In this digital age, where websites are a dime a dozen, finding sites with substance can be a feat in itself. With the myriad of options available when we search on the internet, you’d typically have to skim through those that may look good on the outside but lack the substance you need and the answers you are trying to find. What makes a website of value? It is more than content or design. Your website needs to be SEO-ready too.
The internet is abuzz with tips on ways to improve SEO rankings, tools to write SEO-friendly content, and everything else SEO that ratings-hungry website owners jump the bandwagon without fully understanding the basics of SEO. What is SEO? How do we create SEO-ready websites, and how do we use it to improve the ranking of our sites on different search engines?
Your website won't do you as much good if no one can stumble upon it. Your goal is for people to find you on the internet, so you can connect with your visitors, communicate your brand’s intent, and hopefully convert them into followers, subscribers or customers. According to statistics gathered by bluecorona.com, “93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 47% of people click on one of the first three listings (SEJ, 2016).”
Imagine the internet as a giant, global library, and the search engines as your librarians. These digital librarians pour through every content on the internet and stores data on every book there is available in the world. The search engine’s job is to provide you with the best possible choices in response to your queries. How search engines know which content to recommend to you is by looking for specific ingredients in its recipe, called algorithm.
Within this algorithm system, search engines understand what’s inside every “book” and how each one relates to one another. It looks for correct keywords throughout your content, links to trusted sites, correct naming of page URLs and titles, and also checks for relevant images and videos. The algorithm also takes note of your website traffic, or how many visitors go to your site, how long they stay, if ever they come back or like your content enough that they share it and link it in their blogs or social media accounts. All these data, your digital librarians like Google, Bing or Yahoo, record meticulously through Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
SEO remains a dependable marketing strategy despite the ever-changing trends of the digital age. SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods because it targets users who are actively looking for your products and services online. To make your website easier to navigate for the search engines, SEO helps both the search engines and your customers to browse your website. If the search engines can easily find you, the people would too. Higher SEO rankings in the result pages will get more impressions and clicks, diverting much-needed traffic for your website. How do you increase your SEO ranking? It is to create an SEO ready website or transform your existing website into one.
We’ve listed down 5 effective ways to make your website SEO ready:
1. Words Matter
Search Engines scan through every word on the surface web. When someone searches for a particular keyword, the search narrows the results to include only the pages that have those words. Search results are dependent upon the algorithm of the search engine, which means that the placement of keywords within your article is essential.
Write for People, not Search Engines
When Google Search analytics was not yet as good as it is today, low-quality content proliferated the internet. Blog posts as short as 300 words were churned in by websites by the day and in volumes so they can rank higher in keyword searches. It was more of a numbers game where more content published meant more traffic for the site.
Nowadays, Google has shown that it prefers and gives priority to high-quality content. Google aims to provide its users with the best possible answers and detailed responses to every query. It does not matter if you do not post daily content anymore, as long as you are producing helpful articles that genuinely provide answers to what people are looking for, then you can improve your website’s ranking. After all, you are not writing for the Search Engine; you are writing for people.
Google Analytics observe posts from your webpage that made the highest engagement with your users. Discern what type of articles made visitors stay longer and read your content. Along with that, determine which ones produced the highest conversions, whether to sales or newsletter sign-up. Begin to use this information to find a strategy that is suitable for your niche.
Choose the Right Keywords
Keywords play a significant part in SEO. Start by identifying and writing down keywords relevant to your topic. There are tools to determine which keyword to use, such as Keyword Planner from Google and Ubersuggest (both available for free); and Ahrefs or SEMrush, which are more advanced SEO tools. You can also hire an SEO company to do the nitty-gritty part for you.
See what questions people are asking, and integrate the top keywords into your content title, headlines, and sub-headlines. Use them seamlessly, not forcefully, into the first 300 words of your article. Avoid keyword stuffing strategies as it can potentially damage your rankings.
The keywords should be organic to your post, as you aim to provide genuine answers to people’s queries. Readers quickly check if your page can help them, and they usually won’t stick around until the end of a post to find out. Your goal is to make them stay and read on because high bounce rates can decrease your SEO ranking and weaken conversions for your website.
Apply headlines and sub-headers
Apart from making your post look organised and adequately outlined, the use of headlines and sub-headers in creating content makes the material readable. People tend to click on and share user-friendly posts. Headlines and sub-headers also help in increasing keyword saturation. This way, you can insert essential keywords that flow with your material.
Another critical part associated with SEO is the images that you use. Having relevant pictures can make your content more engaging and shareable. People are far more likely to purchase from a company whose website has attractive and relevant photos.
You can optimise your photos by doing the following:
Customise the name of each image to include the keyword you’re targeting (e.g. primarykeyword.jpg) and update the alt text on the page with your keyword as well.
Using the right image size that will NOT result to slow loading time
Make the image as small as possible without compromising the visibility or quality
Use image editors’ built-in features to resize images, or use apps like Squoosh to quickly compress your image files.
2. Titles Matter
Each page on the web has an official title embedded in their code. Search Engines pay a lot of attention to page titles because they often summarise a page like a book title.
Carefully Select Your Domain
Your domain name is not just a digital placeholder or locator. Just like a book title, it should give search engines an idea what your page is all about. Choose easy-to-remember domain names where your keyword is naturally included. If you can, avoid using dashes and complicated characters that can cause SEO difficulties. Avoid pun words that can be confused with something else (e.g. naming your domain www.merryme.com can be confusing because the word “merry” sounds like “marry.” Even if the user knows that “merry” means “happy,” your domain does not give precise details what your page is about). Just like ordinary businesses need to include the specifics of their business in their brand’s name, so should your domain.
User-Friendly URLs are a Must
The structure of your website is not always on top of the priority list, but it is still vital and should not be ignored. Simple URLs unique to each page should be a common practice for web developers. Just as your domain, your URLs must be simple and memorable, give a clear glimpse about the page, and if possible, naturally include your keyword. HostGator, a popular web and app hosting site, says that “your site architecture should also help you create a structure for your URLs that provide the visitor information on their positioning in the website.” For example, if one of your top-level categories is “Gowns” and a subcategory is “Bridal Wear,” with another subcategory “Long Gown,” the product page should be ”www.websitename.com/gowns/bridalwear/longgown/product.”
Optimise Title Tags
Title tags are part of your website that gives search engines details about your page that it can use for its algorithm. It’s a great spot to use your target keyword. Don’t stuff all the keywords here. Just pick one target keyword to include. Keep the tag within the 50-60 characters or less, so it doesn’t appear cut on search engine windows.
3. Links Matter
When one webpage links to another, it’s usually a recommendation telling readers, “This site has good information.” A webpage with a lot of links coming to it can look good to search engines. But some people try to fool the search engines by creating or buying bogus links all over the web that point to their website. Nowadays, search engines can detect when a site has a lot of them, and they account for it by giving links to trustworthy sites more weight to its algorithm.
Add links to previous content
Backlinking is often ignored but is one of the ways search engines rank content. The greater the backlinks a webpage gets, the higher the SEO ranking. Good content tends to get a lot of backlinks – both external and internal. To drive more traffic to your site and rank older posts higher, provide a backlink to them in your newer posts, to help the search engines and people to find your best articles. Internal linking also helps your readers navigate easily in your webpage, causing them to stay longer and keep your bounce rate at a low.
Use Reliable References
Links to high-quality trusted (canonical) websites and using good and reliable sources within your article increase your trust-rating with both readers and search engines. The better the links and references, the higher your page will rank in search results.
Provide Shareable Content
So, you’ve successfully managed to write an SEO-friendly, content-rich, interesting article that people want to read. The next step is to make it shareable. Websites like ShareThis and AddThis make it easy to add social media buttons to your website so people can share the content easily.
Create an XML Sitemap
The XML sitemap helps search engines understand your website’s structure when they are crawling it. As you pass more data to Google, you can also determine the most important pages on your website and make them a priority.
Use robots.txt for pages on your website that you don’t want to be crawled so you will not spend your crawl budget unnecessarily. Always update this file if you are changing or restructuring your website.
4. Design Matters
Mere words are not enough to gain high SEO ratings. A website that has a good, intuitive web design, backed up by good content, of course, can help websites rank higher in search engines.
Create an Intuitive, User-Friendly Website
Users prefer simple designs nowadays, with readable text, fresh designs, and easy-to-find icons for “Contacts Page,” “About Us,” and the like. A no-nonsense interaction with your visitors encourage them to stay longer on your website, and eventually, habitually return. So it’s imperative that your web design quickly grabs their attention and helps you make that crucial connection.
Make Your Website Responsive or Compatible with all devices
Google’s algorithm also includes the mobile-friendliness of websites for them to rank higher in search results. It means your content looks consistent while it adapts to the various sizes of different devices. In 2018, statistics showed that 52.2% of web internet traffic happened on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Search engines do not prioritise non-responsive websites and therefore miss out on more than half of their market potential. Mobile browsers also get turned off easily with non-responsive websites.
A CSS3 function called media queries allows web designers to specify the display of a document for different output media and screen sizes. The display is adjusted according to the media type, screen orientation or screen resolution. Since June 2012, media queries have been a standard for responsive web design recommended by the W3C, or World Wide Web Consortium.
5. Reputation Matter
Sites with a consistent record of fresh, engaging content and growing numbers of quality links may be considered rising stars and do well in search rankings.
Select a Reputable Web Hosting Provider
Google will not rank your website highly if customers are not happy browsers on your webpage. One factor that makes users dissatisfied is loading time. Make sure your website loads fast and delivers consistently in terms of speed. HostGator, Blue Host and GoDaddy are mainstream choices, especially for beginners and small business owners.
Respond to Comments
Manage your website well, including responding to comments and further queries from your visitors to encourage community. Whether the comments are positive or not, reply and show your visitors, they are of value to you. This personal connection you establish with them will cause them to come back because you showed you cared. As mentioned above, you are not writing for the search engines but people, so do not ignore when people on your site try to communicate with you.
Get Total Protection Against Cyberattacks and Data Breaches
Be a better website publisher by making sure you arm yourself with total protection against cyberattacks. If you are not protected, you are compromising every visitor that comes to your site. Be aware of the latest cybersecurity trends and threat so you can apply the appropriate action to prevent cyber thieves and attackers. You also need to know what to do in the case of a major data breach to protect your subscribers and customers from further harm.
Good Websites + Good SEO = High SEO Ranking
Good SEO is about making sure your website has excellent content that’s supported by the ingredients that search engines need for their recipes. In the end, your motive for producing websites with high-ranking SEO is to serve your market and help them solve the questions and problems they are currently experiencing. Your goal is to provide content that is unique and useful to your visitors. When you leave that kind of impression with people who browse your website, coupled with good SEO practices mentioned above, it will not be hard for you to rank highly with search engines. Be a good website first, and it will clearly show in your SEO ratings.
John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors. Ever since, Digital Marketing has always been his forte. He is the Founder of SEO-Guru, and the Managing Director of Tech Hacker. John is also the Strategic SEO and Influencer Marketing Manager of Softvire Australia - the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.