The online marketing era has given rise to search engines as the ultimate power over brand awareness and visibility. And they are only getting smarter. Marketers spend extensive time researching how the search engines think and react to the content they provide (yes, search engines can “think” and “understand” your content, to some extent). It’s like trying to win a game of chess – you have to understand the other player’s strategy before you execute your own.
SEO is the most advanced tool in today’s marketing industry. It’s partially analytical and algorithmic, but equally creative and competitive. Fighting for SERP “real estate” these days isn’t as easy as you think. But there are consistencies across the board that will help you achieve high ranking long-term:
Content is where the search engine and your target audience look for the same thing: quality information. The search engines rank sites they think give visitors the most relevant information. Long-form content and sites with a content “theme” rank higher overall, as compared to sites with short copy or that cover a variety of subjects. Search engines also prefer pages with video and image accompaniment to the copy, as visitors are given more to engage.
Backlinks are like a “vote” for your website, by another website, that says your content is high quality. However, not all backlink “votes” are equal. Receiving links from many different sites (as opposed to many from the same site) and links from high ranking sites benefit your SEO campaign significantly. Google weighs backlinks from authoritative sites more than any other factor in their algorithm. To learn more about backlinks, check out this resource page on Linkbuilding for Online Reputation Management.
Keyword research is the foundation of any successful SEO strategy. If your site is to be truly relevant and visible, you need to know the top keywords that most of your customers are searching for. Google recently updated to the Hummingbird algorithm, which focuses on semantics rather than volume of keywords in their SERP rankings. This means that related keywords to your search and the context in which you use them factor into rankings for top keywords. Using keywords in your URLs, title tags, descriptions and image file names also helps boost visibility.
Many people don’t put enough emphasis on outbound link building for their pages. But building relationships with other authoritative sites is the best way to receive quality backlinks. Plus, outbound links show search engines what you consider to be related to your site, and therefore helps you rank higher for certain topics.
Great content is useless if it’s hard for the search engine to find that content. Structuring your site to make it easy for visitors and the search engine crawlers to find what they need goes a long way into ranking on the top SERP. Your site should also be mobile friendly and content canonicalized (reducing duplicate content to a single dominant URL).
92% of consumers look for local business online, in tandem with the rise of mobile device searches. Your best consumers are likely to search for a keyword, city phrase, because they are more likely to be ready to buy. If you have multiple locations, having separate pages for each is best, along with Google my Business and third party site listings.
Other factors, such as site speed, bounce rates and keyword usage in title tags and URLs boost rankings, but not to the extent that these six methods will work. Search engine algorithms change all the time and their nuances can be hard to decode, even for the best marketers.
However, these true and tried methods will help you create quality sites, which is what all search engines are looking for. Create website content that is genuinely useful and relevant to your target audience, and your site will build popularity over time.