So you’ve decided it’s time to dig into your search engine optimization strategy. There’s no doubt that it can seem overwhelming at first—when there are so many things to consider, where do you even begin?
The good news is that when it comes to improving your search engine rankings, there are some things that have more impact than others, which can help you decide what to work on first. We’ve highlighted the top three ranking factors below.
1. Think Mobile-First
A mobile-first experience is an essential first step towards making Google love you. Now that more and more people are browsing the web on their phones instead of their desktops, it only makes sense for Google to favor websites that serve up the best mobile experiences.
How does this impact your content SEO? Well, you can have the best content in the world, but if your site isn’t mobile-optimized, it’s not going to make the top search results.
Content-wise, you’ll want to make sure that you understand the mobile user journey. Mobile browsing is often more purposeful, as people are looking for specific answers to their questions. This means you must make your content discoverable. Ensure it’s organized in a logical way (by resource type, content format, and persona are common ways to do this), and map out an easy-to-understand navigation bar.
On top of this, you’ll want to make sure your content is divided into digestible sections and your images are optimized for mobile. Even if you have a mobile-responsive site, it’s a good idea to see what your content looks like on your phone in case there are any formatting issues Google might ding you for.
The last thing you'll want to consider when it comes to mobile is page speed. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to evaluate how long your page takes to load above-the-fold and the time it takes for the full page to load. Google’s tool will even provide suggestions for how you can improve!
2. Focus on Quality Content
Quality content has as many as 77 distinct characteristics that both audiences and Google expect. Here are some things you’ll need to consider with your content:
Know your audience: It’s important to make sure you’re catering to their needs and using the right language. If you’re writing for a highly technical audience (think developers, architects, and system admins), they’re looking for in-depth technical content that uses industry terminology. If you’re not catering to their need (and exclusively publishing thought leadership content), it doesn’t satisfy user intent, and they’ll leave. If you want to be found in search, make sure you’re using words and phrases in your content you want to be found for!
Write enticing SERP snippets: Search engine result page (SERP) snippets are what appear when your site shows up in search results. This is one of the most important SEO tasks when it comes to your content! Irrelevant or boring snippets discourage clicks, getting you less traffic, and, over time, can even decrease your rankings. The quality of your SERP snippet is just as important as the quality of your content, so don’t neglect it.
Provide value: To stand out against your competitors, you want to provide the most value. Cover topics in-depth. Provide actionable tips, and write detailed topic overviews that answer both direct and related questions. Target long-tail keywords to perform better in search and provide answers to questions no one else is covering. That’s how you’ll make your content stand out.
Outside of your blog content, you’ll also need to be mindful of your SEO titles, meta descriptions, and URLs—this is what’s considered your technical SEO. While some CMSs will automatically populate these, you’ll want to make sure all of these fields are custom-written to inspire clicks. Remember, a title that makes sense within the context of your blog might not entice people to click through on Google.
3. Experiences On- and Off-Page
You didn’t think we’d get through this post without highlighting the importance of experience, did you? Google is smart, but it’s still not able to navigate a webpage or engage with content in the same way that you or I can, so it relies on signals from users to gauge their experiences.
These are a few experience-related things to consider that happen on- and off-page that will affect your SEO:
Headings: If people (and search engines) are getting lost amidst all the text on your page, that’s not a good experience. Headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, and <h6>) should be organized in a logical way that indicates what the section is about.
Engagement: Do users spend time engaging with your page, or do they leave quickly? If Google notices that people are bouncing away from your content, it sends the signal that there’s something off about your page, and Google won’t want to send more people back there.
User signals: If you have a Google My Business listing that users are engaging with, that’s good news for you! Every time someone clicks on the website, phone number, or writes a review on your Google My Business listing, Google notices that your business is something that people are interested in engaging with.
Social media: Who’s sharing your content on social media? Are they respected sources? Do you get a lot of social shares? Social media shares are another signal to search engines that your website is an experience worth sharing.
A Place to Start
Remember, these three ranking factors are the starting point for your SEO strategy. There’s definitely a lot to cover, but breaking it into manageable chunks makes tackling your SEO strategy a little less overwhelming. In time, you’ll find yourself getting more popular with search engines and searchers alike.