Increase your organic ranking by using these easy, effective strategies
For many businesses, organic search is the digital channel that is most closely linked to online success. There are several key reasons for this, the most significant being the amount of users that can be found using search engines at any given moment. Unlike some other channels, the reach of organic search goes beyond any specific demographics, expanding into what seems like all ends of the earth. The relationship that users/customers have with search engines is another heavily weighted factor when considering the power of organic search. The relationship is natural and self-initiated, unlike other marketing channels like paid advertising. Users don’t feel like they are being sold; in fact, they often feel a sense of pride in finding what they were looking for.
Given the role that organic search can have in taking your business to the next level, it’s only natural that search engine optimization (commonly referred to with the SEO acronym) is top of mind for many businesses looking to grow their revenue. Luckily, taking the first steps to optimize your website doesn’t require a Ph.D.; as long as you have a strong understanding of the ultimate goal of the search engine as well as the desires/needs of your audience, you can make a few easy changes to your site that can make a big difference in your organic performance. This isn’t just SEO for dummies; this is DIY SEO for any small business looking to make some big changes to their revenue.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure that any changes being made to your site in the name of SEO are being made with the best interest of both the searcher and the search engine in mind. Here are the first steps that SEO experts recommend taking to start improving your organic search traffic.
1. On-page Content (Category & Product Pages)
On-page content is one of the most fundamental tasks that any website should focus on when trying to optimize for organic search. Content on a page is one of the top signals that search engines use to determine which web pages to serve for a given search query. The content that you include on your pages is your opportunity to describe to the search engine exactly what a searcher might find on this page, and why it would be useful to them. Keep in mind, though, that any content that you include on your website is also accessible by your end user. Search engines keep this in mind as well, and if they determine that the content is low-quality or would otherwise not be useful to the end-user, they are less likely to show it for a search result. Search engines like Google want to provide a good experience to their users, and which means serving results to searchers that will satisfy their search intent.
Ultimately, the content that should be on your category and/or product pages will be determined by what you business does/offers, but there are a few tips that all businesses can use to make sure that their website is one step closer to being search-engine friendly.
Tip 1: Make sure that the content on your category/product pages answers the following questions:
- What different types of products are found on this page?
- What is the purpose of these products?
- How do they work?
- Why are these products important for people using them?
- What are some of the unique features about these products that differentiate them from similar products?
- What brands and types of products are represented on this page?
Tip 2: Wondering what people want to know about this category/product? Type in one of your most popular keywords, and scroll down to the “People Also Ask” section on Google.
Use these questions to guide the direction of your content, and feel confident that you are giving the people what they want! For example, if we were wondering what people were asking on the topic of “How to do SEO yourself”, we might search:
Tip 3: Aim for no less than 150 words of content on each category and product page.
The ideal length of content will vary depending on your industry and the complexity of your product, but it is not generally recommended to include less than 150 words per page. And remember, more content is almost always better (as long as it’s unique).
Tip 4: Make sure that any key words/phrases that you choose to include flow naturally within your content.
Including phrases or words that you know your customers are searching can be helpful for search engines to better understand how to serve your pages in results, but make sure that you don’t compromise the quality of the content just to fit in extra keywords. Ultimately, search engines will value high-quality content over more keywords. Try to include between 3 and 5 keywords per page.
BONUS: Keyword research like a pro with these free tools
- Google Search Console – Verify your site to find out what keywords your site is ranking for now.
- Google Keyword Planner – Create an adwords account to get access to their Keyword Planning Tool where you can brainstorm keyword ideas and see what type of volume each has; keep in mind that competition that this tool measures is paid, not organic.
- SEO Book Keyword Tools – SEO Book is the most comparable option to keyword research alternatives that cost money to use (like Ahrefs).
2. Optimize Meta Tagging
There is some debate in the SEO community as to how much meta tagging influences how you are ranked by a search engine, but we do know for a fact that meta tagging heavily influences how often a searcher clicks through to your site. Most site owners can access the meta tag title and description within the admin dashboard of their site after navigating to the page that they would like to adjust. In order to ensure that your tagging is optimized for search engines and potential customers, follow these best practices:
It’s important to make sure that your meta tag titles are not too long, otherwise the text with be cut off in the search engine results page (SERP).
Studies have shown that titles that have over 40 characters have a lower click-through rate than those who do not, but typically if you aim for under 60 characters, you won’t have a problem with your title abruptly cutting off.
The rule of thumb is slightly different for descriptions. It is okay to have a meta description that runs off the page, however it’s important to ensure that no important information is cut off. In addition, make sure that the information you are including in your meta description is information that will help the searcher make a decision to click-through, rather than turning this space into a full-on sales pitch. SEO specialists will often use this space to give searchers a sample of what will be on the page.
To make sure that your meta tagging is not cut off in a way that takes away from the information presented, use tools like Snippet Optimizer or Google SERP Simulator to get an idea of how your tagging will look when shown in a SERP. Keep in mind that Google uses pixel count, rather than character count to determine where a particular title or description will cut off.
Not sure if your tagging is optimized? There is one sure-fire way to determine if you need to make updates to your tagging on a certain page: check to see how Google has indexed your site. By typing the following operator into Google, you can do just that: site:https://www.yourURL.com. If your page is being indexed with the meta tagging that you have designated, more information might be needed to determine whether you need to further optimize. However, if Google is indexing your page using their own tagging designations, you can assume that page is in need of updated tagging.
If you’re still stuck on what to put for a page’s meta tagging, check out what the page’s direct competitors are doing. Go to Google and type in one of the most popular keywords for that page. Take a look at what other sites ranking on the first page are doing, and use their results as inspiration.
3. Build Resource Pages On Your Site
As you begin to optimize your website to perform well on search engines, it’s important to understand the different types of content on your site and the unique benefits each offers in terms of SEO. In this guide, we have discussed content on category and product pages. Another second content type that you’ll want to include on your website is informational/resourceful content. This content is sometimes manifested in the form of a blog, an article, or a customer resource section. Typically, this content is long-form, totaling 800 words or more. Resource content serves to exhaustively cover a topic that is intended to benefit the consumers in such a way that they are indirectly encouraged to convert on your site. In more rare instances, the solicitation to convert is more direct. Resource content can also be useful in encouraging customers to engage with your brand, bolstering customer loyalty to your business. With that in mind, it makes sense why resources pages are important to have on your site when considering the customer’s journey. But why are resource pages so important for SEO?
A metric often used in SEO that we haven’t yet mentioned is domain authority or domain rating. There are several different proprietary names for this metric that have been coined by different SEO analytics platforms, but all can be loosely defined as a measurement of the relevance/importance of a website to a specific industry or subject area. Domain authority is not a ranking factor in the most general sense, however the calculation of domain authority is designed to mimic a search algorithm. Therefore, we can assume that the higher your domain authority, the more likely a website is to rank well on search engines. For the purposes of our explanation only, we will consider that domain authority has considerable weight when determining how a website is ranked.
Including content on your site that covers a subject in-depth signals to search algorithms (and algorithms calculating domain authority) that your website has significant knowledge and authority in that area. Ultimately, search engines want to deliver results for a query that are going to benefit the searcher, and if the algorithm determines that your website is highly knowledgeable about a certain industry, it will be more likely to serve your content high on a SERP.
Another auxiliary benefit of creating content-rich resource pages is that this type of content naturally attracts external links. External links also signal that your website is an authority in your industry because it shows that other sites have found your content useful or worthy of linking to. Resource pages that have useful, custom graphics are especially useful when trying to naturally grow your external link profile.
It’s important to be strategic about the resource content that you are adding onto your site, because creating informational, long-form content can require significant resources. To make sure that you are adding content to your site that you customers will truly value, always begin your process with adequate research on what you customers are asking/want to know. This type of research include:
- Looking at the “People Also Ask” section on Google
- Looking at relevant social media subgroups to see what your audience is talking about (i.e. SubReddits, Instagram Hashtags, Facebook Groups)
- Finding patterns in the questions that your customers are directly asking you through support inquiries
After determining what kind of information your audience is looking for, consider getting started incorporating the content into your site using one of the following structures:
- FAQ Center
- Tool/Equipment Specs
- “How To” Guides
- Purchase/return resource information
4. Internal Linking
As mentioned above, external links to your websites can send signals to search engines about the value/authority of your website in its particular industry. Another valuable type of link in the SEO world is an internal link, or a link on your website that points to a different page within the same domain. While internal links don’t have the same benefits as external links, they have their own set that make them an important factor in SEO. A few of the reasons that Internal links are valuable are:
- They assist customers in navigating your site, leading to an overall better user experience
- They send important information to search algorithms about the hierarchy of information on your site, and how different pages relate to each other.
- Because some pages on your site are inherently considered more important (home page, high-level category pages), including links on them to other, smaller pages can help spread some of that pages SEO value, or link equity.
Refining and bolstering your internal links is something that must be done after content has been added to your site. However, it can be valuable to think about what types of internal links you can add into content as you are writing it. Agreed-upon best practices for internal linking are as follows:
- Determine what keyword is most valuable to a given page, and ensure that keyword is the anchor text (text that holds the link) for each internal linking instance pointing to that page.
- Only include links in content where it makes sense for the user to navigate to a different page for more/different information.
- Remember, your website already has a significant amount of links on each page, as this is how users navigate through your website via menus, footers, headers etc. Make sure to not overwhelm content with links, because this will unnecessarily slow down search engine bots as they are crawling through your website. Best practice is to include no more than 150 links on a given page, including links that are in your menu, header, etc. To easily determine how many links are on a page, you can use a Chrome plugin like Check My Links.
- Determine which pages on your site are most important, and add more links to your site that are pointing to those pages.
5. Use Google Analytics and Search Console to Expedite Success
As you begin to optimize your site for search engines, you’ll probably realize that there is a LOT to be done; especially if you have a site with a lot of pages! Luckily, tools like Google Analytics can help you determine where to start. To find the metrics that will be most valuable for determining which pages to start with, we’ll be spending our time in the Google Search Console section of Google Analytics. Before reaping the benefits of this report, you will have to set up your Google Search Console and connect it to your Analytics account. If you’re not familiar with navigating Google Analytics, you’ll want to navigate to the” Acquisition” section on the left hand side of your dashboard, then click into “Search Console”, and subsequently “Landing Pages”.Iif you have multiple accounts/views, make sure that you have selected the correct account and view at the top left of the page. Set the time frame in the top right corner from 30-90 days in the past to yesterday.
This report will show you different pages that are being shown in Google search results, and how they are performing both in the SERP, as well as how users are acting once they have landed on the page. You can play around with sorting the data with different metrics by clicking on the metrics that you want to sort by. It’s helpful to view more than just the first 10 pages here (which you can adjust at the bottom right of the page). Here are some of our favorite metrics to look at when we are starting out on a new website:
- Impressions: Across the board, impressions is going to be one of the most important metrics to look at when you are determining which pages to start optimizing. Typically, pages that already have some ranking, and therefore are receiving impressions, will be able to gain more traction faster with some optimization. Starting from square one on a page that is not ranking for any keywords is necessary eventually, but will typically take a longer time to show great results. Keep this in mind when choosing pages based on other metrics; make sure any page you select to optimize is receiving some impressions already. The amount of impressions that you should deem as “enough” will be dependent on your site and your industry, but as a general rule of thumb, don’t start by optimizing a page that is in the bottom 5% of your pages in terms of impressions.
- Bounce rate: A page’s bounce rate measures the percentage of sessions on your site that consist of one pageview compared to all of the sessions. In layman’s terms, this is the percentage of users on your site who visited a landing page and then left without further exploring the site. If you see a page that has high impressions AND a high bounce rate, it can be an indication that the user is not seeing what they expected to see when they land on that page, and is subsequently returning to the search engine results page. Optimizing the pages that show these metrics with on-page content and fresh meta tags can help manage user expectations, ultimately leading to higher rates of conversion.
- Average Position: Optimizing a page that is currently showing on page five so that it moves up page four isn’t going to yield a lot of change. Instead, focus on optimizing pages that are close to being on the first page, or close to being on the top of the first page. Each SERP will typically have 10 listings on it, so pages that are ranking in spots 1-10 will usually be on the first page, with 1-5 being on the first half and 5-10 being on the bottom half. Try focusing on optimizing pages that are in spot 5-15. These pages have a better chance of showing big results, as these pages will have a chance to move into very coveted spots on a SERP!
- CTR (Click-Through-Rate): The CTR of a page is a measurement that is indicative of how your meta-tagging is performing. This is the percentage of people who click on your result out of all of the people who are served it. While meta tagging does influence CTR, average position influences it as well because results that are shown on the second page and beyond are often going to be overlooked. However, if you see pages that have a CTR that is lower than most other pages ranking in similar positions, you may have a problem with your meta tagging that needs to be addressed.
Search Engine Optimization can be instrumental to the success of your business, so it’s vitally important to ensure that you are adhering to search engine best practices. As you get started optimizing your website with these tips, always keep in mind that in order to be truly successful with SEO, you need to optimize first for the users, and secondarily for the search engine algorithm. Happy optimizing!