A high organic search ranking is essential to your business. More than 71 percent of users click a link on the first page of results on Google, and almost 68 percent choose one of the top five results. Only 1.6 percent of searchers progress beyond the second page.
Search engine optimization isn’t a “set it and forget it” approach. Providers such as Google are constantly updating their search engine algorithms, and you need to stay up-to-date with these changes if you don’t want to end up stuck on Page 13 of consumers’ search results.
Recent Google Shake-Ups
Google has been especially active over the past 13 months, consistently updating its core algorithms to match the evolving landscape of the Internet.
In February 2015, the company announced that mobile rankings would take into account whether a website has a mobile-friendly interface, and a month later, it acknowledged a core algorithm change that had a broad impact on search results. Then, in October, Google announced it had developed new machine learning artificial intelligence called RankBrain, which is now included in the three most important factors of the ranking algorithm (along with links and content).
The changes have only accelerated this year. In January, tracking tools reported historically large changes in rankings, and in February 2016, Google made major changes to AdWords, including the elimination of right-column ads and the introduction of four-ad blocks on many commercial searches. While this latest update was to paid searches, it still has significant implications for click-through rates on organic results, mainly because it pushes them farther down the page.
Given these regular updates, and the massive implications for each one, it’s essential to constantly review your SEO plan to ensure you avoid losing any previous gains you may have made on your search rankings.
Common SEO Mistakes
Too many small and mid-sized businesses continue to make fatal and easily avoidable SEO mistakes when retooling sites for SEO.
Duplicating content across pages, failing to create unique page titles and meta descriptions, or even writing poor content can drastically lower your rankings on search engines such as Google or Bing. Other companies fail on the technical front with a missing XML sitemap, the improper use of redirects, and the absence of methods to keep robots off the site, all common faults for businesses that don’t do their homework.
These mistakes all stem from the failure to think rigorously about SEO and the user experience. Keyword stuffing and overusing targeted search terms theoretically might improve keyword relevance, but it also makes it difficult for consumers to interact with the page because the content reads like it was written for a machine rather than a person. Poorly optimized images and a desktop-only website also make potential users’ lives harder and drive them away from your content.
Mistakes in SEO will lead to low rankings, low traffic, low conversions, and low revenue. But the ramifications could get even worse. If you try to trick Google’s algorithm with unnatural backlinks, the company may penalize you by burying your site in search rankings.
Instead, you should use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to carefully choose the best keywords to optimize for.
Building an Effective SEO Plan
To avoid poor organic placement, you need to develop a solid and effective SEO plan. Your first step should be to hire a reputable digital marketing agency with years of experience in SEO. Look for proven results, anyone who has ever operated a website can claim some level of experience in SEO, but you want an agency that can offer case studies and a long list of happy clients.
Once you’ve found that agency, you need to work together to develop a comprehensive SEO plan. This plan should include an audit of the current site to determine issues and potential opportunities, and it should also include a review of Google Analytics and Google Search Console data.
Related Article: The Current State of Link Building in SEO & What To Expect in 2016
When that data has been evaluated, you should review your target audience to ensure you’re working with the right keywords. Look at your competitors’ keywords, and analyze search trends, the Google landscape, and the keyword tool. Here are a few tips on what to do next to drive user traffic:
1. Invest in high-quality content.
Useful information should be a given, but it’s rarely treated as such. Provide content that is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. The information you provide is like a “free sample” of your product, and if users like it, they’ll keep coming back. Ensure your content is well-written because nobody trusts information that’s littered with spelling and grammatical errors.
You should also ensure your posts aren’t all the same length. Content that’s shorter than 300 words may be flagged as advertising and should be avoided, but you don’t want every page to be a block of exactly 500 words as if it was purchased from a content mill. Aim to publish at least a few extremely resourceful posts of 1,000 words or more. The idea is to add value, present yourself as an expert, be authoritative, and earn your readers’ trust. It’s not about fitting a specific content mold. Mix your content up by using images and videos alongside long-form blog posts.
2. Promote your content effectively.
A strong social media presence is an obvious but often overlooked way to effectively promote content. Don’t treat your Twitter and Facebook accounts as a separate domain from your website with only one link in your profile back to the company’s main page. You need to promote your content through as many channels as possible.
Your keywords should be the other main prong of your content promotion. Don’t just focus on standard keywords. Invest in long-tail keywords, too. These are phrases with three or more words that can be used to target your specific geographical location or field of expertise. A localized SEO strategy should form a core component of your content promotion.
3. Improve the UX.
A high bounce rate can see your organic search position plummet, and nothing causes users to bounce like a poorly developed UX. If you haven’t already built a mobile-responsive website, you need to make this a priority. Invest in eye-tracking reports to determine where users are clicking, and use that data to improve the experience and boost your conversions.
Improve the architecture of your website, too. Give every page a unique title and a meta description, keeping both Google and your end user in mind to ensure you’re optimizing for both parties. You should also introduce relevant internal linking. Not only will this make it easier for users to navigate your website and find the information they need, but it will also help you to distribute users from your top-performing pages and down the acquisition funnel.
4. Be self-critical.
But don’t just rest on your laurels once you’ve implemented these strategies. One of the most important steps in SEO is to be self-critical to ensure you’re constantly evolving your offerings.
Track data through Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and ranking tools. See which pages are performing best and worst, and ask yourself about the differences between those pages. What are the poorly performing landing spots doing wrong? What are your best pages doing right? How can you take those lessons and roll them out across the rest of your website?
It’s time to rethink your SEO strategy. With search engines updating their algorithms on such a regular basis, you can’t just set it and forget it. You need a considered, tactical, and responsive approach to keep your business at the top of the market.