The internet is an ever-changing and largely unpredictable landscape.
One of the most important things to ensure your startup’s success online is search engine optimization (SEO).
But with so much conflicting information out there about SEO, how do you know what to follow?
We have compiled a list of simple yet effective tips for digital marketers that will help them optimize their content for search engines like Google.
This guide will cover what you need to know about on-page and off-page SEO as well as how to use keywords in your content marketing strategy.
Set-up SEO Foundation
If you are starting from the ground up, laying a proper SEO foundation is of utmost importance. It will help keep your processes specific and measurable.
An SEO foundation broadly involves two things- Strategy and Initial Implementation.
While creating an SEO strategy for your website, align it to your overall marketing goals and objectives. It should be attainable within budget and technical constraints. If you have a big marketing team, it is crucial to communicate the strategy effectively with everyone involved in the SEO process.
An effective SEO strategy should address the following things:
- Goals and objectives
- Strength and weaknesses
- Marketing funnels
- Topic clusters
- Customer behaviors and needs
Once the strategy is in place, you can add tracking tools to your websites. Almost all search listing and analysis tools- including Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster are free to use. Implement them on your website without a second thought. However, others like Google My Business and any paid tools like Hubspot can be used depending on budget, audience, and requirements.
Some tools that you can use for SEO include:
- Google Search console
- Bing Webmaster tools
- Google Analytics
- Google Adwords
- Google My Business
- One SEO tool (Yoast, RankMath or the likes)
- Security tools
- Caching tool
- CRM tools like Hubspot
Check out: Useful Business Tools You Should Consider
Most search engines, including Google, want to direct search queries to high-quality, relevant, trustworthy websites. Earlier, this was achieved with the help of keywords and high-quality backlinks. However, the search engine algorithm has come a long way since.
Now Search Engines have started rewarding websites that provide a good user experience on top of the aforementioned factors. The recent ‘Core Vitals‘ update is a testament to this.
The Core Vitals update rewards websites that perform well under the following three factors:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
These are in addition to previous updates that promoted mobile-friendliness, secure protocols via an SSL certificate (HTTPS) and better content accessibility (no intrusive pop-ups and ads).
In the ‘SEO strategy’ stage, you must have found a broad range of topics that are relevant to your brand. Now it is time to find specific keywords related to these topics that you can rank for in the search results.
Consider these three types of keywords in your checklist:
- Pillar Keywords
- Long-tail keywords
- Short & mid-tail keywords
Pillar keywords are keywords that your business will benefit from the most. They are usually short and generic and near impossible to rank on the first page of search engines in the short term. Ideally, all other keywords types should help build authority around Pillar Keywords
For example, ‘Digital Marketing’ is a pillar keyword that all digital agencies want to rank high on. However, with over 3 billion search results on Google, this is surely not easy to do!
Long-tail keywords are keywords built around the pillar keywords or its subsidiaries. They help bring traffic as well as increase your authority around pillar keywords.
For example, while it is challenging to rank for ‘Digital Marketing’, ‘Digital Marketing for Shopify stores’ is specific and might be easier. Similarly, SEO and Content marketing are closely related keywords that can be used to improve your authority surrounding ‘Digital Marketing.’
Short-tail keywords- Short-tail keywords contain only one or two words and in your business context, they are probably the same or similar to the pillar keywords. This makes them hard to rank and is usually neglected by most SEO marketers.
However, it is worth remembering that most pillar-keywords, including ‘Digital Marketing’, started as short-tail keywords. So if you have one that is relevant to your business and with low search competition, own it as early as possible.
You need to leverage certain tools and platforms to do keywords research effectively. These include:
- Google: Google Suggest and related searches
- Google Trends
- Google Keyword planner
- 3rd party tools like SpyFu and Semrush
- Keywords Everywhere- Browser extension
On-page SEO involves optimizing web pages inside your website to rank higher in search results. This usually involves making the structure and content of your website easily readable for both people and search engines.
A practical On-Page SEO checklist involves ticking off the following points:
- Keep your URL short
- Limit the use of year and date in URLs
- Incorporate Keywords inside the URL
- H1, H2 and H3 tags are essential for structuring and SEO
- Align keyword to the left of title or H1
- Have the keyword in the first paragraph itself
- Use synonyms instead of exact keywords
- Use both external and internal links
- Compress images and add alt tags
- Use 3rd party platforms to embed videos
- Use CDN to speed up content load
- Optimize for Rich snippets by incorporating markups to all your data inside HTML
Though the content checklist is a part of the On-page SEO, it demands a separate section with its intricacies and challenges.
Here are a few things to remember while optimizing your content for SEO:
- Always keep readers in mind and solve their problem
- Write a catchy title and introduction
- Keep sentences short and readable.
- Write in active rather than passive
- Have a table of content with anchor links
- Write informative (& exhaustive) cornerstone articles
- Link smaller, relevant articles to the cornerstone articles
- Optimize for featured snippets by incorporating short informative paragraphs, lists and tables.
- Refresh old or outdated articles
Off-page SEO includes all things done outside your webpages to increase your SERP ranking. These can broadly involve three things:
- Link building
- Social channels
- Local SEO
Link building collectively involves everything you do to get high-quality backlinks to your website. This includes writing referenceable content, press releases, customer or product reviews, forums and guest-blogging. It is always desirable to get backlinks from a website with higher domain authority than you.
Search engines like a webpage that has a steady stream of traffic. You can use social media channels to promote your content and get more people to your website. Social media can also help you reach a wider audience through social mentions i.e, someone who tagged or shared your post because they found it helpful.
If your business has a physical location or serves a specific area, Local SEO will help you get more traffic to your website. The first thing to do to get your Local SEO up and running is to have a Google My Business (GMB) page.
GMB gives a SERP entity to your business to post updates and accept customer reviews. Apart from being prime SERP real estate for branded keywords, an optimized GMB helps improve local citations and credibility, improving your local search standing.
Keep up with change
Last but not least, SEO is ever-growing and dynamic. You have to continuously keep up with the changes for your website to be in top SERP form. All major search engines roll out minor changes periodically.
Significant algorithm changes are rare but if done, might have wide-reaching repercussions. For example, the 2012 Google Penguin update completely changed the SERP landscape with the search engine penalizing low-quality content. From there on, keyword stuffing and low-quality link building got the boot from the digital marketer’s handbook.
However, as long as you keep up with industry best practices and do not work around the search algorithm, your website will be safe from any major algorithm shifts.