SEO Ranking Improvement Guide.
How to Improve Your SEO Ranking
The history of search engine optimization (SEO) can date back to as early as the 1990’s when the first website and search engine were launched. Despite being around for over 20 years, SEO is still a concept that marketers are trying to master every day.
Search engine optimization is a process of getting your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Why is this important? Because there are 5.8 billion Google searches every single day, and chances are at least a few of them are searching for something that your business offers.
The art of mastering your SEO has become increasingly important yet increasingly difficult. Keywords are a lot more competitive due to the volume of websites trying to rank for them, so much to the point that sometimes it can be nearly impossible to rank for some keywords that are extremely competitive.
Despite the difficulties, the need for a high position in the SERPs is a crucial part of any marketing campaign. If your website isn’t showing on the first page of the search engine results for your industry related keywords, then you are losing all your potential customers to your competitors. Research conducted by Blue Corona found that 97% of people do not click past the first page on Google, and 55% of all clicks go to the first three organic results.
Imagine missing out on 55% of customers, just because your website isn’t ranked in the top three results.
There are believed to be over 200 ranking factors that affect SEO, and the search engine algorithms are constantly evolving to prevent misuse and black-hat techniques such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. Because of this constant evolution, it very difficult to keep up with the latest important SEO factors. (Search engines do not actually reveal their exact list of ranking factors to prevent people from trying to artificially manipulate search results. By keeping their factors unknown, they are able to know the web pages shown are genuinely helpful to the user.)
Some of these 200 factors are for on-page SEO, and some are for off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to the changes that you can make on your site such as the actual written content, whereas off-page refers to factors outside of your site that affect your SEO such as backlinks.
So, if it is important for your business but so difficult to master, how are you supposed to go about improving your SEO ranking?
Web DesignBefore we even get to the written content, let’s discuss the layout of your website. Your website design will be important for three major SEO factors: mobile-friendliness, page speed and user experience.
All of these factors have been confirmed to affect page ranking by Google.
Many search engines including Google now use a mobile-first index, meaning they use the mobile version of your website to index and rank your site. Google made this switch to a mobile-first index in July 2019 as 61% of its searches are from a mobile device, nearly double the amount five years ago.
Make sure that you have the exact same content on your desktop site as your mobile site, and make sure the site is responsive on mobile including images and videos. To check if your website is mobile-friendly, use Google’s free mobile-friendly test.
Additionally, you want to make sure that your page loads super-fast. This isn’t just to please Google’s algorithm, but also to please your customers. Google reported that 53% of mobile users leave the site if it takes more than just 3 seconds to load, yet the actual average page load speed is 8.66 seconds.
Here are some things you can do to help increase your loading speed:
Check Page Speed.Google has its own free page speed checker tool that you can utilize to see how well optimized your website is.
Shrink Images.Images are one of the main factors that affect a website’s ability to load quickly. Make sure your images are defined, the correct file size, and in the right file format (JPEG’s are web-optimized). Use image compression tools such as Caesium or Mass Image Compressor to reduce your image file size whilst still maintaining high quality.
The importance of the right framework also plays a role in your loading speed. At Marketing Monkeys, we focus on Python Django development. Python code is amazingly simple and clean in its nature and thus loads up faster than PHP or other programming languages.
I appreciate this can be confusing for those of you that have no idea about coding, and that is okay. Avoid unnecessary plug-ins where possible as these can actually slow down your loading speed. Focus on the other aspects whilst seeking out help from coding experts such as Marketing Monkeys.
Use a CacheA cache means that your website will load faster for second-time visitors, as parts of your page will be stored in their browser cache. Remember that each file the server needs to download, the longer your loading speed.
Finally, a fully responsive web design will increase your user experience, which will in turn result in users spending longer on your site. If users return to Google fast (known as bounce-rate), then Google will view this as your website being invaluable, and therefore not worthy of a high-rank position.
DomainThere are two main factors under the domain that affect SEO ranking: domain age and domain authority.
Research by Ahrefs found that the average web page that ranks at number one is 3 years old and that only 5.7% of newly published pages will get into Google’s top 10 within a year. This shows that SEO is a patient process and not one that you should expect instant results in. If you are a new site, focus on following the tips in this article, and over time you will see your articles ranking higher in Google’s search results.
Domain authority is a prediction of how well your website will rank in the search results. Moz’s Link Explorer tool helps you discover your current domain authority by analyzing current on-page and off-page SEO factors present on your site.
One of the best ways to improve your domain authority is to get backlinks from existing high domain authority websites as this shows Google that your website must have a ton of value if other high authority sites are linking to it. The easiest way to gain these backlinks is via guest posting. Write an article for a high domain authority website in exchange for a precious link.
LinksHaving just discussed the importance of links to improve your domain authority, let’s go more in-depth about how that can affect your SEO results.
Google currently uses the PageRank algorithm to rank web pages in its search results, and as stated by Google:
“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”
In other words, backlinks are one of the biggest factors that affect your rank position on search results.
As just previously mentioned, gaining backlinks from high authority websites is crucial (this is known as inbound links). This is because a Google update in 2012 placed an importance on the quality of backlinks over the quantity. It is a lot more valuable to receive 2 backlinks from websites with a very high domain authority than 10 with extremely low domain authority.
However, it isn’t just the authority of the site that matters, it is also the relevance. If you run a blog on travel, and you get a link from a high authority site that writes about cats, Google won’t view that as an important backlink. Focus on gaining backlinks from high authority sites that are also in your niche.
The best ways to gain these valuable inbound links are through creating thorough, in-depth, and well-researched content that these websites will want to link to improve the quality of their articles. Once you have created these impressive pieces of content, email owners of high authority sites and let them know! If you type your keyword into Google, you can see blogs that are linking to your competitor’s articles. Email the owner of that site to let them know you found their article interesting and just wrote an in-depth guide which may make a positive addition to their page.
Google also places an emphasis on outbound links. If you mention a study or piece of research from another high domain authority website, then be sure to link to it in your article. This will show Google that your article is of good quality as it is referencing other high-ranking pages. Reboot Online found that websites with outgoing links to other high authority domain websites rank higher than those that do not.
Aside from linking to and from external websites, it is also important to include internal links in your web pages. Internal links are links to and from different pages on your own website. If you are quickly brushing over a topic in an article that you’ve already written about in-depth previously, then link to it. These internal links help users and Google to search relevant pages on your site and can even pass over some authority to newer articles to help them rank higher. Aim to include at least 3 internal links per article.
Page ContentNow we’ve discussed the important off-page, technical factors, let’s focus on the fun stuff - the page content.
Keyword ResearchThe first thing you want to do is conduct keyword research. This will be words or phrases that your target audience is searching for, and subsequently, you want your pages to rank for.
Title and Description TagsYour title-tag is one of the most important on-page SEO factors because it gives search engines an overview of what the whole page is about.
To perfectly optimize your title, include your keyword towards the start of the title. For example, if your keyword is ‘sales funnel’, a good title would be ‘Sales Funnels Explained’ or ‘Sales Funnels: The Complete Guide’.
Meta descriptions are no longer used by Google as a ranking factor, but they will still improve your click-through rate (CTR), so make sure to optimize your description as well.
URLSimilarly, to your title-tag, to have an SEO optimized URL, simply make it short, and include your keyword.
ContentNow for the bulk of the page: the actual content.
First of all, make sure you use your keyword in the first 100 words of your article and dotted throughout a few times. Google places emphasis on the words at the very beginning of the web page, so if Google sees your keyword in your URL, title, description, and the first 100 words, you are making it as obvious as possible what the topic of your article is.
Secondly, avoid duplicate content. Duplicate content is content that is either very similar or exactly the same as content on another web page. Using duplicate content will negatively affect your google rankings, so much so, that your page probably won’t even rank if it includes duplicate content. Sometimes, Google can even deindex a website if it consistently includes duplicate content, which means your whole website will no longer appear in Google’s search results. Use free software such as duplichecker to make sure that your web pages have no duplicate content.
Next, write in-depth and valuable content. Longer content results in more backlinks, more social shares, more organic reach, and higher social engagement. So, on the surface, it seems that you need to begin writing more.
However, whilst longer content does rank higher in Google’s search results, it will only rank higher if those extra words are full of value. Not all content has to be long-form, some may not be about an in-depth topic and may require under 1,000 words to explain.
For most articles, aim for an absolute minimum of 1,200 words, but the perfect range would be between 2,000-2,500 words as shown by serpIQ. Just make sure to keep in mind the saying ‘quality over quantity’ - don’t sacrifice the quality of an article just to try and squeeze in an extra few hundred words.
And finally, add images and videos to your web pages. Good quality images and videos may be shared by others resulting in a high number of backlinks to your page, or they may keep readers engaged with your content, and therefore increase their time on site which is another SEO factor.
ConclusionAs there are over 200 factors affecting SEO, I could be here writing a full 100-page guide on each one. Whilst I could write that if I wanted, this article is to show you the most important and practical things you can do right now to improve your SEO score.
Most of you may not have the time to focus on each of the 200+ factors when creating every piece of content, so by focusing on the ones mentioned in this article, you should be setting your website up to achieve a high rank in the search results.
Remember that the importance of different SEO factors is constantly changing. Time on site didn’t mean anything to search engines back in 2005, and now it is a crucial part of considering how to index web pages. Similarly, social sharing and unique content was not part of the algorithms until the late 2000s, and now are some of the most important parts of a successful SEO strategy.
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