website speed.
Keyword research tips
Start by brainstorming your ideal customers search terms and establish a baseline list of keywords by using the free AdWords Keyword Tool. Go that little further by substituting in synonyms by going to thesaurus.com and gain new keyword ideas from Wikipedia articles around your existing keyword list. Take advantage of ubersuggest.io to generate variations. This works by scraping the autofill suggestions Google gives you. Also, spend some time on Quora, as it will highlight how people speak in their niche communities. And don’t forget to look at your competition and utilise Google trends, as it will show how keywords have evolved as a result of factors like seasonality, geographic location and media coverage.