For years, SEO has been promoted in a way that made it seem like a source of free, endless traffic. Just optimize your website and the traffic comes pouring in. But as you’ve undoubtedly realized, it’s not quite that simple.
It’s more than publishing quality content and waiting for people to find it. It’s more than having a fast website.
While it may not be simple, there is a clear path a website can take to obtain a high search engine position ranking. And yes, you can keep it. The steady stream of targeted traffic that it generates isn’t unattainable even for a small business.
But you need to be committed to doing the research and applying strategy, analytics, and implementation to get results.
Here’s what you need to know about how to rank on Google.
Your website itself is the single most important part of SEO. If your site isn’t providing a great user experience (UX), it doesn’t matter if you have great tools and content.
User-friendly websites deliver a seamless, reliable experience. This experience varies depending on what the target audience expects not only from your business but also from your industry.
Over 50% of website visits now happen on mobile devices. If you look in Google Analytics and see
something like the chart shown, you know that something is up with the mobile side of your website.
If this were your site, we could say you’re likely missing out on almost half of the traffic that should be coming to your site. So fixing it could almost instantly double your traffic.
A mobile-friendly website:
- Displays well above the fold. This is the part of the screen someone sees when the page first loads. If it looks poorly designed, they won’t scroll down. You may need to remove elements from the mobile design to make it look cleaner and more impressive.
- Is almost or as fast on mobile as it is on a desktop
- Big enough so they can see it well
- Doesn’t require any scrolling back and forth
- Has a simplified mobile menu
- Has buttons and links that are far enough apart that people don’t accidentally click the wrong one
- Has text that is easily viewable on a mobile device. Size 12 is way too small even for a desktop. Yet, many out-of-the-box website designers default to a 12 font size. For mobile, the body font should be 16-20 depending on the font style.
- Look organized and symmetrical.
Mobile sites aren’t automatic. But wait! The template say it’s “mobile-friendly”.
The mobile site must be optimized separately. Otherwise, it’s not truly mobile-friendly. There’s no way to cut corners here. Optimization is never automatic.
Desktop pages and mobile pages are indexed separately by Google. Use Google Search Console to see how many pages are actually appearing on mobile devices. You may have some work to do.
Optimize for Speed
47% of people now expect a website to load in fewer than 2 seconds, according to Hubspot. Think mobile users are more forgiving? 64% expect a page to load within 4 seconds on a smartphone.
For every 1 second load time delay, your conversion rate goes down by 7%. If your website takes over 3 seconds to load over 1/2 of users will back out.
Test your speed when you update pages. You can track your speed in real time using paid tools like WebPageTest. Or use their free version to check pages one by one.
It takes a long time. Make a weekend or even a week of it, depending on how big your website is. And that doesn’t include the time to fix it.
But don’t neglect this. You need to know it to optimize your website and keep it in top spots.
This tool not only tells you your load time, it provides a report that tells you which elements are increasing load time. It may be an embedded video or slideshow. It could be that you haven’t optimized your images.
Use the insight gained to speed up your site. But know that some of this will take programming skills. If you can’t get a page below 3 seconds on your own, it may be time to get some help.
And in all honesty, to get the highest ROI on a website, the site should be faster than 2 seconds.
If you want a website that’s optimized for search engines, then you won’t try to get clever when it comes to navigation. People have come to expect menus and buttons to work a certain way. Trying to buck the norm will only leave people confused.
Use analytics to see how people are using navigation. Are they able to find what they’re looking for? Do you need to add a search function to enhance navigation?
Listen to what the data is telling you and optimize navigation for ease and intuitiveness.
If you’re a local business, then your target customers may be accustomed to using a website like yours in a certain way.
For example, are you a local restaurant? Then customers should be able to browse your menu and order online for pickup or delivery.
A Google study found that 88% of people who visit a local website will be physically in your store within 24 hours. 70% of people use their smartphones to enhance the local shopping experience.
Check out the competition in your industry. Make sure you’re at least keeping up with them. And find new ways to integrate the mobile experience with your local business.
Focus Above the Fold
Above the fold refers to the part of your site that appears on a screen before a person has scrolled. Whether a person is on mobile or a desktop. This matters, especially if your website doesn’t load instantly.
To improve search engine position ranking, this part of the screen should always give people a reason to stay and scroll.
Here’s a secret that’s not really a secret. Search engine position ranking is a competition. It’s not just how great your website is. It’s how great your site is in relation to the competition.
If they’re doing it better, then their search engine position ranking will be higher.
Your competition isn’t necessarily the shop down the street. It’s anyone on page one of search results where you want to be.
You can use advanced paid tools like AhRefs or SimilarWeb to do in-depth analyses. These kinds of tools are expensive. But they can save a lot of time versus trying to do this manually.
One of the great things about working with a digital marketing agency is that they have access to industry-leading tools like the ones previously mentioned. But because they use them to help multiple clients, they can justify the costs and keep them lower for clients.
Do Content Asset Inventory
Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve tried SEO. You might have already started a blog. You created some content. Part of SEO is knowing what you’re already working with.
If you do have some content that’s high quality, update it and re-purpose it to get more out of it.
Create SEO Content
Content includes any media that people consume:
- Blog posts
- Online Calculator
This content may be on your website, shared on social media, or on another website.
The better aligned this content is with SEO, the better it will perform. What is SEO content? Let’s take a look.
Buyer Persona Aligned
What’s traffic worth to you if you’re attracting the wrong people to your website?
Figure out what your target audience is looking for. The better you align with this, the higher your search engine position ranking will be. And the easier it is to maintain that ranking well into the future.
How do you align content with a target audience?
Create 3-5 written buyer personas. Be really clear on who you’re creating content for. If you accidentally attract the wrong audience to your website, they’ll just leave. Google sees this and thinks you aren’t delivering a good user experience.
Know who you’re attracting and you’ll see your search engine position ranking go up and up.
Customer Journey Aligned
SEO content is also built around the buyer’s journey. Different types of content will have more of an impact at different stages.
For example, if a company you’ve never heard of tries to sell you something, you might hesitate. But what if you get to check the site out and learn more about them? What if you see that other people like and trust them?
You feel more comfortable giving them your credit card number or other identifying information.
SEO content is also link-generating content.
Links to your website are still a well-established ranking factor in SEO. A link from another website is a vote of confidence. The more relevant that website is to yours and the higher authority, the better.
People usually link to content for several reasons. To create linkable content, leverage these opportunities.
- A blogger or content writer may want to cite an important definition, fact or statistic that’s on the page.
- They are embedding a helpful tool into their own so that people on their site can use it.
- A product/service might link to your website if you write a favorable review
- A business person might link your site if you interview them
- Customers might link to your site because they want to share a product or service you sell
- A customer may have created user-generated content for your website. They want to share their content with their friends.
These are just a few ways to create linkable content.
Built Around Keywords
SEO today isn’t just about using the same keyword over and over. But you still need keywords to:
- Understand what people are looking for
- Demonstrate to search engines what content is about
- Engage readers/viewers in the purpose of the content. That way they keep viewing the content
Build content around keywords people are looking for related to your products or services. It helps show search engines that you’re providing a great user experience and will improve your search engine position ranking.
It’s Not Fluff
It wasn’t long ago that businesses were trying to pump out a bunch of low-quality content in an effort to improve search engine position ranking. The content usually included a lot of unnecessary words that didn’t contribute to the topic. You walked away wondering if you really learned anything.
Google is constantly improving its algorithm. It’s weeding out content that isn’t helpful. To demonstrate that your content isn’t just fluff, make sure it thoroughly covers the topic you say you’re going to cover. Offer actionable insight and tips people can apply.
It should be well-researched, engaging, and helpful.
It’s Sufficient Length
It should be of sufficient length that you can actually say something. For a blog post, for example, you can’t say much in 250 words. But just how long your content needs to be completely depends on your competition.
For example, in more competitive industries like marketing and ecommerce, blog posts tend to be on the longer side. These companies need to be able to compete to have a high search engine ranking position. And the best way to do that is to provide more valuable content than competitors, so that means more lengthy blog posts.
But in some industries like trucking, the articles tend to still be relatively short. This is just one more reason that competitor analysis is so important. You don’t want to create 5,000-word articles if 1,000 words or less would have beat out the competition.
Just because an article is long, doesn’t mean it will rank easily. But it does have a better chance than a very short piece of content.
Consistently Publish Content
Google prefers fresh, consistently updated websites. In fact, if you stop updating a site, Google will begin de-indexing (removing) your pages from searches. It can happen in as little as 6 months. And it takes time to recover.
That’s why we emphasize ongoing SEO maintenance to our clients or anyone wishing to keep their top search engine position ranking. Continuing to publish fresh content is just as important.
There are other ways to improve your search engine position ranking through SEO too. But publishing regular, consistent content on your website is one of the most cost-effective ways to reap the rewards of SEO.
Create a spreadsheet. Plan out each quarter around a theme. Commit to creating a certain number of pieces of content each week and month. The various pieces of content should support each other. For example create 1 webinar, 4 videos and 12 blog posts in one month all around a broad theme.
As people explore your content, they quickly find more content on similar topics of interest because you’re working on a theme.
Set yourself up on a publishing schedule. Give yourself firm deadlines for completion. And stay consistent. Start generating the traffic you’ll need initially. Show Google that you deserve top search engine position ranking.
You see, many people get it backwards. They think that if they create the content it will just bring in traffic. But Google needs to see that you can bring in your own traffic before it will consider your website to be a high enough authority to deserve page one.
You need a distribution plan to achieve this.
There are many ways to distribute this content. The important thing is that you have a consistent distribution strategy. Let’s look at some of the best ways to distribute content.
Social Media Sharing
Distribute this content through social media marketing. Network with other people in your industry and build your social media following. When you have a social media following, it’s easier to distribute content without paying so much for advertising.
Social Media Advertising
In the beginning, you’ll have no traction on social media. There’s no one to share your content. You don’t have any followers. Start building that following using some paid social media advertising.
Use traffic campaigns to get in front of people who wouldn’t see content otherwise.
A lot of people see follower and like campaigns as vanity campaigns. But they’re actually really important. Without them, no one will see your content in the beginning.
Also use social media advertising to directly distribute key pieces of content like a major blog post, video or a webinar. If people like it, they’ll not only make note of the website. They’ll follow you on social media. They’ll see future content you share.
To get the best return on investment, keep the ads very relevant, the targets narrow and use analytics to track how people respond to advertising.
And when in doubt a social media advertising agency will know how to maximize your return on social media investments.
The final distribution method we’ll discuss is email. Establish a system to capture emails when people visit your website. Then, each time you have a new piece of content to share, send it out to your list.
77% of people say they prefer permission-based email as the primary way a brand communicates with them. Email helps you build consistent, repeat traffic.
Chart courtesy of Optinmonster
Track Website Performance
Now the fun part. How are we doing? To increase search engine position ranking, closely track the processes you’re putting place. How are they contributing to your goals?
To get started definitely get Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console set up. These will provide you with a lot of valuable data about how people are using your website.
Even if you’re only getting small amounts of traffic now, take a look at it. Here’s what you can learn in Search Console:
- What search queries do you appear in
- How often are you appearing in queries vs your site being clicked
- How high you rank in certain searches
- Are all of the pages you want to show in Google showing up in Google Searches? We call this “indexing”. Note that there will be pages you may not want indexed like a blog category page. But other pages, if they’re not indexed, they’re invisible.
- Are all of the pages also appearing in Google’s mobile search?
- What websites are linking to your website?
Now, let’s switch over to Google Analytics.
Google Search Console helps you understand visibility. Google Analytics helps you understand how traffic is flowing through your website.
From here you’ll see:
- Which pages are people visiting
- How many repeat visitors you have
- How long people stay on your website
- Do people tend to click on other pages or just leave?
- Do people follow a certain path (funnel) you set up on the site?
- Where traffic is coming from
- Demographics information
Use this information to learn more about what people like or don’t like about your website. As you use this knowledge to create a better website, your search engine position ranking goes up.
Adapt to Algorithm Changes
Google uses a complex algorithm to decide which websites deserve search engine position ranking. And it determines which pages on those sites deserve a spot.
On a great site, not all pages make the cut.
Only Google knows the exact algorithm. But SEO experts regularly run tests to determine what Google considers important in a website. They share it and discuss it online and in closed groups.
When it changes, SEO experts run tests to figure out what’s changed. They then adapt their strategies to maintain ranking.
Now, to the uncomfortable part of SEO. Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories about business who got excellent search engine position ranking. Then Google changed its algorithm. And Poof! The ranking and traffic were gone.
It’s important to realize that every time this happens it is either because someone was trying to bend Google’s rules to obtain ranking. Or they broke Google rules unaware they were breaking them.
Whether they knew or not, the consequences are the same.
SEO is a long-term investment of time and/or money. So it’s important that you’re not making mistakes that will cost you down the road.
For example, buying packages of backlinks. That’s always bad. Even if it might help you in the very short-term, it will permanently damage your website.
Remember, Google sees it as a vote of confidence when someone links to your website.
But Google is also getting smarter about identifying the websites that are doing this. At one point it was easier to rank low-quality content.
Now, the algorithm better understands content quality. It favors quality, more in-depth content.
Knowing what Google wants to see to give you top search engine position ranking is an ongoing process. It changes. You have to stay vigilant with what’s going on on your website. Stay up-to-date. Be ready to adapt.
The longer you wait to address website problems, the longer they take to fix. And time is money when it comes to your website.
Get Search Engine Position Ranking & Keep It
This is how it’s done. Start by building a responsive website. Do a competitor analysis. Publish regular, high-quality content. And adapt as SEO best practices change.
Are you wasting time and money trying to rank your website through SEO? We can help with cost-effective, high ROI strategies that work. Contact us today to see how we can help you grow your online presence.