One of the most basic necessities for developing a winning SEO strategy is improving your Google organic search rankings. Despite the fact that Google constantly tweaks their search engine algorithm, there are some fundamental best practices to get you started on improving it, which will get you into that golden Top 10 on page one and ensure that you are among the first thing potential customers see when using Google search.
- Define a keyword list – Think about how people would search for your products and services, make a list of these keywords, and check the estimated traffic for each term with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. Whittle your list down to the highest-trafficked, most relevant terms.
- Good content will win out – Always remember that writing compelling, high-quality content that attracts interest and compels visitors to share it and link back to it is vital. Good content has the best chance of being viral content, and Google rewards content virality heavily in its rankings algorithm.
- Create cornerstone pages – If you have 10 pages relating to the same set of keywords, Google will have a hard time determining which page is relevant. Instead, consider merging your content into a single cornerstone page. With one authoritative cornerstone page on a specific topic, there is no SEO confusion, and you should rank higher.
- Use keyword repetition and variation in page content – Creating relevant page content is still the best way to rank high, and a big part of content creation is your use of targeted keywords. Never repeat keywords too often at the expense of good writing, but you should repeat keywords in your content 2-3 times for short pages and 4-6 times for longer pages. Include important keywords in your first 50 words, since early placement can be a signal of relevance.
- Optimize your page titles – The <title> HTML tag defines a web page’s title and is meant to be a concise description of that page’s content. Google considers this to be the second-most important on-page SEO element. Keep page titles under 70 characters, with important keywords in the title, preferably in the beginning. It is also a good idea to include your company name as well towards the end.
- Write compelling meta descriptions – The <meta name= description content= > HTML tag is meant to be a concise explanation of a web page’s content and plays a big role in getting clicks from users. Keep your meta descriptions under 150 characters. You should also include target keywords in your text, since any words matching a user’s search query will be displayed in bold.
- Use keyword variations as anchor text for internal linking – Using descriptive, relevant anchor text helps Google determine what the page being linked to is about. When you use internal links, you should use anchor text that is a close variation of your target keywords for that page, instead of phrases like click here or download here. But avoid overuse of exact match keywords. Using close variations will help you rank better for more keywords.
- Don’t forget about ALT tags – ALT tags are HTML elements used to specify alternative text to display when the element they are applied to (such as images) can’t be rendered. ALT tags can have a strong correlation with Google SEO rankings, so when you have images and other elements on your web pages, be sure to always use a descriptive ALT tag with targeted keywords for that page.
- Your URL names matter – Shorter URLs seem to perform better in Google search rankings than longer ones, so keep that in mind when you build your site. Keep slashes to a minimum. You should also include keywords in your URL names, and try to place them closer to your domain name. When you have multiple keywords in your URLs, separate them with hyphens.
- No black hat – Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick the search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.
- Track your visitors and leads – In order to optimize your SEO results, it’s important to measure the impact of your efforts on web site traffic and lead/sales generation. Google Webmaster Tools can give you important insight into how your site is functioning and identify potential errors you should correct. An analytics tool such as Google’s Universal Analytics is helpful for measuring changes in search traffic as well as tracking visitors interactions with your web site that are a direct result of SEO. Marketing automation tools and call tracking tools (like DialogTech’s call tracking) can help you tie leads and sales back to SEO.
- Get social – Social signals are already impacting Google SEO rankings and many industry experts believe that will only increase. If you haven’t already, consider setting up some social media pages such as Google+ and Facebook, and start engaging with your audience.
- Have a link-building strategy – Link building is a catchall term for the practice of creating new external links to your site. Beyond creating great content people want to share, guest blogging and asking webmasters from authoritative sites relevant to your business to link back to your pages are great ways to build links. When possible, use keywords are the anchor text for your links, as this will help send signals to Google that your pages are relevant for those terms.
- Invest in a mobile-friendly site – Google has announced a mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that will have a significant impact on mobile search results. Seeing as about 50% of all searches done on Google are on mobile devices, the time is now to optimize for mobile and ensure your ranking doesn’t take a hit as a result.
To learn more best practices for improving your organic search rankings and Google SEO and PPC search ad ROI, this eBook can help, Marketer’s Guide to Call Tracking for Google SEO and PPC.