Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about increasing website traffic by making the site more visible in search results.
But, if you own a website, you probably know what SEO is.
Even though you may not be doing it yet, you’ve almost definitely heard of it.
If you need some convincing as to the importance of SEO, here are some jaw-dropping statistics:
- When someone clicks a link in search results, 67% of the time, it’s one of the top five sites in the listing.
- Over 71% of searches result in the user clicking a link on the first page of search results.
- HTTP vs. HTTPS—in SEO, the winner is clear. 93% of the traffic that Google facilitates is to HTTPS sites.
- Nearly 75% of SEO experts prioritize content marketing.
- Mobile searches account for over half of all web traffic.
- Nearly 30% of all searches are done using voice, not screens.
- Google has unofficially stated that 46% of all Google searches are local.
Stats like that make it crystal clear—you should be following at least the basic SEO best practices.
This article will urge you to take your first steps, making the case that basic SEO efforts can result in a massive increase in traffic to your site. It offers three critical SEO steps and gives you five more advanced tactics, any one of which could account for even greater website performance.
There’s no reason to put it off any longer—let’s get into the three most important things you can do to get more website traffic!
Basic SEO Can Have a Huge Impact
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of taking at least basic steps to improve your site’s SEO. With minimal effort, you can go from having zero SEO to a strategy that gets you massive benefits.
With two steps involving the makeup of your site and one focused on links to and from your site, this section addresses the bare minimum that site owners should do to improve their SEO.
1. On-Page SEO
On-page optimization involves improving certain elements on your site so that search engines can better understand the content and structure, enabling them to rank the website appropriately in search results.
Here’s a list of five important on-page SEO factors:
- Use the right keywords. To rank high for certain search terms, your site must include those terms. They’re called keywords, and it’s important to analyze your offering and your target audience when choosing them. Define a list of customer characteristics, then use that profile, along with one of the many available keyword research tools, to come up with relevant keywords for your site. One tool you can use is Ubersuggest, which lets you enter a “seed” keyword and get a list of variations based on real-world searches.
- Be secure. 93% of the traffic that Google facilitates is to HTTPS sites and they’re committed to making that 100% in the near future. Search engines take security very seriously and a secure website will always rank higher in search results than one that’s not.
- Let titles and headings work for you. Search engines place greater importance on the keywords you’ve included in your titles and headings than those placed in the body of your blog posts or product descriptions, for example. Be sure to include your highest value keywords in your headings and titles.
- Ensure fast page load-time. Search engines penalize slow-loading sites by lowering them in search rankings. If your pages load slowly, it’s probably because of oversized images, so getting your photo file size under control is crucial.
- Don’t fall behind on SEO standards. It’s important to keep up with changes in how Google analytics ranks websites. At least once every year, Google updates something about the way sites will be ranked in search results. They may change the character limit for meta descriptions, modify how mobile-friendly design impacts ranking, or change their algorithm with regard to video content, to name just a few examples. SEO-savvy business owners schedule a quick search a couple of times each year to find out about changes to SEO standards.
2. Content Marketing
Search engines and humans use something called perceived authority as a key factor when assessing a website. Both are looking for indications that the site offers a high degree of knowledge and expertise in a specific area.
If a website has poor content, it won’t appear to a search engine as having authority in its niche, so the site will be penalized and pushed lower in the rankings. On the other hand, publishing high-value content that helps your site visitors will give you higher rankings in search results.
A site’s visitors care just as much about quality content as search engines do, so, by making sure your site has great content, you’ll win twice. Keep your content current, detailed, and accurate, and focus on making it extremely useful to your target audience.
Some examples of how to improve your site’s content include creating regular blog posts that address your customers’ interests, ensuring your product or service descriptions contain better details than your competitors’, or publishing video tutorials or how-to articles that educate your audience.
This is not a one-time task—SEO demands fresh content. Try to publish something useful right away, but be sure to create a content calendar, so you’ll regularly add a blog post or update your product pages.
3. Off-Page SEO
For the most part, off-page optimization involves two things: external links, or links from your site to other sites, and backlinks, that is, links to your site from other sites. Paying attention to both can help your site rank higher in search results.
The key is to establish a link network, in which other businesses and informational sites link to your website. In a reciprocal relationship, your site will include links to the sites that link to yours. Backlinks and external links add value to your site, but only if they’re links from and to reputable sources. Low-quality links will hurt your ranking.
Creating a link network involves reaching out to other businesses and organizations to obtain guest posts, with agreement to include reciprocal links to each other’s content.
In some ways, effective use of social media to promote your site could fall under the category of off-page SEO, but we’ll cover that later in this article.
Refine Your SEO for Even More Traffic
Seeing that basic SEO involves just three very doable steps, we hope you’ll feel inspired to look into additional ways to improve your site’s performance.
For even better results, take your SEO efforts the extra mile with these five additional techniques.
4. Optimize for Mobile
Even if you’re not one of the millions of people glued to their smartphones for most of the day, your prospects and customers surely are.
Google knows that and its search engine has been favoring mobile-friendly sites for a long time. Sites that are easy to use on mobile devices will rank higher in search results.
You can find out how usable your current site design is on mobile devices. Just check it with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. You’ll get a report on how easy it is for users to work with the site on their phone or tablet.
To make sure your site is more mobile-friendly, aim for something called responsive design, in which there’s one version of your content that displays differently depending on the device used to access it. Most website themes have responsive design already built-in, but some of it is up to you. Consider how you can make your most valuable content more accessible to mobile users. Think mobile when selecting fonts and implementing functional elements, ensuring that buttons and menus are easy to click using a finger on the screen of a mobile device.
5. Be Found by Voice Search
The search bar is still king, but initiating a voice search by shouting “Hey, Google,” waking up Siri, or asking Amazon’s Alexa is becoming more prevalent every day. By some measures, we’ve already reached the point that 30% of all web browsing and searches are done without touching the screen. These searches aren’t all about getting driving directions or looking up trivia either—a huge percentage of millennials use voice search as the first step to making an online purchase.
Getting included in the results for a voice search is all about your site’s authority. Only sites deemed expert in the niche will be returned.
A great number of voice search responses come from featured snippets, search results that are highlighted in Google’s listings. They appear near the top of the page, so they get a lot of attention, but they’re not easy to get. Your website has to be considered a high-authority site, and your content needs to directly address the query entered.
If you can get your site recognized as a leading provider of accurate information on a given subject, there’s a good chance you’ll get into people’s voice search results.
6. Use Video, Search Engines Love It
Video has become a preferred content format among web users and can have a big impact on SEO.
A site with video on the homepage and in its blog posts is 53% more likely to show up on the first page of Google search results!
And then there’s the video-centric portion of Google’s search results. Mixed in with organic search results will be relevant image and video results from high-authority sites.
Video results will be included in results for many types of searches, especially those that begin with “how to.” A featured video can earn a prominent position at the top of a search results page, while thumbnail images that appear as part of the other listings will catch users’ attention.
It should be noted that every video in Google’s search results will be a YouTube video. Google owns YouTube and takes full advantage of it when serving relevant search results.
When you publish video content, be clever about using keywords in the video’s title, tags, and description. That way, searches will return the video even if the searcher was not explicitly looking for video content.
7. Target Local
Google and other search engines are great at understanding what we’re searching for and delivering information that accurately answers our queries. What’s more, they’ve gotten better about presenting information in helpful ways, ensuring that their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) includes features that improve access to the information we need.
Google’s SERPs start with ads at the top, then display local results and featured snippets, and then come the organic results.
Local results account for the searcher’s location and, for many businesses, they’re the key to getting more website traffic. Users who search for “anything near me” or explicitly including the location that they’re interested in will get local search results.
An important way to get a high-quality listing in local search results is to take advantage of Google My Business (GMB). This is a service that Google provides to business owners so they can manage what appears when users search for their business name. Keeping your GMB information up to date will enable Google to include your listing in local search results when people search for businesses in your niche.
8. Leverage Social Media
In the world of SEO, social media is somewhat of an outlier. While Google may index Tweets in search results, that’s about as far as the connection goes between true SEO factors and social media. In other words, for now, social signals don’t directly impact your rankings in Google search results.
Nevertheless, although social media is not a ranking factor, it can have a massive impact on your website’s performance. Social media content, itself, gets indexed, so if a user’s search returns one of your Facebook posts, for example, a click into your site, via the social media post, could be imminent. In that scenario, it isn’t your website that got listed, so SEO is not the right word for it, but if the result is a new site visitor, who cares what you call it!
One of the main reasons social media helps websites is that social media users share information with each other. You can encourage followers to share your posts with their friends by tapping into what they’ll find compelling. Factor in your ideal customer’s age, gender, interests, location, and other demographic details.
It’s also important to include social media buttons on your site. When a visitor clicks an icon and posts about your site, all their followers will become new potential visitors.
Improve Your Site’s SEO Now!
Some minor on-page SEO efforts, publishing stellar content, and earning a few high-quality backlinks. That’s really all you need to worry about when it comes to basic SEO, and the payoff can be huge. A huge amount of new traffic, that is!
With a little more effort, like ensuring your site is mobile-friendly and taking action to be found in local searches, you can get even greater results.
We hope this article encourages you to take the steps needed to improve your site’s SEO.