Search engine optimization (SEO) is about delivering relevant search results to users based on their online searches. The most relevant pages related to that search query will rank higher on the search engine results page.
Digital marketing professionals understand the importance of SEO and implementing a proper strategy. However, defining what those keywords are isn’t enough to improve your website’s search engine ranking.
To increase your website’s visibility across search engines, it’s important to follow these basic SEO guidelines. In fact, we have 21 secrets to SEO that will surely make an impact on your website’s visibility.
1. Understand Google’s ranking algorithm
It’s no secret that Google is constantly changing its algorithm. They don’t always announce when a change is made; therefore it remains a bit of a mystery. This remains the biggest obstacle to SEO success. Moz has a Google Algorithm Change History that will help you research the changes. The Google Webmaster Central tool is a good reference as well.
2. SSL encryption
An SSL encryption is a small, but mighty secret to consider. Google introduced it in 2014, and it has grown in popularity ever since. The “HTTPS”, or SSL encryption, makes your website even more secure than it already is. It’s great for SEO, and will keep your visitors’ data safe upon landing on your website. Consider activating an SSL encryption if you have an eCommerce website that requires users to input a username, password and credit card information to complete a transaction. Your website visitors might not know your website is encrypted with SSL, but you will, and so will search engines crawling your website. It doesn’t take too long to implement, either. All you have to do is call your hosting provider.
3. Structured Data
Structured data helps Google decide what search results will appear. This is also referred to as Schema. A combination of ratings, images and locations will improve your site’s ranking and appearance above competitors.
4. Title Tags
Does each and every page on your website have a title tag? If it does, take a closer look. Title tags should be under 55 characters. The title tag tells Google and other search engines what content is on your website. The keywords should match the content that’s on the webpage. The better keyword selection, the higher the chance your website will appear when someone searches for what’s on your website.
5. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions, similar to title tags, set an expectation for what information a person will see when they reach your page. It can improve click-through-rates, which will also improve keyword rankings. A meta description should be no more than 160 characters long.
The language should be compelling with a call-to-action to entice visitors to visit your website over a competitor’s.
6. Use H1 headings properly
The H1 tag isn’t just a piece of text bolded on a website that looks like a heading. It sets an expectation for the content that follows it. They should be used at the top of your webpage to introduce your content. It should also include a keyword relevant to your website.
7. Include Canonical Tags
Canonical tags should be used in the header of your coding. This will essentially tell Google that this is the absolute version of a respective webpage. It makes it harder for code to be scraped, and eliminates competition from a neighbouring website with the same coding. In other words, it helps you avoid having duplicate content on your website.
8. Name all images and alt tags
Websites need images to not only improve a user’s experience on your website, but they have a positive impact on SEO. It’s not enough to have images on a website, though. To help with your Google search ranking, come up with creative file names and alt tags that describe what the image is. This content will help Google and other search engines identify what the picture is. The more relevant it is to the search query, the more likely your website will show up.
9. Inspect your website for URL 404 error code pages
Your SEO strategy might include linking to other websites or pages within your own website. Sometimes, pages are no longer available and content is permanently taken down from a website. When that happens, website visitors land on a 404 error page. Double-check the links on your website to ensure pages haven’t been taken down without your knowledge. If you’ve included links to other blog posts or websites in your content, double-check those as well. If the pages have been taken down, simply change the link to another reliable source. If your own website has an error page, customize it to your website’s design. It’s better to have a custom 404 error code page than to have an empty page; it doesn’t send a good message to search engines.
10. Don’t forget about a sitemap
Your website needs to be indexed in order for it to show up in search results. A robots.txt file helps you identify which pages you want to have indexed and crawled by search engines. Without this, there might be pages appearing in search engines that are internal, password protected, or not ready to go live in the first place. A site map tells search engines what pages are where, making it easier for your website to appear properly in search engines. The more detailed your sitemap is, the easier for crawling and indexing to occur automatically.
11. Evaluate your URL structure
A URL is more important than you think it is. Your website’s URL structure is like a math formula; when followed properly, you’ll have the right answer. It’s important to eliminate any of the following from your current URLs:
- Capital letters
- Special characters
Your URLs should also be short and sweet. There is a common misconception that long URLs are better for long tail searches related to the topic you’re writing about. While that’s true, you’re actually missing out on a bigger optimization opportunity here. Short URLs that are focused on the main keyword you want to rank for will drastically improve your online ranking.
12. Evaluate your site speed
User experience is so important and if your website takes long to load, search engines will take notice. They won’t be able to crawl or index your pages, and as a result, your pages might be virtually existent online.
Your website should be designed with your visitor in mind. Nobody wants to wait a long time for a page to load, and slow site speed will tempt visitors to visit a competitor’s page. Your website’s load time should be under two seconds on desktop and under one second on mobile. If your website has a load time of four seconds or longer, it could cause a significant loss in web traffic, and lower your Google ranking at the same time.
13. Go mobile
Having a mobile design for any website is a necessity today. Most people are using handheld devices to access the Internet, and chances are high your website visitors are doing the same. Google is focusing its SEO efforts on mobile; it’s recently launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) program, which helps the search engine deliver quality websites with an almost instantaneous load time. By delivering high quality webpages via mobile searches, Google is aiming to improve user experience. Websites that have the AMP mark are more likely to appear in search results on mobile. If your website isn’t one of them, it will hurt your SEO efforts.
14. Do the right kind of keyword research to increase organic traffic
Find out what keywords are already bringing traffic to your website. A SERP scan can identify these keywords for you. SERP keywords will show you what is driving traffic to your website, which will help you improve your overall keyword research strategy.
Your website should also rank for commercial keywords, as informational keywords will only take you so far. Informational keywords like ‘free download’ or ‘how to install’ aren’t always effective. Using a phrase like ‘top products for’ will help you better target your audience and drive more website visitors.
15. Use long tail keywords
Implement long tail keywords into your content marketing strategy. Broad phrases pertaining to the product or service you want to promote won’t necessarily generate high amounts of traffic to your website simply because of the increased competition. However, an SEO strategy that uses long tail keywords will. These types of keywords aren’t strongly used by marketing experts. When the keywords are optimized in content properly, they will bring in less traffic, but more qualified leads to your website.
16. Quality over Quantity
The content on your website must be unique and creative. It has to be relevant to your readers, not published just for SEO purposes. To create relevant content, research the latest trends and write blog posts that are engaging. Teach your audience how to do something, and always update old content.
17. Build relationships, not links
Link building refers to building credibility on your website by having your links appear on other webpages. What SEO specialists and strategists should be doing as opposed to link building is establishing relationships with local influencers and businesses. By connecting your content to real people and real websites, you’ll develop more valuable relationships long-term, and better link engagement.
18. Identify what’s working and what isn’t
Building linking relationship with local influencers and businesses is a great way to boost your website’s SEO. However, a proper analysis will provide the insight you really need. Tracking your SEO metrics is important to understand what aspect of your SEO linking strategy is working, i.e. which links are driving the most traffic to your website. The more data you have, the better decisions you can make to leverage your strategy and capitalize on your efforts.
There are inexpensive programs you can start using right away. Google Analytics is free, is easy to set up, and will identify how your SEO strategy is performing once you’ve set up your dashboard.
19. There is such a thing as over optimization
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Improving your ranking for certain keywords online is ideal, but bombarding your content by stuffing keywords into everything you write, or building way too many links with the same anchor text will not only look unnatural, but hurt your SEO strategy in the first place.
20. Avoid SEO attacks
SEO marketers are finding negative SEO attacks are more prevalent as they continue working through a strategy. Yes, competitors might try to penalize your website and get your website removed from Google. These types of negative attacks occur when competitors build thousands of low-quality backlinks to your website. To prevent this from happening to your website (and your hardworking SEO strategy), keep an eye for the backlinks your website is receiving. The program Monitor Backlinks actually sends you an alert if another website links to yours. You’ll be able to identify an SEO attack and divert it before it’s too late.
21. Don’t forget whom you are writing for
Blogging is two-fold: it does help with SEO, but it exists to engage your audience and entice them to continue coming to your website. Think about what you as a reader would want to get out of a website upon visiting it. When you think about writing from an SEO perspective, all you’ll think about is writing for a higher ranking, thus over-optimizing the content. By focusing on what the purpose of your blog really is, you’ll strike a positive balance between the two.
How many of these SEO secrets are missing from your current strategy? It’s never too late to improve your strategy. Follow this useful guide of SEO secrets to enhance your website’s ranking on search engines. Even just a few changes will have a significant impact on your website. Don’t forget – it will take time to see your hard work come to fruition!