Oh, the wild, woolly world of SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Here’s what you need to know up front: there are no hard and fast guarantees when it comes to improving your search ranking on Google. Google is a private company with secret algorithms, so any strategies that you employ are really “best guesses” as to what Google likes and doesn’t like.
That said, Google itself does have some suggestions to follow, and there’s plenty you can do to make sure your website is at its best. SEO is a deep subject and any one of these points could lead to a whole course-load of information on how to follow through, but here’s a quick overview of how you can make sure you’ve done all you can to improve your SEO rankings.
Have a Well Designed Website
The first thing you can do is make sure your website is the best it can be. What makes for a good website, according to Google?
- Mobile-friendly design: This is an absolute must as Google has come right out and said it favours mobile-friendly sites. Make sure your site is ready for mobile by introducing dynamic code that causes the content on the page to shift around when viewed on smaller screens. Test your site on as many platforms as possible – phones, tablets, and laptops – to see if it’s adapting.
- Fast loading: Google likes fast! That means a clean design without excess tags made by someone who knows code.
- SSL enabled: Google is gently heading in a direction where sites that have a SSL certificate – a key code that means they use a secure form of HTTP to communicate with the web – will get preferred listings. It’s not an emergency, yet, but within the next year you’ll definitely be wanting your own SSL certificate on your site.
- Proper use of tags: Make sure all posts have informative keywords attached in the form of categories and tags – and not too many! Google likes to see two or three categories at most, and frowns on more; you can add five or six tags, but try to keep it as focused as possible. We want to tell Google what this post is really about, not scattershot anything that might be remotely related – Google can tell the difference!
- Optimization for social media: If you’re on WordPress. this usually means running a plugin like Yoast SEO or All-in-one SEO; they’ll set up great page titles and keywords for you and, if configured properly, make sure that each page and post is formatted in the best possible way for both listing at Google and sharing on social media.
Not sure how to make these fixes? A web designer is your go-to team member to make all this happen.
Keep Your Website Content Fresh
Keep your website current by adding new content on a regular basis – i.e. blogging. Google likes fresh stuff, and so when it sees that your site is being updated often, it ranks it higher than other sites that are full of static information.
In addition to adding new posts, make sure they’re high quality. There are lots of rules for writing a good, SEO friendly blog post, and there’s dozens of articles about this on the web. Quick summary: use a good title (informative, not cutesy); make sure the content of the article is clearly stated in the first sentence, and use your post’s keywords as early as possible; break up the post with subtitles and use lists to capture information; make sure the content is over 300 words and uses no repeated phrases. But again, this is sort of guesswork; we’re not sure how much of this Google actually cares about, and the most important thing is for your posts to be readable, informative, and fun. (If you’re on WordPress for your site and running Yoast SEO it will help you with these rules by giving every post a “mark” on how good it is.)
Network your Site
Try to get other sites to link to yours. This provides authenticity – if other respected sites like your site, then it must have good information (in Google’s eyes, at least!).
Some easy ways to do this are:
- Guest post on bigger sites (ask them if you can write for them), or invite bigger bloggers to guest post on yours (chances are they will announce to their audience where they are guest posting)
- Comment on other blogs on other sites, entering a link to your site in the comment form if there’s a box for it (but don’t embed your link right into your comment, it won’t help and is considered rude)
- Make sure you are linking to your new posts from your social media sites
- list your site in any local company directories that fit your business category
Work Your Google Account
Google is great at indexing the web, but you can also do some work to extra make sure that Google recognizes your site and has all the info on it. That means getting a Google webmaster account, registering yourself as the owner of your site, and providing some authentication. Then there’s some tech work you can do on the site to make sure it’s fully indexed in Google – like creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google so all pages on the site are indexed, and making sure your robots.txt file – a file that controls which pages are visible to search engines – is correctly configured.
Get People Clicking On Your Link
Lastly, there’s one thing that Google loves that you can’t quite control, and that’s people selecting your link when doing a search. For example – when people Google for search keywords that might match your site, of the list presented to them, which one do they end up clicking on? Google keeps track and it’s kind of like “votes” – if more people choose that link, it moves up the chain of results for that keyword set.
There’s not too much you can do personally to improve on this, but it’s one reason why those at the top tend to stay at the top. You can ask friends and family to google your site and then click on it – it’d be just a handful of “votes” but it’s something. Doing this yourself over and over isn’t going to help at all (!!), so don’t invest any time in that.
One clever way around this rule I saw recently was a Facebook viral post featuring an American company, O’Reilly Auto Parts. The post deliberately did not link to the site. Instead, it asked readers to go to Google and search for “American auto parts,” find the site for O’Reilly, then go there and enter part number “121g” for a surprise secret. Searchers were rewarded with a cute listing for a Flux Capacitor – and O’Reilly was rewarded with dozens of positive Google search results.
This idea likely wouldn’t work for most businesses, but it was a brilliant approach – and food for thought in the messy world of SEO. Sometimes good SEO requires thinking outside the box – you can still follow all these rules and find yourself on page 3 for the keywords you really want to hit. But keep at it until you find what works for your own website and business.