Create an Effective SEO Strategy
Do you want your business to succeed online?
If so, you need to learn a thing or two about SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO is made up of various strategies and best practices that exist to improve your position in search engine results.
Google, the dominant search engine, relies on different SEO ranking signals to determine what websites or pages are the best results for different search queries. These ranking signals consist of things like a secure website (SSL enabled), appropriate keywords, a site’s mobile friendliness, and quality of links. When your site is optimized for SEO, you have a better chance of ranking higher in SERPs, or search engine result pages. This is vitally important considering “75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines.”
There are two kinds of SEO: On-page and Off-page, though we’ll mostly focus on the former in this post. Without further ado, let’s look at some SEO strategies that can help boost your business in search results.
SEO Strategies for Your Business
We asked our resident SEO expert what strategies and tactics he believes to be the most impactful and that you ought to implement ASAP. He’s developed successful SEO plans for small businesses, agencies, and large corporations, so he’s well-versed in what helps a website rank higher in search results. Here’s what he had to say.
Understand Users and Their Intent
Remember when typing three keywords into Google would still give you decent, relevant results? That doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, people are searching the Internet using more complex, natural speech patterns. Considering how voice search is on the rise, this trend doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. To make the most of it, you need to know a thing or two about your users.
How well do you know your audience and user base? Understanding them will give you a leg up in search results. Are you wondering how that’s possible?
Search engines value content and sites that users themselves find valuable. So how does Google know what content and sites users find valuable? They use information like bounce rates and dwell time to determine whether someone is staying on your page, consuming relevant content, or bouncing away because your site doesn’t meet their needs or answer their query.
You can use Google Analytics to help you understand who your users are. You can figure out how they’re reaching your site, where they’re landing, and more information to help you refine the user experience of your site.
Google BERT (one of Google’s search algorithms released in October 2019) supports your need for a user-focused site. BERT, “is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP)…” and “in short, BERT can help computers understand language a bit more like humans do.”
Optimizing Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Page titles and meta descriptions are some of the first things users and search engines see and they influence how your page is understood.
Page titles are the clickable titles that display in SERPs, like you see in the example below, circled in red. Depending on the browser you’re using, you may also see page titles in your tabs.
Meta descriptions are little snippets of HTML content that describe the content on a page. Optimizing them for SEO is crucial.
Page Title Optimization
Your page title is one of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors. To make the most of it, keep these tips in mind:
- It should be no more than 65 characters in length (including spaces.)
- Your most important keyword should feature in your page title.
- Don’t stuff it full of keywords. That’s ineffective and search engines see right through it.
Meta Description Optimization
Meta descriptions are brief snippets created to describe a page or site. Good meta descriptions increase the click-through rate from search results to your site. Create effective meta descriptions by:
- Including a CTA (call-to-action) in your meta description.
- Keeping your description between 50-160 characters, including spaces.
- While you can write longer meta descriptions, Google tends to truncate them if they’re too wordy.
- Including keywords is important, but don’t keyword-stuff for the sake of keyword-stuffing.
Create and Write Longer, Better Content
Articles and pages that appear on the first page of Google search results tend to average ~1890 words. If you’re still writing 500-word fluff and puff pieces, your SEO is in trouble.
Let’s hearken back to the first SEO strategy suggested earlier in this post, understanding your audience. If you can find out why people are coming to your site, you can cater your content to them.
Writing good content takes time, but it’s worth it because the quality of your content matters. Good content is:
- Engaging. It keeps people on your site longer.
- Shareable. If your content is good and trustworthy, others are more likely to share it and that gains you backlinks (a form of Off-page SEO.)
- Editable. Good content needs to be tweaked. Google likes “fresh” content, so be sure to revise your content to include updated keywords, newer facts, or reflect changes in user-behavior.
Remember, search engines want to display the best results for search queries. If your page has the best, most comprehensive content that answers a question, naturally, it’ll rank higher over time.
Secure Your Website Pages
Having a secure website is essential to your success. You might think you can get away without SSL if you’re not running an eCommerce site or asking for user’s personal information (like via an email sign up form), but you’d be mistaken.
SSL isn’t just vital for site security; it also matters for appearances’ sake — never discount the power of perception. We’ll explain below.
Since Google introduced security as a ranking signal in 2014, SSL has been a must-have. SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” and it protects and encrypts the information passed between an end user (site visitor) and your site, and vice versa. It keeps information safe ranging from credit card details to email addresses. Without SSL, hackers and bad guys can intercept, read, and alter that information.
Remember how we said perception matters? Consider this: Sites with SSL enabled have a visual indicator in the URL bar that signals the site as safe and secure.
Sites without SSL, or not secure sites, show up with an ugly indicator, like you see below, that can cause site visitors to lose trust and confidence in you.
Don’t push your site visitors away before they’ve had a chance to peruse your pages. Enable SSL on your site and reap the benefits of increased customer trust and the secure exchange of information on your site.
Use Your SEO Tools
If you’re working on SEO, it makes sense to use SEO tools designed specifically to help! As a bonus, many of them are free. Let’s look at two resources created by Google that are indispensable to your SEO efforts.
Use this tool to understand basic KPIs (key performance indicators) and benchmark performance. With Analytics you can:
- Understand your audience.
- Gain insight into performance fluctuations.
- Visualize user behavior.
- Create reports.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console has one main purpose and that’s to help you understand how GoogleBot has interacted with your site.
What’s GoogleBot? It’s Google’s Search Engine Bot that crawls webpages. It uses sitemaps and links to catalogue sites on the Internet. Google stores this information in their index, which is like a massive repository of sites that exist online.
GoogleBot crawls sites using different SEO ranking factors and looks for things like broken links or updated content. When it finds these things, it updates and makes note of them in the larger index.
When using Search Console, don’t forget to look at your Index Coverage Report (ICR). Your ICR:
Lists both the pages you’ve submitted to Google (like via a sitemap) and all the pages Google has discovered on its own.
- Each page displayed in the report will fall into one of the following four buckets.
- Valid with warnings
Use the status of your pages to make any necessary changes to your site. For example, if you find a webpage that’s excluded from search results that shouldn’t be, you’ll need to correct it.
Search Console also lets you see the queries people made to find your site! Neat, right? This is incredibly insightful information that allows you to:
- Improve your keywords, and therefore, your content.
- Understand your most valuable organic keywords.
- Gauge and monitor keyword movement to see what you should be targeting.
Have you ever completed a technical audit of your site? If not, now’s the time to start. As a best practice, you should audit your site at least once a year (more if you have a complex site.)
Technical site audits help you understand various things about your site, like:
Are You Searchable?
When people make search queries, are your pages surfacing as results?
Help you understand what “noindex” tags exist on your site that shouldn’t be there.
Check the validity of your webpages (especially by using Google Search Console in your audit.)
Clean up Your Redirects
When you click on a specific URL, but the page that loads has a different URL, it means you’ve encountered a redirect. Redirects are ways of getting people from one webpage to another.
- Here’s an example of how it could work. Let’s say you used to sell tons of Product A because people just loved it. But you discovered Product B, something far superior, and stopped carrying the other one. If someone has the old page for Product A bookmarked, you can use a redirect to get them to Product B’s page instead of seeing an error.
Over time, your redirect chains can get longer and longer and that can dilute your SEO equity.
- This also adds load time to your pages.
Check for temporary redirects and make sure they stay that way, temporary! They shouldn’t be used as long-term solutions.
If you need a permanent redirect, make it a 301. We repeat, 301 redirects are permanent, but they transfer the SEO equity of your old page to your new one, unlike a temporary redirect.
Evaluate Site Traffic
To evaluate your site traffic you’ll need to use either Google Analytics or Google Search Console.
For Google Analytics:
- Click on Acquisitions > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search (under default channel groupings) and select your time frame.
- We recommend choosing a longer time frame to really get a sense of any patterns or issues.
- Use this information to identify landing pages with irregular performances.
- Evaluate these pages individually looking for potential errors.
For Google Search Console:
- Navigate to Performance > Search Results > Change date to “Compare.”
- Sort results by significant differences in your KPIs to identify and evaluate your site performance trends.
- Seeing a big gap in click and impression data? Bridge them by identifying the keywords you’d like to strengthen and then focus on those terms within that page(s).
Update Your Robots.txt File
Robots.txt files are made to communicate with web crawling robots (like GoogleBot.) These files tell the bots what webpages they can and can’t access for crawling on your site. It’s a file that creates rules around your domain.
- Make sure no important elements from your site are being blocked from crawlers and therefore, search engines.
- Block elements of your site (of your choosing) from crawlers and search engines.
You should always check your Robots.txt file.
- You can view its real-time performance from within Google Search Console, just look for the Index Coverage Report we mentioned earlier.
- For example, anything that results in “valid, but with warnings” means your Robots.txt file should’ve prevented those URLs from being crawled, but they’ve surfaced anyway. If this happens, make sure your Robots.txt file is set up appropriately.
- You could also see things marked as “excluded.” This means those URLs are appropriately and correctly blocked from SERPs by the robots.txt file.
- We recommend giving anything an “excluded” status a once-over to make sure you haven’t accidentally blocked any pages that should be crawlable.
Review Your 404 pages
404 errors surface across pages that have been removed, deleted, or are otherwise categorized as “Bad Requests.”
- Do you have any 404 pages that have actually gained significant value for your site?
- This could be because they’ve generated a lot of backlinks, have great keyword ranking, bring in decent traffic, revenue, or a variety of other reasons.
- If yes, you should consider redirecting those pages (remember, 301 redirects maintain all the SEO equity that a page has built) or reconfiguring them so they’re still relevant.
View your 404s with a web crawl or with Google Search Console.
- In Search Console, go to your Index Coverage Report and then navigate to the “Errors” section. This will display all the 404 errors that came from your sitemap.xml file.
- In that same report, navigate to the “Excluded” section.
- This will report on any pages with a 404 crawl anomaly or any pages throwing soft 404 errors.
Implementing These SEO Strategies and Tips Will Boost Your Business
We want your business to succeed as much as you do. That’s why we’ve compiled these SEO strategies and hope that you implement them on your website.
SEO is crucial to surviving and thriving online, so don’t let your website and business get behind.