SEO is the practice of optimizing your website content for search engines, and it’s crucial to ranking in the SERPs.
Nobody wants to see their brand content buried beneath a sea of competition. You want it to be visible on the first page of Google when your customers search for your target keywords, which is why it’s so important to get SEO right.
To help you with that, we’ve put together a brief overview of the 7 steps to effective SEO. These steps will show you how to create web content that both the search engine spiders and your customers will love.
1. Ensuring your website is ‘crawlable’
Search engines do three things: crawl, index, and rank web pages – in that order. In the crawling stage, they scour the internet to find new or updated content. They then store that webpage in their ‘index’ before determining where it should rank based on how well it answers a search query.
It’s impossible to rank if you’re not indexed, and your webpages can’t be indexed if they can’t be crawled. That’s why the first step to effective SEO is ensuring your website content is ‘crawlable’.
Your robots.txt file and website sitemap is how you tell the search engine crawlers which pages they can crawl. For example, you might want them to crawl pages and posts but disregard tags, author pages, and duplicate content.
If you’re building a website on WordPress, a great way to ensure your sitemap is set up correctly is to install the plugin Yoast, which will take care of the technical side of things for you.
You can check if a webpage has been crawled and indexed by searching for “site:yourwebsite.com” on Google. If it appears, it’s indexed.
2. Create compelling content that answers search intent
The goal of all search engines is to provide users with the best possible answers to their search query – and they’re very good at it. Search engine algorithms are extremely advanced these days; they know how to distinguish between a good piece of content and a bad piece of content.
That’s why you should always aim to write for humans, not robots. Start by finding low-competition keywords that your customers are searching for, and consider the search intent behind them.
For example, a customer who searches for ‘wedding dresses’ is probably looking to buy, rather than to find general information. Therefore, Google is more likely to rank product pages rather than informative blog posts, so a post titled ‘what are wedding dresses’ is unlikely to rank.
Once you’ve figured out what your customers are searching for, write the best, most compelling content possible to answer that search query.
3. Ensure your content is keyword optimized
The next step is to ensure that your content is optimized around your target keywords. We call this ‘on-page optimization’.
We could write a whole series of posts about keyword optimization best practices but here are some of the most important factors:
- Header tags – ensure that each heading and subheading in your website content is wrapped in the correct tag. Titles should be in H1 tags, top-level subheadings in H2 tags, tier 2 subheadings in H3 tags, and so on.
- Keyword density – include variations of your target keyword and related keywords throughout your content, but be careful not to ‘keyword stuff’. This can lead to over-optimization and hurt your SEO.
- Linking – include both internal links and external links to authoritative sources within your content
- Readability – write for a fifth-grader and create highly-readable content
4. Consider off-page SEO
There are many other factors that search engines use to determine rankings outside of the content itself. These factors include site speed, website structure/UX, domain authority, and social signals.
Websites that load quicker stand a better chance of ranking in the SERPs, so it’s important to optimize your website for speed. Work with your web developer to ensure your pages load quickly, condense images, and use plugins to speed things up.
Try to layout your website to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to use and make sure it’s optimized for mobile.
5. Earn links and social shares
Search engines like Google look at how ‘authoritative’ and ‘trustworthy’ your site is in order to work out where your content should rank. To determine this, they look at things like backlinks and social shares.
If search engines see lots of highly-relevant, authoritative domains linking to your website, or lots of people sharing your content, they take it as an indication that your brand is worth ranking.
That’s why you should create share-worthy content that is worth linking to, and then promote it. One way to do this is to create infographics and ‘skyscraper content’ and then reach out to bloggers in your industry to ask them to share it with their audiences.
6. Optimize your title, URL, and meta description for CTR
CTR stands for click-through rate. It’s a measure of how many people that see your content in the SERPs click it, and it’s another important part of the SEO puzzle. To improve your CTR, you should make your title, URL, and meta description as ‘clickable’ as possible.
For example, you might want to shorten your URL to include your keyword and consider using numbers in your title. Studies show that including numbers in list-style article titles increases clicks.
7. Use schema markup to stand out in the SERPs
The final step on the SEO ladder is to use schema markup to tell Google more about your content. Schema markups help Google to create accurate ‘rich snippets’ – the added tidbits of information that appear under your website like in the search results pages.
For example, you can use schema markup to add tags to your content to tell Google who the author is, show review stars, add quick links to different sections, and more.