There's not a website-wielding business in the world that wouldn't like to see their site ranking well, drawing plenty of visitors and delivering a great user experience (UX). As inbound marketers, we spend a good deal of our time working towards these goals - and SEO is just one of the tools we use to ensure it does.
But SEO can be a tricky skill to master, and it holds plenty of pitfalls for many inbound marketers entering the arena for the first time.
The tips below will help you identify the do's and don'ts of SEO.
SEO Tips to Transform Your Traffic Stats
Create Awesome Content
Maybe you've got content on your website already, or maybe you're just starting out. Either way, one of the simplest areas you can focus on to increase your web traffic is your content. Plain and simple. Create fresh, successful content that inspires sharing by asking the following questions about your work:
- Is it unique? Or could I find the same piece regurgitated on about a million other websites?
- Is it offering value? Tying in with the above, ask whether your content is bringing unique information and value to your readers that they couldn't find elsewhere.
- Is it helpful? Are searchers going to be mind-blown by your astoundingly informative content, or left as baffled as when they arrived?
- Is it user-friendly? Is your content conducive to a great user experience? Or will they be left squinting at their smartphones because it's not mobile-friendly?
- Is it relevant? Your work should contain content that search engines can identify as appropriate to the topic behind the searcher's intent and phrasing.
Maximise the Content You Have
The content you create needs to be optimised. In fact, it's crying out to be optimised. So here's a few ways you can make your content SEO-friendly:
- Keep your titles short and sweet. And while you're at it, try include a primary and second keyword in there as well. Remember to keep them clear and easy to read.
- Be sure to include a meta description. It's the information that appears beneath your link in a search result, and it tells a visitor precisely what to expect if they click through to your site. Keep it concise, preferably under 150 characters, and include a primary keyword in it as well.
- Always begin your URL with your most important keywords and use hyphens to separate your words.
- Let your images do the talking. Literally. Make sure you include keywords in the file names of your images, separated with hyphens, and put an alt-text word (to describe the image) in there as well.
Build Solid, Ethical Links
Link building is a challenge for even the best SEO masters. And while traditional link building strategies may be changing, some things stay the same when compiling a strong link building campaign. Besides building internal links between relevant content on your website's pages, here're a few basic tips for building better links:
- Create news. A classic link building tactic achieved by garnering the attention of the news media, bloggers or press by releasing a new product, hosting an event, making a controversial statement or having a giveaway.
- Be an awesome content creator. Again, not a tricky one but certainly very effective. Great content inspires viral sharing and natural linking, by playing off humour, trend-relevancy, usefulness and information dissemination. So create content your users will want to share.
- Boost customer links. Capitalise on your brand loyal fans and partners by getting them to link to you. A great technique to achieve this is offering partnership badges that link back to your site.
Let keywords be your best friend
Don't let the opportunity to use keywords to your advantage pass you by. Instead consider doing the following:
- Make use of a keyword analysis tool, like Google's Keywords Tool or MOZ's Keyword Analysis Tool. This will help you pinpoint terms closest to your content topic, which in turn guides you in optimising your content for highly searched (and relevant!) keywords.
- Include one or two keywords right at the beginning of your URL, and also in your meta description.
- Don't forget about long tail keywords. In case you didn't already know, long tail keywords are highly targeted search phrases containing 3 or words. Targeting these keywords offers better quality traffic and higher conversion rates, and there's less competition. Long tail search is also extremely popular, so don't miss the chance to make it work for you.
Encourage Your Users to Stay
Nobody wants a high bounce rate on their website. Bounce rate is calculated by the number of visitors who arrive at your website, only to promptly leave again without bothering to look at any other pages (essentially it's a single page visit), and every site experiences an inevitable amount of bouncing.
- Know who's visiting your site, and what they want. Then give it to them.
- It's all about user experience (UX). Building on the latter, take the time to focus on your visitors' experiences on your site. This means putting premium content above the fold, smarter navigation and excellent design.
- Create encouragements to click through. Take note of areas on the site where visitors tend to hover, and make them clickable, and ensure every page has a clearly defined conversion path.
- Go mobile. We'd shouldn't need to mention this, but mobile is kind of a big deal. So optimise your site for premium mobile usability.
Build a Strong Sense of Community
Nurturing relationships is what great content marketing is all about. Increase traffic to your website by building relationships with your visitors by:
- Engaging through social media. Whether it's sharing your latest content, answering user questions or posting awesome and interesting stuff, engage with other people. It's also a great way to build links!
- Be generous in linking out to other bloggers, retweeting and sharing other people's content.
- Encourage communication by finishing your blog posts with questions or requests for comments.
- Consider incorporating forums on your site, because these are great for building engagement.
Common SEO Errors to Avoid at All Costs
Writing Terrible Titles and Tags
Crafting well-thought-out, keyword-rich web page titles and tags is a critical element of on-page SEO. Title tags help boost page rankings in search engines while your title shows up on the search results page and on social media when someone shares your page.
You want to avoid creating titles that are too long, as these are cut-off after the first 60 or so characters. This doesn’t mean you should create choppy titles either - then you're just giving up prime SEO real estate. Find a happy medium, position your primary keywords and topics near the beginning of your title, and avoid wasting space with irrelevant words like your domain name.
Overlooking Image Optimisation
Most of us delighted in the childhood years of "picture books", and truth be told, most of us grow up and still love reading content with pictures - so if you're including images in your content, that's great for your visitors - but be sure to optimise them for SEO too!
The first optimisation you have to include is alt-text. This is the text that shows when your page can't be shown due to a slow internet connection or inadequate text-reading software, and it explains what the image is. From an SEO perspective, this is important as search engine spiders aren't able to 'see' images, and therefore rely on your alt-text tags to determine the content. Image tags are the words that are displayed when a user scrolls over an image, providing additional information, while file names help users determine how images relate to the rest of the content on the page. Don't neglect these areas when adding images to your pages!
Perpetuating Painfully Slow Page Loads
In a world where everything technological happens virtually instantaneously, it's considered a special form of torture (along with slow bandwidth) to have to wait for a page to load. It's enough to drive even the most professional of individuals to emit long, pained sighs and eye-rolls typically only heard and seen from sullen teenagers. It'll send visitors bouncing from your site faster than a squash ball hitting a wall after being shot out a tennis ball cannon.
It's also one of Google's ranking factors, which means if snails dragging anvils are faster than your site's loading speed, Google's going to penalise your site's ranking. Your site should load in 4 seconds or under, if not you'll need to look at optimising it.
Crafting Clunky Content
There are several ways your content could let you down. It could be because it isn't written with your buyer personas in mind, or perhaps it's a little on the thin and weak side. Maybe it's completely bland and unhelpful thanks to poorly written content and a boring theme.
Whatever the cause, remember that it's up to you to create content that's helpful, informative and answers your personas questions and pain points. Google focuses on ranking sites well that are informative and disregards those that are unhelpful to users, so always keep your audience in mind when creating content. It also bears mentioning that great content is more likely to be shared via social media, which also improves your site rankings.
Going Keyword Crazy
Make no mistake, it's critically important that you focus on your keyword strategy. In the past, Google let it slide when sites stuffed keywords in their content for the purposes SEO optimisation, and marketers would write copy in line with suggested keyword ratios. But Google's algorithms have changed over the years, and now it's crucial to be careful when using your keywords within your content.
Place your keywords and terms strategically throughout your web page using the prime areas of page title, URL, headings and natural variations throughout your body copy.
Duplicate Copy, Duplicate Copy and errr...Duplicate Copy
While most of us would never dream of using duplicate copy, it can easily happen unintentionally. Inadvertent duplicate copy occurrences could be due to CMS templates, printer-friendly versions of copy, URL parameters, session IDs and secure HTTPS pages.
Monitor your analytics to pick up on any problems in this area. Chances are you'll need the help of your technical team to tweak your website code to prevent automated content duplication.
The reality is that pages that can't be indexed won't be included in search engine results (the last thing you want!). The niggly issues that can cause trouble indexing your pages include broken links or misdirects and blocked or missing pages, to list a few. It's up to you to ensure your pages are regularly monitored for issues like this, otherwise you could see a decrease in traffic and a higher bounce rate.
Shape up on your SEO efforts, most especially those that are fully within your control, and you're bound to see that much loved organic traffic pouring in.