Google uses over 200 ranking factors to determine your spot in SERPs. While this is true, it doesn’t mean you have to rank for every factor.
Some variables carry more weight than others. As a result, you need to focus on the essentials to ensure you are showing up where potential customers can find you.
If you want to ensure you have the SEO essentials covered, you’re in the right place. Here, you can learn about the most important ranking factors and how you can optimize your site for each one.
Eliminate Anything Slowing Your Site Down
Your website’s page speed is a critical SEO ranking factor. In the past, you could get away with having a slow-loading website. You may remember a time when you had to wait five minutes – or more – for a website to fully load.
This isn’t a good experience. Today, it’s equivalent to the “kiss of death” for your website. A slow page frustrates users and may discourage them from making a purchase.
It’s been proven that even a one-second delay in page load time may cause a seven percent loss in conversions. For most potential buyers, if your site is slow, it’s also untrustworthy.
Page speed is crucial for users and search engines. This means that if you have pages that load slowly, you are fighting a losing battle for a top, an organic listing, regardless of how amazing your content is or how professional your website looks.
Also, if your page loads slowly, visitors will not spend as much time looking around. Contrary to that, fast loading pages help reduce operating costs while improving user experience and providing other benefits.
Improving Your Website’s Speed
Now that you know how important page speed is, it’s time to take action to make yours faster.
To do this, eliminate any non-essential elements that may slow your site down. You can use website speed test tools like Pingdom and GTmetrix to gain insights into what can be slowing down your website.
Another way to speed up your site is to use quality, managed WordPress hosting.
Optimize Your Headings and Titles
Have you paid a lot of money for SEO services in the past but still achieve lackluster results? If so, one issue may be basic optimization issues, such as a lack of keyword research and title optimization.
You need to ensure your website targets the right keywords. In search engine optimization, the title tag has the most impact, which is why your keyword must be included. Also, the closer your main keyword is to the beginning of the title, the better.
Once that is done, add the proper keywords to your headings, too. The H1 is considered the most important heading and needs to be the first thing on your page. Sometimes, this is the same as your title, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you are running a PPC campaign, you can get inspiration from those titles. Some believe that PPC isn’t fit for SEO, but the titles used for these ads are conversion focused. This will benefit your SEO efforts.
The same is true for meta descriptions. By optimizing your meta descriptions, you are convincing people to click the link. Be sure to have keywords in this, too, or your chances of showing up are reduced significantly.
In March 2018, Google introduced the mobile-first index. While this is true, savvy marketers took a mobile-first approach long before this official roll out.
Are you still behind when it comes to the mobile-first optimization technique? If so, some tips can help you with this.
These tips include:
- Create an adaptive site
- Scale images
- Short meta titles
- Less is more
- Avoid cloaking
Remember, just because the site will be smaller on a mobile device, you still need to ensure that users and spiders see the same content.
Prioritize Your Traffic Sources
Traffic is a main goal of any website. However, if the traffic doesn’t bring leads or money, it’s worthless.
Today, sites get traffic from search engines, but other sources too. Visit your Google Analytics dashboard, and you will see there are several sources of traffic – referral, social, search, direct, etc. Here, you can see how your website performs in each channel and the sources bringing you the most traffic.
It’s a good idea to check traffic channels from your competition, too. Since you don’t have access to your competition’s dashboard, use external sources to help with this.
Link to Other Websites with Relevant Content
Some people believe that linking out to authoritative and relevant content pages is bad because it leads people away from your page. But this isn’t the case. Link building is still a crucial part of any search engine optimization strategy.
Linking out to other sites sends trackable traffic, making your site more valuable and a scalable resource. Any time you create new content, reference other trustworthy sites when appropriate.
Remember, you can’t expect to get something from someone else if you don’t give first. If you want to get inbound links from authoritative blogs, a good way to do this is by showing how willing you are to link to those blogs in your content.
While this is true, only link to content pages that offer value. This is a good SEO practice.
Also, when linking to an influencer, let them know. If your post offers value, they can create a link back to you (called a backlink), email the post to their subscriber list, or share it.
Link building is all about quality, rather quantity. You will build more trust in your niche if you have several authoritative links, instead of dozens of poor quality links.
Prioritize Pages in Your Website Navigation
Navigation is a crucial structural element for your website. After all, it’s the first thing linking to your “other” pages and typically at the top of your page. This gives your links a lot of weight.
A smart strategy is to link the pages that have been optimized for the most important keywords to the right of your navigation menu. Also, include these links on each page of your website. It makes the pages seem extremely important in Google’s eyes.
Technical SEO Information
The key to getting technical SEO right is to know how to interpret the data received and what to do with it. When you are first starting out, there are several things you need to check:
- The site is mobile friendly
- Correct status code errors
- Look for errors in robot.txt
- Look for site indexing on Google Search Console
- Correct duplicate meta descriptions and title tags
- Audit all website content
- Fix all broken links
- Submit the XML sitemap
There are several onpage SEO tools you can use to get you started such as Yoast which is great for beginners and our current favorite SEO Framework but requires a little more knowledge of SEO best practices.
Each of these steps is going to improve your page’s optimization while making it more appealing to users and Google.
Analyze Your Competitor’s Keywords
An issue with competitors’ keywords is the same issue present with their traffic sources – you can only guess what keywords they are targeting on their blog posts and product pages. To find out the keywords your competition is targeting, you need to use keyword tools.
You may wonder how this benefits you or your website.
The main benefit is that it saves you time. Piggybacking your competitors’ keywords is a widely used tactic many companies use in their marketing strategy. If you operate in the same niche, you may want to target the same or similar keywords.
It’s worth it to try the keywords that bring in the most traffic for your competition.
What Keywords Should You Use?
It may be tempting for you to use the keywords with the highest search volume. This isn’t always the best move. You don’t have much potential to outperform the “bigger fish” in your niche, and there’s a low chance you will ever rank for these keywords.
Using tools like the keyword difficulty metric from Ahrefs can help you see how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 search results for a keyword. However, be sure to check other metrics, too, such as the number of clicks and estimated traffic the top results receive.
It’s also smart to intercept your competitions’ target audience and redirect their attention to what you offer, instead. This is easy if you use their branded keywords while presenting your brand as an alternative. You can do this effectively by using their keywords that include words like “cheaper than,” “better than,” “vs.,” “alternative,” “compare to,” etc.
While the low search volumes of these keywords may be disappointing, they have a huge potential to drive leads at the beginning of the decision-making process. Once you know these keywords, you can create several types of content that use them, such as guides, how-to articles, landing pages, and more.
The goal here is to use anything that may persuade a person who hesitates before purchasing a service or product. There is also a high chance your competition isn’t including those keywords in their SEO or marketing strategy, giving you a competitive advantage.
Create Content for Humans First
Some people are reverting to older methods of SEO. Back in the earliest days of SEO, keywords were meant to drive search results, surpassing the real qualities of valuable, engaging content. If you are doing this, it’s time to change your mindset.
Old SEO efforts involved a single keyword and were page focused. New SEO efforts focus on how people engage with a specific service, product, or brand. It’s also ROI focused.
For SEO, keyword research isn’t the most important factor. The order of things should follow this sequence:
- Content creation
- Social media marketing
- Keyword research
Also, most people aren’t utilizing long-tail keywords. Instead, they are trying to manipulate the search engines. This is the wrong approach to use.
You should never prioritize search engines over real humans who are reading your work. Instead, create your content for people who have eyes for reading and money to purchase your product.
The search spiders are just scripts. They don’t buy your products or engage with you through social media. They aren’t ever going to become your loyal customer, either.
How to Write for Users First
To write for users, you need to forget about Google’s existence – along with any other search engine. Instead, you need to create content that will help someone. The official name for this tactic is SEO copywriting.
What’s surprising to some is that when you put the user first, you write more helpful content. Search engines will reward you for this because search engines follow the users.
It’s not the other way around. When you do this, you are also enhancing the overall user experience while building trust with your audience. It’s a win-win scenario.
SEO Essentials to Improve Your Website and Drive Traffic
The SEO essentials found here will help you achieve more success and drive more traffic to your website. Over time, after you have implemented the tactics here, you will see significant improvements.
If you are unable or unsure how to implement the tips and information here, then it’s time to reach out for third-party help. IntoClicks award winning local seo team is experienced and well-versed on the best SEO tactics to help drive more traffic to your website and how to help you outrank your competition.
If you are ready to learn more or start improving your SEO, contact us today. Our team can help you achieve your SEO and website goals. You may also be interested in reading 12 Ways to Grow Your Local Business on a Tight Budget in 2019