Having your web pages rank high in Google’s organic search listings for important keywords can be incredibly valuable for driving traffic to your site. And while Google is constantly tweaking their search engine algorithm, here are some fundamental strategies to get you started on improving your organic search engine rankings.
1. Define a Keyword List
It’s unreasonable to assume that you will pull top rank in Google for every keyword relating to your industry. Your goal should be to secure high organic rankings for your most desired keywords. This is an exercise that will take the effort of both marketing and management. Think about how people would search for your products and services, make a list of these keywords, and check the traffic and competition for each term with a tool like BrightEdge or Google’s Keyword Planner. Keywords with high volume and low to medium competition are the sweet spot — they have high traffic potential and are easier to rank for. You can also learn how customers actually talk about your products by using AI-powered conversation analytics tools like Signal Discovery.
2. Good Content Will Win Out in Organic Rankings
Before you dig into some of the more technical ways to improve SEO ranking, always remember that writing high-quality content that attracts interest and compels visitors to share it and link back to it is vital. Good content has the best chance of being viral content, and Google rewards content virality heavily in its rankings algorithm.
3. Create Cornerstone Pages
If you have 10 pages relating to the same set of keywords, Google will have a hard time determining which page is relevant. Instead, merge your content into a single cornerstone page. With one authoritative cornerstone page on a specific topic, there is no SEO confusion, and you should rank higher.
4. Work Your Keywords and Related Variants in Page Content
The best way to rank for a keyword is to use it. You should include important keywords early in your page titles, headlines, and body text, since early placement can be a signal of relevance. You should use your focus keywords often throughout your copy — but never at the expense of good writing. Google’s algorithm has become wary of “keyword stuffing” and penalizes pages that use keywords excessively, in ways that interfere with the reading experience. A good way to avoid being penalized for “keyword stuffing” is to read your copy aloud — if your keyword use sounds unnatural, you may get flagged for stuffing. To correct this, you can replace your focus keyword with secondary keywords you want the blog to rank for.
5. Optimize Your Page Titles
The <title> HTML tag defines a web page’s title and is meant to be a concise description of that page’s content. It is the first line of hyperlinked text Google displays in their organic search results, and it is what appears in the top frame of most web browsers for that page and in tabs. Google’s algorithm considers this to be a crucial on-page SEO element. When you write your page titles, keep them less than 70 characters, since any text beyond that will be cut off when listed in Google’s organic results. You should include your important keywords in the title, preferably in the beginning. If you have extra space, consider including your company at the end to increase brand awareness.
6. Write Meta Descriptions that Drive Clicks
The <meta name= description content= > HTML tag is meant to be a concise explanation of a web page’s content. Google displays your meta description beneath the page title in their organic results. Meta descriptions aren’t nearly as important to Google’s ranking algorithm as page titles — rather, their function is to drive clicks from users. People read descriptions as a preview of your page and use it to determine if your content is worth visiting. Therefore, you need to provide a clear value proposition about what they’ll gain by visiting your page and reading your content. Consider using words that inspire action like “learn more,” “find out,” or “get...” Below are a few examples of meta descriptions that drive clicks:
7. Use Keyword Variations as Anchor Text for Internal Linking
Anchor text is the visible words and characters that hyperlinks display when linking to another page. Using descriptive, relevant anchor text helps Google determine what the page being linked to is about. When you use internal links (links on web pages that point to other pages on the same web site), you should use anchor text that is a close variation of your target keywords for that page, instead of phrases like “click here” or “download here”. But at the same time, avoid overuse of exact match keywords. Using close variations will help you improve your organic Google rankings for more keywords.
8. Don’t Forget About ALT Tags
ALT tags are HTML elements used to specify alternative text to display when the element they are applied to (such as images) can’t be rendered. ALT tags are a signal for Google’s ranking algorithm, so when you have images and other elements on your web pages, be sure to always use a descriptive ALT tag with targeted keywords for that page.
9. Your URLs Matter
Search engines prefer URLs that are readable for humans, so keep yours clean and relevant to the page. Avoid blocks of numbers and special characters. Shorter URLs perform better in Google search rankings than longer ones, so keep that in mind when you architect your site. Keep the slashing to a minimum. You should also include keywords in your URL names, and try to place them closer to your domain name.
10. Optimize Your Site for Mobile.
In 2015, Google first announced that it would be using mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. This triggered the infamous “Mobilegeddon,” as brands scrambled to optimize the mobile versions of their sites. Since then, Google has been gradually increasing the importance of mobile friendliness in its rankings — in a more recent announcement, it said it will index the entire web with a mobile-first model by September 2020.
Below are some tips to optimize your website for mobile:
- Test your site using Google’s mobile-friendly tool
- Design for touch — fingers come in all sizes and can easily make incorrect taps
- Make your CTA buttons accessible to mobile users
- Redesign your pop-ups for mobile devices
- Enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Implement caching
- Compress your images to improve loading time
- Use heat maps and mouse tracking tools to understand how people user your website on mobile and make optimizations accordingly
11. Adhere to Google’s EAT Guidelines
According to Google, EAT is one of the top three factors for gauging page quality. Here’s the breakdown of what the acronym means:
Expertise: Google wants to see that a website demonstrates expertise in your field. This is especially pertinent to the medical, financial, and legal industries. You can establish expertise by providing clear, accurate information and citing reputable sources in your content.
Authoritativeness: Show off your authority. This can be demonstrated through credentials, positive reviews, and customer testimonials. You can highlight this information throughout your website.
Trustworthiness: Make sure users feel safe on your site. It’s important to have an HTTPS site and an SSL certificate, especially if you accept any monetary transactions online. Studies show that Google ranks secure domains and sites with SSL certificates more highly. 75% of first-page Google results have an SSL certificate.
In addition to the tips above, you can ensure EAT compliance with these best practices:
- Include author bios if you have a blog and be sure to mention any credentials that demonstrate the author’s expertise
- Go after high-quality backlinks and disavow spammy backlinks
- Make sure your website has accurate information on your About, Contact, and Customer Service pages
- Guarantee that all content directly related to your visitors’ money or life (think financial advice or medical information) is written by qualified experts
- Cut or edit low-quality EAT content
12. Say No to Black Hat Techniques
Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. The risk is just too great. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.
13. Increase Your Social Presence
Social signals are impacting organic search engine rankings and many industry experts believe that will only increase. If you haven’t already, consider setting up some social media pages such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook, and start engaging with your audience there.
14. Employ a Link Building Strategy
Link building is a catchall term for the practice of acquiring new links to your site from external domains. Beyond creating great content people want to share, guest blogging and asking webmasters from authoritative sites relevant to your business to link back to your pages are great ways to build links. The higher the domain authority of the site you receive backlinks from, the more your ranking will increase. These sites, in effect, pass authority from their site to yours through those backlinks. SEOs often refer to this phenomenon as “link juice.” You can use a domain authority checker to evaluate which sites can pass the most authority to your site.
Use relevant keywords as the anchor text for your backlinks, as this will help send signals to Google that your pages are relevant for those terms.
15. Track The Visitors and Leads Your SEO Is Driving
Securing top organic search engine rankings is only half the battle. To prove your value and optimize your results, it’s important to measure the impact of your efforts on web site traffic and lead/sales generation. Google Search Console can give you important insight into how your site is functioning and identify potential errors you should correct. A tool like Google Analytics is helpful for measuring changes in search traffic as well as tracking visitors’ interactions with your web site that are a direct result of SEO. You can set up Google Analytics reporting to measure how well your organic traffic is converting to subscribers, leads, and customers.
While marketers often track the online conversions organic search is driving, many fail to track call conversions. As a result, they’re not getting credit for all the revenue their optimizations are driving. Call tracking tools can tie leads and sales back to the web pages that drove them. This allows you to report all the conversions your best SEO pages are driving — both online and over the phone.
Want to learn how to track the call conversions your organic search rankings are driving? Check out our Call Tracking Study Guide for Marketers.