It isn't rocket surgery, but it is brain science
SEO is as much an art as it is a science. You can do it well enough and get results that are good enough. But for businesses in crowded, saturated markets, sometimes “good enough” isn't good enough. In our discussion on why SEO is important, we reminded you that, statistically, only the top three search results get clicked on. If you aren't in those top three, you're wasting your time and money. Let's fix that.
Here are five ways to rank higher on Google. Some of them are obvious, others aren't. But if you want to win the SEO fight, you must unlearn what you have learned and do it correctly (or do it not — there is no try).
1 – Use Keywords Appropriately
It's not enough to have the right keywords thrown slapdash on your website and in your content. Google is smarter than that now. You have to use them to mean what you need them to mean in context. The Google algorithm looks at your use of keywords in your content, in meta-tags, in your search results, and behind the scenes to make sure your keywords aren't being used spamily.
The good news is you can control all of that. If your website runs on WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great way to clean up and monitor how your keywords are being used in each of the areas Google will look for them. Another plugin we HIGHLY recommend is SEOPress plugin that is extremely affordable and they even have a free version as well.
In your content, use the keyword naturally in the first paragraph and in subheaders. Behind the scenes (i.e., on your site's backend), make sure the keywords are used naturally in image descriptions, alt text, captions, etc.
2 – Clean Up Your Website's Backend
Unclear backend code is the silent killer of SEO efforts. If your backend has broken tags, excessive script code, duplicate title tags, or analytics tagging problems (to name a few), your site might be torpedoing your SEO work.
An outdated XML site map is also a prime suspect for backend-related SEO problems. Put simply, an XML site map lists and organizes URLs for a site. This map allows Google to easily find each URL and details SEO-pertinent information like when each URL was last updated and the type of content on the page. Most of the common content creation platforms allow you to generate these maps yourself, but it's something you want to make sure gets done. Once you have your map created, register it with Google Webmaster Tools to ensure that it's formatted properly.
If any of that seemed like Greek to you, you're not alone. Even marketing firms will sometimes outsource their SEO work — it's best handled as an assembly-line process by shops that are built specifically to tackle SEO. Get your web developer or SEO team on the phone, have them evaluate your site's backend specifically looking for these items and fix anything that looks wonky.
3 – Hit the Links (and Backlinks)
An integral part of your site's SEO performance is your link strategy. What pages does your site link to (links), and what pages are linking to your site (backlinks)? The more credible and authoritative both your links and backlinks are, the better your site will perform.
The easier one of these to manage is your links — what you have linked on your page is obviously completely in your control. Take inventory of your site's links, starting with the top-performing and most-visited pages, to ensure that your links are naturally woven into the text, link to quality sites, and include a healthy mix of internal and external links. Internal links take visitors to other pages on your site (e.g., how we've linked in this post to other blog posts we've done); external links take visitors to other websites (e.g., how we've linked to Yoast SEO and Google Webmaster Tools in this post).
Managing your backlink game can be a little trickier, but is still important. You can use tools like Ahrefs and Monitor Backlinks to determine which URLs link to your site. If less-authoritative sites are linking to your page, this will hurt your credibility and will ultimately lower your SEO rankings. Getting those backlinks removed can be as simple as reaching out to those site admins and requesting they be removed. In the rare case of a stubborn (or MIA) site admin, you can contact Google and ask that they remove those backlinks from their ranking algorithm.
However you do it, remember to monitor both the links from and backlinks to your site regularly. This is one of the easier ways to dramatically increase your SEO rankings. Pick the low-hanging fruit first, right?
4 – Create Question-answering Content
Most of the time, people search on Google to answer a question. Whether they type out their entire question or just the main keywords (you are correct to make the connection here with SEO “keywords”), the point is their intent is often to have a question answered.
A quick way to beat your competition at the SEO game is to have the most authoritative answers to the most common questions asked about your keywords. And there's a simple shortcut to first place in this game: build content around the question keywords.
It's a simple exercise. Google the top keyword for your business and see what questions are being asked about that keyword. Google is great nowadays about suggesting frequently-asked questions surrounding keyword searches. Develop a content strategy around answering those top questions. Build your content to answer the questions and then use the other strategies we've discussed here to make sure you're ranking as highly as possible.
This one-two punch of targeted question-answering content and solid SEO strategy should rocket you to the top of the page. Of course, make sure you have an aggressive content marketing strategy to boost your engagement, but that's a discussion for a different time.
5 – Optimize Continually
A marketer's work is never done. At least not if they want to keep winning the top spots on Google. SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy. It takes constant work to ensure your content is engaging, authoritative, and properly-linked. It takes constant work to ensure your site is built in a way that makes sense to Google's algorithms, including pruning dead links, updating XML maps, and cleaning up the backend.
Two other quick optimization-related tasks to perform: make sure your site is mobile-friendly and reduce the load time of your site by reducing image and file size. You wouldn't believe how many sites in this day and age are still not optimized for mobile. That is a sure-fire way to turn off a solid half of your potential visitors. And quicker load times mean fewer bounces off your page. A super easy way to reduce your load times is to optimize image and file size for the web.
Make those two quick changes, stay vigilant on the rest, and never let more than a month go by without taking a diagnostic of your SEO fitness.
There's a lot to do when it comes to SEO. There are no two ways about it. You're competing for breathing room on the most popular search engine in the world (92% of searches happen here — it's not even a contest). If you want to win (or even place in the top 3), you have to get smarter and more aggressive about your SEO strategy. “Good enough” won't cut it anymore. Hopefully we've given you some actionable tasks to improve your SEO game here.
And yes, a lot of this can feel like voodoo. Not to worry — you've got friends on the other side here at Incline Marketing Group. We'd love to run an SEO diagnostic for you and get you in fighting shape. Run your website through our FREE WEBSITE SEO CHECKLIST or drop us a line and we'll find a time to chat.