Google has never been more powerful than it is now. Its algorithm is complicated, yet sophisticated and refined, allowing the major search engine to weed out spam, organize data, and rank websites with an unprecedented efficiency. Unfortunately, each time Google improves its algorithm, it becomes harder for business owners to rank their websites and secure the traffic they need. So, how do you crack the code?
One of the most common misconceptions about SEO is that it is a one-time fix. SEO is not a one-size-fits-all checklist that business owners can complete and immediately see results. Much like a sailboat must constantly adjust to the wind, SEO requires consistent monitoring and tuning to produce ideal results. Google rewards businesses that repeatedly optimize their sites, proving their credibility and building a longstanding history of “doing the right thing”.
There are an endless number of things Google considers when validating your business. From link-building to HTML code corrections to content development. But how do business owners determine which techniques will create tangible results and result in more hard conversions? This blog aims to answer that question.
- Website Structure
When websites are in the conception phase, it can be tempting to want to build pages and create content that appeals to every possible user that may come to your site. However, if the scope of your site is too broad, it can work against you. When search engines like Google crawl through a website, they want to find the most relevant information as quickly as possible. Websites optimized for search engines need to be constructed in a specific way for this to happen. There are two ways to achieve this:
- Physical Silos
A physical silo is a pre-determined content hierarchy for your site. The highest point in the hierarchy should always be the homepage. From the homepage, users should be directed to your key silo categories. For example, if you own a carpet cleaning company, your key silo categories might be “Residential”, “Commercial”, “Restoration”, “About Us” and “Blog”. Once your silo categories are determined, you then begin building content-rich pages under each category that search engines will be able to easily locate. The more specific and keyword dense these pages are, the more favourably Google and other search engines will see them.
- Link-based Silos
How you link pages together within your website can either help Google find the content it needs, or hinder it. If pages that are relevant to one another are linked appropriately, creating a consistent flow of information, search engines will find what they need to rank your website well. However, if crawlers go through your site only to be directed to dead-end links, or to sub-pages that do not support their category, your rankings will suffer.
It can be time consuming to restructure your website, fix broken links, or create additional content for link building, but in the long run your analytics will show the benefits. Bounce rates will lessen, conversion rates will increase, and your rankings will improve.
- Quality Links
If you own a business that relies heavily on the function of your website, you have probably heard of backlinks. Backlinks are links from other locations on the internet that bring users to your website. For example, if your business is featured in an online article from a local newspaper and they link to your website, that is a backlink for your business.
It is common for marketing agencies or business owners to pay for backlinks. However, Google explicitly states that buying backlinks to improve your online rankings goes against their guidelines. This is why creating quality content on your website that gains attention organically is the best way to build backlinks. How do you do that? There are several ways:
- Link Roundups
Many bloggers and content creators on the Internet will post “link roundup” articles on their sites. They may do this each month or each week, depending on how frequently they post. In these articles, they will link out to all of their favourite articles, resources, and websites so their readers can check them out. If you produce quality content that is of value to the publisher of a link roundup, they may include your link! You can search for link roundup articles on the web and then look for the contact information of the person who shared it. They may be looking for something to share and you could be it!
- Guest Posting
Many blogs and websites invite others to write for them, this is referred to as a guest post. This is a fantastic way to get your name out there! Look for websites that are active within your niche and then see if they offer writing opportunities. Be sure to approach sites with an article or pitch already in mind, and always send a few links to other articles you have written. If they find your content valuable, they should have no problem a link back to your site in the post.
- Claiming Unlinked Mentions
You could have backlink opportunities that already exist and not know it. It is not uncommon for websites, blogs, and social media accounts to share your content without linking back to your site. This isn’t typically intentional; they just may not have known your URL or where the original content came from. You can find these unclaimed mentions using tools like Google Alerts to track your name and brand online. When you appear, reach out to whoever shared your content and politely request that they link back to your site. Most people are more than happy to make the adjustment!
3. Word Count
Did you know that the average word count for all of Google’s top-ranking websites is 1,980 words? Content matters, and the more high-quality, focused content you have, the more likely your website is to appear at the top of search engines.
When you write longer content about a specific topic on your website, the more likely you are to include relevant keywords and information that your audience is looking for. What does this mean for you? Google likes information that users find helpful. The more targeted and fine-tuned your content is, the more people will find it and read it, and the more Google will recognize it.
Not sure how to focus your content and include keywords that are pertinent to your audience? Try using keyword generator sites like www.lsigraph.com or www.moz.com/explorer. Simply type in a phrase that appears in your website frequently, like “carpet cleaning”. Then watch as common keywords related to your search appear! It’s that easy.
4. Mobile Optimization
One of Google’s most recent algorithm updates made sure that websites that are optimized for mobile users saw a boost in rankings when searched for from a mobile device. With mobile searches steadily increasing year over year for Google, the search engine giant wants to ensure that websites that are making the effort to be mobile-friendly are easily located for those using the platform.
How can you make sure your website is optimized for mobile use? Invest in responsive design. Google has several tools for testing the responsiveness of websites and the more you have, the more power Google will give your site.
Below are some of the responsive elements Google looks for when ranking your site:
- Flash – Many mobile browsers are not flash compatible. Google wants to see websites using more up-to-date technology for video content.
- Font size – If your website does not automatically scale the size of the font on your website, users must zoom in and out. Google sees this as an inconvenience for your viewers.
- Touch elements – If buttons, links, etc on your website are too close to one another, people will find it difficult to click on them without accidentally clicking on another element. Google wants all clickable elements on your page to be distinct and distanced from one another for optimum user experience.
- Pop-ups – Full screen pop ups are an inconvenience to mobile users. They slow down loading speeds and create a barrier between your viewer and the content they are looking to find. Google penalizes mobile sites with frequent pop-ups.
Optimizing your site to adhere to these guidelines will increase your ranking performance for mobile searchers and result in more mobile users finding your site. An excellent way to gain new visitors and reach your target audiences while they are on the move!
Did you know that you can also do mobile keyword research? It’s true. Desktop keywords and mobile keywords differ, and knowing the difference could make all the difference for your website. The more you implement mobile keywords into your website, the more your site will appear at the top of mobile searches.
So how are mobile keywords different from desktop keywords?
- Mobile keywords are shorter – People have less time to type when they are on the go. Your mobile keywords should always be less than three words. For example, on a desktop computer a user might search “Full service nail salons in Boston”, but from their mobile device might only type “Nail salons Boston”. To think mobile, you should always think concise.
- Mobile keywords include location – Since users are often on the move when they search from their phone, they are usually looking for businesses that are close to them. Apps like Google Maps are used frequently on mobile devices, so including keywords that let people know where you are located is always beneficial. For example, you might want to optimize your site for “Coffee shop in West Toronto” or “Coffee shop on 97th Street”.
- Mobile keywords include voice searches – When people use their cell phones, they often use voice software like Siri or Cortana to search. However, people speak differently when they speak than when they type. For example, questions are much more common from mobile devices than desktop. People frequently say things like “Siri, where is the nearest gas station?” rather than “Gas station”. You may want to consider adding questions to your keywords to optimize for mobile!
5. Video Integration
Video is one of the fastest growing online content forms, and there is no sign of it slowing anytime soon. If you aren’t already using video on your website, you may want to start developing a strategy. Videos account for 62 per cent of all Google searches, according to Marketing Land. That’s a huge portion of the Google pie!
When you record a video for your website, following these simple steps will boost your ranking results:
- Upload your video to YouTube – This is one way to guarantee that Google will index your video, since YouTube is owned by Google.
- Embed your video on your site – Since users who watch your video on YouTube won’t necessarily visit your website, you want to include your video on your site. When someone watches the video on your website, Google sees those views and includes them in the total tally of views on your video. Of course, the higher your views, the more credit Google gives your site!
- Make your title searchable – Google considers your headline above all else when it comes to what terms are being used to find your video. Use long-tail keywords if possible, then always make sure your video title and description match those keywords.
Again, SEO is an ever-evolving strategy that requires steady, continuous monitoring. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. However, building a strong SEO foundation for your website by applying the tips above will mean you have more to build upon when further tactics are required.
The goal of every business should be to send as many positive indicators to Google and other search engines as possible. The longer your site is operating with a high number of indications working in it’s favor, the more it will gain momentum and yield positive results. When Google changes its algorithm, some of your indicators may turn off, but your business will still be in a better position to repair these hits than websites that have not yet implemented these steps.
Which leads us to our bonus tip! Always track your analytics closely. Watch how your keywords are performing, check bounce rates and click-through rates. When you make changes, set goals that will indicate how well your methods are working. Keep up to date with Google changes and keep your ear to the ground. Sometimes, there are valid reasons for dips in performance. Other times, the reasons will not be as clear. The only way to know for certain is to keep close tabs on your numbers.