SEO is one of those easily mystified practices that small business owners and nonprofit managers ask us about constantly.
Sometimes we recommend contracting with a third-party to jump start the process. And if you’ve never done any SEO on your website and you’re tired of being on the 12th page of Google, then, yea, maybe that’s the best route.
But for most sites, achieving top page rankings and optimizing for organic search is something you can do yourself. But we always tell clients: if you’re doing it right, it won’t happen overnight. The best way to sustainably increase your search rankings (and make your website better in general) is to create original, useful, and well-produced content, create a lot of it, and publish regularly. It may not be easy, but that’s the most important way to get on the first page of Google.
That said, some simple changes can dramatically increase your search visibility. Here are the techniques to try going into 2020…
1. Increase your click through rate
That’s the number of people who click on your link from the search engine. How? Put a number in the page or post title. Research shows people are more likely to click on a link that contains a number. Tailor your titles and description tags to copy Adwords content. I.E., use the benefit of all the split testing that Adwords users have already done. Say you want to make a post about “maximizing the value of your IRA.” Start by searching that term on Google and/or Bing. What ads pop up when you search? Chances are that the ads you’re seeing have undergone a lot of testing to optimize their copy. Reading that copy will give you ideas of what combination of words are being clicked on by people. This copy can go directly into your page and post titles and synopses.
2. Make your content super sharable.
There are a lot of ways to do this and rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll point to this post at Backlinko with great suggestions. But here are a few for the impatient: Use numbers and brackets “[…]” in your titles. Create short but descriptive URLs for posts and pages. Add a colorful image and share buttons above the fold. Make your text scannable. Mention influencers and other accounts. Use professional images throughout. And be relevant and practical with your copy.
3. Get an SSL certificate!
This is the ‘http’ vs. ‘https’ prefix on your site. An SSL certificate tells browsers and visitors that there is encryption between the server and web users. And all search engines are increasingly giving preference to sites with encryption, and even starting to punish those without. Installing an SSL certificate can be difficult, but there are low-cost options available and many web hosts and domain managers (including us!) make it easy.
4. Find your competitor best keywords.
Sure, you could use a generic keyword tool to find relevant keywords for your content. Or you can find the exact keywords that your competitors are using successfully. How? Find a competing site that’s ranking high on Google. Then put that site’s homepage into a tool like SEMRush or Spyfu and you’ll find the keywords they’re currently ranking for. These are the keywords you want to include in your content, specifically in title and description tags. Use the keywords that are relevant to your business and around which you can build stellar posts.
5. Use internal links.
Throughout your content, where relevant, put links to other pages, posts, and media that you’ve created. Keep these natural and relevant, but when you can, link to other content.
6. Content matters.
SSLs matter, mobile friendliness matters, your meta tags matter. But the reason everyone uses the internet is for content. Give your audience relevant, well crafted, interesting information. And whenever you can (such as with videos and photos) include captions or other text so that search engines know exactly what your content is about. When you provide information that people want, they’ll keep coming back, and that will positively contribute to your SEO rankings. Too many sites are like business cards, with contact info and a flashy photo, but no useful content.
Max is the owner of Maine Creative, a Portland-based design and marketing firm, in addition to Intoxicles, a company he started in 2015 that makes cocktail freezer pops. When he’s not hustling, he likes learning, cooking, and hiking with friends. You can contact Max by emailing email@example.com, or find him on Facebook or Instagram.