Everything you thought you knew about SEO is wrong.
It used to be that you could stuff keywords on a page and get rewarded by the search engines with a top spot on the first page.
Not so in 2017.
Search engines like Google are much smarter than they used to be. They reward people who write high-quality content on their websites and punish keyword stuffers who don’t write original content.
Still, there are several things you can do to have your website rank higher on intelligent search engines. It’ll just take more work and patience. Nevertheless, here are 10 tips to boost your rankings－and fast.
1. Make Sure Your Website Focuses on One Single Type of Product or Service
One of the most important things you can do to increase your page ranking is to make sure your page focuses on one－and only one thing: a single service or a single type of product. Make sure all of your pages are focused on one singular thing and delete any pages that aren’t.
Having multiple services or different types of products on your website confuses your visitors.
Remember an example of a website you’ve visited before. There was so much clutter all over the page and it seemed to be all over the map. Within 5 seconds, did you intuitively know what the website was about?
I’m betting the answer was no.
It confused you so much that you clicked on the “X” button on the upper right, never to go back again.
Don’t Confuse the Search Bot Crawlers
The Google search bot crawlers get confused, too! These crawlers periodically visit your website to look at the content, check for any new or updated information and refresh your search rankings accordingly.
Just as you want your visitors to instantly understand what your website is about, you want the search crawlers to clearly understand what product or service you are offering so you get ranked higher on your product’s relevant keywords.
Delete Dead Weight Pages
Many websites have unused pages, or “dead weight”. These pages can be old blog posts, archived or unlinked pages, or any e-commerce page that doesn’t generate any sales.
They might seem harmless at first glance, but they can hurt your rankings.
In fact, SEO expert Brian Dean at Backlinko recently advised that one of the best SEO tips is to delete their dead weight pages. According to Brian Dean, doing so helped increase their organic traffic by 48.7% as part of his SEO checklist.
2. Do Keyword Research to Find Long-Tail Keywords
The point of keyword research is to get visitors to find you when they look for a product or service that you are offering. When a person types in the search field, the keywords they use reveal their intent.
You want to find the keywords that people type in when searching for a product. Don’t just guess. Use keyword tools to find keyword variants pointing to your product and service. These tools can also help you assess the level of competition and determine your opportunity to rank for those keywords.
Top 3 Free Keyword Research Tools
- To find long tail keywords with low competition
- Help fine-tune your niche offering
- Get strongly qualified leads when people use your keywords to find you
- To find search volumes for each keyword
- To brainstorm keyword variants by browsing groups of similar keywords
- To compare your site rank with other competitors
- To monitor changes in organic versus paid traffic
- To find domain authority and page authority of competitive search results
- To gain actionable insight on keyword rankings on any website
There are countless other keyword tools that are just as good as these, but many are paid tools. The ones I listed are the ones I use for free.
Although the SEMRush and the MozBar have paid “Pro” versions that give you more features to play with, the free versions should be enough for you to get started. However, to make most of these tools and to dig deeper into long-tail keywords, paying for a premium or Pro version of these tools may be worthwhile.
Use Long-Tail Keywords With Modifiers
The bad news is that base keywords or one-word keywords, tend to have too much competition and are therefore very difficult to rank on. Keyword phrases with 2 or 3 words are slightly easier, but still quite difficult.
But I have good news. There is a way for your site to rank high and that is through long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases or sentences that are at least 4-8 words long.
Long tail keywords may not get searched as frequently as the base keywords do, but as much as 50-75% of your website traffic originate from long tail keywords. They are much less competitive and reveal a much more specific intent to which you can tailor your content. If your content answers to the need revealed by the searcher’s intent, you will get more targeted traffic from qualified leads, and you will convert more of that traffic.
Trying to target a one-word base keyword is likely an exercise in futility because it is too general, and even if you do get traffic, you might not be able to convert much of it, if any.
The graph below from Spring Board SEO shows where these long-tail keywords fall within the relationship between search frequency and competition.
Neil Patel at QuickSprout agrees with using long-tail keywords, a phrase with a minimum of four words. In his blog post, he shows some good examples of long-tail keywords listed in the Keyword Ideas tab of the Google Keyword Planner.
With these tools and your understanding of long-tail keywords, you could make a list of keywords and their long-tail variants that give you higher search rankings as long as you position your website with content that contain those keywords.
3. Write Lots of Original Quality Content
But no keyword stuffing!
Writing lots of original content is one of the best SEO tips you can follow.
Google has been placing a high importance on original and quality content that hasn’t been duplicated from other sites. Their objective is to enhance the user experience and nobody wants to read spam on the Internet. Users want original and quality content, and Google updated their search ranking algorithm to give users precisely what they want.
To make your website stand out with great content, your articles should be at least 1,200 words according to SEO expert Brian Dean at Backlinko. With thorough testing, he thoroughly debunks the myth that nobody wants to read long articles in the age of shortest attention spans in the record of humanity. But if you create awesome and informative content, people who want that information will read such a comprehensive resource.
When writing these articles, you also want to include the keywords and their variants within the content.
Google Penalizes Keyword Stuffing
However－and this is a huge caveat－if you stuff keywords into an article, you could get penalized for “keyword stuffing”. Google is onto people who engage in keyword stuffing to “cheat” the SEO game.
Just to be safe, perhaps it’s best to “forget” about keywords as you write the meat of your content. If you’re not thinking about which keywords to use while you write, your writing will come across as much more natural than if you tried to force your keywords in.
When you get to the editing and proofreading stage, you can place keywords where they belong and still have the article flow naturally. Editing an article is the best time to place a few more keywords, wherever they make sense, that you might have forgotten about.
Link to Authoritative Resources
One way to increase your page authority for higher rankings is to include links to external authoritative resources relevant to the topic of your content.
You might bristle at the thought: “Why would I give away traffic to my potential competition?” This is a completely understandable reaction. But, surprisingly, it helps you more than it hurts you.
SEO expert Brian Dean of Backlinko feels strongly about linking externally to authoritative resources. As he says, Google rewards websites that send their visitors to other pages that contain helpful information. For every user you lose through an outbound link, you gain two from the increase in traffic. He advocates for at least 3 outbound links to relevant authoritative content within each article.
Use h1 and h2 HTML Tags For Your Title and Subheads
Your content should be broken up into parts with titles, headings, and subheadings to make it easy for the reader to scan your page. It is a lot to ask for a reader to read every word on your page even if having lots of content is good for SEO.
To make it easily scannable, put your titles and headers in h1 HTML tags, and your subheads within h2 tags. This does two things.
- Makes your page scannable
- Improves your SEO by having your keywords within the heading HTML tags
Headers and subheads are excellent places to put your long-tail keywords as long as they are relevant to what comes below.
Be careful with using h1 tags, however. Google has a new over-optimization penalty for websites that use too many h1 tags. In late 2016 into 2017, you should only use one h1 tag for the title of each page.
4. Write Descriptive Page Titles and Meta Tags
Two places you should place your long-tail keywords are page titles and meta descriptions. Page titles and meta descriptions are displayed in Google search results or snippets.
If you use a Content Management System such as WordPress, you can easily change the Page Title and Meta Description using one of the two major SEO plugins－Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack. Both are good. There is an intense ongoing debate about which one is better, but that’s outside the scope of this article.
These are excellent opportunities to insert your targeted long-tail keyword within the page title and meta description as long as it accurately describes the content of your page. Since Google places a premium on page titles and meta descriptions, this is a good way to boost your rankings and get highly qualified niche traffic to your site.
Add Keyword Modifiers to Your Title Tags
Keyword modifiers are nothing more than adjectives or follow-up nouns that add more specificity to a long-tail keyword. Broadly, there are three types of keyword modifiers:
- General meaning modifiers
- Geo-specific modifiers
- Chrono-specific modifiers
General meaning modifiers
These modifiers include “best”, “guide”, “quote”, and the like. If you’re looking for a financial advisor, you might enter “best financial advisor” or “financial advisor quote” instead of just “financial advisor”. This helps narrow search results only to the “best” financial advisors, or to the advisors that invite requests for quotes, respectively.
As you can guess, the geo-specific modifiers point to a specific location. Instead of looking for just any “financial advisor”, you might want to find one in your own city. If you live in Chicago, you’d enter search terms like “financial advisor Chicago”.
Like geo-specific modifiers, chrono-specific modifiers point to a specific date or year. If you wanted the latest and greatest SEO guide, you would enter search terms like “SEO guide 2016” or “how to use SEO 2016”. Since technology changes very fast and Google changes their SEO algorithm every year or two, you wouldn’t want to see SEO guides from 5 or 10 years ago in your search results.
You can also combine keyword modifiers to create long-tail keywords such as “best financial advisor in 2016” and get targeted traffic from visitors whose specific intent matches what you are promoting.
5. Make it Easy For Users to Find Content On Your Website
Remember that Google’s objective is to reward sites that provide a great user experience. Websites that make it easy for users to find useful content is what makes for a positive user experience, and are therefore rewarded with higher rankings on search engines.
To make it easy for users to find useful information on your website, don’t make your visitors do more than two clicks to get the information you want them to read. Put it in front of them on your landing page, and have your information accessible by a maximum of two clicks.
One click is ideal for any pages that aren’t on the landing page. Two is okay. Three is too much.
Use Categories and Tags
When you put your blog posts and articles within categories and attach keyword tags, it makes it easy for your users to find the information you want.
For example, if you have a travel website, you might have categories such as Tips, Advice, Gear, Packing List, Airlines, Visas, and a bunch of specific countries or continents. Visitors who want to travel to Japan will search for posts under the “Japan” category, and other visitors who are trying to decide what to pack will go to posts under the “Packing List” category, and so on.
If you are not sure if your content is easy to find, have a friend take a look at your website and ask him if it’s intuitively easy to navigate.
According to the American Marketing Association, focusing on the user experience is rule #3 of the 6 SEO rules for 2016.
6. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
The number of mobile users has surpassed the number of desktop users in 2015－according to Smart Insights. For copywriters and marketing directors, it is critical that your marketing plan considers mobile users and make sure your websites are optimized for mobile users.
Taking a mobile-first design ensures your website looks good on smartphones, tablets, and iPads－and gives you plentiful SEO juice.
Your product could actually be the greatest thing since sliced bread and your marketing copy reads like a grand slam out of the park. But if your website looks terrible on a mobile device, you are losing at least half of your visitors and potential conversions. That number is sure to increase in the future.
If you have WordPress and your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you can at least install a plugin that adds mobile support as a temporary fix. For a longer-term solution, click here for some excellent tips by Neil Patel.
Going mobile is the way of the future for marketing and traffic conversion for any business, blog, or e-commerce website.
7. Create Social Media Accounts and Link Them to Your Website
Nobody can argue that the world is becoming more reliant on social media to receive news, advertisements, and to communicate with friends, family, celebrities, politicians, and complete total strangers.
For most businesses, social media marketing takes place within those big three. Instagram marketing is also quite useful for visual-based businesses such as photography, web design, and graphic design.
Not only can you create social media accounts and link back to your website within your profiles, but you can also engage with your followers by promoting the content you write.
These social media platforms have built-in SEO juice. Once you use relevant keywords in your website, you can also use the same keywords in your social media profiles to increase traffic to your website sourced from social media accounts. In the early days of my website, my Facebook Business page actually ranked higher than my own domain!
Over time, your website will climb the search rankings as visitors read your content and engage with you on your social media accounts.
Make sure the content on your website is shareable on social media－using share icons typically found at the bottom of the page or on the side bar. Make sure it is easy for people to share. They are more likely to share content if all they have to do is click on an icon.
For additional social media marketing tips that work in 2016, click here.
8. Link Your Sitemap Within Your Google Search Console
The Search Console within Google Webmaster Tools is a valuable resource for business owners, marketing professionals, and bloggers alike.
It gives you valuable information about how many people are visiting your website, how they found it, whether they are using mobile devices or desktop computers, what keywords trigger the appearance of your website in the search results, and which pages on your website are the most visited.
When you first see the Search Console, you will first need to add your website as a property.
To set up your Google Search Console and verify your ownership of the website, follow this easy-to-read beginner’s guide.
There are many tools within the Search Console that you can use to analyze your website with. Here is an useful article that goes through every feature of the Google Search Console.
Adding Your Sitemap
An important step to take is to add your website’s sitemap into your Google Search Console property. Doing so helps Google index your website pages quickly, making it easier for bot crawlers to explore your site, and rank your pages higher on their search engine.
You will need to obtain your sitemap URL from your website. If you use WordPress, your SEO plugin can give you the sitemap URL. Otherwise, your sitemap URL should be something like this: domainname.com/sitemap.xml Or domainname.com/sitemap_index.xml
Once you add a sitemap URL, your console will automatically process your sitemap and index your pages for SEO.
Once you add your sitemap to the Google Search Console, you can see your rankings almost immediately. If you follow the other steps in this article, your rankings will increase over time.
9. Obtain an SSL Certificate to Secure Your Website for Visitors
A recent change by Google is driving the push for SSL certificates on websites that take payments, do e-commerce, and maintain login data for their users. SSL is short for Secure Sockets Layer that encrypts data flowing between your website’s server and your visitors, protecting both sides from cyber attacks.
Getting an SSL certificate will enable HTTPS for your website, instead of HTTP. HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTPS means Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol. Google has a preference for trusted and certified sites, and it is reflected in search rankings.
You know your website is secured with an SSL certificate when your website begins “https” preceded by a green lock, like below:
One place to get an SSL certificate is DigiCert, an SSL Digital Certification Authority. The average cost can be anywhere between $100 to $500 per year and has to be renewed periodically. The cost depends on where or how you buy the certificate. Your hosting provider may also give you certificate options for a nominal fee or for free, depending on the level of service you subscribe to.
Adding an SSL certificate to your website will give it a small, but noticeable boost in your search rankings compared with other sites that do not use SSL.
10. Stay Up to Date With Future Changes
As with any kind of technology, SEO is a fast-changing field. What may work today might not work two years from now.
Keyword stuffing worked up until three years ago until Google changed their algorithm to penalize keyword stuffers and reward original content that flows smoothly to the reader.
Until this year, adding an SSL certificate to your website would have done nothing for your search results. Now, websites with SSL certificates are moving up the search rankings as I type this.
I impart two tips to take away from this whirlwind of changes:
- As long as you work to improve the user experience on your website, you should be rewarded by the search engines. Think of bot crawlers as human beings, too (as corny as this sounds).
- Stay abreast with any news about SEO changes, including any public statements from Google about their search algorithm and what they expect from high-ranking sites.
To conclude this article, maximizing the user experience on your website with quality content, using descriptive page titles containing relevant keywords, using SSL for enhanced security, and having your pages indexed on the Google Search Console should all be part of your SEO strategy.
Ready to request a quote? Let's work together!
Just shoot me an email to start discussing your project.