This blog was originally published in February 2021. It has been revised and updated for 2022.
Google receives more than 3.5 billion searches every day. And of course, as a marketing/sales director or business owner, you want your business to show up on Page 1 of search results. The higher up, the more likely customers will find your business and purchase from you.
How do you get there? 💡 The answer is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is a process of improving your site's content and functionality to increase its ranking. It's complex, constantly changing and has a significant impact on if your website shows up — and on which page.
A great place to start is with these six essential SEO strategies:
1. Improve On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO (also called online SEO) is the actions you take on your website. Posting a new piece of content, optimizing headers on specific pages, improving page speeds and adding keywords into title tags are all examples of on-page SEO.
Search engines don’t just care about keywords. They care about getting searchers the best possible answer AND the best possible experience. Therefore, the UX (user experience) of your website also must be in fine working order. This includes things like SSL encrypted hosting, site speed, mobile-friendly design, avoiding broken links and more.
Use these best practices to start optimizing your site's SEO:
Incorporate keywords into title tags. Keep title tags around 65 characters, and use unique titles for each page. Title tags are usually shown as your site link in the search results.
Meta descriptions should make the searcher want to click and learn more. They're visible as the short paragraph beneath your site link in the search results. Put the most important information first, and keep the character count around 150.
Include keywords in your headers, and style them as H1s, H2s, etc., to make it easier for search engines to understand your content.
Include keywords in your URLs. Separate words with hyphens.
Make sure your images have descriptive alt tags that include keywords. This helps your website show up in image searches (particularly important for retail businesses) and will show up if your image doesn't load.
2. Improve Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO (also called offline SEO) doesn't take place on your website and actually may not even take place on the Internet at all. Off-page SEO is tactics off your website that drive traffic back to it.
For example, this could include a guest blog post on another website that links back to your website or a social media link to your site. Trusted and relevant links from outside sources act as a vote of confidence that search engines should trust your website and see it as authoritative.
Strategies to increase your off-page SEO include:
- Getting listed in the appropriate online directories, such as Yelp, Google My Business, etc.
- Gaining backlinks from reputable websites
- Posting a guest blog on other sites
- Posting on social media
- Receiving an online review
3. Keep Voice Search and Semantic SEO in Mind
In the past, search engines paid more attention to exact keyword matches. For example, let’s say I had a website that sold shoes. To rank for a keyword like “hiking boots,” I would stuff my page with that term. I might write something like: “These excellent hiking boots are the best hiking boots for those who love to wear hiking boots when hiking.”
Nowadays, search engines base their results on search phrases and questions, even when there’s no direct match in your content. They want to return the best possible result to the person searching. Simply put: Don't stuff in keywords.
Instead, focus on long-tail keywords and semantic SEO. Make sure your content is conversational, as more and more voice searches take place every day. Using the same scenario above, I would trim down the keywords in the product description, use long-tail keywords, then maybe write a blog on “How to Waterproof Hiking Boots Before Hitting the Trail” and link to that product page.
4. Target Featured Snippets
Google introduced featured snippets in 2014, and they're now a part of nearly every search result. If you haven’t already, it’s time to try targeting featured snippets.
What are featured snippets? Featured snippets are those immediate answers you find at the top of search results, such as:
The downside of snippets for websites is they may prevent users from clicking through to the site since they have the answer right in the search result. This is why snippets are referred to as “position zero.” However, the user still sees your URL tied to the snippet, and if you’re answering a complex question, chances are people will click through to your website to read more.
Here are a few tips for targeting featured snippets:
Incorporate 40-60 word blocks of content specifically designed to answer a featured snippet question, in the format of a paragraph snippet.
To rank for list snippets, use H2 or H3 headers for every item on your list.
Create tables Google can pull for table snippets.
5. Capitalize on Local SEO
If you’re a business that depends on local traffic or has a limited service area, local SEO is key.
Make sure your site is in the appropriate registries and all of your information is up to date. Your business name, address and phone number should always appear consistent on every site. Also, ensure your on-page SEO strategies incorporate your business location and/or service area.
6. Focus on Quality Content
Once you get people to your site, it’s time to convert them to customers. You can do this through quality content that’s geared to your ideal buyer persona.
Personas are characters that represent each type of customer you want to attract. Every time you write a piece of content for your website, be it a blog or web page, ask yourself — is this something my persona would find helpful or enjoy?
As I mentioned above, focus on quality, not quantity. If you flood your website with keyword-rich blogs, it won’t do you a bit of good if that content doesn’t resonate with users. And if it doesn’t resonate with users, it won’t do you any favors with search engine algorithms, which are getting more sophisticated every day.
So, What’s Next?
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and search engine updates. What works this year in SEO may not work next year. SEO is a continuous process of keeping your website updated for search engines. In fact, Google has said it updates its search algorithms 500-600 times every year!
The only constant in the world of SEO is change. That's why it's important to implement an SEO strategy. And the best place to start is with an SEO audit.
As a certified Google Partner agency, we offer SEO audits and highly recommend them before any business begins an SEO strategy. We’ll scan your website, evaluate your online presence and analyze your competitors’ sites. You’ll get an audit report so you can see what’s working, what’s not working and where opportunity exists.
Interested in an SEO audit? Start with a free SEO consultation. We'll gladly answer all your questions and help you get started today.