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With just Google alone clocking more than 1 Trillion searches each year, getting found online is a very relevant and worthwhile pursuit.
For any business selling products, services or something else entirely, ranking among the top results for keywords relevant to your niche can make or break your entire business model. Whether you’re a brand new Startup, or a seasoned Entrepreneur, search engine optimization provides a passive way to earn traffic, which in turn should hopefully convert into paying customers, or at the very least, generate relevant and worthwhile leads.
In this blog post, we’ve gathered a list of some practical steps you and your business can take, in order to rank better on search engines, the world over. But keep in mind that overdoing anyone of these tips could lead to trouble, particularly with Google, as they have the reputation of being the most vigilant and active in their hunt for poor quality websites.
- Content is everything
- Titles and Headings
- Meta titles and keywords
- Link and Menu structure
- Cross-linking your own content
- Linking out to authority sites
- Cleaning up broken links
- Link webmaster tools and analytics
- Link Social Profiles
- Google Local Places
Content is everything
First and foremost, when worrying about your website’s placement in Google’s search rankings, you should ask yourself how great your content is, compared to the top results currently showing. Chances are that you have plenty of ideas for improving your content once you have researched the top 10 results on your topic.
One strategy is to simply write longer, more detailed content with a higher quality than that of your competitors, but if you are simply recycling the same content everybody else is using, then you might not get the full benefit that unique and quality content can earn you.
Put yourself in your customer’s place, why are they searching for that keyword, what information would they like answers to? By providing a genuine and helpful website, your visitors will stay on your site for longer, they are more likely to share your site on social media, and when building links pointing to great content, you will find your job is easier.
Paraphrasing Google; if you only wanted to focus on one thing with regards to SEO, your content would definitely be it!
Titles and Headings
An important part of on-site optimization of your website, using the most relevant keywords in your pages <title> and <h1> tags, Google and other search engines will know to associate your site with those keywords. Instead of just having your business name in the title, adding the keyword can provide a significant boost by itself.
Don’t overdo this technique however. There should only ever be 1 <title> tag in the <header> section of the website per page, and similarly, only 1 <h1> tag per page as well. By stuffing multiple header tags on the same page, your website is at risk of being classified as potential spam.
Penalties range from complete exclusion on the organic search results, to minor adjustments in your rankings.
Meta titles and keywords
A few years ago, having <meta type=”keywords” content=”your keywords here”> was an important part of SEO. However, this particular tag does not see much use anymore, at any rate, not with Google’s algorithms. The meta description however is still important, not so much because of rankings, but because this description is what search engines will show underneath your websites title.
It is therefore of great importance, that your website’s Title and Meta description are not just containing the relevant keywords, but they should also be interesting to humans, enticing people to click on the link.
Link and Site structure
How your website is structured, and how your navigation menus are setup plays a crucial role in ranking well. Generally speaking, all subpages should link back to the top domain since that often is the best ranking and most linked-to page on any given website.
Therefore, it also makes sense to populate the homepage’s title and meta description, <title> and <h1> tag with the most relevant keywords possible. Keep in mind that search engines prefer a few keywords per page, meaning that if you sell women’s clothing, you should not have all the different types of clothing in the homepage title, rather the most generic, top-level keywords.
Then on your subpages is where more specific keywords, such as Dresses, Jeans etc. belong. Spending some time on planning this for new sites, or restructuring on an existing site, can yield great results, and is often worth the time it takes.
As with all optimization, it is important to think primarily as a visitor and not as a search engine, meaning that while a keyword might be desirable for a title, if the visitor would be confused by the keyword optimized title, it might be better to change that title for something more descriptive and meaningful.
Cross-linking your own content
Another important aspect is to cross-link your subpages internally. If your website has a blog, in the posts where relevant, they could and should link to other posts on the same topic, or in the case of an ecommerce store, having links from subcategories to other similar categories is advised.
Using anchor texts, meaning keyword specific links can be a way to associate keywords and pages, but once again, overdoing this can send a signal that the site is attempting to manipulate results and rankings, and thus earn itself a penalty.
Linking out to authority sites
Especially relevant for blogs, magazines and news sites, linking out to external websites is another way for a website to signal topic relevance. By linking to strong authority sites such as Wikipedia, Github, CNN and other large, respectable sites can provide a reference that search engines pick up on and thereby associate genres, niches and topics on the external site, with your internal site.
Generally, a page should not link out to more than 10 sites in a typical blog post of 1000 words, but can be as high as 30 if the content calls for it.
Cleaning up broken links
With never sites, this might not be so relevant, but for websites of any age and especially sites with backlinks from external domains, going over and identifying broken links pointing to your site can yield some good results.
For instance, if another website has linked to a page on your site that is no longer in use, that site might show an error, such as a 404 page not found, or similar messages. That means that the effect of that external link is not taken advantage of, and that link should then redirect to another relevant page on your site.
301 redirection is the most common form of handling these types of broken links, and Google has stated that all “Link juice” gets transferred with 301 redirects.
Link webmaster tools and analytics
Managing SEO on a website, using Google’s Search Console, formerly webmaster tools, can be an invaluable asset. This tool gives access to a number of data, including broken links, external pages linking to your site, recommendations, error messages and much more.
Using Analytics as well will help to optimize pages and structure.
Link Social Profiles
By linking directly from your website to your social media sites, you can harness the power of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and many more. Adding these links serves your users, and yourself by creating a more trustworthy connection between your media.
Google Local Places
Lastly, but not least, signing up your company for Google Business, formerly known as Local Places, you can receive a backlink from google maps, and the authority that comes with it. It is also debated that Google search prefers sites linked with a verified physical address, since that helps establishing trust.