SEO or search engine optimisation is on everyone’s lips when a website is being built. Relevant keywords are chosen and inserted into html tags, website maps, and other on-page elements, but as soon as the website is launched and visible for search engines, attention shifts towards the presumed next phase of the marketing process: promoting the website.
Little attention is paid to improving how search engines evaluate the website further down the line. Instead, every day, digital marketers struggle to discover the best campaign headline, test different types of online ad formats, and develop innovative media strategies for website promotion. In short, they use all their creative powers for crafting persuasive media campaigns that are supposed to draw users away from other platforms and towards the website they are promoting. Pay-per-click campaigns seem like the perfect solution for generating traffic as they offer a quick fix and you only pay for tangible results.
However, there are a couple of downsides that are seldom mentioned. First of all, these tangible results are often quite relative. Out of the tens of thousands of users who land on a promoted page only a few are actually interested in the content and meaningfully engage with the brand. Secondly, pay-per-click campaigns generate traffic at a cost, and this cost has been steadily rising as more and more companies bid for attention.
In this context, the organic traffic generated by the website seems like the Cinderella of the story. It is almost completely forgotten, yet it does a lot of the work. Not to mention that with some care and attention, it has the ability to transform and steal the show. One can even argue that traffic generated organically through search engines is more valuable than the hard-earned clicks provided by online campaigns. By placing higher in search rankings, websites gain credibility. An objective third party, the search engine, vouches for the quality and relevance of your website, so users are naturally more likely to choose it and convert.
So, how can businesses use organic traffic to transform their website into the proverbial belle of the ball who naturally attracts attention? Well, a shift of perspective is mandatory. In order to truly tap into the power of organic traffic, search engine optimisation should not be viewed as a simple stage in the beginning of the website’s development process. It should be considered an ongoing process. And this is where our Cinderella analogy fails us. Increasing organic traffic through search engine optimisation takes time, it does not happen overnight with the flick of a wand. It takes careful consideration and, although it is not considered paid, it still requires resources and a thorough strategy.
In this article, we are going to examine the entire SEO process and identify best practices that can help guide businesses looking to improve their website’s search ranking for certain keywords. It’s important to note that, presently, off-page search engine optimisation has a greater impact on website search ranking than the more traditional on-page optimisation.
Off-page SEO mainly refers to inbound link generation. Inbound links are links on other websites that direct users towards your own platform. The Google algorithm then evaluates the quality of these links in order to establish how relevant your website’s content might be. If respectable, well-established websites direct users towards your company’s content then Google is likely to also trust your platform and place it higher in search rankings. Plus, inbound links also generate referral traffic, helping boost overall website traffic.
So, how can one generate these all-important inbound links? Good old fashioned PR tactics are commonly used in the digital world in order to generate valuable backlinks. By sending out opinion articles or relevant press-releases with important news, companies can form relationships with major publishers and gain exposure, referral traffic and, of course, backlinks. Plus, important company leaders can also attract media attention by speaking at major industry events.
Real opportunities to be in the news are few and far between, but this does not mean that your company’s backlink building efforts should be put on pause as well. According to HubSpot, shareable pieces of educational content can be a great way to generate more valuable links. Quality infographics, webinars, presentations, and resource lists can help other websites create content, and they will be more than happy to refer users back to your website as a digital thank you. This type of content can also generate social shares if it is relevant for consumers, so don’t forget to enable social sharing for your content.
Partnerships are another popular strategy for companies looking to rise in search engine rankings. In order to be relevant for the other company’s audience, it’s recommended to collaborate with entities that provide complementary services. If your aim is to promote a blog, then start guest posting as often as possible in order to receive backlinks and plenty of referral traffic. The blogosphere is more open to building relationships between blogs with similar interests and audiences than the conventional business world.
While off-page SEO helps the search engine’s algorithm determine how popular a website is, all the while assuming that this popularity reflects how useful the content is for users, on-page SEO elements help the algorithm establish whether this content can be relevant for different queries.
So, in order to make sure the content your team is creating is relevant for consumers, keyword research is mandatory. After establishing what your target audience is looking for, it’s considered best practice to include these phrases or words in a variety of structures in order to make sure that the search engine crawlers find and interpret them adequately. It’s important to include the main keyword in the page’s title, in the URL, and in the first paragraph. However, crawlers don’t just analyse content, they also look at code elements. That’s why it’s also recommended to add relevant keywords in several HTML tags such as: H1, meta-title, meta-description, and the alt tags of images or other media. However, this does not mean that by adding more and more keywords your website will skyrocket to the top of search engine rankings. This type of approach tends to confuse crawlers who need to evaluate the overall topic of each piece of content.
Crawlers don’t have the innate human ability that allows us to just understand, they use different criteria and references in order to make sure they evaluate content properly. Although it may seem naive, search engines tend to rate long-form content more positively than bite-sized information, simply assuming that this type of content can provide more information. It’s also worth mentioning that something as simple as including multimedia elements in your content will help boost its rank. Search engines interpret the extra resources offered as a sign of higher quality content.
An effective on-page SEO strategy includes so much more than keywords. In fact, technical aspects have a considerable impact on a website’s ranking. External links and internal links, for instance, help crawlers narrow down on the topic of a particular piece of content by also evaluating the articles it is directing users towards. After all, words can have different meanings and nuances that are difficult to grasp for algorithms.
Be mindful to always update links when content is moved to a different location, otherwise crawlers will not be able to index that content properly.
Other factors such as page loading speed and navigation can also impact how well your website performs in search rankings. Page speed is an important indicator of a quality user experience, so, naturally, search engines like Google factor it in when deciding whether to strongly recommend your content or let it slide to the bottom of the list. Google even created a special tool in order to help developers analyse and optimise their websites.
Your website’s navigation guides crawlers from one piece of content to the next. They follow each text link, so make sure to not place links on images. In order to further encourage crawlers to analyse the entire website, it’s also considered good practice to create a sitemap that lists all your URLs and then update it as needed when new content is added.
In this article, we’ve been focusing mainly on what one should do in order to improve the search rating of a particular website, but there are certain common practices that are best avoided. Duplicate content is a common strategy used by websites looking to bend the rules and appear more knowledgeable than they really are. However, adding similar content on multiple pages does not deliver the expected results. Quite the opposite. Since different pages contain similar information, search engines find it difficult to decide which page should be displayed for a given keyword. In fact, search engines consider duplicate content a negative factor, so be extra careful when creating multiple articles on the same topic.
There are many strategies, guidelines and resources available online for those looking to rise to the top of search rankings. However, it is important to remember that search engine optimisation should never be implemented for its own sake. Good SEO is simply a guarantee that your website is delivering the best possible user experience, so it’s always best to prioritise your audience’s preferences over search engine requirements. User friendly content will generate more traffic than keyword stuffed paragraphs and it will ultimately have a more significant positive impact on your website’s search ranking.