First and foremost, before you can know how to improve your SEO, we need to make sure you are not wondering something like: “But what in the WORLD is SEO?”, or “how can I make money from SEO?” and “why is SEO critical for my website?”. Let us introduce you to the “IT” factor that all those websites featured in the top pages from search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, have in common: Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O. Exactly!). This is one of the most common practices from companies, e-commerce stores, bloggers, and other website owners in order to make their content, product, or service more visible throughout the Internet.
Search Engine Optimization refers to the process of improving a website to affect its visibility in search engines and boost the ranking it has in the results thrown by specific searches in those search engines. SEO is optimizing your online content to a point where search engines will want to show it in the top ranking results for a particular keyword phrase, which will improve click through rates and conversions to the site. SEO can be done in two stages, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO, which we will discuss later on in this post.
Simply put, SEO is the fairy dust you need to sprinkle over your content, whether they are articles, blog posts, reviews, lists, or your site’s content, to make it appealing and sparkling for Google and other search engines to give you a first page ranking in the results’ list. To put it in other terms, SEO is the PR your content needs in order to drive successful online business.
So, why is SEO important?, and why should you bother with it? The answer is very simple… Here’s why: Think of the first thing you do when you’re trying to find something online. Whether it’s something for your personal or professional life, for your kids, for online shopping and anything else that comes to mind when you are in front of the computer browsing the web. So, what is it that you do? You find a search engine, most likely Google since it’s the most popular search engine available, and you type words that will help you find the things you are looking for online.
What does this mean exactly? It means that people use search engines for everything, from important work related things to trivial insignificant stuff, and if they are looking for a particular product that you have, they may be persuaded to visit your site if they can find it in the search results. Being on the results is a step in the right direction but it’s not enough to drive more traffic to your site or increase conversions.
Well, we still haven’t answered why is SEO important or why you need to do it, but don’t worry! We are about to… From a business’ point of view, SEO increases visibility on search engines, which are powerful business marketing tools. By having your product/brand or website making appearances in millions of screens from desktops, laptops and mobile devices worldwide, you’ll increase your odds of getting a customer or a visit every time someone searches for words related to your brand or product.
So, why do you have to waste time and effort doing SEO? Because the main goal for your business, for any business, is to attract and engage more customers in the hopes of getting the conversion and increasing your profits. Now, if you optimize your site for search engines, you will ensure that your site shows up constantly in search results when certain “keywords” are used, it essentially gives your site the potential to become a gold mine, by opening the floodgates for massive revenue.
Something that you should know is that SEO is constantly evolving and upgrading since search engines, such as Google, change their algorithm, periodically in order to stay ahead of spammers and hackers. In its early days, SEO was pretty much forcing a bunch of keywords jammed together on your site’s content and adding a bunch of backlinks to it, that would do the job to propel your pages all the way to the top search engine results, granting you and your company an insane amount of profit, and you could call it a day.
However, Google’s algorithm -let’s stick with Google since it’s the most used search engine– today is a completely different animal, indeed… It’s latest version is called Hummingbird and it flies away with your traffic if your SEO is not up to par and perfectly executed. The new algorithm takes into consideration more than just keywords thrown together and backlinks, it checks the relevance and coherence of the keywords used with the subject at hand and many other things which we will discuss as we go through the steps to execute your SEO.
As we’ve already mentioned, good search engines’ ranking demand rigorous SEO, and other website optimization practices to evolve and shift focus to a balanced criteria that combines the old “robot food-type of content, for <website crawlers>”, software that browses the internet for finding and indexing pages, linking them to popular search terms, and making them show up in search results when these “search keywords” are typed, in conjunction with a more organic content writing and website design approach, offering quality content for people to learn or be entertained while reading your content.
SEO is not a one time job, it’s a constant and evolving action to keep your site relevant and at the top of the first page results. We could probably say that SEO is an art, the art of hitting every key right with Google in order to create a melody that resonates in search engine results and keeps “the beast”, Hummingbird, quietly sleeping in the corner while your site flies by right to the top. This is by no means an easy feat or guaranteed to get you the conversion you desire, but it’s a step in the door and in the right direction.
Don’t do what some sites out there are doing. That is: Hiring whatever self named “SEO Guru” is trending in one site or the person who offers you the cheapest rates, just because they speak fancy SEO terms, like: Optimized conversions, internal link building, keyword optimization, or because they fill your head with crazy stats such as giving a number one ranking for a certain keyword that’s never used, a keyword that doesn’t get searched it’s not going to do you or your site any good.
If you hire the wrong person or company you’ll end up losing money and putting your site at risk of being ignored by search engines. SEO doesn’t require a Master’s Degree but you need to have some insights into the business and most especially your particular market and target audience, and in all honesty no one knows your target better than you, so give yourself a chance and follow the steps we’ll lay out for you, you’ll see how easy it is to optimize your site without investing a dime in phony “SEO Masters”.
Up next we’ll list the 6 steps you should be taking to execute your SEO like a pro, there’s no catch here, just follow these steps and you’ll see how your site ranks better and your click through rate and conversions progressively increase.
- SEO Is Not A “One Time” Thing
Search Engine Optimization is not something you do once and then forget, a good SEO strategy needs to follow up every couple of months to make sure that the content of the site is still relevant, updated and coherent for the people who will read it and for search engines. We cannot stress this enough: In order to make the best out of SEO, constant experimentation, upgrading, updating and testing is an absolute must, unless you want your site to become stale and slide through the cracks of search engine crawls.
How to stay on top of your SEO? It’s easy, stay on top of the market in which you work and keep track of what people search for in Google and other search engines, this is the best way to make sure that your content is always up to par with the latest algorithm changes. Something else we recommend is following the top SEO experts in the market, such as our Blog, they’ll always post the latest on SEO techniques and strategies to stay ahead of Hummingbird or whichever animal comes next.
- On-Page And Off-Page Are Both Relevant
SEO focuses on both On-Page and Off-Page aspects of your site, so you need to keep both updated and in shape to pass the rigorous tests set by search engines. Let’s take a moment to explain what On-Page and Off-Page actually means and which elements of your site are involved, later on we’ll explain how to optimize both sides of the site.
On-Page refers to the all the ranking points that are visible in your page which Google takes into account when looking at your site, such as content copy and structure, titles and headers, and keywords. This also relates to site design and architecture, taking into account factors such as colors, patterns and other elements that might be found in your site.
Off-Page refers to aspects that are not visible on the page and most of the time are not in your hands, such as history of the searcher, social media, link building and other blogs. This is mostly what’s being done to help your site rank better away from the site, like links to other platforms and social media shares. In order to create a good SEO strategy you need to get both sides right, because both of them together make up the whole of your site and one aspect can’t rank without the other.
- Know Your Audience
Before you can start optimizing your site or blog you need to know who your target audience is and study what they want, what they read, how they find information, who are their trusted sources and many other factors that will help you know how to create content that your audience will find relevant and appealing enough to read and share. The best way to do this is to create a buyer persona; a representation of who your perfect clients would be, based on market and demographic research as well as some common sense observations into these fictional buyer’s past and likes, that will allow you to write specifically for your ideal consumer.
Knowing your audience and using a buyer persona is the best tool to craft content that may appeal to your potential readers in the hopes that they’ll become paying customers. One of the best ways to start your SEO efforts is by optimizing your On-Page requirements in order to help boost up Off-Page factors, and the best way to start writing your content is knowing who you are writing it for, because you can make it all about the readers and how they can find the solution to their problems for a specific subject in your content.
- Optimize Your On-Page Factors
In order to get On-Page SEO right you need to focus on three essential factors which will improve your site’s overall look and coherence. These factors are: Content, HTML and Structure. Let’s start with optimizing your content and make our way to the other two.
- Content Optimization
You need to write content that will be relevant, useful, coherent and easy to digest in order to provide the best and most accurate information to your visitors, this will make Google rank your site as high as possible, what search engines want is content that will supply an answer to the searcher’s query, it’s as simple as that. But writing this content it’s not so easy, there are a couple things we must keep in mind in order to guarantee the best possible result, such as quality, freshness, relevance, and keyword research and use.
The quality of your content is not enough to give you a good ranking position on Google but it’s the pillar of your SEO efforts and it needs to reflect your business, your offer and your experience. Crafting high quality content that appeals to visitors and passes Google’s test it’s not easy, but it can be done if you sketch out a writing path and stick to it. The first thing you need to do is study your competition, in order to know what works in your market you need to know what is it that the big successful names are doing to stay on top and copy their efforts. Don’t take me wrong, you are not going to actually copy/paste their content but you are going to copy their ideas for great content and make them your own, give their content your own spin and this will help you increase the quality of what you write and the relevance too.
In order to have content that stands out you need to start with your titles, the headlines of your site’s pages or blog posts are essential to how well you rank in Google and how many visits you can achieve in a day. Crafting a powerful and compelling headline could be the difference between success and failure of your site, blog or any other posts you create and publish.
Here’s the number one tip for creating the best possible headline your site could ever have: Identify your reader’s pain point and offer relief to this point. For example, if your readers are looking for the best wedding venue for their wedding then your headline should offer them something that relieves their worry, it could be a guide with the top 20 best venues, a free review catalog that highlights the best and worst of every venue available to them or something as simple as a step by step guide to finding the best wedding venue. So, a possible headline would be:
How To Find Your Wedding Venue Without Losing Your Mind?
5 Easy Steps That Will Help You Find The Perfect Place For Your Wedding
You see? You have a pain point “find a venue without losing your mind” and you immediately give them a possible solution “5 easy steps that will help you”, this is far from being the BEST headline you could ever have but it shows you what you need to focus on to get there and if you know your audience and their needs you can craft an even better one in no time. The trick is to practice, to write more than one headline and test which might work better before you go live with your content.
Even though a good headline increases your chances of creating high quality content, it’s not enough on its own to achieve the results you want and optimize your site. You need to focus on freshness and relevance which go hand in hand and make a nice even triangle along with quality. These three elements go together because in order to have quality content you need for it to be fresh and relevant. And what exactly does this mean? It means that your content needs to be important to your readers and their search and it should be the most updated you can make it, with the latest trends and sources. For example, let’s stick to the wedding theme, if you come up in a search for “wedding gowns” your content needs to be focused on wedding gowns: the best, the worst, the most famous, the high fashion designers, the latest trends and what’s hot.
One final tip regarding your content, do NOT write about yourself and what you are offering, your content needs to be about and for your reader, of course you can throw in a line or two about yourself and your product but you need to focus on your target audience and make sure your content touches their needs in a relevant, coherent and fun manner. Don’t write like an encyclopedia for God’s sake! No one wants to read the highly boring concepts involved in your market, readers want to read articles and posts that are quick and easy with lots of tips and step by step options.
Now, let’s discuss keywords research and use. I’d say that this is the most important aspect of your SEO, both On-Page and Off-Page, because it sets the market in which you are going to be competing. In order to write the best content ever you first need to do an extensive and successful keyword research and to do this you need to set your main keyword. The key to finding the right keywords is knowing your market, your target audience and your product or services, if you have a clear and concise understanding of these three things you’ll be successful in pinpointing the right keywords that your content should target in order to get the results you want.
This main keyword or keyword phrase will define your whole research so you need to make sure it’s relevant, popular and highly searched. There are many tools you can use to research related terms and phrases after you’ve set your main keywords, tools such as SEMRush and KeywordTool that give you detailed reports on your keywords, your competitors and many other key factors important to your SEO efforts. While both have free versions, it’s worth getting the paid plan for SEMRush because it gives you access to much more information that could be essential to your SEO and marketing campaigns.
Now, before you can go using any of these tools you need to have a clear and potent main keyword phrase. In order to do this you should come up with 5 topics related to your market and then out of each topic you should think of 3 keywords that people may use to find what you are offering, for example, sticking with the wedding theme:
Now you have 15 potential main keywords, you’ll use the one that’s more related your business and what you have to offer your readers and potential customers. Afterwards it’s a matter of introducing the keywords found in your research into your content in a coherent and relevant way, no more of that keyword stuffing that used to work in the old days, nowadays Google, and other search engines, look for the relevance and coherence of keywords to the topic at hand before ranking a site or a blog.
Let’s summarize, be sure to spend a fair amount of time researching for top search keywords and trending topics in your industry or business and build natural “organic” copy around them, focusing on making it appealing for bots, and also useful and worthy of being read from top to bottom by your human audience. It is also advised to browse your competitor’s sites in order to get some inspiration, and creating better content than theirs, but NEVER EVER copy something exactly the same, not even between your own pages! Or you’ll get caught by Google and you can forget ever ranking that site again.
Now that we’ve gone over how to create good substantial content, you need to understand the importance of HTML for your SEO efforts. While you don’t have to a programmer to optimize your site or blog, you do need to know the most basic aspects of HTML code in order to create a site that will be ranked in high order by Google and other search engines.
First thing’s first, let’s start with the headlines, which as we’ve mentioned are of extreme importance and should have all your attention and focus when you are working on them. Headlines are called H-tags and your main headline, which will be what Google reads and finds most important, it’s called H1. Your H1 should have your main keyword phrase, it should be compelling and appealing, and it’s been proven that questions rank very highly so try to make your H1 into a question: How, why, what, where, when, etc., this will surely optimize it and improve your odds.
Next up is the Meta Description, this is the small excerpt that shows up in your Google listing along with your title, which describes your site or your site’s purpose in very few words. This description has a length limit of 160 characters and if yours has more than that it’ll be cut short and end up in ellipsis (…), this is not good for your click through rate or your ranking. You can use the snippet optimizer tool to make sure you are within the set limits and to visualize how your description will look in your Google listing.
After you’ve optimized your H1 and your Meta Description, you need to turn to look at your subtitles, assigned H tags in HTML such as H2, H3, H4 and so on. These aren’t nearly as important to SEO as your H1 but they are one of the things a successful landing page needs and they help your content be coherent, have form and shape, and they help the reader find the structure in your content. These tags should have some keywords and should be bolded, underlined or italicized in order to make them stand out from the rest of the text.
- Structural Optimization
This refers to how your site is structured, organized and designed in order to meet your visitors’ standards and to pass Google’s tests. You need to create a site that will be user friendly, speedy, easy to crawl, with only high quality duplicate content that contains no spam , and appeals to your visitors. You don’t need to be a web designer in order to successfully optimize your site but you do need to use your common sense and follow these tips:
- Speedy: If your page takes ages, which may just be seconds in real time but it’s definitely years in internet time, then you’ll have high bounce rates and your conversions will definitely go down. Test to make sure your page loads fast and users don’t have to wait long to see your content.
- Duplicate Content: While we’ve said you should never use duplicate content, there are some instances in which posting someone else’s content in your site might help your ranking as long as you know the best way to do it, which means a way that won’t piss off Google.
- Optimize URLs: Putting your keywords in your URLs will increase your odds of being ranked, Google loves reading specific keywords in URLs because it speaks of relevance and commitment.
- User Friendly: This means your site needs to be easy to navigate and read, and you should have a mobile version available that’s compatible with all mobile devices.
- Sitemaps: Put a Plugin to create a sitemap in your site in order to make it easier for Google to crawl through your site, this will improve your odds of ranking high.
- SSL & HTTPS: Google now views security protocols as a ranking aspect to any site, so you should change to HTTPS, yes it’s a lot of work and quite annoying but it’s worth it.
Setting up a simple, yet sophisticated layout for your website, making sure that elements do not confuse and blend with each other, and the overall display is not clogged with content or other elements is very important to provide an excellent user experience. Drawing your potential customers and general audience’s attention on their first impression from entering your site is key. It only takes a couple of seconds for most people to decide (of course subjectively) whether a site is worth their time or not.
You have to make sure that your site is neither boring nor too complicated to make your potential customers feel in comfort when they are browsing your website’s pages, reading your content or browsing through reviews of your products. You don’t want to bore them to death or scare them out on a website that makes them feel lost inside it. Make it fun and appealing, to keep your audience interested.
- Optimize Your Off-Page Factors
There are 3 main factors you need to improve in order to achieve the best Off-Page SEO you could possible get for your site or blog. These factors are: social networks, authority, and, of course, links. In the past link building has been the sole focus of Off-Page SEO but today, with the new changes to the algorithms that rule search engines, we can safely say that link building is still a factor but not as important as nailing all three factors at once. Let’s start with social networks and how they can improve your SEO:
- Social Networks
This aspect includes all kinds of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and any kind of blogging platform. All of these sites will give you bigger exposure if you know how to drive a successful social media campaign, taking into account that who you follow will have much influence in how many followers you can get. It’s not just creating a profile in each network and hoping for the best, there’s a science to social networking and you need to master it in order to gain the right influence in your niche.
You should find the most influential people in your market and analyze their social media shares: how many times they post, what kind of articles they share, who are they posting for, who follows them, what is their main goal with each interaction and why do people continue to follow them. If you can answer these questions then you’ll know the key to a successful venture in social networks.
Blog are a very popular and successful way to give your site and your product/services the exposure they need to rank high in search engine results and increase conversions. Posting regularly, keeping your posts fresh and relevant and commenting on blogs belonging to influencers in your market will improve your chances of getting visitors and having these visitors share your content.
There are two key factors to mastering social networks: the number and quality of your shares and social media promotion. The number and quality of your shares simply refers to how often you post and how relevant and compelling your posts are, if you set a regular posting schedule of posting high quality content once a day you may break the social media wall and rank high up there along with other influencers in your niche. And social media promotion is simply promoting your own content and posts across all your social networks as often as possible in order to ensure your content will always keep popping up on walls and feeds.
This factor refers to the level of trust and authority your site can have, this can be seen in two ways: domain authority which refers to how renowned your domain name is, and page authority which refers to the level of authority a single post or page in your site can have. After these two things some other factors can influence your authority such as bounce rates, how old your site is, and who you are.
Your bounce rate define how much time a visitor stays on your site before leaving without taking any action, such as buying a product or sharing content. If your bounce rates are low then Google won’t rank you among the high listings because it’ll mean your site is not relevant. The age of your site is a big deal, Google respects old sites and these have more authority than new sites just fresh of the press, so make sure you hang onto that domain because starting over would hurt your authority. And lastly, your identity, who you are is important, Google values sites that have a personal touch, a human being who represents and sells your brand or product.
Bonus Tip: Expired domains have more authority that new domains; if only for its age think about buying an expired domain to host your site.
Here we are, the acclaimed link building that everybody loves and hates at the same time. Links are certainly a ranking factor for Google and other search engines but they aren’t the only off-page ranking factor anymore. Backlinks are important for SEO and the way to get them is just as important. Waiting around for people to link to you on their own it’s not going to cut it; you need to be proactive and go out there to ask for those links.
Creating relationships with other people and companies in your market and business is a sure way to get good links to your site, but make sure you always choose the most authoritative and influential people to link to you and that their links are of good quality and pay close attention to the anchor text of the link. Anchor text still matters and the more natural it is the better it’ll be for your desired results. There’s a post detailing the importance of link building by Moz that I just love, it’s a must read if you want to be successful on this side of SEO.
- Avoid Going Blackhat
Have you seen those old Clint Eastwood westerns? The guy with the White Hat was the Sheriff almost every time: a rightful man and a law enforcer. The other side of this coin was the man in the Black Hat, typically a villain, the classic outlaw that rejects any kind of rules and lives by his own code. There is something of those tales going on regarding SEO practices.
SEO Consultants and SEO practices are often labeled as Whitehat/Blackhat in the search engine marketing slang. Whitehat ones usually “go by the rules”, and Blackhat ones often “abuse the system”. The glamorous lifestyle of the Black Hat guy, both in movies and also in search engine marketing is seen as something to aspire to, and such consultants often make way more money even a couple zeros more in their paychecks than their White Hat counterparts.
But then again, with higher stakes, come higher risks. If Google, or any other search engine, finds out that you’re involved in suspicious search engine marketing and optimization practices, and catch you trying to get away with it, they will punish you pretty badly. The least that could happen is ridiculous drops in the rankings of those pages, or even having them permanently banned, that is deindexed all together.
If you want to fly under the radar, it’s up to you. Nevertheless it is strongly advised to play by the rules on this one. The fact that your online reputation can change from renowned to notorious in a split second if you decide to turn to the “dark side” of SEO should be enough to talk you out of it, you could ruin your website, your brand, or even your company forever.