Have you heard the adage ‘Content is King’? Well, it’s misleading. Unless you are creating content that ranks highly on Google, is shareable and converts leads, you are not ruling anything. So how do you get your web pages to rank highly on Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)? The answer lies in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of boosting the quantity and quality of organic web traffic on your web pages by showing up in the top search results for a certain search query.
In other words, SEO is the process of improving various on-page and off-page signals that alert search engines about your page being a useful resource for a specific keyword.
2020 was an interesting year for the internet and social media. A lot of brands were built and destroyed during these trying times. Here are some basic SEO techniques you should follow in 2021 to help your business reap the maximum benefits of the digital wave:
- Write compelling title tags and meta descriptions. Make your copy human first.
- Strategically include target keywords in title, description, subheadings and image alt texts.
- Use internal linking with descriptive anchor texts.
- Publish more long-form content. Long-form content is known to perform better in terms of traffic.
Once you nail the basics, you should dive deep and optimize your site for the following factors:
- Optimize for search intent: semantic search
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm updates started understanding a user’s intentions behind each search. And this concept, also called semantic search, has only grown ever since.
Semantic search is all about adding meaning or context to the search instead of looking for the exact match of the search query (lexical search). It improves the accuracy of results by understanding the searcher’s goal through contextual meaning. For example, Google search results for ‘How to make cookies?’ may include pages named ‘Cookie recipes’. On the other hand, a search for ‘Where can I buy cookies?’ may display results from Google Shopping.
Best practices to optimize for search intent:
Include Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords in your content and meta tags. These keywords are basically popular search queries that are related to your primary keyword in meaning or context.
- Optimize for voice search
Can you really afford to not optimize for voice search?
Best Practices to optimize for voice search:
- Optimize your Google Business Listing – especially for local ‘near me’ searches.
- Use schema markup and structured data.
Your content should be optimized for humans and have some schema markup elements to guide search engines. Metadata that goes into your site’s source code is the element that helps search engines classify and organize your content. In essence, you should create content around your customer’s questions and optimize it for search engines to understand.
- Page experience
Content is the meat and potatoes of your website, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Invest in website user experience or UX and ensure that your page is easy for users to quickly scan and find relevant information.
Why does this matter? Because the better your page experience, the more time they will spend on your site. And this signals to Google that people like spending time on your site, and it’s a good resource to answer their query. Furthermore, Google has announced that page experience will be a ranking factor once its algorithm update is rolled out in May 2021.
Best practices for improving page experience:
- Use mobile-friendly and responsive pages.
- Avoid overcrowding of content and make it easier to scan.
- Review various aspects of Core Web Vitals, including loading performance, visual stability and interactivity.
- It should be safe for browsing, i.e. it shouldn’t contain any malicious or spammy content.
- Your site should be served over HTTPS, and the connection should be secure.
- Page speed
Suppose you searched ‘NFL playoff schedule’ and the first result you click on takes you to a site that doesn’t load quickly. Would you really wait for the page to load, not knowing how long it will take? You’d much rather go back and find another site that gives you the information you are looking for instantly.
Best practices to improve page speed
- Compress images and videos on your site. The most popular image formats are JPEG and PNG. You can also use WebP that results in 26% smaller lossless images than PNG and 25-34% smaller lossy images compared to JPEG.
- Lazy-load your images.
- Reduce redirects and the number of plugins on your site.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
- Use AMP pages for faster loading on mobile.
- Often test your website on Google Page Speed Insights.
- Off-page SEO
While many on-page factors determine your page rank, you should not neglect off-page SEO. Earning backlinks and brand mentions from high authority sites is a strong SEO signal.
Best practices for off-page SEO
- Ensure you have quality backlinks from trustworthy sites only.
- Create value-added shareable content in a palatable format, like infographics and videos.
- Consistent guest posting and influencer outreach are key.
If your website is not showing up on the first page of Google Search Results, your customers would probably never even come across it. Follow these best SEO practices to rank at the top in 2021.