The year is 2022, and every business vies for one thing: the top spot on Google’s SERP or search engine results page.
When people want to try the best fried chicken in a new town, they go to Google to search it up. Whatever shows up as the top result is where they go to. That is how powerful Google is nowadays; it decides what is worth trying out or not.
Knowing this, if you own a fried chicken joint, you would want to earn that top spot. But how exactly would you do this? This is when search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
When the pandemic hit, SEO became a necessary practice for most businesses. Transactions shifted online after the whole world population was not allowed to go out. Businesses put up their own websites to keep up with the trend. However, because of the tight competition, the necessity for SEO in the field of digital marketing became prominent.
If you are not familiar with SEO yet, the following is a brief overview of how it works.
SEO is a set of practices that aim to optimize your website so it becomes “attractive” to the eyes of Google. How Google determines who ranks number one in a search result page is not exactly clear. In fact, according to the tech giant itself, the criteria change from time to time. Google doesn’t release a set of guidelines, but somehow, there are proven practices to do it.
SEO’s main goal is to improve the ranking of a website in organic searches; organic meaning outside of the paid Google results. A website’s goal is to gain enough traffic, and when you rank first on Google results, you get a high chance of people viewing your website content.
There are two main ranking factors in SEO: on-page and off-page. On-page SEO factors are those found on your website. This covers the quality of blogs and other copies, the site speed, and the website structure among other things. The off-page ranking is more difficult to influence. This includes social media attention and the number of websites that link back to any of your content. The more your content is “cited” by other websites, the more you are going to look credible for Google. And as far as Google is concerned, you have to be credible enough to earn that top spot.
The bottom line is a good SEO strategy consists of a well-planned on-page and off-page SEO ranking strategy. Produce quality content that other websites will find credible. This content must be beneficial to the audience, of course. Improve your website’s speed. You have to find good keywords, too. Think from the perspective of a user. What keywords would you use if you want to find information on the best and most affordable gardening tool set?
Now that you know how SEO generally works, here are a few things you should avoid when you try it out.
Again, the main goal of SEO is for Google to pick up your content and decide that it’s worth showing to people. Website owners, in their desire to rank first and make sales, forget that they have an actual audience to help and inform. Sometimes, their whole strategy just revolves around the best keywords to use, and not really on the quality of content they put out.
Remember, your audience is actual people, not Google’s index crawlers. That being said, never neglect the quality of content. Most especially, do not plagiarize. Do you think Google can’t detect that? There are actual free plagiarism checking sites that do that for free.
You need to publish around 500 to 600 words on average per blog article. Google needs enough content to work with to determine if you are an authority in the subject. If you only write a few sentences, it won’t be enough for Google to think that your content is actually helpful.
Stuffing your 500-word blog with lots of keywords will seem sketchy to Google, too, so make sure to strategically distribute the keywords all over the whole content.
Google used to not care so much about site speed, but in 2017, it announced that its algorithms have incorporated site speed into the criteria.
But even without Google’s head’s up, it’s obvious that your site speed will affect your website’s performance. The digital age made people become used to fast speeds. No one likes to wait anymore.
If anyone searches up how to travel across Europe on a budget for a month, even if you have the best content out there, they won’t know. Plus, they probably won’t care because they will immediately press the exit button and look at the next website.
Google can help you measure your site speed. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insight to check how your website performs by simply pasting your website's URL on the search bar. It will give you suggestions on the areas you need to improve to boost your site speed.
When your website loads pretty slowly, you can look at the images you use first. They may be the likely culprit. You can resize the images that you use or install plugins to do this for you. If you use WordPress, there are tons of useful plugins designed to do this.
Not paying attention to metadata
Your site’s metadata is what people see from the outside, right on the Google search results page. It contains the blog title or the page title and the description. It’s like an establishment’s facade.
A cafe can have the best tasting latte in the world, but only a few people will attempt to come in if the outside of the shop doesn’t look inviting. Or if people don’t think the coffee they are looking for is inside.
So what do you do if you own this cafe? You make the outside inviting, you put out a poster showing your best-sellers, or you display how many stars you get from Yelp or Zomato.
The equivalent of that is what you do to your metadata. Only 50-60 characters can be seen from your page title so make sure to fit a nice title within that range. The keyword must show at the beginning of the title but, of course, it must sound natural. Your meta description should tell a user that the answer to their question is inside the page and if they click it, their life will change. Or for a less grand effect, they will find what they are looking for.
Don’t give away too much. You want to tease people enough so they click. Otherwise, you are not doing your website’s Click Through Rate a favor.
So your metadata was enticing enough for people to click on it? Great! But keep in mind that it doesn’t do much if the user exits your page just after a few seconds. Your goal must be to make them hang around for a bit.
They must scroll down and click through your site. You can do this by adding a sensible call to action.
Let’s say that you sell baseball equipment. The article your visitor is checking is about how they can improve their batting skills. One part of the article should suggest an exercise where they will need certain equipment that you happen to be selling. Insert a call to action such as “check it here”, and when they click on it, it will take them to your items page where they can add the item to their cart.
Or you can also insert some related and helpful links to other content that you have on your website. It can be “beginner-friendly practice” which will take them to a content you wrote about the best bats for beginners.
Internal linking is an integral part of website structure so you must invest your time in it. It’s going to take a while because you must have enough content to work with. When you reach a good amount of content, always find an angle to link to them so no blog article goes to waste. Maximize your resources. You may need to zoom out from time to time to find good ways to interlink them.
If you search for “pet grooming” on Google, the search engine will come back with 2 billion results. If you have a pet grooming service and you want your website to be seen, using the keyword “pet grooming” in your content means that you are fighting for the top spot against 2 billion other websites. What are the odds of you getting that spot in this situation? Even if you don’t do the actual math, you know that the chances are slim.
Now, scroll down to the bottom of that result page. See the “related searches for pet grooming” phrase right there? In a saturated search query such as this one, Google tells you to go for more specific keywords. Now try to search for “pet grooming Oregon”. How many results came back? 92? Is that much easier to compete in than the 2 billion one from earlier? You don’t have to do the actual math again.
Long-tail keywords are more specific and more helpful. However, more specific keywords mean fewer people search for them, hence, lower search volume. You can compensate for that by optimizing other pages on your website for other long-tail keywords. When you combine these keywords, you get more traffic in general than when you try to rank for general keywords.
When you search for the best fried chicken in town, chances are you do it on your phone. You are on your phone more than you are in front of your computer. So it makes sense that when you run a website, you make sure that it’s mobile friendly.
Another reason you should do it is that in 2018, Google announced that they are checking the mobile-friendliness of sites first to determine if they should rank. Mobile-first indexing makes every site owner make sure that their websites work just as well on smaller screens.
To check if your website is okay, you can use Google’s mobile-friendly test. Just like with the page speed, you just have to paste your website URL. Google will show you how easy or difficult it is for mobile users to navigate your page.
You can also check it yourself. Go to your website on your phone and check out all pages, buttons, and features. How fast do they load? How do they look on a smaller screen? Is the structure okay or is it confusing?
Small details can annoy customers and make them ultimately leave. For example, if they cannot find the cancel order button or if the add to bag icon is too big, that can be a huge turn-off. Small things matter when it comes to these things.
When you make your website mobile-friendly, you're also working towards future-proofing your site. We’re in an era where smartphones just become more important parts of everyday life year on year.
Putting yourself in the shoes of the people you are marketing to is a great help when you are trying to come up with a sound SEO strategy. It’s a lot of work. You will spend lots of time making plans and testing them out. You’ll go through a series of trials and errors. But reaching the goal of being on the first page of Google’s SERP will be rewarding.
It’s tedious but you don’t want any of these mistakes to cost you the ranking you are aiming for. For now, just focus on creating helpful content, making your website friendly to all types of users, do not neglect your site speed, and try to use the right keywords.