Websites are a vital marketing tool when it comes to attracting new customers. However many websites are missing out on a valuable source of traffic by not being as visible as they could be in search engine results.
Sam Crowther, our Website & SEO specialist, has put together 10 tips for improving your website’s search engine rankings:
1) Voice search – the future of SEO?
The popularity of smart phones and the more recent developments in smart home devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, have spawned a new way to search the internet. Voice search is becoming more & more popular, and it could be set to change the face of SEO. Voice search is more natural & conversational in tone, and as your device usually knows where you are, it’s also more mobile and localised. Search phrases tend to be longer and contain more questions. Think about how people actually speak and how customers phrase specific questions about your products or services.
2) Be clear what you want to rank for
Most businesses have a fairly good idea which keyword phrases they want to rank for, but it’s important to know exactly what your target audience are actually searching for - there are often differences in how you refer to your products & services, compared to what your target audience are actually typing into search engines. Regular keyword reviews will help you identify opportunities, such as high-volume/low-competition phrases that you might not have considered, as well as changes in search trends.
3) Switch to SSL ASAP!
It’s a known fact that search engines want to make sure the sites they link to are secure for their users. SSL encrypts data, making your site more secure to use, which is why sites using it are preferred by search engines. If you haven’t already switched to SSL (i.e. having the HTTPS instead of HTTP in front of your site’s url), making this change can improve your search rankings.
4) Backlinks are still crucial
A good backlink profile, whilst not as important it used to be, is still a crucial ranking factor. Make sure your backlinks are regularly reviewed, bad ones are removed/disavowed, and take a strategic approach to building new ones. New backlinks should be built manually by sharing content, engaging with trustworthy websites, guest blogging and requesting backlinks wherever you’re business is mentioned online.
5) Video content
Videos look great on your site, and they provide more interactivity for your users. They are also great for SEO too. Bite-sized videos that have been posted on your YouTube channel and then embedded on your site are best, but don’t leave it there. You can post a link to the video to your other social media feeds, use it in an email newsletter, in your advertising, online PR, and even write a blog article about the video with comments and highlights from the transcript.
6) Sliders are BAD!
Sliders look great, and they are useful if you have a number of products, services or USPs that you want to feature prominently in a visually appealing way. But, there are loads of reasons why sliders should be avoided at all costs, including the negative impact they have on SEO. Content in sliders is often overlooked and not always indexed by search engines, meaning that USPs in sliders (particularly those on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th slides etc) are never seen. Sliders can also take ages to load, and by pushing the rest of the content down below the fold, they reduce its effectiveness. This leads to increasing bounce rates and reducing conversion rates. Sliders can be replaced by a background image overlaid with a block of content containing all your USPs.
7) Website structure
You need to make sure that your site employs the basic best practice use of meta tags, alt tags, header tags, page structure, internal link structure and ease of navigation. The pages on your site need to be structured in a way that gives them the best possible chance of ranking for your most important keywords, such as a cornerstone structure. Cornerstone pages are those that are most important for your business to rank for. So if your business has 4 main product/service types, you would have your homepage linking to 4 cornerstone pages, one for each, and then most of the other pages on the site linking back to the relevant cornerstone page. Organising your content in this way allows your site’s PageRank to be channelled through the cornerstone pages, giving them the a better chance of ranking well for your most important keywords.
8) Local SEO
On-site optimisation to improve your rankings for location-specific search phrases includes making sure you have your address and a Google map in your footer. Off-site, you need to make sure you have complete and up-to-date listings on the Google, Bing and Yahoo business pages. You should also claim or create business listings on other online business directories, and make sure they all contain consistent information. Genuine reviews are also great for local SEO. Ask your customers to post reviews on Google and/or other relevant review sites such as TrustPilot. With their permission, you can also feature the reviews on your website too.
9) Page load times
10) Content is still king
Content is still the most important factor in search engine rankings, so there’s no such thing as too much content – providing it’s done properly of course! Search engines are constantly striving to provide the best quality, relevant results for their users. So, to rank well, your content needs to adhere to all the latest SEO best practices when it comes to structure, tags, length, links, keyword density etc etc. And don’t forget, content can be videos, images and infographics as well as new pages and blog articles.
If you’d like some help improving your site’s SEO, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can analyse your site’s current SEO, provide you with a report highlighting any issues & areas for improvement, and help you develop a longer term SEO strategy to drive on-going ranking improvements.
About the Author: Sam Crowther is a Digital Marketing Specialist with over 15 years experience developing digital marketing strategies, designing websites, SEO and conversion rate optimisation.