Google receives over 65,000 searches per second on any given day.
(Don’t believe me? See for yourself!)
That works out to about 4 million searches per minute. Math isn’t my strong suit, so let’s just leave it there and say — that’s like a non-stop fire hose of customers waiting to be told where to go, all day, every day.
Google (or whatever search engine your customers are using) essentially tells them where to go by providing ranked search results. The higher up a website is, the better.
So, the question is, how do you get your website to rank higher? The answer is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is a constantly changing, complex practice, but here are 5 ways you can improve your SEO game and capture new customers in 2018.
1. Improve On-Page SEO
On-page SEO factors are the aspects of a given web page that influence search engine ranking. This isn’t new in 2018, but it’s an important first step anytime you start to optimize.
The structure of your site determines the UX (user experience) a visitor will have. But it also affects your ranking, because search engines don’t just care about keywords anymore. They care about getting searchers the best possible answer AND the best possible experience.
In other words, if your website isn’t optimized, it will negatively affect your ranking. You could have great content on the page, but it’ll be hard to find if your other SEO elements aren’t up to snuff.
To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, use these on-page SEO best practices:
- Title tags. Incorporate keywords into title tags that are 65 characters or less. Use unique titles for each page.
- Meta descriptions. Meta descriptions should be enticing and compelling, something that makes the searcher want to click and learn more. Don’t keyword stuff. In terms of character limits, Google seems to change the length of meta description tags everytime we turn around. What I’ve been doing is front loading the first 100 or so characters with the most important, interesting stuff, then padding it with an extra 100 or so characters that have less important but still helpful information. That way, when the lengths fluctuate I don’t have to worry about rework.
- Body copy. Once users get to your site, you want the content to be interesting and helpful. Otherwise, they’ll leave straight away, which in addition to losing a potential customer is also a sign to search engines that your content wasn’t helpful. This in turn may affect your ranking. With content, it’s quality over quantity — but more on that later.
- Headers Include H1s, H2s, etc. in your content to make it easier for search engines to tell what your content is addressing. However, don’t write for the search engines. Include keywords when possible but write headers with the reader in mind.
- URL. Include keywords in your URLs. Separate words with hyphens.
- Images. Make sure your images have descriptive ALT tags that include keywords. This helps your website show up in image searches (this is particularly important for retail businesses) and will also tell the search engines what your pictures are.
Additionally, make sure other technical elements of your website are in fine working order. This includes things like SSL encrypted hosting, speed (fast loading pages), mobile-friendly design and avoiding broken links.
Not sure if your website is optimized? Conduct your own website user experience test.
2. Improve Off-Page SEO
I’ll admit it — off-page SEO was tricky for me to understand at first. What helped me understand it was this definition of off-site SEO from the experts at MOZ: “‘Off-site SEO’ (also called ‘off-page SEO’) refers to actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs).”
In other words, off-page SEO refers to links pointing from other websites to your website. And not just any links, but links from trusted, quality sites.
Off-page SEO focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through the act of getting links from other websites. There is a score every website has called Domain Authority that calculates how authoritative your website is compared to other sites (you want a 100).
Avenues to increase your off-page SEO include:
- Yelp, Google My Business
- Industry specific
- Links from reputable websites
- Guest blogging (both blogging on other sites and inviting experts to guest blog on yours)
- Social media
- Online reviews
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’re getting smarter. You don’t need to keyword stuff (and you really shouldn’t).
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. So, 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. Capitalize on Local SEO
If you’re a business that depends on local traffic or has a limited service area, this is key.
Local SEO tactics are important for smaller businesses that might not be blogging or creating a ton of content. Make sure your site is in the appropriate registries and all of your information is up to date.
5. Focus on Quality Content
Once you get people on 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 blog or web page, ask yourself — is this something my persona would find helpful or enjoy?
As I touched on 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 algorithm updates. What works in 2018 may not work in 2019 — it’s just an unavoidable part of doing business online.
However, by following the above steps you can build a firm foundation. Come what may, you’ll have a strong website that’s optimized for both search engines and the user. When in doubt, ask yourself, “if I were visiting this website as a customer, what would be helpful to me?”