If you’re not on the first page of Google, you have little hope of getting any traffic from search. 91.5% of Google traffic goes to page one. Another 4.8% goes to page two. Beyond that, you’re in no-man’s-land.
With search engines, no-man’s-land is a constantly shifting landscape depending on who is searching. Google began using personalized search years ago, factoring in things like past search history, demographics, location, and device usage to determine how one searcher’s results will differ from another. That means there are potentially countless page ones for a search term.
This makes it easier for searchers to find the information they are looking for. It also gives marketers a better shot at attracting customers with inbound marketing. Still, the number one marketing challenge that companies face is not enough search traffic. Research done by Hubspot found that 65% of businesses feel that their biggest issue when it comes to marketing is that they need to generate more traffic and leads.
Are you getting the traffic you’d like from your SEO efforts? Could your business use a brand awareness or lead generation boost from a sustainable increase in organic search traffic?
SEO is a long term play. And while investing time and effort into SEO consistently over time is what will ultimately help you conform to more Google ranking factors, there are some quick fixes you can implement today to improve your search rankings right away.
1. Perfect Your Content Creation Process
Create content that appeals to humans. This is your number one goal for SEO – not to prioritize it. The reason is this: sure, SEO best practices will encourage the search engine crawlers, such as the Google bots, to index your site well. But, it’s humans, the web searchers who are going to comment on your posts, link back to your informative infographic, and share your value-driven content on social media, who will gift your website with a competitive edge. They care about your content, not your keyword usage and alt tags. So don’t forget to provide value with your content.
Today’s search engines are sophisticated and smart enough to tell whether your content is aimed at manipulating the rankings or not. But at the same time, they can also identify content that people will find valuable. So when writing your content, think about what will truly bring value to your readers (the humans!), then look at how you can optimize it for the robots.
Google loves websites that update their content regularly. So if you have a blog, you want to make sure you are publishing new content on a consistent basis which will gradually improve SEO of your website.
For most companies, they see the highest ROI for lead conversions when they are posting a new blog every day. But if you don’t have the resources to do so, you can start with once per week. You do want to aim for at least one blog a week though, since if you do less than that your readers may forget about your blog.
2. Designate Which Pages Google Bots Can Ignore
According to Sean Si, Founder of SEO Hacker, when it comes to indexing the pages on your site you only have a limited ‘crawl budget.’ The Google bots can’t spend all day, every day crawling every page on your site.
You probably have some pages you definitely want on SERPs, like the compelling content you’ve worked so hard on to help generate leads. Your About Me and Checkout pages, on the other hand, don’t need to be seen in search engine results pages. They aren’t likely to bring in organic traffic anyway.
The solution – go into your robots.txt file and put a noindex/nofollow tab on those pages you don’t need to appear.
3. Work on the Quality of Your Keywords
How strong are your keywords? Are you targeting the right ones? Josh Bachynski of SEO Hangouts suggests identifying the keywords you want to rank for based on what you’re selling, plugging them into search engines, and then looking at what the competition is on the SERP. Then, using Google Ads Keyword Planner, look for the broad match keyword variations. Use one main keyphrase per page.
For keywords, you’ll need to use a keyword research tool like BrightEdge or Ahrefs. A good keyword research tool will give you helpful keyword suggestions, search volumes for each keyword, scores for how difficult a keyword will be to rank for, and how many clicks you can anticipate for each keyword suggestion. As a newer site or if you don’t already have a strong page rank, use long tail keywords and choose the ‘low hanging fruit’ – the lower volume keywords that are going to be easier to rank for.
Also look out for ‘search homonyms,’ which are vague terms that could refer to various different and unrelated things. A great example of confusing homonyms is the word “apple.” When you search “apple,” are you looking for the Apple brand or apple fruit? When selecting the keywords you will be using, try to get as specific as you can and avoid confusing homonyms that might negatively affect your search rankings (even if it’s less likely, after Google’s RankBrain and BERT updates).
Once you have a list of keywords, it’s time to categorize them according to pain points or your buyer personas and create a content calendar.
4. Optimize Title Tags
Title tags of your web pages and blog posts are one of the most important factors influencing your SEO and Google ranking. The title tag is what is displayed in search results.
So in your title tags, you will want to include long tail keywords, which are those keyword phrases that are relevant and specific to the topic of your content. You will also want to keep your title tags to 50-60 characters as that is the optimal character length.
While you want to make your title tags easy for Google to find and rank your content, they should also be easy for people to understand. After all, real humans (not robots) will be the ones searching for those keywords and reading your content.
Some SEO experts also suggest placing your keywords toward the front of your title tags, but others believe this isn’t necessary. Whether this does make a difference on your search ranking or not, it doesn’t hurt to apply this rule to your title tags.
5. Write Meta Descriptions That Encourage Clicks
Meta description is the line of text that appears below your titles or headings in search results. While meta descriptions do not have a direct impact on search rankings, they are extremely important in helping searchers see if they have found what they are looking for and in getting them to click through to your content. So make them compelling (and include variations of your keywords anyway).
The length of meta descriptions that Google displays keeps varying, but keep them in the range of 120 to 150 characters.
6. Use Headings Smartly
Headings are extremely important as they help Google understand what to expect in the following sections of your content. Make sure your H2 and H3 headings are optimized for SEO. By including keywords in these tags, you help Google see that the content under a heading will be covering the same topic as your keywords.
7. Add Keywords to URLs
Google also looks at your URLs when it comes to search rankings, so you want to make sure your URLs include keywords that are relevant to your business which your audience will likely be searching for.
Leave out low-value words like “and,” “or,” etc. that add clutter and make your URLs more spammy looking. Omitting low-value words ultimately helps Google to better understand what your content is about, making your content appear to be of higher quality, which helps with your SEO. Edit your permalinks to only include relevant terms and to weed out ‘stop words,’ which slow down your indexing. Here is a list of stop words.
Optimizing your URLs may also involve improving your site structure. You will want to follow the proper hierarchy to build a powerful site structure that boosts your search rankings.
8. Add ALT Text to Your Images
Adding alt text to your images not only improves the accessibility of your content for those with vision impairments, but it also tells Google what the images are. Since Google can’t “see” images and can only read text, adding keyword-rich alt text helps Google “read” your images, which in turn helps improve your SEO.
Keyword-rich alt text is about being descriptive and short but not spammy. Your alt text should contain your target keywords and phrases relevant to your content as well as the context and purpose of your image.
9. Link to Good References on External Sites
Linking your content to other sites that have domain authority shows Google that you are providing good, valuable information to readers, which enhances your credibility and improves your ranking.
While you may be tempted to add as many links as you can, you don’t want to include irrelevant or low-quality ones that make your content look like it is trying to manipulate the search engine rankings. This can make your content seem spammy, which diminishes its value and credibility. Always include high-quality links that are relevant to the topic of your content, which your readers will find useful.
10. Encourage Social Sharing
While Google may not be using social sharing in their search algorithms, it doesn’t mean you can’t use social shares to boost your SEO. Since Google tracks (aka. crawls) Facebook and Twitter, it will see any content that is shared.
Social sharing also drives your brand awareness. The greater visibility and awareness your brand gets, the more potential customers and prospects will be searching your company. This signals Google to give greater weight to your content, which benefits your search rankings.
To make it easier for people to share your content, consider adding social sharing buttons to your blogs. You can also ask your audience directly to share your content. Just make sure you don’t do this for every single post you publish since it can feel spammy and overly self-promotional.
Visual content drives social media engagement and sharing, so you should add compelling visuals to your content. Take Twitter for example, tweets with images get 89% more likes and 150% more retweets!
You will also want to cross-promote your content on multiple social channels to increase your reach and sharing. Make sure to tailor your messaging for each channel as every platform serves a unique audience, and what they find appealing may differ from the audience of another channel.
11. Test Your Site’s User Experience
Another essential for optimizing your site for search engines is going in and routinely checking user experience. A fast-loading, clearly laid-out, well-maintained site is going to keep visitors on your site and make it more appealing for both searchers and search engines.
- Check for error pages and fix broken links.
- Check your site’s speed – do you have any large image files or unnecessary scripts that are causing problems?
- You should definitely be using a mobile optimized site.
- If you’re having trouble with your bounce rate, it can help to have an outside party evaluate your design. You want it to be as smooth and easy to navigate as possible.
12. Reoptimize Existing Non-Performing Content
What’s the easiest way to work on increasing organic traffic, you ask? Start with reoptimizing the existing content on your website that isn’t performing. Non-performing content is exactly what you’d expect: it’s content that is not getting the traffic you anticipated it would. It’s content that you and your team have put time and effort into creating, that just isn’t garnering results.
Google Analytics allows you to see the traffic each page on your website is receiving and you can even compare different periods in time. Review the pages on your website and pick out a few of your top content pieces that aren’t getting the traffic they deserve. How can you reoptimize these pieces to ensure that they are up to date and provide the best possible user experience?
Need some ideas to get started? You can:
- Add new sections of content with updated information
- Refresh existing content sections with new keywords
- Make pieces easier to read by including H2 and H3 subheadings
- Add new images
- Update image alt text with new descriptions
13. Perform In-Depth Competitor Analysis
In SEO, competitor analyses are great tools. You want to create the best content for your audience, but there isn’t always a clear path on how you can do that. That’s when it’s a good idea to check out the competition and see what they’re doing. What types of content are they creating? What topics do they cover? Can you create a better, more valuable resource?
By taking a look at your competition, you’ll be able to see exactly what you need to do to beat the competition. And you’ll also have a bar you can use to measure the success of your own content. SEMrush is a great tool to help you do competitive analysis for organic search visibility:
Your competition can provide valuable insight and be a great tool for research, but it’s also critical to make sure that any content you create after doing this research is completely unique. Search engines like Google can actually find duplicate content—and if they find it on your website, you will be penalized for it.
14. Blog Consistently
Did you know that blogging can impact your SEO? Believe it or not, blogging isn’t just about creating content for your audience. In fact, Google loves fresh, relevant content—especially when keywords are included. However, your content should meet the needs of your audience first by providing them with helpful and informative content, and include relevant keywords for Google second.
If your website has stayed the same for years, it’s even more important to pay attention to and regularly update your blog. Blogging allows you to establish your business as a thought leader, convert visitors into new leads, and provide new and interesting content for Google to index, which can improve the ranking of your website. For your blog to be truly successful, though, you need to create an SEO content strategy that includes topics relevant to your audience’s questions, needs, and pain points.
This is where topic and keyword research play an important role. To find topics, look to websites like Quora and Reddit to see what questions people in your industry are asking regularly. You can also type queries into Google and look at the “Searches related to” your search and the People Also Ask box. How can you answer them in a blog post?
15. Actively Seek Guest Posting Opportunities
Guest posting is a great way to increase traffic to your website, build your brand, and win great links back to your own content on your website. But if you don’t quite know how to get started with guest posting, you’re not the only one! The process can be broken down like this:
- Find Blogs: This part is deceptively easy. All you need to do to find blogs you want to write for is do a simple search on keywords you want to rank for or that are relevant to your industry and add “guest blog,” “contributor,” or “write for us” to them. Then, on the SERPs, you’ll see a list of blogs that cover or are in your industry you can write a guest blog post for.
- Craft Your Pitch: Now that you’ve found a few target blogs, it’s time to craft your pitch. The most important thing here is to ensure that the topic of the post you want to pitch is relevant to the target blog’s audience and is something they’ll be interested in.
- Start Writing: You’ve gotten your first pitch accepted, so now it’s time to start writing! Don’t forget to include links to your own relevant content, as well as external links that are valuable to readers as well. And always be sure to include an author bio, too.
Keep Learning How to Improve Your SEO
Once you’ve implemented all of these tips, you’re still not done. There’s always more to learn and ways to improve. And – Google’s always making changes that impact which SEO techniques we should use and how we use them.
Make a commitment to keep learning and keep measuring. Pay attention to how your metrics change as you make improvements to your site and stay on top of what’s going on with SEO. Just like anything in life, the more you invest, the more you get back. The better web traffic is definitely worth the SEO efforts.