Making sure that your website ranks well on search engines is essential because organic traffic can generate a lot of leads.
Conquering a nice spot on a SERP (search engine result page) for a specific keyword or set of keywords involves lots of :
- Trial and Error
And it involves many different areas of competence such as:
- SEO/SEM (search engine optimisation/search engine marketing)
- Web Design
- Inbound Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Digital Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Classic Advertising/Promotion
However, if you create a thorough strategy for your page, you start implementing it properly and consistently adjust tactics and tools…the reward can be huge!
Think of how many search queries happen each minute on major search engines.
And think of how many qualified leads can land on your site if you rank high for very specific keywords connected to your product or service!
Not only will you see a temporary peak in traffic (as it would happen with a massive advertising campaign) but a good page rank will make sure that your page will have a constant flow of clicks over time.
Therefore, it is necessary to be familiar with some of the most important concepts which might influence your position on search engines and other elements which will make sure that your page is visible and attracts the right kind of people (leads/prospects) to it.
That’s why we decided to come up with a short A-Z glossary of concepts you really need to look into when try to improve your status on search engines.
There are many reasons why your website needs to be permanently relocated. If this happens, you certainly don’t want to lose all the privileges (visibility, rank, reputation…) you gathered through hard work and appropriate digital marketing strategies. 301 redirects will guarantee that search engines understand that your page moved.
Additionally, search engines may struggle with duplicate content. That means that they might not go onboard with pages which report the same information. But because they treat putyourdomainhere.com as a separate website from www.putyourdomainhere.com, they might interpret the same page on the two sites as duplicate content.
In this case, it is also worth considering a 301 redirect on one of the sites that point at your favourite version!
We all agree on the fact that a 404 error is extremely annoying. But you can easily personalize your 404 pages in basically every environment. If you’re not sure how to do that, simply search for “404 custom page” in connection with your website technology.
Custom 404 pages are well-received by search engines and, if created with a certain amount of creativity, can also be accepted by customers!
These pages can even attract attention and spread through social media as it happened with these tailored 404 redirects.
AdSense/Google Ads programs
It is worth noticing that, according to Google, buying ads will not algorithmically influence your ranking.
You can hear this directly from the source, in this videos on common SEO myths and the embedded video below on correlation of Adwords and organic search ranking by Matt Cutts.
Nonetheless, it is important to underline the fact that promotion (any form of promotion) always has a secondary effect on ranking.
Attracting people to your page or to your content through promotion will obviously increase traffic and search engines know that sites that attract constant, real traffic must be relevant and useful.
On top of that, promotion (as social media marketing, Paid Search Results, Adwords and so on) that direct people to great content will increase the chances that people will be willing to share your content on social media.
And the more your content is shared, the more relevant it is considered by search engines!
No matter what product or service you want to sell. You know that everything, from features to design, communication to media channels has to be designed around an extremely detailed picture of your standard customer.
That holds true also for page ranking: the whole website design, content, and structure has to reflect specific needs of your standard buyers persona.
Inconsistency is penalized by search engines. If you sell cleaning products, you can lose lots of point by adding content on lotteries, talk shows, vegetables or anything else that is not considered relevant to your specific target group.
Search engines can easily be confused.
You need a clear statement, who is your target group, what you’re offering them and how.
All the information you add to your site must somehow fit this scheme.
Even if this concept should actually be treated as a sub-point for a following term on analytics, it is important to underline that bounce rate is a very difficult topic and therefore, it must be mentioned here too.
In theory, you’d think that the longer somebody stays on your site, browsing through your pages, the more interesting and relevant your website should be considered.
However, the whole idea of bounce rate is not that simple.
It really depends on what your website is about: If you offer definitions like a dictionary, the fact that your audience comes and leaves right away might be an indicator that your page is effective at providing the expected results.
And that can be rewarded by search engines.
A blog, on the other hand, is effective if people linger and reads the whole story and maybe clicks through other posts.
The debate on bounce rate is alive and ongoing!
Google rewards or penalizes your site based on a certain bounce rate based on the kind of site and sector.
There are two main broken links strategies which work extremely well when you need to generate valid backlinks.
The second strategy comes from the highly authoritative site Backlinko and it involves finding broken links on Wikipedia and take advantage of the fact that they are already popular to redirect traffic to your site through these broken links.
Content Marketing/Content Creation
On our site, you can find lots of information on what content marketing is as well as on how to implement an effective content marketing strategy.
The main idea is that offering valuable information to your target group is extremely well-received by search engines.
Content (as blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks….and so on) allows you to:
-Utilize and integrate specific keywords
-Interact with your prospects or existing customers
-Offer great value for your visitors
-Be seen on social media when your content is shared
…And much more!
Generating content can be time-consuming and challenging. But search engines will certainly reward your efforts!
Promotion on the site doesn’t really add value to the ongoing exchange of information that search engines promote. Content (any kinds of good content) creates information and knowledge that can be accessed and shared at any time.
Many people use the expression “Content is King,” and we certainly should join the crowd too. But the phrase has been used so often that, as it often happens, it has partially lost its true meaning. This motto doesn’t actually do justice to the importance of a great content marketing strategy!
Important is that you don’t create content for search engines. If you only create content with the purpose to stuff your site with keywords, this will actually have a negative effect on your ranking.
Create value with great information that your customers would love to access!
There’s an ongoing debate on whether on-site content curation actually creates some benefits or not in terms of page ranking.
Many people point out that content needs to be unique in order to have an effect on ranking.
Others show that also re-proposing great content (awesome infographics for example) that other people created provides valuable information to your target group.
It doesn’t really matter what the correct answer is though…a proper amount of content curation on the website and on social media will definitely help search engines understand in what sector you specialize and therefore, give you more authority and credit for specific keywords.
It is important to find an ideal balance between content creation and content curation.
Social media are becoming an always more preponderant factor which influences your level of authority on search engines.
If your content and your website is shared a lot and if you managed to create large communities around your site, search engines will interpret this as a signal that the information you provide is relevant, original and valuable.
Create easy opportunities to share your content and take care of your communities (followers on social media) and interact with the people….that will show search engines that you’re credible and dependable and offer some social proof that will also help you convert more customers!
Exact match domains give you an advantage, small but still an advantage.
Make sure that your domain name has something to do with the area in which you work.
If you want to rank high for “marketing consulting for freelancers” for example, try to create a company name that has something to do with the concepts of “marketing” and “freelancers” or synonyms of these terms.
And therefore, choose a domain name that reflects the scope of your business and integrates important keywords.
If you can’t do that (because all company names are already in use or if the domain you’re looking for is already taken) try to create other combination of words that you can use in micro-websites that point (or are connected) to your main site or an additional external company blog connected to your site, whose domain name includes keywords.
Note: Try not to include your company name in page titles and descriptions, though. You only have a few characters to tell search engines what your page is about and you certainly don’t want to waste resources stating the obvious. It would be like signing each Tweet with your full name…I mean you only have 140 characters to send a message and your name actually appears as sender. Totally useless waste of space!
Although having a large amount of newsletter subscribers doesn’t have any algorithmic effect on ranking, also in this case e can take advantage of secondary benefits generated from a long list of email contacts: a larger community you can engage through newsletters and social media, traffic you can redirect to your blog when you have a new post and a great audience willing to know more information, receive and hopefully spread great content you purposely prepared for them.
Engaging in useful conversations in forums is a great way to show search engines that you’re an authority in your field. But be careful!
1. Don’t use forums for blatant self-promotion and for building backlinks
2. Read and comply with all the rules that moderators mention! Don’t spam!!!
Forums are great places where people exchange information and can help each other.
Commercial purposes may end up ruining the atmosphere and functionality of such great meeting points.
Additionally, Google is a lot smarter than you think and will definitely penalize your site if it pops up every thread of every forum.
The rule here is again simple. Be useful to the community. Bring value to the conversation. Direct people to the right sources, and if these happen to also be on your site, include also a link to it. But find a balance, answer questions and follow the rules! Forums don’t mean promotion!!!
Please don’t ruin it for everybody else.
Also, your signature (which can include a link to your site) needs to be optimized according to the new rules that Google created. Trying to stuff it with keywords and optimized anchor text is useless as it is for guest blogging, as Neil Patel mentions that in his great blog post in which he treats some old school myths about SEO.
Google Webmaster Tools/Analytics
If you want to know how to optimize your site and create great off-site opportunities for improving your ranking, you don’t need to go far.
The source of all the information is to be found directly through the tools that search engines provide you with.
Both Google and Bing allow you to access all the rules they expect you to follow their guidelines which are available for everybody:
Together with great webmaster guidelines, search engines offer users the opportunity to interact directly with all the important aspects of page optimization, keyword planning and general elements which influence page rank through a series of tools which include analytics, webmaster tool and planners.
Spending some time understanding how these resources work will have an invaluable effect on your site visibility.
Submit a sitemap, optimise headlines, internal and external links, navigation, appearance, level of content vs. code, keywords and much more following tips and hints provided directly by search engines.
If you do everything correctly, half of the job is done!
Understand all the analytics you’re presented, from bounce rate to exit rate, keyword density, flow, page views and so on to make sure that your page is actually designed according to its purpose (which, if you sell a product of service should be conversion.)
The web is an ocean of information that moves from island to island.
It is a global dialogue that allows us to share common knowledge and information across the globe.
Unless you want to be that kid at the party who sits in the corner with his iPhone instead of chit-chatting with all the other guests, make sure you add value to this worldwide conversation.
Add information and link to other sources, comment and expand/re-elaborate ideas.
If your site has no connections to the external world it means that you’re only rehearsing a monologue or a boring sales pitch.
And search engines don’t like that!!!
Open the doors and connect to the world.
Continue talking about something starting from the point at which the others have stopped!
Headlines and structure
If your website’s structure is confusing for people, it will be the same for search engines.
Robots go through your website simulating the behaviour of a normal user. If they can’t understand where they are and where they need to go next or even why they landed on a certain page, that means that your website is chaotic.
The whole structure needs to be planned from the very beginning, during the inception phase.
Clear headlines and internal links should clearly let people (and therefore search engines) understand where they are, why and what to do next!
Content marketing is an important portion of your inbound marketing strategy.
But the whole concept of inbound marketing includes a lot more tactics and elements which need to be put in place.
Again, the mantra here is always the same: no matter how you attract traffic through your website, search engines like traffic under the condition that your inbound strategies are clean and legit.
If you bring value to your audience you automatically bring value to search engines!
Make sure that all the widgets, tools, channels and content that you implement in your inbound strategy are related to your business field and to your company while keeping in mind your main proposition and mission.
Alignment in your marketing strategy, sales strategy, and the tools you decide to adopt generate the kind of consistency that will positively affect your ranking.
Java scripts and Flash (Careful!)
It might be tempting to add lots of utilities and include cool presentations and gadgets using ueber-awesome java and flash applications. But the problem here is twofold.
1) Search engines can’t deal with this kind of content
2) A streamlined website will perform much better in terms of speed compared to a website that looks great but involves plenty of apps and animations.
And speed is now a key element for ranking!
You know how popular a particular hashtag can become on Twitter, right?
And how you can try to attract more attention by participating in that discussion.
The same bandwagon effect can be used on search engines. You can always take a particular piece of ultra-relevant piece of news and cover it from your own point of view within the sector in which you operate.
The attention that the news receives will partially be mirrored in your results.
This particular content marketing technique is called newsjacking and can be done with events but also with the latest technologies.
Say Google successfully concludes its self-driving car project and stars first tests in California.
You can easily integrate this technology in a blog post.
Up-to-date content always attracts more clicks, is shared more often and is well-seen by search engines.
The same can be done with memes. If a meme is particularly popular it will also be shared more often and will come up in search results. If it’s funny and pertinent….why not? You can’t be serious the whole time!
Careful though with newsjacking and memejacking. Some companies went one step too far and ended up ruining their campaign with miserable marketing blunders.
This seems pretty obvious.
But you need to have text on your pages. Lots of it (that’s why also having a very rich blog will definitely help you rank better.) And your content needs to include a certain amount of keywords and phrases that your customers are likely to use in their search.
This words can also be included in the meta description of your page and ideally also in the page titles and headlines (to show search engines that these are important to you and to your audience.)
Avoid overstuffing or cheating!
Keywords must be used naturally within the text content of your site.
Adding them as meta tags will actually not help you anymore.
And also using them in the alt description of your pictures (the description that would appear if a picture could not load properly) has a mild effect on your organic ranking situation.
Search engines identify keywords when used consistently and naturally throughout your content. No need to trick them and no need to force them into your pages…
You can be penalized!
Be as descriptive as possible with your product or service description.
Create keywords and phrases as focused and specific as possible.
Ranking high for generic keywords could be almost impossible, but if you offer an exclusive service which can be found through a targeted search, the chances of having a good spot in the SERP are much higher.
The reward might come with time…but you’ll be able to attract selected traffic which will convert much more easily.
Especially if you run a very local business or if you sell extremely specific products.
If your business is placed in a particular geographical area, there are many opportunities for you to be listed in lots of local directories (including the online version of the yellow pages) and also include more specific long-tail SEO tools in your marketing strategy.
If you combine all this together with the number of local places for promotion (including classifieds and local ads) and the relatively cheap channels you can implement in your advertising plan to attract traffic and links, you can understand that having a local business is very attractive in comparison to running global operations.
And that’s partially why different beachheaded strategies are put in place when launching startups!
Links and Anchors
Creating proper links throughout your page is essential for facilitating navigation for both robots and people alike!
And when creating content you can always use intelligent anchor text to link to previous posts so that search engines see these pages as answers to specific questions.
Never link a post that talks about winter tires (for examples) saying something like: “Find more tests here” using the word “here” as an internal link to your previous tests.
That doesn’t add any information!
If you link the whole sentence “Recent performance test results for different kinds of winter tires available in the United States” to your post, search engines will register this kind of pointer to the article you have in your blog and send people to it who use this kind of long-tail, specific search.
Make sure that your description offers a lot of information and that it partially differs from the original headline in the content you’re linking to.
It’s 2019! If you forget that you’ll end up like the dinosaur at the entrance of the Google Plex in Mountain View: extinct.
You can’t ignore the fact that the majority of your customers will access your site through a mobile device otherwise you’ll lose lots of prospects.
And search engines know that.
That’s why one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to forget to create a website optimised for different devices!
Speed and mobile-friendliness are very important.
Forgetting to create a proper compression for code, snippets and images and optimizing the website for smartphones and tablets will first result in being penalized by search engines and then by potential customers!
We must understand that, in spite of many talks on the topic, backlinks are still very important for ranking.
The original component of the search engine’s algorithms which assigns points based on the number and quality of links directed to a site is still relevant in 2019.
Of course, the new algorithms are much smarter.
They value quality a lot more and penalize sites which go for fishy ways to get backlinks (exchanges, link farms and so on.)
The authority of the sites directed at the sites is very important together with relevance (according to the field in which the websites are categorized.)
At the same time, it is important to collect a certain amount of do-follow links to signal the fact that people direct traffic to you because of the quality of the information you share.
At the same time, we sometimes underestimate the importance of no-follow links. There’s a hidden power in no-follow links which is connected to awareness.
Important information which relates to a specific business sector which also mentions your company will attract attention and awareness.
And if something is important, people will feel the need to look for more information through search engines or social media.
This, in turn, will generate more traffic, visibility and potentially better ranking!
Reputation is everything.
Your company is like a person.
Everything your employees say and do on behalf of your firm will permanently define the personality of your corporation.
We already mentioned a few problems connected to social media blunders.
Everything you do online has to comply with specific rules.
Make sure that you know the best practices and play by those rules!
As always…be useful and bring value to your audience. Spammy/scammy behaviours are always punished by search engines.
We partially covered this point when we talked about webmaster tools.
However, it is important to stress the concept that SEO is not an add-on feature. The whole concept is a built-in sequence of measures put in place from the planning phase of a page.
The way your pages are linked to the home page, your H1,2,3… lines, your page titles, meta descriptions, alt text in pictures, text content, anchor texts…everything counts exactly as clean and flawless code, a frameless structure, speed and navigation.
A chaotic website which is difficult to interpret for both people and robots will not rank well!
Again, we talked about the importance and indirect benefits of setting up a brilliant list of subscribers when we talked about email marketing.
As a part of your inbound marketing strategy, you’re required to create great landing pages where people can access premium content in correlation with your opt-in strategy for collecting subscribers.
Grow and take care of your community of supporters and they’ll contribute to your success by helping you spread the word and increase visibility for your site.
We also mentioned that paid search doesn’t actually affect organic ranking while emphasizing the fact that benefits might be connected to awareness and increased traffic.
Additionally, PPC campaigns in combination with keyword planners are very useful tools to test what descriptions and keywords work well with your audience.
The combination of keywords and description that has a higher CTR (click-through rate) will offer you great insights on how to formulate your content on the site and when showing up in a whatsoever SERP, people will be a lot more likely to click on your link over a competitor’s link.
Search engines can recognize this preference and therefore if you optimize your site for CTR, your ranking will definitely improve.
PR and Press releases
Presence is the key.
You need backlinks and a lot of mentions.
The more people talk about you, the more important you’ll be perceived by search engines. Engage in conversations and issue press releases. Create awareness and mentions and your page will be appreciated by search engines.
A lot of searches can be performed through reverse image search nowadays.
Portable and wearable technology are having a massive effect on this trend.
Mobile applications and wearable devices in combination with improved levels of artificial intelligence allow search engines to interpret the world also through images, not only based on text descriptions.
If you want to have a sustainable strategy for visibility, make sure that you adapt to the current environment and tell your story implementing lots of visual content.
Quality vs. Quantity
This expression belongs to the category of the most overused phrases in history.
Nevertheless, we need to remember that this concept applies to many fields: backlinks, content, social media channels and much more!
Traffic generates more trust in search engines.
But search engines are getting smarter and smarter and they can also identify the kind of traffic that lands on your page.
Try to attract people who are related to your sector.
Design your content marketing strategy to adapt to your buyer persona.
Of course, people who are interested in your content will also be more likely to become clients (if the content you chose is actually connected to their pains and needs.)
At the same time, search engines will immediately notice that your site is a valid answer to their needs and they’ll be more likely to send other people to you as a friend who recommends a great restaurant to you!
You can instruct search engines to avoid a certain amount of pages in your site.
Be careful though!
Too many blocked resources will give the impression that your site has limited access. If you want to go for the mass, you have to signal that you’re open and welcome all of your guests.
The concept is actually more related to social media marketing. But since you need to implement specific measures on your site to mark visitors who didn’t convert and reach them out at a successive stage through social media advertising, we can briefly mention this strategy in your checklist.
Retargeting can be a very useful tool for attracting leads and turning them into loyal customers.
A successful site is certainly more appreciated by search engines!
Especially if you have a brick and mortar kind of business, rich snippets, and structured information can make your business more accessible.
You can immediately communicate location, contacts, opening hours, services and much more.
The more information you offer, the more visible you’ll be for search engines and through such a great and useful presentation, your link will attract a lot more hits!
Integrate an RSS Feed in your blog and try to share it on as many sites as possible in order to attract clicks and attention from users and robots alike!
Communities like Triberr or Ning can influence your page rank a lot both directly and indirectly (through shares and such.)
Social bookmarking sites like Mix, Reddit or Digg can help you spread content and slowly become a household name for people and search engines!
In order to rank high search engines must trust you. Think about it. Would you recommend a particular dentist to a friend if you weren’t absolutely sure that they are in fact a good dentist?
The same is true for search engines.
They redirect traffic to sites which they trust. And the factors which affect trust are numerous:
-How long the website has existed
-How long you purchased the domain for (they want to know that you’re here to stay!)
-Authority (content, mentions, social proof, sources of links…)
-Security (consider implementing https and SSL certificates and such)
-Stability (you need a good server with an excellent up-time)
-Structure and technology
…and much more
We talked about the fact that there’s an ongoing debate on duplicate content.
No matter what the results of this debacle are, the idea is that we need to offer something useful and original if we want people to access our website, spend some time there and even share it with their friends.
Spend time looking for some great, exclusive content and both your audience and search engines will show their appreciation!
Can I say it one more time?
Design pages for people not for robots!!!
A great user experience translates into accessible content and a lower bounce rate.
Create a picture that depicts your user journey through the site and try to spot potential areas that can create frustration.
Keep redesigning pages following feedback and tests and eliminate all the problematic areas.
Remember when we said that not considering mobile users will definitely translate into a ranking suicide?
The same holds true for video marketing.
The internet world is moving towards video content because thanks to modern cloud solutions bandwidth is not a problem anymore, server space is also irrelevant, the technology necessary for producing great quality videos is getting cheaper, people are getting used to accessing content in the form of videos…and other reasons we can’t discuss here.
Implementing a well-designed video marketing strategy nowadays is essential for reaching out customers and for attracting traffic.
Did you know that after Google, the second largest search engine in the world in terms of a number of searches is actually Youtube?
Be there or be square! (you can also opt for other video platforms though which also offer lots of advantages.)
Wiki and Q&A Sites
As Forums (treated above) also Q&A sites offer the opportunity to generate awareness, connect to the target group, help, support, start a dialogue and create precious backlinks.
And as we said when we talked about Forums, be respectful, useful and don’t use these sites for plain self-promotion!
With the proper netiquette, Q&A and Wiki sites can help you identify the needs and pains of your audience and design a website that ranks much better on search engines!
Quora is a great Q&A website.
Cross-posting is a tactic which involves publishing messages and sharing content through as many channels as possible (social media, aggregate sites, forums, online communities, newsgroups…) If done properly (without spamming and posting off-topic information) this strategy will generate attention and links.
When we think about SEO rankings we automatically think about Google. And if it’s true that Google is by far the number one search engine in the world, you can’t forget that Bing and Yahoo directories still represent precious sources of information for a considerable proportion of internet users.
Don’t forget to optimize your site considering also these channels or you’ll lose the opportunity to get in touch with lots of potential customers.
Zero cost (no way)
And finally, the last point is one of the most important remarks for our checklist.
Go back to the very introduction of this post. We listed some areas which need to be developed in order to increase the chance of a good spot in the result pages of mainstream search engines.
There are so many things to do in so many different areas that you can’t possibly believe when people say that organic search traffic comes at zero cost.
Ranking well on search engines is not something you can miraculously achieve without investing lots of time and money.
You need professional expertise in several sectors, support, help and you need time to engage in communities and social media, create promotion and advertising campaigns.
And you also need time to create great content valued by search engines.