SEO Tips: How to Improve Your Search Engine Rankings
By Ideawörks Staff
The phrase location, location, location doesn’t just apply to real estate. The same goes for your website on search engine results pages. The higher your site is ranked, the more traffic you’re going to get to your site.
Being on top means you’ll have to earn it. Higher rankings are not about trying to trick the search engines. Search engines are constantly tweaking their formulas, so today’s tricks probably won’t work tomorrow. So, how is it done? How do you earn your way to the top of the SERPs?
First, you need to know how search engines work. Once search engines know your site exists, they crawl your site to index and analyze the content, determining where your website should appear on the results page. If your site isn’t optimized properly, it won’t rank well compared to your competition.
Start with optimizing your website so that is well-designed and relevant. The best websites use keywords, searchable content and social media to increase visibility. When optimizing your website for search engines, take a look at these key SEO elements that can improve your rankings in the search engine results pages:
These are words and phrases in your website content that search engines use to connect searchers to your site. Since words are our main method of communication, keywords will always be important for SEO and will continue to signal to search engines and to users what your content is about.
Well optimized websites use keywords that speak the same language as your site’s potential visitor base. Research and find out what your audience is searching for and use those keywords in your web content—just be sure that the keywords you use are relevant to the page content.
Remember, it’s not about getting as many visitors to your site as possible, it’s about getting the RIGHT visitors to your site who are searching for you. Here’s a few keyword don’ts to keep in mind:
- Don’t keyword stuff — Including a keyword or a phrase too many times on your site or in an unusual context can not only decrease your rank, but also turn away your customers. One thing I always like to do to check my keyword placement is to read the content out loud. If something sounds funny or unnatural, I know it needs to be edited.
- Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket — While you should narrow your focus to only include relevant keywords highlighting the website or page’s area of specialty, don’t get caught up using only a handful of keyword phrases. Doing so will not only make you sound repetitive, it won’t give search engines an accurate view of what your website is about.
Title tags define the title of a webpage or document and have been considered one of the most important on-page SEO elements. Title tags appear in three key places: browsers, search engine results pages and external websites.
Think of a title tag as an ad headline. You not only need to “advertise” to your audience what the page is about, but also “advertise” to search engines. Here’s our three takeaways on title tag success:
- Make sure every title tag is unique and compelling, making visitors want to stop and read more.
- Put important keywords in the beginning of the title tag. According to Moz’s testing and experience, this tactic is better for rankings and there’s a better chance a viewer will click through.
- Be aware of length of your title tags. Search engines will automatically shorten your titles if they are too long, so it is best to keep them between 55 and 60 characters. However, don’t obsess over the length. If you have a compelling title that is slightly longer, but converts and gets clicks, then it’s okay if some of it gets cut off.
Images are a great way to break up your content and add aesthetic appeal to your site. Search engines not only crawl the text on your site, but also search for keywords within your image file names. So, it is important that your images have clear and concise and descriptive file names.
It is crucial that you give each image a proper alt image tag or alt text. The alt tag is shown when you hover over an image with your mouse, when there are problems rendering the image, it is used by screen readers that help the visually impaired navigate the web.
Bonus tip: Optimize your images so the file size is smaller and the image loads faster to help your search rankings. Search engines use site load speed as a ranking factor, so the quicker your site and content loads, the better chance you have at ranking higher.
Content is listed among Google’s top three ranking factors, so it should play a vital role in your SEO strategy. However, more content doesn’t simply equal better content. Instead of writing content for the sake of content, use your time to create high-quality content.
Good content will generate links and will also help Google’s RankBrain better understand what your site is about and how it benefits users.
But what actually qualifies as “good” content? That depends on several variables, but it ultimately all comes down to serving your audience. Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, has a pretty good list of what qualifies as good content:
- Serves visitors’ intent by answering their questions and helping them complete their goals
- Delivers an easy, pleasurable, accessible experience on every device and every browser
- Gets the right information and experience to visitors FAST
- Does all of the above better than any of the competitors in the space
Links aren’t everything in SEO, but link building can be critical to a website’s success. Through links, search engines can analyze the popularity of websites based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them. There are two different types of inbound links that factor into how your page is ranked on search engines: internal links and backlinks.
An internal link simply links a keyword or sentence from one page on your website to another page. Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site. While backlinks are more difficult to accrue, search engines do weigh backlinks more heavily when determining rank. An easy way to create backlinks is by publishing valuable website content and promoting it through social media. While this isn’t a quick and easy tactic, it is a safe way to gain backlinks.
While there are many ways an SEO can build links, Moz has narrowed it down to three basic types of link acquisition:
Make sure you remain cautious of weak links and pursue quality links over quantity. Build links that are associated with great content and are relevant for your business and your customers. It’s vital that the links you build are natural so search engines do not think that you’re trying to manipulate the search algorithm.
As more and more users are searching and accessing content via mobile devices, not being mobile optimized can really affect your conversions and the end-user experience. In November 2016, Google began testing mobile-first index, which looks primarily at the mobile version of your site over the desktop for ranking purposes.
Google research states that people are five times more likely to leave a site that isn’t mobile-friendly and over half of mobile users will leave a website if it doesn’t load within three seconds. We’ve narrowed down a basic check-list for mobile site optimization.
- Responsive design
- Page loading speed
- Hosting speed
- Menus are short and sweet
- Page is easy to navigate (and it’s easy to get back to the home page)
- Touchscreen navigation (design for the fat finger)
- Site search is visible and search results are relevant
- Forms are simple and efficient
- Streamline form entry
- Click to call buttons for complex tasks
- Product images are expandable
- Users can purchase as guests
- No Flash or pop-ups
- Images, meta titles and descriptions are optimized
Google offers a mobile-friendly test for your site. Try it here.
Social media sites serve as broadcasting channels to gain visibility and get your content in front of your target audience. If your business is producing high-quality content, social media amplification will encourage more external sites to link to your content gaining your site more authority with diverse external links. Additionally, increasing your social media presence and reputation with high-quality content and increased engagement will lead to increased online brand presence. When brand presence is increased, it can lead to more brand searches and the more branded searches, the more likely to rank for non-branded keywords.
Similar to external links, social sharing contributes to a page’s authority. Having social sharing buttons on your website makes it easier for users to share your content and can improve search engine rankings. Sharing content on social creates backlinks to your site, and as previously mentioned, which are weighed heavily when search engines are determining rank. Each time your content is shared by a verified external source, it validates your brand and content which leads to a small improvement in domain authority.
Social media can also provide an opportunity to engage your business in your local community by sending local-specific authority signals to search engines. Be sure to make updates whenever your business gets involved in a local event and interact with other local business and brands on social media. These tactics can reinforce your participation in the community, which makes you more visible in local searches.
Getting to the top of the SERPs isn’t a quick and painless task. You’ll have to work hard to earn those rankings. While these key SEO elements are not the only ways to help get your site to the top, be sure to take a good look at them when optimizing your website for search engines.