Let’s face it. For many companies appearing high on the list of search engine appearances is make or break. Search engines, namely Google, can have a tremendous impact on brand awareness, industry influence and your bottomline. So, what does this mean? Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, should be a priority for most, if not all, competitive businesses. Sure, your product is better than the others, but no one is going to know about it if it’s not in front of their face. That’s why SEO is at the top of the list for most digital marketing strategies, and that’s why even mom-and-pop businesses are getting in the SEO game, making it that much more important to be at the top of yours. Sure, you can hire an SEO expert, or a marketing company, to take the burden of your shoulders. But, there are some things you can do for yourself, and it’s not as hard as it sounds. We’ve put together a list of some changes you can make today to help your business get the attention it deserves. Here are 13 ways to improve your site’s SEO.
1. Help search engines find your site with a sitemap
First and foremost, the best way to make sure Google can find your site is to submit a sitemap. A sitemap is basically a profile on your site that tells search engines about your site and updates them when you add new pages or update existing pages. Confirming whether you have a sitemap, and submitting one if you don’t, should be your first stop on your SEO improvement journey.
Need a little help? Lear more on building and submitting a sitemap here.
2. Become a Google Analytics pro
If you aren’t already tracking your website traffic with Google Analytics, you need to start doing that right away. Why? Because it gives you a glimpse into the mind of your site’s visitors: what they’re interested in, what they’re clicking on and when they choose to exit the page. Google Analytics can reveal if there are challenges with your site’s navigation, when and where visitors get bored and leave. On the flip side, it also shows you what’s working.
For example, if you have an explainer video on one of your pages that is keeping visitors engaged and on your site longer, you might not know it but that does more than educate potential customers, it tells search engines that your site is relevant. Using this tool will help you identify what’s working, so you can do more of it.
You can also customize Google Analytics to track different conversion points on your site, that way you are getting the data you need to support different campaigns you’re testing out. In short, Google analytics provides you confirmation on whether your SEO efforts are actually working. Essentially, it’s important to track your website traffic. Over time the data will be your guiding light, revealing what’s working… and what needs work.
Don’t let this overwhelm you, getting started isn’t rocket science and Google provides free courses to show you how.
3. Make sure your website is SSL certified
Whether or not a site is SSL certified is one of the top ways Google ranks websites. Hundreds of millions of websites on the internet don’t have a SSL certificate installed which means it’s dropping their search ranking dramatically. So what is it?
An SSL certificate authenticates a website’s identity and authorizes an encrypted connection: basically meaning it secures your internet connection and prevents cyber-criminals from modifying information or exposing sensitive data, like customer or transaction details.
You need to get a SSL certificate and ensure it’s installed on your website for more reasons than one, but SEO is on the list. Here’s a guide to securing and installing a SSL certificate.
Quick tip: to tell if your site or others are SSL certified, look at it’s URL. If it begins with https instead of http, then the site is secured.
4. Optimize your website
Next, make sure your website is running at an optimal level. What we mean by that is, is it loading fast? Does the user interface (ui) make sense? Does it have a streamlined user experience (ux) design?
Website conversion rates drop an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time, according to Portent. Focus on load speeds, navigation, and easy-to-understand content. Don’t insult your visitor’s intelligence but also pretend you’re making the site for a person with a 5th grade education. That’s because even adult users don’t want to have to think about their next click, they want, rather need, it to be easy.
Think about it like spring cleaning, just make a habit out of reviewing your site for unnecessary code, updating your site to look clean/modern and easy to scan and replace content, like images and videos that are optimized for the web (more on this later). This will tell Google your site is user-friendly and naturally retain more visitors for longer… thus improving your SEO.
Here are more tips on how you can get started on optimizing your website today.
5. Create a network of links
Creating a network of links throughout your website is a great way to improve your SEO. When a website links to yours it’s called backlinking. You want this to happen because Google will view the information as important and that improves your SEO. You also want to link to other, reputable sites. But be careful because some sites are not considered reputable or secure and linking to these could be counterproductive because Google will see it as a negative.
Make a habit of linking to reputable sources, checking those links regularly to ensure they’re still working (having links that no longer work is bad for SEO) and adding internal links throughout your site too. Internal linking happens when you link from one page of your site to the next.
For example, here’s a blog we recently published on how to select the right marketing company. That’s an internal link. It helps SEO and makes your website more user-friendly.
Quick tip: you can use tools like Dead Link Checker to scan your website for links that are no longer working.
6. Focus on quality content
To become relevant and remain relevant you need to rely heavily on the quality and quantity of your content. Compelling content will attract visitors and, even better, repeat (or even regular) visitors.
One way to do this is by creating an engaging blog series that interests people. This gets people on your site, keeps them on your site for a while, may get them to come back later and builds your reputation as a category expert.
Few things to keep in mind: make sure you’re creating simple, engaging headlines (take the extra time to really make your headline pop), divide your articles into sections so it’s not a big block of words (this will make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for and encourages them to keep reading), and choose evergreen content. Not all content is evergreen content but creating a reliable cache of content you can go back to, revamp and re-publish will save you time and helps to build your brand without a whole lot of extra work.
Quick tip: blogs are a great way to practice your new skills on optimizing your website. I.e. linking and optimizing images/using headers. More on that in our next section.
Extra tip: you can use tools like this one to help you optimize your headlines.
7. Optimize your images
Visuals are, of course, great for your site. But you need to make sure they are optimized if you expect them to improve your SEO. This means you need to format and size them correctly. Huge images might give you the pop you’re looking for but actually are bad for site navigation and slows down your page loading time. Resize/compress images to optimize them.
Quick tip: images are a great opportunity to sneak in some key words and phrases. Name your image something you think your customers might search for, like “best forklift rental in west Michigan.” More on keywords later!
Extra tip: you can use tools like this one to make sure the images you’re using are optimized.
8. Headers, headers, headers
We touched on this already but it’s worth an extra mention. Adding extra headings on your pages is always a good thing. You want to break up your content into easily readable nuggets so it holds people’s attention. This helps your user interface/visual appeal and encourages visitors to stay on your site longer. Thus improving your SEO ranking. So in short, no big blocks of information, break those suckers up.
9. Include videos and infographics
Good content doesn’t necessarily mean blogs and articles. People process visuals 60,000x faster than words. Videos serve the same purpose as an article and can be a great way to get your message out effectively. Think about ways you can add compelling multimedia to your site. Animated videos have been shown to increase conversion rates by up to six times.
Think about other ways to increase multimedia use on your site. Informational videos from industry experts in your organization, slideshows and infographics are just a few of your options!
Consider infographics. This is a phenomenal way to increase traffic to your site. Creating a compelling infographic that interests your audience will keep people on your site, is easy to link to and is very popular when it comes to backlinks. Think hard about a topic you can create an infographic on and then spend time on creating a really good one. Hire a freelance graphic designer if you need to. The goal is an infographic that captures people’s attention and is well-designed. This could result in a huge boost to web traffic, not to mention industry influence and brand awareness.
Quick tip: pair your multimedia with an article for an extra-EXTRA boost to your SEO that really beefs up your web content while you’re at it.
10. Use keywords like your business depends on it
You’ve probably heard it before but one of the best ways to improve your SEO ranking is by using targeted keywords and phrases that are relevant to your target audience. This basically means words and phrases that your potential customers or audience regularly search for. For example, “best bakeries in Charlotte” or “fine dining open for dinner on Sundays.” First you find the phrases you need to incorporate, and then you sprinkle them throughout your website, so that Google (or other search engines) notices and ranks your site higher.
However you want to be specific, identify just a few words and phrases that best match the audience you’re targeting. Overdoing it with too many keywords is actually counterproductive because sometimes Google notices it as “keyword stuffing,” and your SEO ranking will suffer.
Quick tip: need a little help determining what keywords you should use? No problem, tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner were created to help you and your site thrive.
11. Pay attention to on-page SEO
Now that you’ve selected your keywords, it’s time to hone-in on your on-page SEO, which, essentially, is how you use target keywords throughout specific webpages.
Areas you’ll want to incorporate keywords include your actual URL, your title tag (the heading that appears in search results), within the body text of your site, in the meta description of your site (the summary describing your site in search appearances), main headings on your webpage and even your image alt attributes (this is the text you put in to describe your image in the event visitors can’t view it). All these small things can play a big part in improving your SEO ranking.
Quick tip: use tools like Yoast SEO to see how your on-page SEO stacks up, and how you can improve.
12. Get set up on Google My Business
This might be obvious but it’s worth a mention. You need a business profile on Google and all other search engines so potential clients will find you if they search for a business like yours. For example, if you’re a shoe store in south Tallahassee and someone searches for “shoe stores in south Tallahassee.” That way search engines can connect you to the customer without much work from you at all.
There are other features to creating a business profile, which can help your SEO, like sales offers and reviews. More, and better, reviews also (you guessed it) improves SEO ranking.
Quick tip: make sure your business is listed on all relevant sites (Yelp, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, etc.) and ensure business information (address, phone number, etc.) is consistent across the board. Google bots will take notice and this gives your business an extra boost SEO-wise.
13. Have a strategy
Last but certainly not least, have a strategy. As mentioned previously search engines rank websites higher that are regularly updated with fresh content, so you need a content strategy. Don’t just approach it with a “let’s throw content at the wall and see what sticks” kind of method. Think it through. What’s going to get people’s attention while also aligning with your ethics and the kind of reputation you want to build for your business while improving your SEO? These things aren’t mutually exclusive. Take the extra time to be intentional.
Learn more about the marketing world, here.