If you’ve recently launched a new business and a website to go with it, you’re probably itching to figure out ways to drive traffic to it. After all, a website isn’t much use to you or your business if no one ever visits it.
It’s true that the search engine algorithms that determine rankings are fluid. The way pages were ranked 10 years ago isn’t the way they’re ranked today. But there are still tried and true search engine optimization (SEO) methods that will help you move higher in the rankings despite the constant algorithm changes.
I realize the term SEO can sound intimidating, and I know learning how it works might seem complicated—especially if you’re new to online marketing. But I want you to know it’s worth learning how to improve your search engine rankings. When you do, the people looking for what you do or sell will find you first when they open up Google.
Things like page optimization on your website, keyword research, and building backlinks will drive more traffic to your site because these features improve how search engines see it. If Google’s web crawlers detect that you’re regularly adding relevant and credible content to your website, you’ll be rewarded with a higher position on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Set yourself up for SEO success by following these 10 best practices:
1. Make sure your website is secure. Most people are concerned about online privacy. They want to know the websites they’re visiting are secure. This is also a crucial ranking factor for search engines. A secure website will always rank higher than one that isn’t.
If you aren’t sure what you need to do to improve your site’s security, talk to your web host or your web manager about the type of security that’s most appropriate for your website. At the very minimum, you want to have a security certificate on your website that will ensure your content is delivered by SSL (secure socket layer).
How can you tell if a website has an SSL certificate? Check the address bar. If you see the site address begins with “https://” and has a small lock icon next to the web address, you know the site is secure.
2. Add your main keyword early into your content. Every page on your website should have one focus keyword, and including that keyword near the top of the page lets search engines know what your content is about. Google will detect that this term is important, and that helps you rank well for the term.
Use your main keyword throughout the rest of your content, too, but do it naturally. Using a keyword too many times in your content just for the sake of using it is obvious to humans and Google—and the latter will punish you for it by dropping you down the SERPs.
3. Use unique titles, descriptions, and content. Gone are the days of stuffing keywords into every nook and cranny of your page. Google’s web crawlers are pretty sophisticated and they can “read” copy. That means search engines can tell if you’re using a word or phrase more than is necessary, and they can also pick up on plagiarism and similar content.
If a web crawler inspects your page and sees content that’s very similar to content it’s come across elsewhere, your page is considered redundant. But when your content is original, Google ranks it higher because it appears to add to the information that’s already been created about your topic.
4. Optimize your title tag for SEO. A lot of people confuse a title tag with the header (H1) they choose for the top of each page on their website. It’s true that the two are often the same (or very similar). For example, if you have an About Us page and you’ve used “About Us” as the H1, you may have “about-us” in your title tag, too.
It’s good practice to include your main keyword in the title tag of your website because title tags help with SEO. And if you can, work your main keyword into the header of the page. The goal is to give priority to this main keyword so Google knows exactly what your page is about.
5. Make sure your website loads quickly. If you’ve ever come across a slow loading website, you know how quickly you lose your patience waiting for it. Don’t give people coming to your site an excuse to leave before they see anything. Now more than ever, loading time is an important ranking factor for search engines.
Here are a few ways to get your site loading lightning fast:
- Compress images, remove any unnecessary code, and consider using a content delivery network (CDN). When you use a CDN, your website serves images and other media from servers that are closer to the physical location of your website visitor. This can drastically improve loading time.
- A lot of web hosts have moved over to CDNs to deliver content for their clients’ websites. Your web host or web manager can tell you more about how this can benefit your website.
- If you have a WordPress site, there are many plugins you can install that will help you speed up the loading time for your website.
6. Optimize all of your images. SEO doesn’t only apply to the words in your copy. Properly optimized images can boost your website rank, too. You can optimize the images on your website easily by giving all of your images descriptive file names. When you upload them to the site, the file name goes to work for you.
I also recommend using image alt text so search engines can understand the images on your website. Instead of leaving the alt text section blank when you upload your images, use words to clearly describe the image. Not a lot of people know that image alt text doesn’t just help SEO. It also improves the user experience for people who are visually impaired and use screen readers. Their computers read everything on a page to them, including the image alt text.
7. Use internal linking. When you set up your website so that smaller pages link to a larger, authoritative piece, the more important page ranks better.
Remember to use the main keyword, or a variation of it, in your internal links so search engines know what the page is about.
8. Create amazing content. Every page on your website should include high-quality content that answers questions your readers might have about your topic.
Search engines don’t pay much attention to pages with fewer than 1,000 words, so try to write longer, authoritative content to attract Google’s attention.
If you can write 1,500 or 2,000 words (or more!) of quality content, you might notice your ranking on the SERPs go up. That’s because the amount of time a visitor spends on your website (and on each page) is factored into your ranking. And if there are more words on a page, it’s going to take longer for a visitor to read it.
[If the thought of writing that much content for every page on your website is making you panic, remember there are people like me who can do it for you. 🙂 ]
9. Build backlinks to your website. If anyone tells you that backlinks aren’t important anymore, they’re lying. But it has to be done properly, and that means starting slow. Good backlinks show search engines that your content is valuable enough for other webmasters to link to.
When you use backlinks to improve your SEO, choose credible and important websites in your field. Links from low-quality websites that accept advertising from anyone and link to any website will probably hurt your search engine rankings.
10. Look at the user experience. If visitors are struggling to navigate your website, they won’t stick around for long. When this happens a lot, it’s called a high bounce rate and it can also affect where you fall in the SERPs. A high bounce rate means you need to take a close look at your user experience.
Maybe your visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for, or maybe your website is broken in some way. What can you do to improve your visitor’s experience?
When you put these 10 top SEO practices to work for your website, you’ll increase your chances of a higher ranking with search engines. And when you rank higher, people see you in the SERPs first. Your traffic will increase—and your sales, too.