The information in this blog was taken from a presentation by SEO Specialists Mike Ginley and Tim Rohlwing at our 2019 Americaneagle.com Forum. To watch the full presentation, click here.
It’s no secret that SEO is important. More than 5 billion Google searches are conducted each day and that number continues to grow exponentially. But when looking for ways to increase website traffic through search engines, keywords are just one piece of an ever-expanding puzzle. Now is the time to get more sophisticated with your SEO approach. To help you out, here are 10 ways to beef up your SEO this year.
1. Ensure your site can be crawled
When it comes to SEO, site crawling is really where it all starts. A web crawler is an internet bot that automatically browses the web for the purpose of indexing. The search engine then takes this crawled information and indexes the pages so users can search more effectively. Search engines typically crawl in two ways: Frontend and the XML Sitemaps. Front end crawling starts at the homepage and goes page by page through all of your site’s internal links but XML sitemap crawling goes even further by providing a search engine all of the links that you want to show up in results, typically through the Google Search Console. Because some links can get left behind in frontend crawls, XML sitemaps are essential. These sitemaps should be free of errors and canonical links. You should also ensure that what is being crawled on the front end matches the XML sitemap so that no links are left behind.
2. Get secure with SSL and HTTPS
While Google doesn’t typically like to give away its secrets, having an HTTPS site is the one factor that they have revealed as a definite ranking signal. Make your site secure with an SSL certificate to both protect your users and rank higher on search. This is a must as multiple browsers now indicate which sites do not have this layer of security and sometimes even stop the user entirely with a large, prominent popup.
3. Try to get to ‘position zero’
Featured snippets are select results that Google features on top of the main search results. Often referred to as ‘position zero,’ these snippets aim to provide direct answers to a query and can take the form of a paragraph, list or table appearing above organic search results. While getting featured here may not result in a link click, it can be great visibility for your brand. Creating long form content that answers a question can help you get featured and don’t shy away from long tail keywords - 50% of search queries are four words or longer.
4. Optimize page titles and content for higher click through rates
Due to the number of ads, featured snippets, and ‘people also searched for’ boxes, when a user enters a search query, they are presented with a lot of distractions. Stand out from the crowd with effective page titles. Go beyond the keyword and tap into the user’s emotions with power words like ‘awesome,’ ‘new,’ ‘fast,’ ‘proven,’ and more.
For content, on average the first page result on Google contains 1,890 words (this includes navigation, footer text, and the body copy). While longer content is influential, whether or not that content is of quality to a user is really what you should strive for. Your rankings may suffer if content is duplicated or made up of fluff just to hit a word count.
5. Get included in Google’s Knowledge Graphs
In 2012, Google introduced the Knowledge Graph, a tool that helps users discover businesses and get useful facts about people, places, and major organizations. The knowledge graph pulls in data from all over the web and presents direct information in a card to the right of organic search results. For businesses, getting included in the knowledge graph can help you show potential customers your address, business hours, contact information, and reviews, enhancing your credibility.
To get included in the knowledge graph, having a properly coded website with local structured data is key. This can help search engines understand your content for these knowledge graphs.
6. Don’t neglect business listings or reviews
If you haven’t already created a Google My Business account, now is the time to create one. The information you provide in your profile can be used to help customers discover and contact your business. This can be a great asset to local businesses and brick and mortar shops. Google’s “near me” searches have increased by 200% over the past year and with the continued growth of voice searches, this shows no signs of slowing down.
7. Use a mobile first approach
Today, the majority of Google searches occur on mobile devices and the amount of searches continues to grow. Because of this, Google announced in 2018 that it would start prioritizing websites that follow mobile-first best practices. To give your users a better mobile experience, ensure that your site is responsive, has a fast page speed, easy navigation, a low bounce rate, and high time on site. All of these factors can affect where your site ranks on the search results page. What works well on your desktop site may not work well on mobile. Always test your site to give mobile users the best experience.
8. Prepare for an increase in voice search
With the explosion of voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and others, voice search is a major trend to watch out for in 2020. To optimize for voice search, a lot of the same SEO best practices still apply, such as using natural language, long tail keywords, quality business listings etc. Google also released a new speakable schema markup aimed at bringing more news content to Google Assistant and Google Home devices. When used correctly, this markup allows users to ask questions like ‘what is the latest news in Hong Kong?’ or ‘what happened in last night’s debate?’ and receive an excerpt of news spoken from their devices. While this is so far only available to news organizations, it is expected to expand far beyond that in the future. Get prepared with properly coded data now to stay above the pack.
9. Gather quality backlinks
When a webpage links to any other page, it’s known as a backlink or inbound link. Back in the day, the website with the most backlinks would often get ranked the highest, causing some sites to artificially inflate these numbers by paying others to link to their site thousands of times. Today, it’s all about quality and paid backlinks can actually harm your search engine ranking. Backlinks should contain well-read, useful content like blogs, articles, and videos. To increase conversions from traffic coming from these pages, include internal links to your products or services.While a great deal of backlinks happen organically, a simple email to the administrators of relevant blogs, associations, and related businesses can work wonders when trying to be included on other sites. Partnering on a guest blog is even better.
10. Don’t forget about videos!
Users value video and Google does as well. When optimizing your SEO, don’t forget about including videos into that plan. Upload your videos to YouTube and create a title that is searchable and ensure every video has a relevant description. A good thumbnail image can also go a long way. If you’re hosting videos directly on your site, consider including a transcript below the video. These transcripts may include other searchable terms that can boost your SEO even further.
Before embarking on any of these tips, be sure that you have Google Analytics properly set up on your site. It’s important to be able to attribute exactly where your traffic is coming from so you can optimize your efforts. As artificial intelligence increases, searches become more complex, and algorithms continue to change, it’s essential that you stay informed on ongoing trends. The best part is, you don’t have to go at it alone. Contact one of our SEO specialists for more insights on your site.