It’s no secret that SEO is a crucial part of any modern marketer’s strategy. Not to state the immensely obvious here, but search engine optimization (or rather, neglecting search engine optimization) is what stands in between you and your visibility in search engine results. Think about it: There are millions of internet searches per day, and if your site isn’t search engine optimized, you’re missing out on all that potential traffic.
If SEO hasn’t touched your role yet, it’s almost impressive that you’ve been able to avoid it for this long—but if you’re reading this, it seems like the time has come to tackle it. Consider these three steps that will help you and your team start thinking strategically about optimizing for search.
Here’s what you need to do to get started.
1. Map Out a Stellar Experience
The first and most important factor to consider when embarking on an SEO strategy is the experience. There’s a good chance this will mean rethinking the way your website is structured.
Since Google wants to send its users to the best possible results, it takes note of what your site visitors seem to think of you. Having a high bounce rate signals to Google that there’s probably something wrong with your site since most people navigate away from it so fast, while a longer dwell time sends a positive signal to Google—it implies that people are interested and engaged by what’s on your site, and it’s probably giving them what they’re looking for.
The way your site is organized also plays a role in how search engines crawl and understand your site, so keep in mind that your organization needs to be logical for both people and search engines.
Here are some things you’ll want to optimize to ensure your users stick around (and send a positive signal to Google):
Clear titles and headings: Titles and headings make it easier for both your site visitors and search engines to understand and navigate the content that’s on your site. Be strategic about how you use them though—ensuring h1 formatting comes first and h2 through h6 follow afterward.
Mobile browsing experience: Mobile accounts for 52.2% of web traffic worldwide—that’s more than half of the population browsing on their phones versus desktops. If your website doesn’t offer a superior mobile browsing experience, you can forget about appearing in the top search results.
URL structure: This might seem like a small thing, but it does make a difference! The structure of your URLs should contain meaningful keywords that are relevant to the topics on the page.
Site speed: Google favoring websites with a fast load time is old news, but still important to consider. Now, however, mobile load time has taken priority, so you’re going to want to ensure your mobile page speed is up to par.
2. Think Strategically About User Search Intent
First things first, what’s search intent? It’s as simple as it sounds: It’s the reason someone conducts a search. Search intent is an essential element to consider when crafting your SEO strategy because it will help you understand who your users (or potential users) are and what they’re looking for when they come to your website. Knowing this will help you optimize your content in a way that suits their needs.
To find out what keywords people are using most to search within your business category, you’ll want to do some keyword research. Tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, and SEMRush are great for this.
You’ll also want to stay on top of what keywords your competitors are ranking for, and optimize your content for those too. If you search “music streaming” for example, you’ll notice the first result (after Wikipedia) is Spotify, so Amazon Prime Music has decided to run an ad for those keywords to gain an edge over their competition.
3. Start Building Domain Authority
When it comes to SEO, authority = trust. If your website earns the status of being a trustworthy source, Google will send more people there. There are a few key things you’ll want to take into account to earn Google’s trust:
Canonical meta tags: If you’re publishing duplicate content (as in, you’re publishing something that appears exactly as it does elsewhere), you’re going to lose points with Google if you aren’t linking back to the original source using a canonical meta tag.
Pirated content: This is a given, but don’t use other people’s content without their permission. If your site’s been flagged for hosting pirated content, this will impact your SEO.
Paid links and spam: Anyone guilty of paying for links or spamming blogs and forums in hopes of improving your search rankings: Google is taking note. You’ll find these sketchy strategies to actually have the opposite effect.
There are also some things you can do off-page that will help build the authority of your website, the most important being backlinks.
Backlinks are links to your website or content that appear on other websites. You can build backlinks by posting on popular community sites and forums, but the most valuable way to approach this part of your strategy is to build and leverage relationships. There are some key things to consider when finding websites to swap links with and when reaching out:
Relevance: When you’re looking for link opportunities, place a heavy focus on sites that are relevant. It’s awesome if you can get Dairy Queen to link to you if you’re an ice cream company, but if you’re B2B software, it doesn’t mean much.
Authority: Almost as important as relevancy is authority. Look up the domain authority and reach of the websites you’re planning on reaching out to—you’ll want to make sure they have enough of an influence to make an impact on your SEO.
Context: A contextual link is one that’s found in a body of content, with context surrounding it. The best way to build these kinds of links is by guest blogging on relevant and authoritative sites, and including links back to your own content.
This may seem like a lot to consider, but a killer SEO strategy isn’t built (and definitely not executed) overnight. Optimizing your website for search takes time, research, and continuous effort. But hey, the best way to begin is to begin! Start tackling these elements one at a time and watch your search ranking improve.