Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting traffic to your website from free, organic, editorial, or natural search results in search engines. The purpose of implementing SEO strategies is to improve your website’s position in the search results for as many keywords as possible. While that would seem to be an obvious goal, here are some statistics to emphasize why focusing on search engine optimization is so important:
- 93% of traffic on the Internet begins with a search in a search engine
- The top listing on Google has a 33% chance of being clicked
- 75% of searchers will not go to the second page of search results
Remember there are only 10 positions on the first page of most ‘organic’ search results. To further complicate the challenge, you will see national directories and brands that frequently take four to six of these positions. If your website is not already on page one, or if you are a younger company and haven’t invested in search engine optimization, it would seem the only alternative is paid advertising. If you have tried that in the past, you know how much time it takes to create and monitor a proper campaign. For many the time and ad expense just isn’t an option.
All is not lost! There are several low-cost actions you can take to improve the odds of your website reaching the first page. In this article I want to share seven of them that reflect the most current “best practices” from Google. It is important to keep in mind that a properly designed SEO campaign is a slow and steady progression, not a quick result. If you want speed, then recognize that you have to “pay to play” and buy a first page listing through paid advertising. For the rest of us, here are seven strategies you can implement to enhance your website’s position in the search results.
- Improve Page Load Speed
This is important for two reasons. First, Google pays close attention to this metric and if your site loads slowly it will be presented less frequently in the search results. Second, a prospective customer will not wait. Research indicates that 40% of searchers will abandon websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. 80% of these will not come back and try again later. There are a variety of reasons your site may be loading slowly. Here are just a few:
- Your host’s server is slow. Many ‘shared’ hosting platforms are not optimized for speed.
- There are a lot of images on your site that have not been properly compressed.
- Your site was built on a theme that is now outdated. Or you have a lot of plugins on the site.
All of these are pretty easy to fix. If you’re not sure what the load time is for your website you can visit a tool like Pingdom.com or cloudflare.com.
- Create high quality content
This has become the ‘Holy Grail’ of search engine optimization in the last 24 months. There are two important considerations here. First, if you built your website a while back and haven’t added anything new since…you’re already behind! For most business websites a thorough refresh of content and images should be conducted every 18 to 24 months. Your developer should already be suggesting this, but if they haven’t, speak with them or seek a new developer. If a visitor comes to your site and it looks like 2010 they will quickly move to one of your competitors.
Second, you should have an ongoing content curation/creation plan in place. For most of us this means adding a blog to our website. However, if you do this it is critical that you commit to making regular posts. Generally, two well written posts published each month is enough. The key here is consistency and quality. If you have a blog that hasn’t had new content in six months your prospects will notice this and assume that you don’t care or are not organized enough to maintain a blog. Plus, your posts have to be relevant to the prospect—they should be benefit rich, not just a lot of platitudes about your product or service. If you don’t have the time to do this then hire someone to create these posts each month.
- Don’t rely on just text
Most people (80% in some studies I’ve read) would rather watch a video than read text. Producing short, less than 3-minute videos, has become easy and cost effective. You can create excellent video content with a smartphone and the editing software that comes with your computer. As long as the sound quality is good you will have a valuable piece of content to use. Infographics are excellent ways to share a process or system that you implement for your clients. These visual representations are easy to digest and effective. Slideshows or audio tracks are also ways to communicate without just relying on text. One of the reasons to include these other formats in your content plan is they will typically keep a visitor on your website longer. Time spent on a site is a primary metric for the search engines.
- Write long-form posts
What I mean by this is posts that are at least 1500 words. In the past you could get away with 350-500 words in a blog post. Today the search engines are prioritizing longer form content that is properly optimized with header tags, internal links to other content on your website, and which feature no more than three of your target keywords. One simple hack to meet this new guideline is go back to shorter posts you published in the past and add content. Consider adding charts or even embedding a video.
- Fix Broken Links
If you cite authority websites using hyperlinks, or link internally to previous posts or pages on your site, it is possible that these links could “break” in the future. This can have a serious impact on your SEO. Plus, it doesn’t look good to a visitor when they follow a link and get an error message. One tool that can be used to monitor this is deadlinkchecker.com. This is a free tool that can check on an individual page on your site or the entire site. You can also set it up to consistently check the site and notify you whenever it finds a broken link. Here’s an interesting way to utilize this tool. Monitor your competitors’ websites. When a dead link checker finds a broken link on their site, notify the webmaster of the linking page and ask them to add a link to your page instead. Since you are doing them a favor by notifying them of this dead link, they might be included to return the favor and add a link to your site. These outbound links from other sites, especially a site with a high domain authority, will improve your SEO.
- Claim Citation/Directory sites
This is perhaps the easiest form of basic SEO you can implement, but frequently overlooked. A citation is any mention of your business name, address, and phone number. There are more than 3000 online directories that collect business information, so identifying and registering with relevant directories should be done. Be aware that there are services who advertise they will do this for you, and they seem quite inexpensive. For example, “300 directory listings for $75” is one that I see advertised regularly. This sounds appealing; however it will not have the desired effect on your SEO that you might imagine.
The search engines are not looking for the quantity of citation links you can generate, but the quality of those links. Quality is defined as the page authority of the link on a scale of 1 to 100, and the relevance of the link. Relevance to your business niche or geography. Here’s an example. Say you are a roofing contractor in Dallas. The mass directory claiming service provides you with a link to the yellow pages in Detroit. Google will ignore that because it is not geographically relevant. Or they connect you with a medical directory site—this is not niche relevant and again, Google will ignore this link. Another consideration is how many sites are your direct competitors linked to? You want to be on most of the same sites (if they meet the criteria I described in the previous paragraph) plus a few more than they have claimed. You will also want to register with the three aggregator sites. To be listed on these requires an annual fee. It is worth it to do this as these sites provide source information to all of the other directories. How many sites do you need to be registered with? I generally recommend between 50 and 100, but keep in mind the competitive analysis. You may need more if your competitors have already claimed additional sites.
- Claim and Optimize your Google Business Profile
For a local business, this is one of the most important things you can do. While it is not directly working on your website as are my other suggestions, Google places a high priority on business profiles and rewards companies who use the full potential of this tool. To get started go to business.google.com and follow the directions. After providing initial information about your business Google will offer you some options for verifying your address. Most of the time this involves them mailing a postcard to the business address provided. If you run a home-based business or a purely online business and don’t have a physical address that is not a residence you will not be able to get a GBP. There are occasional exceptions to this policy, but they are rare. I don’t understand this policy, particularly in light of how many people started side businesses during the pandemic. But for the time being at least, that is the policy.
When optimizing your GBP remember you can upload photos and videos. Don’t forget to include product descriptions where appropriate. The most important use of this tool is making regular content posts. These are shorter, 250-400 words in length and can feature a product or service, something about your company, profile a team member, etc. You should use no more than two of your keywords, and can include your name, address, phone, website address, and a call to action. I encourage you to post at least once a week, although Google now allows more frequent posts.
Bonus #8: Do Your Keyword Research!! Before you ever begin thinking about SEO it is important to have a comprehensive list of keywords. What are the words and phrases that someone who is looking for the products/services you offer might type into the search bar? This list becomes the basis for all future content that you create. With an exhaustive list of keywords you can become more strategic in content creation.
For example, you might not be able to rank for “roofing contractor Dallas” in a reasonable amount of time, but “roofing contractor Flower Mound” is going to be much less competitive. You could achieve a page one ranking for that keyword phrase in just a couple of months. Yes, there are fewer people who search that phrase, but also fewer contractors fighting over it. When you develop your keyword list it should include how many searches there are for that term, as well as how competitive it is and what a click might cost should you decide to pay for advertising. By analyzing this list carefully and developing a content strategy that includes some of the highly competitive keywords that will take longer as well as those that can be more easily ranked for you will see a slow but steady increase in your website’s position in the results. A good keyword analysis tool that we use is UberSuggest. They have a free version that you should check out.
Conclusion: Search engine optimization is not a “one and done” proposition. To do it correctly takes consistent effort month after month after month. I’ve just shared the tip of the iceberg with these eight tips. SEO is far more complex than what I’ve described. At Alchemy we’ve been helping clients with SEO since 2006. We’re pretty good at it! If you’d like to discuss having us help get your company found more easily online please book a convenient time on my calendar at: https://calendly.com/gordonvanwechel/15min