10 Painless Ways to Achieve Strong SEO
Google is always looking for ways to improve the user experience. Updates to its algorithms like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird have helped to ensure that only trusted, informative, relevant, and highly performing websites achieve high rankings in its results pages, and have been instrumental in shifting the way we approach SEO.
There are no lazy ways to do SEO. Instead, SEO has become a holistic practice that demands you pay close attention to all areas of your online presence. With this in mind, we’re going to be explaining how to achieve good SEO to ensure your site performs well and ranks highly.
Equally, knowing what makes good SEO will help you brief, identify, and monitor the right supplier if you intend on outsourcing your SEO work.
What Makes Brilliant SEO
There are so many strategies to achieve good SEO. Below, we will outline the best practices.
1. A good understanding of the Industry
Any SEO practitioner; whether it’s yourself, a contractor, or an agency, should be regularly reading about SEO. More specifically, information about:
Search engine updates (algorithm updates)
Latest research into ranking factors
Methods of making your SEO more effective
Follow the big players, industry experts, and influencers, like:
Neil Patel: Neil Patel is a digital marketing guru. His blogs, videos and business insights are highly informative and he covers everything from SEO, business development, strategy and digital marketing techniques. Basically, if you need to know how to do something better, Neil Patel is a wealth of information.
WooRank Blog: With their own powerful site auditing tool, Woorank was recently announced as one of the fastest growing companies in Europe. With a blog covering all topics related to enhancing your online presence, The Woorank blog is a powerful resource for beginners and leading experts.
Search Engine Land: A leading daily publication covering all aspects of the search marketing. Subscribe to Search Engine Land for timely updates on breaking stories, industry trends, feature announcements and product changes at popular platforms used by search marketers to reach consumers online.
Conferences for SEO practitioners are a great way of meeting industry colleagues and learning about new trends and practices. Great ones to look out for are:
- Brighton SEO - UK
- SEODay - Denmark
- Search Engine Journal Submit - New York, USA
- Search Marketing Expo - Seattle, USA
2. Know your Audience
Knowing your audience is a pivotal part of any SEO strategy. If you can’t put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you’ll find it hard to know how to attract them, what search terms they use, and what motivates them. It’s recommended that you create target audience personas to uncover:
- Customer needs
- Customer pain points
- Buying behaviors
- What motivates them into purchasing
- What influences them
Once you know this you can then begin to develop a strategy aimed at your customers to uncover potential search terms, identify which social media platforms you should focus your efforts on, and create content that will really connect with your audience. Remember that good SEO isn’t just about optimizing your site for search engines, but for your users too.
3. Technical knowledge
Having some technical knowledge will go a long way when it comes to executing good SEO. Technical SEO is fundamental to ensuring that your site is going to get found, get indexed, and continue to perform well. So, even if you don’t intend on carrying out the technical work yourself, having a good understanding of the technical aspects that need developing will be vital to ensuring that you can find someone that can achieve this for you.
Make sure you have some understanding of the technical things that can have an impact on site performance, especially elements that are ranking factors, including:
A responsive design that renders properly for mobile devices
Make sure your site is being properly indexed and crawled by using a tool with a crawl feature.
Eliminate duplicate data
Know how to optimize your technical on-page content, like title tags, meta descriptions, H1 tags, and URL structure.
One of the most important ranking signals is the number of backlinks pointing to your site. Backlinks are external sites that link to your site, and search engines regard these as referrals. Backlinks can also pass page and domain authority to your site - known as link juice - and have the added advantage of publicizing your site to a wider audience.
The process for achieving backlinks should be conducted with integrity, honesty, and transparency and never by employing black hat techniques. (see below for more details). Techniques include:
Registering to trusted and well-managed business directories
Using tools like social mention or Google alerts to track when your brand, products or services are being written about and encouraging these site owners to link to your site if they haven’t already done so
Widen your trust and network by reaching out to key influencers within your niche. Branch out and connect with people to build a proper relationship with editors and site owners. If you don’t succeed at this it will be harder to secure backlinks when you ask for them
Creating great content is probably the best way to secure natural links. Sharable content or content that provides real solutions to genuine problems are more likely to get people linking to them
Getting testimonials from previous clients can be a great way to generate a link and both parties can benefit from having referring links.
In the quest for good SEO obtaining quality, natural backlinks are much like a role in public relations. It’s about putting yourself out there, being active in online communities, offering help, and building relationships with site owners and users.
5. Absence of bad techniques
We couldn’t possibly discuss ‘good SEO’ without looking at bad SEO techniques, and these are definitely elements you should be aware of.
Bad SEO, or black hat SEO, refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies and techniques that focus on optimizing sites for search engines above the user experience. These can often violate best practices - laid out by search engines - or be disapproved techniques. Common ones to look out for are:
Keyword stuffing: Overusing keywords in meta descriptions, H1 tags, anchor links, image’s alt descriptions, or using too many H1 tags is referred to as keyword stuffing. If search engines catch on to this ‘over-optimization’ of pages you can risk being penalized and will typically result in a drop in rankings. Google’s 2011 Panda update was issued to detect and filter pages employing this strategy, so make sure you’re not producing pages with thin content with a high keyword density.
Content Automation: Content is generated using tools or scripts to generate and publish content. Automated content is typically devoid of any elements that enhance the user experience such as headings, images or formatting and worse still, does not focus on user intent. Again, Google can and will detect and penalize a site with automated content.
Duplicate content: Copying content from another site will be regarded as duplicate content. Because copied content doesn’t add value to the user, search engines will always index the original content over the copied content. In other words, copying content from another site will have zero benefits.
Article Spinning: When site owners realized that simply duplicating content wasn’t going to get them anywhere people began rewriting articles and publishing them as new pieces. However, article spinning - especially when automated - often means that words get exchanged for different words and can cause problems for the user and therefore affect ranking potential. Wikipedia highlights an excellent example of this, when ‘Great Britain’ becomes ‘good Britain’ which is a common error when spinning automation is employed.
ClickBait content or headlines: As the name suggests, clickbait headlines are provocative headlines that only exist to encourage users to click through to the page. Often the on-page content is nothing more than an irrelevant ad or the content has no relation to the headline. So, if you see a headline like ‘You must read this, it will shock you to your core’, it probably won’t! Worse still, site visitors can report you, you’ll lose audience trust, and more than likely increase your bounce rate. Since bounce rate is a ranking signal you’ll probably see your page rank plummet.
Unnatural backlinking: There are several ways that backlinks can be obtained that are deemed unnatural. These include:
Paying for links or reviews
Using link exchange schemes (putting reciprocal links on sites),
Link farming - a group of websites that all link to other sites that exist within the group
Be wary of offers from site owners that sound too good to be true. Only go for backlinks that are going to add value to your users and regularly check the quality of backlinks with a tool like Monitor Backlinks to disavow links from poor quality websites.
When Google launched the Hummingbird update it redefined the way that Google understood search queries, meaning that content had to begin focusing on answering real problems. In other words Hummingbird aims to favor websites that answer user’s questions. With this in mind, when creating content for your site it should:
- Answer questions
- Fulfill search intent
- Be in-depth and well researched
- Contain over 1800 words or more.
7 & 8. Conversion & User Optimization
Optimizing your site for increased conversions is likely to impact on the overall user experience and improving both will be very beneficial to your site’s overall performance. Remember that Google favors sites with a positive user experience, so keep the user in mind at all times when making developments to your site. There are tons of ways to enhance and monitor the user experience and conversion rates. You may want to consider:
Improving site speed: There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for pages to load. In fact, 47 percent of consumers expect a page to load within 2 seconds. Check out our guide to improving WordPress website speed.
Use a service like HelloBar to drive traffic to secondary level pages and convert your visitors
ExitMonitor is a nifty little tool allowing you to track user’s exit intent. By detecting when a user is about to close your site, it gives you the option to include a ‘before you go...’ message.
Check My Links (Chrome extension) allows you to check for any broken links on your site. These can be a real cause of user frustration and can be simply rectified.
9. A focus on local - if required
For local businesses, local SEO is a must. A report by Google found that 50 percent of consumers that conducted local searches visited the store within a day - meaning that local searches are packed with intent. Optimizing your site for local searches includes:
Ensuring your NAP information is consistent and up-to-date: Your name, address and phone number should be kept and used in the same format across all web pages (internal and external). This including formatting differences like ‘ZipCode’ or ‘ZIP CODE’.
Register your business with Google My Business (GMB): Once you’ve verified your business you should add your opening hours, images and NAP information. Make sure you keep your Google+ pages regularly up-updated with relevant content and be active in group discussions within your circles.
Encourage your customers to give reviews: Encourage customers to provide feedback (preferably via Google) and make sure that you respond to them. You can view and respond to reviews via your GMB dashboard.
10. Use of a good site auditing tool
The easiest way to determine whether you are conducting good SEO is to use a trusted site auditing tool. A tool like WooRank will examine over 70 different site components such as technical SEO, on-page elements, social media engagement, track keywords rank, and pitch performance against your competitors. Without site auditing tools it is hard to identify areas that need improving and monitor your site’s progress.
Wrapping it up
If you’ve made it this far then you will have noticed the important and recurring theme. Good SEO essentially boils down to providing an exceptional user experience - not just on your site - but across all online platforms where your site is present.
Don’t just focus on optimizing your site for search engines but think carefully about how you can improve the customer journey and their overall experience. If your users enjoy your site this will be reflected in bounce rate, engagement with pages and the number of backlinks you can achieve, which are all vital ranking signals.
What do you think makes good SEO? We’d love to hear about your approaches.