SEO 101: What Is It and Why Do You Need It?
Creating an award-worthy website with plenty of great content and visuals won’t get you very far without a rock-solid SEO plan in place. “If you build it, they will come” is not an effective strategy in today’s competitive world of search.
Neither is strictly focusing on social media. According to research compiled by Search Engine Journal, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. That means people are still relying on search engines over social media to find the information they’re looking for when going online. Make sure your business meets them on the first page of their search results.
SEO can be a daunting process to master, but mostly requires persistence and focus over gimmicks and tricks. Steadfastly stick to an SEO plan to work towards top ranking for the keywords you want to rank for the most. But how exactly SEO works and why you need it is still a mystery to many. Here’s what it’s all about and why you need it.
SEO goes beyond using quality, relevant keywords and includes the overall user experience of your website. Site optimization takes into account the overall look, feel and usability of your website and will impact your search results. Choose a responsive website theme to give your audience a consistent site experience. Just like the name implies, a responsive theme responds to the browser or device someone is using and ensures elements like graphics, photos and videos load and display properly.
Load time is also an integral part of your site optimization. Google’s algorithm looks at your site speed to help determine its search result ranking. A slow page could put a dent in your site ranking, so it will take longer for search engines to crawl your site.
But perhaps more importantly, users won’t stick around for a slow-loading website. Research shows 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. And for those who do stick around, even a one-second delay can decrease their overall customer satisfaction.
If your website is taking too long to load, look at your plugins, graphics and videos to see what’s slowing it down. Your website theme could also be the culprit. Do some experimenting and A/B testing to track down what’s weighing down your site and give it a refresh.
Site Navigation and Usability
Site navigation can also fall under site optimization, but it’s a considerable part of your overall SEO plan. If your customers and readers can’t find what they want on your site, they’re unlikely to stay even if you have a fantastic design and quick-loading web pages.
Look at how the overall architecture of your website helps visitors navigate. That same ease of navigation also makes it easier for search engines to crawl your entire website and give your SEO some extra help. Use an easy-to-follow menu at the top of your site so visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for.
Some bloggers and businesses also use a “Start Here” page in their menu to give visitors a quick overview of what to see first. This could include your most popular posts, website tutorials on a popular product or feature, and commonly-asked questions.
Your website navigation should also focus on cleaning up broken links and replacing outdated content. Links going nowhere or connecting to spammy sites with no real value will degrade both your user experience and SEO efforts. Always keep quality and ease in mind when building your website.
Regularly Posting Quality Content
Regularly updating your blog can give your website an SEO boost. For starters, new and fresh content keeps readers coming back for more and brings more traffic to your website. But Google also looks at the inception date of your posts and content that slowly degrades as it ages. No matter how often you post, your content strategy should also fit into your overall SEO efforts, from keyword research to earning backlinks.
The quality of your content also matters. The blogging world is far too competitive to post a few 500-word articles and hope for the best. According to internet marketing experts like Neil Patel, 3,000 word blog posts get more traffic and command higher ranking. It makes sense that in-depth, quality content gets shared more and is seen as more valuable than its 500-word counterparts.
But that doesn’t mean you have to rush out to start creating mini novels for your next posts. Focus on high-quality text, and use images, infographics, and videos to help give your online presence increased credibility. You can also outsource your blog content to experts trained in researching and writing quality posts.
Doing Keyword Research
Keyword research was once one of the few things that Google looked at to rank your site. This may have made it easier to rank in search results, but was frustrating for consumers who couldn’t find the information and products they were looking for. While things have changed dramatically in the world of search engine optimization, keywords are still an important factor in your search results.
Do in-depth keyword research with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to see how many monthly searches are executed for that particular keyword. You may end up ranking well for a keyword that only gets 50 to 100 search results, but that also means there won’t be much traffic for that particular query. To get more ideas, use conversational keywords and phrases. One easy way to do this is by opening a browser and typing your keyword into Google’s search bar. You’ll automatically see a list pop up underneath with common searches that could trigger new inspiration.
Next, weave your keywords and phrases in naturally throughout your content. It’s generally best practice to use the keyword in your title and first paragraph to give your SEO an added push. Just don’t fall into an amateur’s trap. Using the same keyword over and over again will not only annoy your readers, but Google also frowns upon it.
The number of relevant, quality backlinks to your site can increase your SEO and help promote your content at the same time. There are several ways to do this, but one popular option is guest posting on someone else’s website or blog. The idea is that you will write a high-quality post for someone else’s blog (someone who has more traffic than you) and include a do-follow backlink to your site. Google sees the quality links and, over time, will rank your site higher. In the meantime, new readers are introduced to your site and may even spread the word.
Another way to earn backlinks is by harnessing the power of influencer marketing. Although celebrities and world-famous entrepreneurs are considered influencers, you can also target micro-influencers with a few thousand social media followers that align with your specific website niche. As you network and build relationships with these influencers, they’re likely to start sharing your content and help give your backlink efforts a boost.
Not all SEO is created equal when it comes to mobile, and it’s not a market you want to neglect. According to a report by Hitwise, U.S. mobile search accounts for nearly 60% of overall search query volume.
But there’s another reason optimizing your site for mobile is so crucial. In 2016, Google began testing its mobile-first index to primarily look at the mobile version of your website to determine its ranking signals. If there’s no mobile version available, it could negatively impact your search results ranking.
It’s also wise to stay away from aging technologies like Flash that don’t render on most mobile browsers, and small font sizes that force a mobile user to zoom in. Your images and elements should also be far enough apart so that a user can easily tap their way through to the content they’re looking for. Menu buttons that are so close together that they can’t be readily accessed are a problem for mobile users. Fortunately, there are endless website theme options that are already built with a responsive mobile theme in mind. Always test your website on mobile devices to get a clear picture of how your content will look on a small screen.
Measuring Your Results
SEO has plenty of best practices and guidelines to follow, but still isn’t an exact science. That’s why it’s important to measure your SEO results with tools like Google Analytics to see what’s working in your SEO efforts and what’s falling flat. Create A/B tests to see which content performs the best after meticulous keyword research, or which content outranks everything due to influencers being on board. The key lies somewhere in using a variety of proven techniques to find the formula that works best for you.
What are you struggling with in your own SEO efforts to build your website traffic? Let us know by leaving a comment below.