Understanding SEO is a necessity if your business has any kind of online presence – which it should! 97% of searchers go online when trying to find out more about a local business. When the SEO of your website is strong, your website is more likely to rank higher in results. The value of ranking well speaks for itself: the #1 result in Google’s search results accounts for an average of 31% of clicks, and the top three results combined account for over 75%. In this post, we’ll give you more context for SEO, and tips for how to improve your own.
What is SEO?
The literal definition of SEO is search engine optimization. But what does this mean, exactly? More tangibly, SEO is a blanket term for the methods and strategies that you can use and implement to improve your website’s visibility and ranking in organic search results.
What does that mean? When you Google anything, you’ll be brought to a results page. Results rank – only one result for each slot – but they also shift to try to “answer” your search query as well as possible. Organic search results are the results that populate that are not advertisements. As 90% of searchers report skipping Google ads or other paid results, the value of ranking well in organic search is self-evident.
Why should you improve your SEO?
The positive impacts of your business ranking well in Google are indisputable, and the opposite is true as well; the impact of poor SEO speaks for itself. Clicks drop just moving down page 1 of results, with position #10 only receiving an average of 3% of clicks, and drop off dramatically once you’ve gotten to page 2 – only 0.78% of Google searchers (that’s less than 1%!) click on page 2 results. While a prominent position can give your business a real boost, poor ranking in results can practically guarantee that online searchers will not find – and, thus, not frequent – your business.
After all, SEO is all about visibility. Search traffic is completely dictated by where you rank in results. If a potential customer or employee is searching for your business, or something related to your business or its offerings and you are unfindable, you’ll be out of the running.
While the “why” may be simple, the “how” can be less so. While some of the basics of SEO remain consistent – Google has put together this comprehensive guide for those starting out in SEO – the tactics and strategies that are most effective for your website can be subject to change. Staying up-to-date on SEO best practices can be just as important as building a foundation in SEO basics.
Here, we laid out the 12 tips to help you improve your SEO in 2021 to raise your website’s standing in search results.
1. Improve Your Website’s Health
First things first: make sure there are no technical issues with your website that may be harming your SEO efforts. While some are more pressing than others, the build-up of technical issues can detrimentally affect your website health and, subsequently, ranking.
It can be overwhelming to jump into technical fixes for websites, but here are a few places to start:
- Ensure that there is only 1 browsable version of your site: when establishing the domain of you site, you’ll have four options:
Make sure only one of these URLs is accessible, and that the other four redirect to your primary URL. Otherwise, Google may seem them as separate (and thus duplicate) sites, which could result in a penalty. Google prefers secure sites (sites that use https), so keep this in mind when determining your primary site – after all, 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use https as their default.
- Check your site speed: website speed can not only negatively impact user experience and increase bounce rate – the percentage of visitors to a website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page – but also impact your ranking in Google, as Google can penalize sites with slow loading times. To check your website’s page speed, you can use Google’s Page Speed Test.
- Set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics: both of these tools are vital when it comes to improving your SEO. Google Search Console can help you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. Google Analytics helps you measure efficacy and returns of your advertising, as well as track your video and social media and applications, and how users are experiencing and engaging with your online presence.
Once you’ve fixed any glaring errors that could impact your site’s health, you can begin to address other areas of concern or opportunity to make your website even stronger. Meta descriptions, title tags, domain names, alt text – all of these are valuable elements to optimize on your website once the basics have been addressed.
2. Keyword Relevance and Research: Determine What You Want to Rank For
Establishing what you want to rank for is vital to optimizing your website, as Google results are determined primarily by their relevance to search queries. Determining target keywords (KWs) establishes goals for language on your website and in your content, and can give you more context for how to best proceed in your SEO strategy.
In order to determine which KWs you want to rank for – beyond your company name – you will need to conduct industry KW research. Identify topics or themes that are relevant to your business’ services or products, and pull keywords from these topics. Suggested and related search can be a valuable resource for keyword research, as can looking at competitor results. When conducting keyword research, make sure to consider search volume (how many searches a particular KW receives per month), as this will be a major factor in determining the competitiveness of a particular keyword.
3. Consider Your Audience
Similarly to determining the keywords you would like to rank for, you need to consider your audience – the people who you want to find you in their searches! Consider what users who will search for your product will search, and incorporate that into your content and overall strategy.
There are many ways to find out what current and prospective customers are searching for. Social media, online reviews, suggested and related search, and several other avenues can give you some insight. However, it is important to also consider who your audience is to determine the best way to communicate the information they’re looking for. Look at what avenues receive the most engagement – both yours and generally – to find the best ways to reach your audience.
4. Remember Local Search
Understanding and using local search to your advantage can have an extremely positive impact on your ranking in search results. 46% of all Google Searches are looking for local information. In order to make the most of your local search, make sure to have accurate location information on your website and Google Maps. When relevant, include your location in content, and hone in on local keywords. Online business directories and reviews can also be helpful for optimizing your website for local results.
5. Consider Mobile Searchers for Your Website
Never forget about mobile searches. As of the end of 2020, mobile searches account for nearly 62% of organic search. Websites that are not formatted or optimized for mobile searchers run the risk of increased bounce rates. With such a significant portion of search traffic coming from mobile devices, prioritizing mobile search and formatting for your website are a must.
But improving user experience for mobile websites doesn’t just entail resizing for a phone screen. Avoid too many pop-ups and redirects, and make sure your website is easily navigable and intuitive for mobile users.
6. Answer Questions
Anticipating questions can have a huge impact on your ranking in search results. In 2017, Moz reported that 8% of search queries are questions, but this number is likely higher now and still rising. This is partially due to the rising prevalence of voice search – over 27% of searches are voice searches. Think about what your desired audience may be searching about your business, or what more general questions could lead them to you. What can you help your audience with? What can you answer?
A valuable page to include on your website is an FAQ page. Not only do FAQ pages provide a clear destination for users looking for quick answers, but FAQ pages created with structured data can create a drop-down menu in search results, which can help expand your reach to users searching for answers.
7. Consider Other Elements of Page 1
Ranking results are not the only thing people see on page one, and utilizing what else they see can help improve your overall presence in results.
Suggested and Related Search: suggested search refers to the terms that populate in the search bar when you are Googling something, and related search refers to the terms that populate at the bottom of a page under the results. Both can give you valuable insight into what people are searching for when they search for your business or industry-related KWs, which in turn can be incorporated into content or your website.
Knowledge Panel: the knowledge panel is the information box that populates on the right side of Google Search results. The knowledge panel often includes basic information about your business – hours, address, social media, etc. – as well as Google reviews and photos. Claiming your knowledge panel can help you ensure that the information highlighted there is accurate.
People Also Ask (PAA): the People Also Ask box does not always populate, but, similarly to suggested and related search, this can inform content by giving you a sense of your audience’s frequently asked questions, or questions that they may struggle to find an answer to.
Featured Snippets: featured snippets, are the breakout answers that appear in Google Search results, and they are becoming much more common. Like PAA, they do not always populate, but when they do, they can provide a quick and accessible answer for your audience. Keeping featured snippets in mind when writing content can increase the chances of Google pulling from your content to populate these snippets, which can provide quick and accessible answers to your audience, as well as establish you as an authority.
8. Establish Yourself as an Authority with Quality Content
We’ve said it once (or twice…), we’ll say it again: content is king in SEO.
The purpose of your content should be to inform your audience and resolve a pain point – a specific problem or issue that current and prospective customers of your business are experiencing that you can address or remedy. Establishing yourself as an authority within your industry does not only serve to help your customers and increase your credibility, but high-quality content can also vastly improve your overall SEO and ranking in search engines.
Although quality content has several factors to consider, generally it should be long (over 1,000 words, ideally over 2,500), unique, and informative. To help determine what your content should focus on, pick three to four main themes related to your business to educate your readers on. This is another area where frequently asked questions and customer searches can go a long way to inform what you put out there.
9. Use Content to its Full Advantage
Quality content takes time, so using content to its full advantage can not only increase its impact, but make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Sharing content on socials can increase reach and engagement, and also boost the strength of a piece. Using your written content to create video content is another valuable way to stretch a piece, and it can serve you well. Video has risen to be the #1 media strategy for SEO in recent years.
Note: embedding videos in content can increase the strength of both the written content and your video.
Updating old content can also help strengthen your site overall. If a piece is ranking on page 2, you have an update to the topic, or new developments have occurred, updating a piece can improve its standing in results. Additionally, you should periodically review your content and delete, consolidate, or redirect pieces that are not performing well, as these pieces can actually harm your website’s overall strength.
10. Make Sure to Include Internal and External Links
Linking to and from your website can increase your website’s overall SEO. There are two types of links:
Interlinks: interlinks – or internal links – are links on your website to other pages on your website. They connect your content and give Google an idea of the overall structure of your website, as well as helping Google determine a “hierarchy” on your site. This hierarchy gives more value to the most important pages and less to the less valuable pages, impacting which pages users see in results. Determining a strong interlinking strategy – linking to high-performing content or prominent pages – can help improve your overall SEO.
Backlinks: backlinks are links to websites that are not your website, or links from other websites to your own. With factual or data claims, backlinks to trustworthy and authoritative sources can improve your credibility. Additionally, receiving backlinks to your site can go a long way in impacting its ranking in search results. The ideal backlink profile includes a several backlinks from a variety of different websites.
Note: links to your content from your own social media serve as backlinks, so don’t forget to share content on socials!
Ideally, a combination of internal links and external links (from a variety of sources) can drastically improve your standing in search results.
11. Utilize Social Media
Social media is an extremely valuable resource for improving your SEO, and when used to its full potential can have a tangible impact on your ranking in search results. Building profiles on popular social media channels – you know them: Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – and linking them together can help establish your presence on these platforms and increase the strength of these profiles (so you see them ranking in results!).
Once your profiles are built out and linked to one another, make sure you keep them active. Inactive social accounts won’t benefit your efforts, so don’t overextend.
Additionally, exploring social networks more specific to your industry or particular SEO strategy can provide more opportunities to build out your online presence. Engaging on forums like Quora or Reddit can also be helpful when it comes to establishing yourself as an authority in your industry.
12. Know What to Avoid
There is so much you can do to improve your website’s SEO, and there are also a lot of SEO mistakes to be made:
- Duplicate content: duplicate content refers to identical content that is hosted on more than one page online. Google penalizes duplicate content, which can subsequently impact the overall success of your website.
- Hidden links: hidden links are links that are not visible to a user when they visit your page. Although it may be tempting to hide some target links on a page, these can actually weaken your website, counteracting any good the link may do.
- Excessive pop-ups or ads: user experience of your website is a massive factor to bounce rate. Websites with excessive pop-ups or ads run a higher risk of a user not wanting to deal with the annoyance, increasing the likelihood that they will not engage with your site.
- Too many keywords: while targeting KWs is an undeniably valuable aspect of SEO, overdoing it can also lead to site penalties. Websites that are too overt in targeting keywords often appear unnatural to users, and can have a negative impact on user experience of your site.