Search Engine Optimisation is fundamental to any digital strategy. Without it your business could be left behind.
But what exactly is SEO?
SEO is an effective strategy that increases the amount of visitors to your website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the results page of a search engine such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and many others.
Even on a limited budget, small businesses and new startups can improve search engine rankings if they know what to do.
In this article, we list 15 “white hat” SEO tips and strategies that help to improve your rankings and website traffic. Please note that I use Google as the primary search engine example as it is the world’s most widely used search engine.
1. Keywords / Key Phrases.
Coming up with effective SEO phrases or keywords and targeting them is crucial in getting good search rankings. Since Google “web crawlers” judge your site based on keywords, your list of target keywords must be based on authentic and practical parameters. Take a look at the kinds of words that are used to describe your business and consider what customers might type into Google to locate your business. For example, if you run an online ethical fashion store, consider targeting keywords such as “ethical fashion online”, “online shops ethical fashion” etc. For help selecting keywords and phrases, check out Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, says it makes sense to also discover untapped keywords on Reddit, calling it a ‘keyword research goldmine’. “Invest an hour or so in digging for keywords on Reddit and you’ll nab enough keywords to last you through 2018,” he explained.
So where exactly do you use these keywords? Read on…
Writing engaging copy and content for your site should be your number one priority. Google ranks web pages according to “relevancy”. On the first page of any search result, you’ll find 10 websites that Google will rank highly, according to the relevancy and usefulness of the information contained on those web pages. Google cares about its users and naturally wants to give users the most relevant and informative content they are searching for.
So when creating content, make sure that it is engaging and useful. If users like what they read, they will pass it on, share it on social media, and this effectively increases your chances to be ranked highly because social shares is also a factor in Google’s algorithm.
Also when creating content, remember to use the keywords and key phrases you decided to target in #1. By adding these keywords in your content, you will increase your chances of higher rankings because it enables Google to identify what your content is about. Just make sure not to “keyword stuff” (overusing keywords in one piece of content in an attempt to alter rankings) as Google is smart enough to know what you’re doing and may penalise you for doing so.
3. Create often.
Sites that have new content added on a regular basis are seen as more reliable than those sites that rarely do. It may be difficult to keep up with creating new content but it is something that you will have to implement as part of your marketing plans. It’s not necessary to write and publish new content each day but decide on a consistent schedule such as once a week or twice a month and stick to it. Increasing the amount of relevant original content on your site not only helps to improve your rankings, but it also gives your audience a reason to keep coming back to your website.
4. Remove duplicate pages and content.
Though your content needs to be compelling, descriptive, and differentiated, you also need to take into consideration the technical aspect. Eliminate duplicate content immediately, particularly if you see the same paragraph/s on different pages of your website. Doing this can be frustrating if you offer hundreds of products on your site, but creating original content will be worth the effort in the longer run.
Why is this important? Because your website can be penalised for having the same, or even very similar, content on multiple pages of your site or blog. This means that all the work you did to improve your rankings will come undone if search engines find that you aren’t offering value to their readers.
5. Claim authorship of your content.
Setting up Google Authorship, which authenticates and increases credibility to your content, is simple and straightforward. Link your Google+ account to your content to improve both rankings and click-through-rate (CTR). This is the easiest way to take advantage of the SEO benefits of Google+.
6. Include images.
Using images in the beginning of your articles and posts adds valuable appeal and credibility to your readers. Many people are “visual” people so including captivating relevant images helps to capture a person’s attention and gives them a vague idea of the type of information they can expect from the article.
You can use images you’ve taken yourself, so long as they are of good quality or if you don’t have time to dabble in photography, there are loads of websites that offer free stock images.
7. Inbound links.
If content is king, then links are the queens. An inbound link (often known as a backlink) is when someone links to your site from another site (often their own). The better that site (in terms of visitors, web traffic, audience engagement, followers), the more Google views your site as credible and ranks you more highly.
How do you do this?
You can create great content that others will naturally want to link to. Or you can write guest posts for other people’s sites and then link back to yours. You can also mutually promote each others websites by collaborating on posts or writing for each others websites.
It is important to remember that if there is no good or even any logical reason for a site to link to you, you don’t want these sorts of links as it won’t offer any beneficial “Google juice”.
8. Internal link structure.
Though inbound links are important, linking to internal web pages can also do wonders for your rankings, particularly if you frequently write about certain topics. For example, if you sell eco-friendly fashion and you’ve written a post defining what “sustainable fashion” is and another post about “sustainable fashion trends” than consider linking these two pages to boost the authority of both these pages. Another reason why “in-linking” is important is that it helps users and search engines find their way around your site.
9. Submit your site map to Google.
When you are trying to establish your SEO strategy, remember that sitemaps shouldn’t be underestimated. These essential navigation tools are technical files that list all your key pages and tell the search engines where to find them. These read and identify all the pages included in your website as to which pages are important (priority) and how often they are updated (frequency). Having a sitemap especially if you have a large site content lots of content can play a role in improving your rankings.
10. Headings & sub-headings.
In point #2 we mentioned that using target keywords and phrases in your content will help Google users determine what your website is about. To further boost your rankings, add these keywords and phrases in your headings (“h1”) and sub-headings (“h2”) as doing so only further drives the authority of the content within the page.
11. “Clean” URL structure.
Websites that have a streamlined URL structure are often ranked higher than those sites with messy structures and confusing content organisation. URLs are the building blocks of your website, so make sure that they are consistent, brief and concise. It’s also important to consider including the keywords in the URLs to make it “search engine friendly”.
12. Use optimised meta tags.
There are several meta tags that websites use but at present, the title tag and meta description are considered the most important. In several cases, search engines use these tags to display on the results page of a search engine. To get optimal benefit, meta title and descriptions should include the keywords that you are targeting. Meta titles should not exceed 60 characters. You can include your brand or company name in it if you desire. Meta descriptions, on the other hand, should be clear, precise and concise in providing information about your website. You are only provided 160 characters so make sure the description appeals to web browsers. I use WordPress SEO by Yoast to help me improve the SEO-friendliness of my content.
Content creation is important but what is more important than creating it is promoting it. This is a crucial step that most businesses forget to do. You need to get your content out to as many users as possible so in order to do this, you will need to prioritise marketing.
At the very least, you should have a Facebook page where you can share your content with your fans and encourage them to share with their social networks. You should also consider creating a business profile on Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
Don’t forget to add social sharing buttons on your web pages so your visitors are able to share your content easily.
14. Site speed.
If your site speed is slow, Google will rank you lower. This is because Google cares about delivering content to users quickly. Users typically don’t want to wait around for a site to load. Site speed can be affected by your host provider service, size of image files, size of your website, number of plugins used and amount of content. You can check your site speed with Google or you can talk with your host provider to make sure that they are doing all they can to improve your site speed.
Check what keywords perform well and where your traffic is coming from through the use of Google Analytics. It is a free analytics tool that provides detailed performance reports on key metrics such as amount of traffic, where the traffic is coming from, popular landing pages and exit pages. By analysing the data, you can determine what pieces of content work and which ones don’t. This data will also help you to revise and improve your digital strategy. You may need to make changes to your target keywords and phrases. You may need to create better content. You may need to fix a problem on the website that is causing people to “bounce” (exit your website quickly). Whatever the case may be, don’t overlook Google Analytics. The reports take the guess work away and gives you real data to act on.
Now over to you: Is SEO a priority for you? Have you already implemented some of these SEO tips? What are some mistakes that you’ve committed that you’ll need to address after reading this? Feel free to leave a comment. And don’t worry, I’ve committed many SEO mistakes myself which is why I’m so knowledgeable on the subject 🙂
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