SEO 101: How to Improve Your Google Ranking
In the realm of digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making it easy for your customers to find your website. Digital marketing is made up of digital marketing channels like SEO, content marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising and search engine marketing (SEM).
As a business leader, understanding the fundamentals of SEO will help you propel your business forward and ensure that your website is found at the right time—when your target audience is searching for you. Known as “organic” search engine results, SEO increases the quantity and quality of website traffic, driving more visitors to your site and potentially more business.
Marketing statistics show that 64% of marketers invest in SEO, which helps web pages get ranked on search engines like Google and Bing. Here’s how it works: Google’s search bots crawl the web, adding optimized pages to its index and cataloging them. Then websites that rank in the top are displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
SEO is an essential part of every digital marketing strategy. There are two general elements to successful digital marketing—traffic and conversion. SEO-generated traffic is more likely to convert at a higher rate than ad-generated traffic, since the person doing the search is actively seeking out information and has a specific want and need. To get highly targeted traffic to your website, an SEO content strategy should be a part of your overall digital marketing plan.
Create an SEO Content Strategy
First, identify your optimization goals. Do you want to improve your online brand visibility, return on investment (ROI) or traffic? Pinpointing SEO goals is a critical step in your digital marketing campaign and must support your association’s or business’s overall goals.
Once you identify your goals, it is time to outline your SEO strategy, the process of planning and implementing the steps to improve search engine rankings. Begin by taking an inventory of your existing website. Give it an honest assessment. Is it difficult to navigate? Does it lack quality information?
Next, do some research. You can’t do much without knowing which keywords your target audience is searching for. Go back to the basics and think like a customer. Understanding searcher intent is critical to keyword selection. Put together a list of 10-15 words associated with your product or service. Are those the words your customers will use when seeking your service offerings? Consider visiting the competition’s website. Your competitor may use keywords that you haven’t incorporated yet.
There are several tools for keyword selection, which help identify search volume and variations that make sense for your business:
Google’s Keyword Tool
Although it may be tempting to pack a web page with the keywords your target audience is searching for, keyword stuffing results in a negative user experience and can hurt your website’s ranking. Instead, create quality, information-packed content that uses keywords the right way—in context.
Creating an SEO strategy may seem overwhelming, however, several websites, such as HubSpot, offer free SEO strategy templates to help get you started.
3 Types of SEO
To create an SEO strategy that delivers results, you need to use different types of SEO to ensure your website shows up! Incorporate these three types of SEO into your strategy:
On-page SEO refers to the content visitors will see when they visit your website. To be effective, the content needs to be “valuable”—different and better than any other content out there! Consider doing a monthly sweep of your website to refresh blog posts and web content with new and updated keywords, so that content continues to rank and gain referral traffic. Optimize keywords to boost SEO.
Technical SEO is just that—it is “technical” and related to non-content, behind the scenes SEO elements, which are designed to deliver a seamless user experience and improve a site’s readability. It refers to elements like uploading detailed site maps, caching information to improve load times and optimizing images and HTML.
Off-page SEO determines how search engines rank your web pages. It is determined by link-building—backlinks to your website from other sites. Getting links to your site brings in visitors and shows that your site has authority, which means your website will rank higher. Improve off-page SEO by building relationships with bloggers, industry influencers and journalists to get backlinks to your site. Consider guest blogging or commenting on industry blogs and forums.
For local businesses, such as a bank or dry cleaner, local SEO helps community businesses rank higher locally. Designed to target customers in the nearby geographic area, local SEO is critical for brick-and-mortar businesses, yet it is often overlooked. It works by keeping small businesses relevant as customers search for products and services near them. Local SEO will help your business rank for a “near me” query. Target local keywords to gain higher search rankings.
Remember to claim and regularly update your free Google My Business (GMB) listing. Make sure your address, phone number, website and hours of operation are accurate. Then look at other directories where your business is listed and update the information accordingly to ensure that it is consistent across Google’s local search landscape. Consider embedding a Google Maps marker in your home page to help turn local leads into customers.
There are several ways to improve SEO. One approach is to regularly refresh and update content, such as existing blogs, videos and other web copy. Video significantly improves SEO. In fact, it is estimated that by 2022, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will come from online videos.
Search engines are continuously crawling websites looking for content and even images to validate a website based on its keywords and phrases. By keeping your content “fresh,” Google and other search engines will be alerted that your website is a viable place to send traffic.
Other factors like page speed and mobile-friendliness come into play. If your pages don’t load quickly, you’ll lose visitors. A responsive website design (RWD) also increases visibility on search engines because it is mobile-friendly, offering more search engine optimization opportunities with Google search results. Not to mention, RWD is the standard in SEO. Google rewards websites that create an optimal user experience with features like social shares, links and optimized content that includes video.
In 2020, the phrase “knowledge is power,” best explains how websites and SEO strategies are functioning. User intent and the way consumers are searching for information has changed—the new method of searching is by typing questions into Google’s search engine. The “result” is frequently asked questions (FAQs) with drop down options for answers. Ranking top in the results means that consumers are searching for a phrase and your site is appearing as a trustworthy source of information.
5 SEO Trends to Try
To stay ahead of the competition, there are a few trends you should incorporate into your SEO strategy:
- Create FAQ pages to drive highly targeted traffic to your website. Many businesses are already using FAQs as part of their content marketing strategy, so why not optimize those pages to attract potential customers? That tactic will also improve your SEO rankings because Google will see that your website offers valuable and reliable information.
- Use simple, conversational language in web copy and include longform content and longtail keywords to help your website show up for voice searches. Voice search, which allows users to search the web using Google through spoken voice commands via a hands-free voice option or by selecting the microphone icon in Google’s search field, is becoming increasingly popular. Google reports that 20% of searches are voice related, which means content optimization should include optimizing for questions with natural language searches.
- Understand what Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is so you can write copy that matches your customer’s intent. Google uses BERT to read sentences with a level of human contextual understanding. Although you can’t optimize for BERT, you can optimize your website for users. BERT puts more of an emphasis on the meaning behind words than the actual words, making quality content more important than ever.
- Write unique high-quality, longform content that is tailored to your target audience and answers their questions. Solid content that features the right keywords will create traffic that grows quickly over time. That will help to build brand awareness and give Google more links to index. As you write your content, think about the structure of information and make sure it is “shareable.” Create longform informational pieces that can be clustered into various topics. By clustering your topics into segments throughout your website architecture, both users and crawlers can easily navigate and understand the content provided.
- Optimize for Google’s featured snippets, excerpts from your website that appear at the top of SERPs, provide answers to your customers’ search queries. Snippets appear as a paragraph, list, table or video and offer branding opportunities, especially on mobile devices where they are often the only listing users see.
Use Social Media to Improve SEO
Of course, social media should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, but it also has a role in your SEO strategy. As your content gets shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks, search engines interpret that to mean that your website is a valuable, trustworthy source of information.
In addition, your social profiles matter to Google, helping to influence the content of your search results. Many people simply use social channels, such as Twitter, Facebook or even YouTube as search engines to research companies, services or products. Incorporating social media into your SEO strategy will only benefit you in the long term.
Measure and track SEO Success
As you define your SEO goals and outline your strategy, first look at your starting point. Part of the journey to improving your SEO ranking means knowing where you started. Where do you rank now? That will allow you to measure your success. There are several tools you can use to monitor your progress to help determine which tactics are helping to improve your visibility:
Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker
Like marketing, search engine strategies are continually evolving. Use SEO to ensure your website is found, but remember, SEO is never finished—it is continuously changing. Just when you have a grasp of SEO, algorithm updates are released.
To succeed, SEO requires both offline and online marketing strategies. But when set up properly, SEO will pay dividends over time, producing leads, pulling in new customers and helping to convert organic traffic.
If you aren’t sure how SEO fits into your digital marketing strategy, contact us today to get the conversation started.