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Search engine optimization is undoubtedly one of the hottest marketing tools around today, but do you know why? First, 68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. Second, did you know that the vast majority of that traffic comes from Google alone?
For these reasons and more, SEO has become one of the most valuable tools in the digital marketing world. Fortunately, we can help you put it into practice. Let’s talk about how to get higher in the SEO rankings today!
How Search Works
Before we jump into our strategies, it helps to understand a little about how search engines work. Google and others use software known as “crawlers” to crawl through and index your website page by page. They do this to trillions of pages across the internet.
This is a three-step process. First, they crawl through your site, then they index it, and then they apply rankings to them based on the keywords you use. This is how they match your website’s content with relevant searches.
They also use a few other factors on the user side, such as location, previous search history, and more. These are the factors they use to gauge search intent, which is why you don’t find dry cleaners in Richmond, Virginia, when you search for them in Portland, Oregon.
With this in mind, understand that search engine optimization (SEO) only seeks to prompt Google’s specifically-designed algorithm to rank your content higher for the keywords of your choice. At a fundamental level, that’s all that it is, so let’s talk about how to use these tools in practice.
1. On Your Website
Did you know that Google uses over 200 ranking factors dedicated to determining the quality of your website? Your website is arguably the most important part of your website, acting as the foundation of your entire strategy. You could have the best content marketing strategy in the world but, with poor web design, you’re building a house on a broken foundation.
There are many factors that Google uses to determine website quality, but most importantly, they are:
If you optimize these factors, that’s a good start. These are the biggest red flags for Google’s crawlers, as it would reflect poorly on their search engine if they were promoting low-quality sites with poor usability. Here’s what you can do to improve your rankings on your website!
Improve Your Loading Times
The average user won’t wait for more than a couple of seconds for a page to load before exiting, and search engines are well aware of this. If you want to see how quickly your site loads, try using Google’s Pagespeed Insights. Google-owned tools are always the best, as they use the exact same software as their crawlers, meaning you’ll know you’re getting accurate insights.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
In all honesty, adopting the “mobile-first” strategy is a great idea. More than half of all online traffic now comes from mobile devices, meaning that building your site for mobile devices first (especially for B2C companies) is the best practice.
Either way, make sure that your site loads quickly on every device and that the page and navigation system adapt well to mobile screens. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how well your site works in their eyes.
Optimize With Users in Mind
Google’s algorithm will crawl and index pages on your site eventually, barring any “noindex” tags or a specified robots.txt file. You don’t have to worry too much about that. However, you do need to worry about user engagement and other important metrics, as these play a large role in SEO.
SEO and user experience (UX) walk on the same line, so it’s best to optimize everything with users in mind. If your site is engaging, appealing, and yields decent results for your users, search engines will catch on.
2. With Your Content
If your website is the foundation, your SEO content marketing strategy is the house you build upon it. This includes any type of content that you’re trying to rank for, including:
Whatever you’re promoting needs to be optimized for search engines and users. Search engine crawlers are trying to find content that’s user-friendly, relevant, and useful, so the best long-term strategy is to offer that quality content for users while following standard SEO best practices.
The reason content marketing is so important for SEO is that it’s hard to rank with the same few pages that nearly every website has. You’ll have to offer something more unique and informative than a standard “services” or “contact us” page. Without that, how will users find you?
Unless they’re searching for your brand name specifically, they won’t. Content marketing seeks to answer the questions that users search for. Let’s talk about how to do that.
Use the Right Keywords
Using your favorite keyword research tools, find industry keywords to use in your content, but be careful not to overuse or “stuff” your keywords. Use them as much as possible, but only when you can use them naturally and organically.
We recommend diversifying your keywords as much as possible, especially with both short-tail and long-tail keywords. Ranking for “cybersecurity” is great, but it’s highly competitive. That’s why you should also use long-tail keywords that are highly relevant to your services, like “cybersecurity services in Boston, MA”.
Also, competitor research is an essential part of keyword research. All of the information you need is available on your competitor’s websites, which you can easily plug into your favorite SEO tool, giving you insights into the keywords they’re ranking for!
Have Something to Say
Don’t write new content just for search engines. Always remember that you’re writing for users, not for Googlebot. Following SEO principles is fine, but the content you’re promoting must be useful and engaging for users first and foremost.
If you reach a conflict where you’re worried “this might not be best for search engines, but it will help my audience”, always choose your audience. This is what Google wants and it’s what its algorithm is designed to do. Valuable content will always win in the long run.
For example, having a shorter word count than your competitors is absolutely fine, as long as your content is more engaging, relevant, and concise. 1,200 words are far better than 3,000 words if the latter is filled with “fluff” or filler content.
The best way to avoid this is to go into every new piece with something to say. Never skimp on the research, keep your information concise, and eliminate any duplicate or less useful content before posting.
Now, let’s quickly identify fluff so you know what we’re talking about. A 5-word joke in parentheses at the end of a paragraph isn’t necessarily fluff if you think it will engage the reader. However, two sentences conveying the same message with different wording, adding extra words into a sentence, or irrelevant content is fluff.
Consider Diversifying Your Content
One strategy that’s great for helping your content stand out is to create different types of content. For example, if you’re finding too much competition for certain keywords and you can’t get to page 1 with written content, try video content!
Have you noticed the layout when you search for something on google? Most often, it starts with a couple of ads, then moves to a couple of organic results, followed by a video carousel, some images, and more written results. There may also be businesses or definitions on the side, more ads on the bottom, and more.
Regardless of the layout, this could be a great way for your content to stand out, securing your place in the first place. Ask yourself; if you’re competing against 50 blogs and 5 YouTube videos, which will be easier to get ahead of?
3. Build Your SEO Rankings Off-Page
Going back to our earlier analogy, your website is the foundation and your content marketing is the house. In that case, your off-page ranking is what ties everything together, cementing your SEO strategy for the long term.
One of the most important off-page aspects is backlinks, which are the links from other sites to yours. Google doesn’t have instant fact-checking software installed with their crawlers because, well, how would they know which information is right and which isn’t? For that reason, backlinks act as a “vote” in your favor, helping you build domain authority.
Google does not expect a newer site to build hundreds of backlinks, so you don’t have to go overboard. However, the sooner you start working on your off-page SEO strategy, the better off you’ll be. In the long run, they can make a world of difference, so here’s how to get started!
Getting your business listed on relevant directories is essential. While they don’t count the same as backlinks, they do help increase your online presence, visibility to search engines, and they help confirm to Google that you are who you say you are.
Most importantly, you should start with Google My Business and Yelp. They are easy to start, free, and give you a direct line of communication with your clients. Google My Business is especially important, so make sure you optimize your listing as soon as possible with photos, hours, contact information, and more.
From there, get your website listed on any industry-specific or location-specific directories that you know of. Keep information completely uniform with all of these and your website to avoid any confusion with Google.
If you want to build backlinks over time, building a high-quality content marketing strategy on a user-friendly website is a great way to go. However, this organic approach takes a lot of time.
To boost your backlinks, a great strategy is to try guest posting on other websites. You create quality content for the other site in exchange for a link back to an intended page on your website. You can even hire guest posting services from an SEO writer to do the work for you!
Another strategy for building backlinks is content syndication. This is where you recycle existing content of yours on a different site. Think of The New York Times or other major news outlets, as they do this all the time in their editorial sections.
Now, imagine the benefits a B2b would receive from content syndication on The Wall Street Journal or another business outlet. This is a great way to expand your reach, build brand awareness, expand your list of affiliates, and boost your SEO rankings.
However, the biggest benefit is that you likely already have recyclable content to choose from! You can even hire content syndication services from an SEO agency to help grow your SEO reach!
Build Your SEO Rankings Today
Now that you know how to boost your SEO rankings, put these strategies into practice as soon as possible for the best results. SEO takes time to build, but with the right website, the right content, and the right off-page strategy, you can yield highly profitable results that last for years.
Put these tips to use today, stay up to date with our latest SEO tips, and feel free to contact us with any questions or for help with your strategy!