Every modern business needs to optimize for SEO. Search engine optimization enables businesses to improve their search rankings, increase organic website traffic, and acquire valuable consumers who are more likely to complete a purchase or desired action -- all of which increase revenue.
In this article, we'll dive into what search engine optimization is and how search engines scan your site. Plus, we've got the best search engine optimization industry experts sharing the most important improvements you should make to your content and website -- and when you can expect to see results.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of improving your website through back-end, front-end, content and technical changes to rank higher in search results. When brands rank higher in search listings, they can acquire free, meaningful traffic that is likely to result in conversions.
Online brands achieve higher SEO rankings through a variety of tactics, including:
- Keyword research
- Content marketing
- Link building
- Technical optimization
- Image size and descriptions
- Proper titles and meta descriptions
- Use of H1, H2s and H3s
- Reporting and analytics
- And more!
But to strip it down to its bare bones, proper search engine optimization essentially revolves around two things -- user intent and user experience.
Ultimately, your website needs to properly communicate your offerings, products, services, mission and brand to visitors and Google. When Google understands what you are presenting throughout your site and on each page, it can properly rank you for relevant keywords -- which are essentially what potential visitors type into the Google search bar. You should include relevant keywords on your website to help Google quickly understand your topic(s).
But perhaps most importantly, you must provide valuable information to visitors. Google wants to help searchers find the facts they are looking for. Thus, if your website best answers the question(s) input into the search engine, you'll achieve a longer time on site (because people are reading your fantastic content!) and subsequently rank higher.
Quality of information is more important than the number of keywords. Plus, your keywords should accurately represent the information you provide. The good news? Websites can rank for more than one keyword!
Technically-speaking, your website needs to provide an enjoyable and easy-to-use experience for users, too. For example, your site should load quickly, images should be properly sized and navigation should be clear and intuitive. Google will penalize websites that create a confusing online environment for users, mainly because this hinders their ability to find the answers they are searching for.
(Plus, 38% of people will leave a poorly-designed website and not return, so it's in your best interest to invest in a stunning website design).
Now that we understand the objective of search engine optimization, it's time to make some improvements to improve your own rankings! We asked the top search engine optimization companies the best enhancements brands can make to their website to see speedy ranking results and acquire high-quality organic traffic.
How To Improve Your SEO Ranking, According To The Best Search Engine Optimization Consultants
Daniel Lofaso, President, The Digital Elevator
1. Reverse engineer keyword competitiveness.
One of the best SEO techniques is going after what I like to call “low-hanging fruit keywords.” Everyone wants to go after high volume keywords that are related to their niche or industry, but not every site is necessarily in a place to do so. A site must have some sort of domain authority – a search engine ranking score developed that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages – before it can compete with high competition keywords. The higher your domain authority (ranked from 0-100), the better chance you have of competing. So, if you have low domain authority and you want to try to get quicker results, you’ll want to use an SEO software (I like AHREFS) to determine how much competition a particular keyword has before you target it with a blog or service page.
2. Submit content to Google Search Console for quick indexation.
A really quick way to get a new page indexed is by submitting it through the “Fetch as Google” option within Google Search Console. Provided you have your website added and verified through the Search Console, open it up and navigate to the Crawl option in the left sidebar. Inside these options, there is a “Fetch as Google” option where you can enter the page of your site you want Google to index. Add your URL, click Fetch>Request indexing>Crawl This URL Only and then Go. Sometimes a site can get indexed and make it on the first page of Google’s search results within a day.
3. Earn links by doing outreach about your great content.
Links are still one of the most highly correlated ranking factors that there are. Thus, it makes sense to try to build links to nearly every piece of content you want to get ranked. If you have created an exceptional resource that is much, much better than the sites that rank in the top spots on Google, use an SEO software to mine all the links your competitors are getting to their respective pages. Then, contact the site owners and let them know about your much more up-to-date/robust/modern/user-friendly/etc. resource and that the other one is dated. Your competitors will lose their links and you’ll gain them.
Jasmine Pacal, SEO Manager, Elevated Internet Marketing
1. Shift your expectation.
If "results" to you means ranking no. 1 for your dream keyword, you might have to keep dreaming for some time. SEO is a long play, and I'm always uneasy with promising anything "immediately."
Improvements in SEO performance, however, can be seen in increases in impressions over tracked keywords, improved CTR from search, as well as increases in the quantity of keywords ranking.
So maybe you're still sitting at no. 11 for your dream keyword -- but if you're seeing visibility for keywords that you've never ranked before, more impressions, better CTR, and more conversions, that's still a WIN.
2. Don't put SEO in a corner.
I've heard the extremes - some think SEO doesn't matter at all, and some put SEO on a pedestal.
The truth is SEO is not a standalone strategy. If you really want to get the most gains out of your SEO effort, utilize data from paid campaigns to craft an evidence-backed keyword targeting strategy, and combine your on-page and off-page efforts with stellar UX (because what's the point of pulling in traffic if the traffic doesn't convert?).
3. Get ahead of search.
This is a funny one, but we've run into it pretty often - especially with businesses that are pioneering a new technology or practice.
Sometimes a business just gets stuck because they're trying to rank for the wrong keyword - they're trying to make themselves fit into what people are already searching first. Instead of taking a keyword-first approach, try to define what it is that you're providing, and determine how might your target audience be searching for your services.
Sometimes the keywords that you're best qualified to rank for don't quite have the search volume -- YET. But define your product, and get ahead of the search curve. When the demand grows, you'll already be ranking.
Brian Byer, Vice President of Content & Commerce Practice Lead, Blue Fountain Media
1. SEO is a long-term investment that requires patience and consistent reinvestment in order to reinforce hard earned placements.
2. Any press is not necessarily good press in SEO. A link earned from a prestigious publication or government website is of the highest value. A link bought from a link directory could result in crippling penalties.
3. Content is king. Great SEO results require a concerted effort to publish content regularly on topics relevant to your website, there isn’t a one and done solution for SEO.
Dan Bowen, Founder & CEO, BOWEN
1. Explore tools like lsigraph.com to identify latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords for use as part of your on-site content strategy.
2. Create content that talks about solving your audience's problems. Partner with like-minded bloggers to distribute this content through relevant sources.
3. Check out your company’s local citations. Some simple cleanup work can have a significant impact on local SEO.
Curtis Warren, Online Presence Manager, Boostability
1. Make Your Brand Visible In Local Search
For the best return on investment, small and local businesses need to focus on local search. Search engines tailor their results based on a user’s search query and location. For example, if a searcher types ‘local lawyers near me,’ Google will use multiple data points to identify the user’s location. It will then return a number of businesses in the area.
2. Update Your Website Code
The speed of your website plays a big role in how your pages rank. Speed relates to usability, and if your pages take too long to load, users won’t want to stick around. Recent research by Google found that the chance of a bounce is 32% higher when pages take 3 seconds to load compared to 1 second. Even worse, when pages take 5 seconds to load, the chance of a bounce is 90%.
3. Conduct Valuable Keyword Research
The optimization process starts with identifying the right keywords for your brand. Without optimizing pages for keywords, you will find it extremely difficult to rank high for any pages on any search engine. Choose one main keyword for each page and add it to places like the title of the page and various subheadings as well as throughout the content.
Nick Rivers, Senior Software Engineer, Racepoint Global
Most of SEO is based on content relevance, but many times people overlook the technical side of SEO. Here are three things I always ensure are working.
1. Configure Google Search Console.
This tool helps track search engine performance and provides tools to improve ranking.
2. Improve page load time.
Page speed impacts search engine ranking, especially on mobile devices. Tools like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse help identify areas of improvement.
3. Ensure site is mobile-friendly.
Mobile usability can also impact search engine ranking and it’s very important to make sure your site meets web standards. Search console can help identify areas for improvement.
PJ Howland, Campaign Manager, 97th Floor
1. Conduct a TF-IDF analysis and implement findings TF-IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency) analysis and implementation.
This is arguably the most exciting and game-changing aspect of SEO at 97th Floor right now. It enhances and builds on keyword research by identifying other semantically relevant words and phrases.
While the process may seem elementary, surprisingly few professionals or agencies are making this a priority and they are missing out. TF-IDF analysis goes beyond simple keyword research. Instead, it is the process of analyzing a set of pages (typically the front page of Google for a given keyword) for the syntactically relevant words and phrases that pertain to an overall subject or keyword.
For example, if you are trying to rank for the keyword, “coconut oil,” the old rules of SEO dictate that you should throw in words like, “coconut oil benefits,” “coconut oil for hair,” uses of coconut oil,” and the like.
But a TF-IDF analysis will take a deeper look at the top-ranking content for a given keyword and determine the words that the top-ranking pages are using in addition to that keyword. It might uncover other phrases like, “diaper rash,” or “medium chain triglycerides.” These are phrases that Google knows have to do with coconut oil, and that a truly authoritative article on the subject should be mentioning.
Businesses will make the best use of TF-IDF by working with existing pieces of content that are under-performing for their top-ranking keyword.
2. Craft content that’s relevant to the SERP served for your desired keyword.
It’s no secret that you need content in order to rank for keywords, but it’s still surprising that some don’t understand that copy and its type/format is essential. Yes, words on pages are still very much relevant. As an agency, it’s frustrating and unfortunate that so many companies have been trying to force their homepage to rank for a keyword when the SERP (search engine results page) for that keyword simply doesn’t serve up homepages.
Understand that for some keywords/queries, every site with a spot on the first page of Google is a blog post or other type of long-form written content. Also, keep in mind that regardless of which page you’re trying to get to rank for a given keyword, improving its ranking will likely mean adding more copy to the page. If you’re not comfortable with that (if it’s your homepage for example), consider writing a longer blog post in order to rank for the keyword.
3. Remember that offsite isn’t 100% backlinks anymore.
Thanks to Google’s August 1, 2018 core algorithm update (now known as the “Medic Update”) third-party reviews now matter more than they ever have. As it currently stands, it appears medical and financial sites have been hurt the most by this update, but Google is always advancing. And the learnings from this update are sure to affect (for better or for worse) a wider reaching audience. Digital marketers should be spending the coming months sprucing up their reviews on third-party review sites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Amazon, to name a few.
So, How Long Does It Take To Rank On Google?
Most search engine optimization tactics focus on Google -- and for good reason. In 2018, Google accounted for nearly 80% of all desktop search traffic and almost 93% of all mobile search traffic. So, if you had to pick one search engine to hone in on, Google is your guy.
In fact, 67,000 searches are performed on Google every second.
Yes, you read that right. 67,000. That number alone proves why search engine optimization is crucial for modern businesses.
The good news? Most other search engines use similar SEO algorithms because they know most businesses are focused on Google, too. By mirroring their tactics, they can improve their own business, too.
Although many website fixes -- such as keyword-centric content, mobile optimization, and fast site speed -- can improve your overall SEO health fairly quickly, the fact of the matter is that drastic increases in search engine rankings take time.
A lot of time.
A study from Ahrefs showed that only 22% of all websites ranking within the top 10 of search results were created within the year. Meanwhile, nearly 60% of the top 10 were three years or older.
Plus, the older the site, the higher the position. That means that websites with a lot of history and longevity have a higher change of, well, a higher ranking.
But that doesn't mean you won't see growth, improvements and organic traffic within a year, even as a new business.
By following SEO best practices and investing in the health, content and user experience of your website, you can see meaningful growth in search results in as soon as three months!
Now, three months may seem like a lot of time, but remember -- search engine optimization requires businesses to play the long game. You don't want instant gratification, you want long-term results that will provide a strong return on investment over a significant period of time. Proper SEO can deliver that!
Of course, this also depends on the keyword competition within your industry -- another reason why keyword research is imperative. By utilizing tools such as Ahrefs and SEMRush, you'll be able to see exactly how many people are searching for a relevant keyword, how many people search for it and what the search trend is (meaning, are more people searching for it, or is its popularity tapering off).
Pro Tip: If you have a lean budget, try not to go for highly competitive keywords until you acquire more funding. New online businesses can rank for competitive keywords on Google and other search engines, but -- to be frank -- it takes a lot of time, energy and money. Start small, attain some growth, then work your way up.
How Do You Do SEO For A Website?
Search engine optimization is the key to securing free and organic traffic -- and in the age of pay-per-click advertising and boosted social media posts, that's priceless.
Although investing in proper SEO is a long-term commitment, following SEO best practices and taking the time to improve your website correctly will help any business yield successful results.
SEO Best Practices To Improve Your Website Ranking
- Open your brand to local search visibility.
- Update your website code and ensure your site loads quickly.
- Use Google Search Console.
- Optimize for mobile.
- Acquire "do-follow" links from websites with a high domain authority -- but don't rely on them completely.
- Conduct keyword research regularly -- but especially before publishing content online.
- Conduct TD-IDF analysis to identify new keywords.
- Regularly publish valuable blogs and content that are relevant to your community.
- Try investing in emerging keywords that may blossom in popularity.
- Incorporate other digital marketing and website development strategies to compliment SEO efforts.
- Be patient.