With everyone clamouring to be number one in search, it can be tempting to reach for strange methodologies that promise to get you straight to page 1.
But in reality, you’ll soon see that following a few of these basics makes a huge difference in improving your SEO.
1) People first. The algorithm second.
One of the most common mistakes that people make when getting started in their SEO journey is forgetting to write for search engines as well as for their readers.
The key is to do both: aim for high-quality, well-designed, readable and thoroughly researched content that also has all the necessary search engine considerations.
High-quality content comes from high-quality writers, so if you aren’t a wordsmith yourself, we recommend hiring a professional. Web pages and articles that are the easiest to read are usually the hardest to write.
To improve your basic SEO, start by implementing these key rules for your content:
- Use your keywords in your title tags. Tagging text as H1 or H2 tells the algorithm that those words are important. Including your keywords in some of your titles and subtitles will give them extra weight when they’re indexed.
- Use your keywords in your content. You don’t need to include it every 100 words, but sprinkle it in a few times. You can use variations of the same phrase, including different tenses, forms, and synonyms.
- Use your keywords in the meta. More on this later, but this includes titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags, and so on.
- Keep it natural. Write for people first. Search engines pay attention to metrics like bounce rate and dwell time, so if you write content that isn’t readable and people click away, you will be penalised.
2) Power up you off-page efforts
Ever asked friends or family (or Yelp) whether they think that new restaurant is worth a try? Search engines do the same thing with your website content through backlinks. High authority sources (well established websites with high traffic volume) linking to your site counts as a reliable recommendation for your site.
Moz has a particularly thorough guide on improving your off-page SEO, but here’s the gist of link-building:
- Every time a site links to a piece of your content, the search engines take that as a vote of confidence in your content.
- If the site linking to you is high authority, this vote is even more valuable.
- If the site linking to you is low authority (spammy or irrelevant sites, for example), this vote becomes less valuable—or even detrimental in some cases.
Create high quality, informative and useful content, and you will get natural links from other sites using you as a source for their own content. However, you can stimulate these efforts by guest blogging, performing social media marketing, reaching out to influencers for brand mentions, and so on.
3) Create strong authority with content architecture
Good content architecture is about structuring your articles around single, high-value topics that are relevant to your customers. This allows you to develop a body of knowledge around those topics and demonstrate your authority in organic search.
Typically, people use ‘pillar pages’ and subsequent ‘cluster content’ to achieve this. A pillar page is a single, long-form, high-authority article that covers a topic in broad strokes, while cluster content is made up of short, more in-depth articles that cover specific aspects in depth. These pillars and clusters are then linked to one another to demonstrate their shared relevance.
For example, if you ran a fitness business, you might decide to cover the topic of ‘exercise frequency’. You create a broad pillar page called “how often should I exercise?”, going into subjects like age, ability, intent, and so on. This gives your audience the basics, but you go further in a set of shorter blogs with titles like “How to exercise safely in your 70s” or “Got the DOMS? Here’s your cheat-sheet of effective warm-down exercises”.
This method is not only beneficial for readers but also demonstrates to search engine crawlers that you are an authority on this subject. In a world where there is already an article on everything, this gives you cut-through in the SERPs.
4) Never forget-a the meta data
While it might be invisible to your readers, meta data gives the search engine bots everything they need to discover what your content is about, why it’s relevant to searchers, and why your content should get that top spot.
While most people are familiar with the need for meta descriptions (or extracts) and the use of h1, h2 and other simple HTML tags, the truly prepared content creators use Schema markup to notate their work.
Schema markup is the outcome of a joint effort by the major search engines to create a way for content creators to mark their website content in more detail, allowing users to indicate recipes, how-to guide, author information, and so on.
Mark up your content with this additional information, and the crawlers will give you better rankings in return. Here’s a handy Schema guide to get you started.
In short, to improve your SEO, you need to:
- Create for people first, but make it easy for bots.
- Share and get shared by high-quality domains.
- Create content around specific topics.
- Use metadata to mark significance in your copy.