While traditional marketing methods may become obsolete with time, SEO is here to stay in 2021.
This is primarily because the amount of content is expanding radically, with 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years alone.
With these numbers, SEO should be not only a part of but also a priority for any content strategy. SEO may seem daunting as a whole, but when broken down into different processes, it is easy to implement.
Here are some basic yet crucial SEO practices that may go hand-in-hand to get a business started.
1. Using exceptional content creation techniques
Working on SEO may put the writer in a mindset of creating content for the bots rather than humans. It is essential to focus on providing users with substantial, engaging and unique content that compels them to stay on the page and build trust.
Language: The language of the content, its expression, tone of writing and length should be influenced by the nature of the audience and industry. Well-written content increases the dwell time and reduces the bounce rate.
Research: Any published content is solely the brand’s perspective until it is backed up with the correct facts and statistics. Performing excellent research and adding statistics helps validate the point with authority.
The length of content: The ideal length of content is always debatable, but longer, in-depth blog posts are nine times more successful in lead generation than short ones. Longer content always brings more value in terms of audience and is cited more often, generating backlinks.
Meta description: This is an essential attribute that influences the click-through rates. Search engines like Google display these meta descriptions in the search results. It is recommended to write meta descriptions of about 50-160 characters because it is the first thing users read about a particular page when they are served with search results concerning their query. The meta description does not directly impact Google’s ranking algorithms for a web search, but it may affect the click-through rate, influencing the page’s ability to rank.
Take a look at Tesla’s meta description. They convey what the company represents, its products, brand values and ambitions in just 22 words.
Headlines: Content headlines may be a deal-breaker because they lead people to click on a page. One must aim to have the right keywords and call-to-action in the headline. It is fine to make it catchy as long as it does not look like clickbait.
Here is an example of Ramsay Taplin’s headline that generated high traffic like all his other posts. It is noticeable that his headline is simple to understand, relatable, has the right keywords, evokes emotions, and answers a problem.
Accuracy: It is important to be conscious of grammar and spelling mistakes in the content as it affects the user experience, which will play out in the rankings either directly or indirectly.
Consistency: It is advisable to write and publish content as often as possible without compromising the quality. Having fresh and well-informed content will create more opportunities to generate organic traffic.
Keyword placement: According to research conducted by internet live stats, Google’s search engine processes over 40,000 search queries per second, resulting in over 3.5 billion searches a day. This statistic implies that 80% of any website’s traffic comes from search queries based on keywords.
Creating keyword pool: Researching and making a list of keywords relevant to the business must become a regular habit. It is better not to go after keywords that are necessarily popular and everyone is chasing. It is wiser to use keywords that specifically drive people to what a particular business has to offer.
Let us consider a digital marketing business to understand the targeting of keywords better. The keyword “digital marketing” has a high cost-per-click and paid difficulty. Rather than specifically targeting this broad keyword, the business might aim for the keyword “what digital marketing is”, which has a lower cost-per-click and paid difficulty. The former keyword has a higher search volume than the latter, but it is equally hard to rank for the former.
Creating separate pools of keywords: It is also more beneficial to create two different sets of keywords, i.e. short tail and long tail keywords. Both have distinct advantages and complement each other if used together. For example, a short tail keyword is “DIY room decor”, whereas a long tail keyword is “DIY room decor ideas for university dormitory”.
Short tail keywords have two to three words. They have high search volume and competition, but they also generate high revenue if you rank for them. Whereas long tail keyword searches have a click-through rate of 3% to 5% higher than generic searches. They are a combination of three or four keywords. They have low search volume and competition and are easy to rank for. The short tail keywords may also be embedded in the long tail keywords to rank for more specific search results.
Branded keywords: It is important to have a branded keyword unique to the business. It could simply be the business name or anything particular that always pulls up the brand’s website every time someone runs a search.
This is how Salesforce ranks high for every relevant keyword because their brand name is part of the keyword itself.
Keyword placements: The best keyword placement practice is to include keywords in page links, internal links, title tags, meta tags, H1 tags, content body and sub-domain, if not the main domain. Having one or two keywords in the top 100 words of the page also influences the page’s position when search engines crawl the web.
Overuse of keywords: It is not a good idea to create content based on the keywords just to stuff them in. Instead, one must create genuinely engaging content and then identify how one can place the right keywords. Even if the visitors land on the website due to the page being filled with many keywords, only good content will keep them engaged and coming back.
2. Focusing on improving user experience
RankBrain is the third most important ranking factor for Google search. It is focused on behaviour metrics and informs Google whether the visitors enjoy navigating through the site.
83% of users say a seamless experience across all devices is essential. Having a good UX helps visitors find the answers to their questions faster, reduces the bounce rate and boosts brand awareness.
Website architecture: One must invest in the website’s architecture by having a responsive website. Some factors to consider are: making the fonts large and readable, eliminating annoying pop-ups and unnecessary fields on forms and making the CTA buttons visible.
Page loading time: This has always been one of Google’s prominent ranking signals. According to a study, 40% of the users abandon the website, and 80% won’t ever return to the website if it took over 3 seconds to load. A slow loading site creates a sense of frustration in the users, eventually hindering them from purchasing any product.
To improve the site’s speed, one must remove non-essential elements that are responsible for slowing down the page speed. This could be large files, videos or images. One must leverage browser-caching processes and try to eliminate auto-play multimedia formats.
Hosting: It is always advisable to select a reliable hosting plan that’s always up and running, even in high traffic.
Table of contents: Creating a clickable table of contents is a good idea for long articles/posts. However, the direct SEO benefit is negligible. The actual value comes from making it easier for users to jump to the part they want.
3. Optimising landing pages using SEO best practices
Optimising landing pages for SEO is more like running a marathon, not a sprint. The changes made to the site will take time for the search engines to recognise. But in the long run, it will give the leverage one has worked for.
One must think of every landing page as a solution to an individual problem the visitors have. With this perspective, a brand will focus on delivering a singular and powerful solution. Companies with 10 to 15 landing pages increase leads by 55%.
Moz is an outstanding example of how optimising the landing page can work in the brand’s favour. They generated an additional $1 million per year when they redesigned their landing page and used it to promote one of their core products. Let the landing page design be focused on a single purpose. Giving too many choices will not help visitors make the right decisions and lead to reduced conversion rates.
Email leads: Compared to other pages, landing pages have the highest possibility of capturing email leads.
Call to action: One must use a stand-out or pop-up call-to-action in the landing pages. It may be a sign-up form for the newsletters, contact form, or any other action initiator.
Social proof: Social proof is when testimonials and customer reviews or awards from reputable organisations are displayed on the landing page for first-time visitors. It increases the chances of conversions.
Incorporating media: Using impressive images and embedded videos may increase conversions by 86%. Landing page images and videos allow connection to the intended audience through storytelling.
Page content: One must curate helpful content on the landing pages. It is best not to fill the spaces for the sake of SEO if one wants to sustain visitors' interest on the page.
Heystack is an excellent example of a captivating landing page that will make the visitors stay for more.
4. Optimising URL structure for search engines
A URL is a unique fingerprint that holds a web page’s location on the internet in terms of SEO. It provides informative signals that help search engines understand the page’s content, purpose and target audience.
URL length: This has been listed as #46 in Google’s top 200 ranking factors. Shorter URL’s always rank higher than longer ones.
URL readability: Accessibility has always been a part of SEO. One must create 100% readable URLs. The easier a URL is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines. One must include mobile-responsive URLs in a sitemap because search engines rank mobile-friendly pages higher in mobile search results.
URL keywords: URLs get linked regularly, and when there is no anchor text, the URL itself serves as that anchor text. However, one must make sure the URL has relevant keywords and represents the content that is to follow.
Canonicalising URL: If there are two URLs with very similar content, consider canonicalising them. Canonicalisation is the process of converting data that has more than one possible representation into one standard and approved format. This way, every resource on a given website will have a single URL rather than multiple URLs hosting identical content. Duplicate content is not necessarily a search engine penalty, but it may create a split of ranking signals that may harm the search traffic potential.
URL transfer: If a business changes the URL for some reason, it is recommended to notify the search engine by adding a 301 redirect to redirect the user from the old broken URL to the new URL.
5. Repurposing the content regularly
Almost 60% of successful marketers reuse their existing SEO content two to five times.
Brian Dean is the master of extracting maximum value from his published content. Instead of constantly pushing out new content, he believes in keeping his existing content updated and qualitative. He re-promotes his content on social media and emails that result in a 111.37% increase in organic traffic to the page.
Repurposing is far from republishing, and that is the mistake businesses often make. Repurposing lets the brands take content meant for a particular audience and platform to an entirely new audience and platform. This requires substantial changes and effort.
Choosing content for repurposing: Not all content is worth repurposing. One must use analytics to explore the most popular content pieces. It is essential to understand the reasons for their popularity and then work on redeeming that content into a new format.
For instance, your blog posts may be converted into guides and podcasts, webinars to a video series or master class, statistics and facts into infographics and slides. Old content can be updated by adding images, fixing grammar and other minor errors. There can be much to do with the existing popular content if there is an excellent strategy to go with it.
According to a survey by Curata, only one-third of leading marketers said they have a systematic process to reuse or repurpose content; 56% said repurposing was sporadic, with 2% not repurposing content at all.
With repurposed content, brands are not violating Google’s guidelines but only creating more brand awareness.
6. Optimising images for search engines
According to HTTP Archive, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight. So when it comes to website optimisation, images are a crucial factor to be considered.
Labelling images: To begin, one must name the images properly. The file name may give search engine clues about the subject matter of the image.
Image attribution: Image alt and title attributes are the next simplest settings that help images rank higher in a search.
Image source: One must avoid using stock images that are found in photo usage sites. These images have probably been used a lot and will affect the originality of the website.
Images with higher resolution, larger dimensions and file size may negatively affect the page loading time, so it is vital to choose the right type of file. JPEGs are more SEO-friendly than PNGs, as PNGs produce higher quality images and have larger file sizes. JPEG uses lossy and lossless optimisation, and one may adjust the quality level for a good balance of quality and file size.
7. Increasing search signals using social media
Social media is important for SEO in two different ways. It makes SEO activities effective and lucrative at the same time.
A study by Hootsuite tested the SEO results of articles with and without social promotion. Those with the top social shares received an average 22% boost during the duration of the experiment.
Google does not take the number of social shares or followers into consideration when ranking a website because it would be easy to cheat the system. But passively, social media is the hinge that holds the SEO success.
Social indexing: Social media may help the content index faster because of how search engines treat social media content. If the website content gets a lot of attention on social platforms, it will end up getting indexed at a quicker pace.
Social sharing: Social media is a meaningful way to let content creators find link-worthy content that they won’t come across otherwise.
Implementing all these SEO techniques may seem daunting right now, but it is critical for boosting rankings and building a solid brand. Such a user-centric approach to the online presence will keep the users satisfied, nourish strong relationships, and tell Google that the website is a valuable online resource.