9 Ways to Boost Your SEO
When was the last time you ventured past the first page of a Google search? Unless WebMD has freaked you out — along with the rest of us — and you’re clicking deeper and deeper to make sure your papercut won’t give you typhus, you probably just pop a question in the search bar and hit the first link that appears. If that’s the case, then you’re among the 75% of users who never dig beyond the first page of a search.
Which makes sense: People are lambasted with choices these days, and to avoid decision paralysis, our minds tend to scramble for a single answer. That’s why a menu with five dishes seems more svelte than a menu of five pages. If you’re a business, you want your site to be the first option on the menu. And the way to get there? Search engine optimization, or SEO. Here are nine SEO techniques that can help buoy your site to the top of the Google Machine.
Anticipate Why People Come to Your Site
Search engines are (to a large extent) in the business of finding answers for people. Type in “Best Wines to Buy,” and Google will list pages of wine shops and purchase options. Now type in “Awesome Vineyards 2021,” and you’ll get a spate of world’s-best-wineries sites and tour schedules. So ask yourself: What do you want people to do on your site? (Hire you? Apply for a job? Read your favorite recipe?) Tailor your content so that search engines identify which questions you’re answering and how their users will benefit from finding you.
Value Your UX
Enticing visitors to click through your site enhances your SEO, because Google recognizes that your pages are useful for its customers. So make your UX clear and navigable. Intersperse text with images and videos, chunk up your layouts with H1-H2-H3 header tags, and stay open to using white space (which calms the eye and makes content more readable). And never, under any circumstances, use popups. Just … no, people. No.
Prize Quality Over Quantity
To get noticed online, you’ll want to push out content optimized with keywords, but Google penalizes you for keyword stuffing, in part because the average Googler will stay on sites that feel timely and smart longer than they will on sites that read like a robot wrote them. Some studies also indicate that long-form articles (over 3,000 words) attract more traffic and shares than smaller articles (between 901–1,200 words). So feel free to blast on, but keep it fresh.
Optimize, Optimize, Optimize!
We all know writing with keywords optimizes your copy, but images can boost your SEO, as well. Images that are too large drag down a page’s loading time, so whenever possible, resize or compress them. Save photos as JPEGs and line art or text-heavy images as PNGs. And add in alt tags (or “alt attributes”) into the code on the back-end of those images, which helps browsers find your site and also satisfies a number of accessibility requirements.
Be the Strongest Link
SEO agencies will advise you to link your content to external articles, but don’t discount the value of internal links, either. If you audit your site’s information hierarchy, you may find that some pages are viewed more often than others. Linking the oft-viewed pages to less-viewed pages will flow traffic to those neglected child-pages, helping Google discover and crawl them. That, in turn, improves the SEO of your site as a whole.
Write title tags and meta descriptions in the back-end of your site. Title tags are the headings of a page, and meta descriptions are text that appear in a search below those headings. Imagine that you’re writing for the “Venues” page of a state park. “Venues | State Park” is the title tag, while your meta description should be phrased like a CTA. (“Rent our venues at your state park …”) Together, title tags and meta descriptions are behind-the-scenes heroes vying for Google’s attention when someone types in, “Where can I rent venues at my state park?”
Around 4.5 billion people currently have access to the internet, so how do you carve out your own space online? You find a niche. You like gardening, but so do millions of other people, so you focus on how to grow orchids in a cold climate. You love sports, but so do the rest of us, so your site covers the latest in chess boxing or underwater hockey. You — well, you get the point. Hone in on the thing that enough people care about but not enough people talk about and build your content strategy around providing answers in that space.
Jump in the Conversation
Remember how we said search engines find answers for people? As any SEO agency will tell you, the people with the answers are often referred to as “authorities.” You can establish your authority through blogging or linking to other authorities, but you can also find a Q&A site like Quora and answer questions there. Airing your opinion too often might get weird, but giving a real explanation now and again and linking back to your site — when it’s warranted — tells search engines that you’re a reliable source within the cosmos of information floating online.
Nab an Interview
We get it — convincing someone to interview you is about as easy as landing an interview at your dream job. (In other words, not very.) So you may as well start your hustle now, because interviews operate like SEO word-of-mouth and augment your site’s visibility. Email bloggers to see if they want to chat. Talk to your buddy’s buddy who’s got a podcast. Getting on the talk-circuit in your field is bound to happen if you plug away at it long enough.
Google is Goliath. But that Goliath would collapse if it didn’t get us the answers we need — otherwise, we’d hop over to competitors like Yahoo! or Bing. You can increase your chances of ranking in all these search engines if you follow the tips above, but think through the reason people are coming to your site in the first place. We’ve been in the game for a minute now, and we’ve learned at least one thing along the way: The ultimate optimization is being useful to your audience. Do that, and you’re halfway to being discovered.