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For nearly 90% of online consumers, the buying process starts with a search engine. That’s why it’s necessary for every business to have an SEO strategy.
But when it comes to creating that strategy, things can get complicated. Google is incredibly advanced now, and customers are harder to please than ever. So how do you keep up with the algorithm and the people it’s supposed to serve?
Turn rankings into revenue
Intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%. How much revenue are you missing out on?
Why you can ignore most Google ranking factors
Google updates its algorithm often and ranking factors are constantly changing. Currently, it’s estimated that there are anywhere between 200 and 10,000 factors that Google uses to evaluate a piece of content. Fortunately, you don’t have to track them all (or even most of them).
And that’s because, even though these ranking factors are seemingly countless and they change often, they’re all based on one simple principle that’s remained constant since the birth of search engines: What’s good for user experience is good for SEO.
Ultimately, Google bases its ranking factors on what it thinks will get the user the most relevant result possible.
So, how does Google figure out what’s relevant? Two factors mostly:
The results you see on search engine results pages (SERPs) all constitute content. These are all pages created by businesses with the intention of informing, entertaining, or selling to visitors.
If you want to rank well, you need pages to rank, and they need to be high-quality to outshine competitors. High-quality means that they do the best possible job of satisfying search intent.
Search intent is basically: “What is the user looking for when they do a Google search for X term?”
For example, if a user searches “how to tie a tie,” they’re going to see a search engine results page that looks like this:
It’s filled with videos and diagrams on how to tie a tie because this kind of content does the best job of satisfying search intent, which is: The searcher wants to learn how to tie a tie.
On the other hand, if you search “affordable ties,” you’ll see a SERP that looks like this:
This search engine results page is filled with transactional pages. Not images or videos. Why? Because the intent of the searcher is clearly to find an affordable tie to buy. Not to learn about what an affordable tie is, or how it works, or its history. They want to shop.
When determining search intent for a keyword phrase, ask yourself: What do searchers want when they search this term? What’s ranking on page 1 (Blog posts? Product pages? Videos?)? What kind of blog post (Listicle? News article? Guide?)? How can I make my content better than what’s on page one to better satisfy searchers?
Once you know which keywords your audience uses to find answers related to your business and industry, you can use those target keywords to create an effective, comprehensive, high-quality content marketing strategy that users and search engines will love.
Google wants to make sure that when it’s serving results, it’s providing them from a trustworthy source. Moz.com is a more trustworthy source than a small blog run by an amateur search engine optimizer, for example.
The way Google evaluates this authority and trust is by looking at all the instances in which other sites have linked to Moz.com and the small SEO blogs. Links that come from other sites back to yours are called “backlinks.”
Since Moz is a high-quality source of information that’s been around for a long time, there are lots of cases in which sites have sent their visitors to blog posts, guides, and other pages on the Moz site to learn more about SEO. Moz has a lot of backlinks.
Since the small SEO blog is newer, or doesn’t have the same level of exposure, or expertise, or doesn’t publish the same level of quality content, the number of links to it is likely far lower.
Google considers these backlinks as upvotes. When there are a lot of links to a piece of content, Google figures it’s probably high-quality. And so the more backlinks a page or a site has, the better it will rank in search engines.
The 3 components of a killer SEO strategy
Most of the hundreds or thousands of Google ranking factors have to do with content and backlinks. Once you know that, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to improve your rankings; anyone can build an effective SEO strategy with the three following components.
On-page SEO strategy
On-page search engine optimization focuses on improving the physical content on your web pages. Your home page, pricing page, product pages, about page, etc, are all just canvases for content. They feature images, articles, videos, etc, to satisfy the visitors who land on them. Here are the SEO techniques you need to boost search traffic and Google rank:
- Do in-depth keyword research to discover the terms that your target audience is using to discover your service, product, etc. This includes both short-tail keywords with high search volume and long-tail keywords with high intent. Keyword tools offered by Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush can help with this technique.
- Satisfy search intent. Once you know why visitors conduct certain search queries, you can formulate a plan to create content that delivers what they’re looking for.
- Beat your competitors with better content. Satisfying intent is necessary, but so is going above and beyond. Outranking your competitors often means creating long, comprehensive written content, or beautifully designed images and videos. Google Analytics can help you determine which content is performing well and where it’s lacking.
- Create focused content. Don’t create content on a number of unrelated topics. Google wants to be sure that you’re an expert in what you’re writing about. Your content strategy should revolve around topics related to your industry, business, and product.
- Optimize your SERP click-through rate. Meta titles and meta descriptions are what you see on search engine results pages that title and describe a page. Even though meta tags aren’t specifically a ranking factor, click-through rate (CTR) contributes to SERP position. The better your page title and description, the more likely people are to click your result.
- Make your content easy to skim. With HTML title tags, you can organize your content in a way that makes it easier to skim. H1s should be used only once to describe the page, H2s should describe concepts within that H1 category, and H3s and 4s describe even more specific ideas in each of those H2s. Within H3s and 4s, bullets and bold words make it even easier for readers to find what they’re looking for.
- Optimize your images. Name your image alt tags with keywords related to the image. Google uses this information to determine the relevance of your content.
- Make your website easy to use. Like you should organize your written content, you should organize your site similarly, from one broad page or category (like the homepage for example) to more specific pages and content that visitors can navigate through to find what they’re looking for.
- Internally link your content. Internally linking from one of your web pages to another helps visitors navigate to what they’re looking for. For example, when a blog post discusses a concept that another post goes in-depth on, it’s good SEO to link to that page, so that visitors can learn more about that concept if they need to. Internal links also help search crawlers find and index all your pages. For best SEO, ensure your anchor text includes your target keyword.
Off-page SEO strategy
Not all SEO is done on your website. Improving the factors that contribute to your search ranking that aren’t on your pages is called “off-page SEO. This is the part of SEO that concerns itself mostly with generating backlinks to your website. Tactics for SEO success in this area include:
- Boost organic traffic with high-quality content. Content marketing is one of the biggest contributors to backlinks. When your content is high-quality and valuable, readers won’t just want to read it themselves; they’ll want to share it with their networks, too.
- Contribute as a guest blogger. When you blog on someone else’s website, you expose your content to a new audience, and this can increase the likelihood of gaining new visitors and customers. It can also end in a backlink from the site you contributed to.
- Share your content on social media. Though social media links aren’t a ranking factor, there’s a high correlation between top-ranking pages and social links. This makes sense, since the more a piece of content is shared, the more visible it is, which increases the likelihood it generates backlinks.
- Execute link-building strategies. Some strategies are strictly for link building. Those include tactics like linking to vendors and partners, fixing broken links, and others listed in this SEO checklist.
- Engage in local SEO. For small businesses that don’t consider e-commerce a major growth channel, local SEO is effective in driving offline foot traffic. Tactics for local businesses include claiming and optimizing your Google business page, getting listed on directories, creating location-specific content for mobile, and more.
Technical SEO strategy
Technical SEO focuses on making sure your site performs well. It’s about optimizing the infrastructure of a website to please users and search engines. Valuable SEO tactics in this component include:
- Send an XML sitemap to Google. An XML sitemap is a map of your site’s links for search engines so they can more efficiently crawl and index your pages. You can do this (and much more related to managing your search presence) with Google Search Console.
- Create a robots.txt file. This gives directions to search crawlers, like how to process your content and which pages they shouldn’t crawl.
- Use canonicalization for duplicate content. When you have two identical pieces of content, Google will only crawl and index one. Canonical tags tell Google which page you want to crawl and index so that ranking power isn’t split between two of them.
- Use schema markup. This kind of labeling markup better organizes your content for search engines, and it can also result in rich snippets on SERPs.
- Create a URL that’s optimized for users and crawlers. This means it’s short, has a simple file path, and is easy to understand.
- Prioritize mobile design. Google has committed to mobile-first indexing, which means that it will crawl and index your mobile site first. If you’re not putting emphasis on mobile design, it will negatively impact your search engine rankings.
Take the first step to creating a killer SEO strategy
The first step to determining your SEO strategy is to assess your site’s SEO. Want to measure your on-page, off-page, and technical SEO efforts? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, find out how intent SEO can boost traffic value 7x by scheduling a free consultation.