Whether you’re on the hunt for the best new restaurant in the neighborhood or tips to help you succeed at work, billions of users jump to the same approach every day: “Let me Google it.” Think of your last Google search. How many results did you scroll through before finding what you needed? If you’re like 75% of users, you didn’t make it past the first page – making these top-ranking spots invaluable for digital marketers. Attaining these competitive rankings and successfully reaching users online isn’t possible without making search engine optimization (SEO) an integral part of your marketing strategy.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of SEO and the variables behind it, we can define it for you in under 40 words. Here’s the bottom line: without SEO, your business will struggle to rank for search results, drastically limiting your visibility on the internet.
Maintaining your SEO ranking can be an all-consuming process. Luckily, we’re here to present crucial SEO best practices used by our top Charleston marketing agency.
1. Do Thorough Keyword Research
Conducting keyword research is essential to gaining valuable insight into what your target audience is actually looking for when they consult a search engine. Once established, your keywords will act as the root of your content marketing strategy and will lead you in determining exactly what your ideal customers are searching for in relation to your business, content, and solutions.
As you begin to determine keywords, organize them into the following categories as a guide to strategically apply them to future content.
Primary keywords - High-level terms that best describe your business and should serve as the main topic.
Secondary keywords - Slightly more detailed, nuanced terms that provide context to your business and services.
Supporting language - Lower-level keywords that provide further detail to your business and can be used throughout the content.
Once you begin finding the best keywords that resonate with your target audience, you can continue to gain insight into even more terms you may be able to easily rank for, providing new paths to increase your visibility.
2. Use Title Tags
For any form of media – books, movies, TV shows – titles are crucial in hooking a consumer. Websites are no exception, and title tags are a unique way to identify your web page’s content in a manner that search engines can easily understand and relate to user queries. These tags should be concise and straightforward, and you should aim to feature both a primary keyword and a secondary keyword for optimal results.
For example, if you’re trying to rank your page for the keyword “B2B SaaS Marketing”, an appropriate title tag would be “B2B SaaS Marketing Tips.” It’s simple, informative, and lets the user know exactly what your page has in store for them.
PRO TIP: Create unique title tags for each of your pages and limit each to a maximum of 55 characters including spaces.
3. Never Forget a Meta Description
Consider meta descriptions as your search engine first impression. This brief block of text appears under the title tag on the search engine results page (SERP) and is meant to inform users about the most relevant content your page features. This description essentially acts as a pitch meant to prove to a user that your page is the ideal result they’re looking for.
Although meta descriptions are not directly used in the search ranking algorithm, your website’s click-through rate most definitely is – making meta descriptions crucial as the primary way to entice users to click your link from the SERP.
Follow these SEO best practices when crafting a successful meta description:
- Strategically feature keywords.
- Remain between 155 and 165 characters to avoid truncation.
- Use compelling and engaging language to entice users.
- Craft unique meta descriptions for each individual page.
4. Match Search Intent
Users approach each search query with a specific goal in mind, and search engines can recognize this – meaning you must tailor your content to match the intent of your target audience.
Search intent (also called “user intent”) can be categorized into four key pillars:
- Informational (example: “SEO best practices”)
- Navigational (example: “Facebook login”)
- Commercial (example: “Best wireless headphones”)
- Transactional (example: “Buy shoes online”)
These categories improve user experience by allowing search engines to intuitively filter out irrelevant content, ensuring that users searching for results like “how to make pasta from scratch” aren’t bombarded by noninformative product pages. On the opposite end, users searching for “buy pasta made from scratch” will be greeted with viable eCommerce sites rather than instructional blogs and articles. Successfully satisfying search intent is Google’s number one priority when showing results, so matching your content accordingly is key.
To accurately categorize your page and match search intent, simply start by asking yourself what your ideal customers are looking for. What value are you meant to be providing to your audience? SEO tools such as Semrush provide tools to inform you of user intent with specific keywords and queries, allowing you to evaluate if your content will have a high chance of ranking for your selected keywords – and providing the opportunity to adjust accordingly to the category you aim to align with.
5. Use HTTPS
In a hyperconnected world where we as individuals are increasingly accessible, privacy is a priority for users that digital marketers can’t afford to ignore. Search engines are well aware of this, and reward pages for adhering to certain safety standards that keep users in mind.
Using HTTPS is a simple and effective way to demonstrate that a user’s privacy is protected while interacting with your website.
Here are the facts:
- HTTPS makes your website more secure by encrypting information sent between the visitor and server.
- It’s been applied as a Google ranking factor since 2014.
- Switching to HTTPS is a simple, one-time job.
Luckily, you can easily tell if your website is already using HTTPS by observing the loading bar in your browser. If there’s a lock icon visible before the URL, you’re covered! If not, the simple solution is to install an SSL certificate, which many web hosts already offer in their packages. If yours doesn’t, you can download one for free from LetsEncrypt.
This is a one-time process that secures every page of your website once installed, including pages you publish in the future. Not only will this simple step increase your likelihood of rating higher than competing websites, but it also builds credibility with your user and demonstrates that your page is safe to interact with.
6. Optimize Your Website for User Experience
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to turn a user away from your web page. Slow load times, difficult navigation, and anything that prevents the user from accessing the information they’re seeking as quickly as possible is guaranteed to limit your audience. Google takes user experience into account when ranking websites, so ensure that yours features optimal UI/UX with these simple SEO best practices:
It’s important to provide optimal UX regardless of the device a user is accessing your website from. Start by ensuring an optimal experience for both mobile and desktop viewers.
Featuring massive image sizes can quickly reduce load time for your website. Compress your images to have a smaller file size to ensure they load quickly, but always confirm that image quality is not jeopardized in the process.
Lazy-loading is a technique that defers loading non-critical visual assets until the user needs them. This helps reduce initial page load time but ensures that users can still access the images and videos they need.
Apply a theme
If you use a hosting service like WordPress, you have the option to apply a theme developed with SEO in mind throughout your website to achieve better rankings.
Don’t forget that Google will rank faster loading sites higher than slower sites that feature similar content, so these simple optimization steps are a key way to get ahead of the competition.
7. Use Internal and External Links Throughout Your Content
Not only will adding relevant links to your content help search engines understand what your content is about, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to improve user experience by guiding users to other valuable information within your own website – not to mention, optimizing your own online engagement in the process.
FUN FACT: Although Google discontinued public PageRank scores several years ago, content featuring multiple links still boasts higher SEO results than content without.
If done correctly, adding links is an incredibly simple and time-effective way to boost your page’s SEO rank. Just ensure that you prioritize internal links that directly relate to your organization, and always confirm that external links navigate to safe and reputable sources. Keep in mind that these efforts can also successfully boost your link-building strategy with other websites!
8. Quality Over Quantity, Always
With each passing year of updated algorithms, search engines feature the increased ability to know if your content truly provides value to a user. Before publishing, ask yourself these two crucial questions to ensure your content is worth sharing – not only for the sake of the user but for the sake of your content team.
Is it valuable?
Content for the sake of content is pointless, not only for your consumers but for your overall SEO strategy. Each piece should be created to provide real value to your user. Make sure your content achieves this by providing a genuine solution to a problem or successfully answering a question that your target audience faces.
Is it original?
One of the cardinal rules of SEO is to avoid duplicate content. Although it may seem like a simple solution to recycling existing pieces to maximize value, it’s ultimately fruitless in improving your SEO results. Be sure to keep your content calendar fresh and unique – remember that relevant topics are constantly changing, providing space for new, engaging viewpoints. This isn’t to say disregard your existing content completely, in fact, there are plenty of viable tactics to refresh articles for an SEO lift and optimize pieces you’ve already created!
The phrase “content is key” might urge you to maximize production, but remember to never let quality fall off as a priority. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 blogs or 10 million blogs, Google will reward the best-executed content with the top-ranking spot.
Over the past decade, SEO has become a necessary priority for digital marketers looking to break through the noise of oversaturated markets. Between tailoring content and staying up to date with technical SEO work, achieving the best results possible and staying ahead of the curve can be an all-consuming effort – which is why SEO has developed into a full-time career option for many, and why agencies can succeed in exclusively specializing in SEO results.
If you’re new to the world of SEO or simply lack the time and workforce dedicated to the expansive list of variables behind exceptional SEO, partnering with a digital agency can go a long way in helping you navigate the hypercompetitive process. Agency partnerships can help you excel in pushing past competitors and reach top-ranking search result spots, while also providing your business with a holistic strategy that encompasses all pillars of marketing.
If you’re looking to learn more about attracting new users and increasing your website traffic, download our content marketing workbook to boost your content efforts and make a difference in your revenue goals.