SEO is a complex topic that sounds simple, so let’s clarify what it means before we get into the meat of the issue. SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engine optimization refers to how search engines determine which links are shown first to users.
This determination centers around certain factors in the case of the results stemming from an organic search (non-paid). That’s not all. The benefits and profitability of SEO are even increasing with respect to mobile platforms. SEO refers to the set of factors that determine the search ranking of your landing page and other links in relation to many factors.
Framing the issue is important before getting into the question of why SEO is so important in the first place. Most people intuitively understand that the higher their site’s landing page shows at the top of a search engine’s results page, the more traffic they will receive. In reality, the influence that search engines have over the results you see and the frequency at which search engines are used may surprise you.
The fact of the matter is that search engines generally dictate what gets shown and what doesn’t get shown. Nowadays, search engines appear to have taken on a referencing role based on website relevance in addition to a simple search function. Interestingly, search sites like Google act as both gateways and gatekeepers to the rest of the Internet.
Google controls seven out of every ten searches. Because of this, Google is a gateway that most people use to find other sites that they need. On the other hand, Google is also a gatekeeper based on how it organizes and ranks the links of various websites.
This article will go over five ranking factors used by Google to shed insight into the details of that ranking process. In other words, by reviewing the features of the gatekeeping process, we can implement more robust and effective SEO measures.
1. Provide Useful Content
The more accurate, helpful, and reputable your content is, the better SEO results you’ll get. Simple, right? In theory, good content leads to higher rankings. The problem here is that machines are sorting through and making judgments on what’s good or bad. So you’re really trying to hit a number of things that mimic or approximate good content in your SEO quest. Making small, impactful, and targeted changes is key to creating the type of content attractive to search engines.
2. Write Suitable and Attractive Anchor Text
What’s anchor text? It’s basically the blue underlined stuff that you click on when you browse the Internet that takes you to another related site. Essentially, the HTML code specifies a section of text and associates it with a link to create the hyperlink that we are all familiar with.
So how do you add a bit of flair to your anchor text beyond its depressingly default color of blue? Moz gives a number of suggestions, but in general you just want to want your anchor texts to be pithy, unique, simple, and relevant to the linked page.
Backlines are exactly what they sound like, but like all important SEO features on your site there are both good and excellent ways to use backlinks. The concept behind a backlink is incredibly simple. It refers to the sites that link to your site, or any other site. Let’s say the Wall Street Journal made a link to your website. That’s a backlink.
There’s a number of key things to do when considering backlink quality. These tips relate to making your backlinks more useful to site visitors. You can accomplish this by evaluating a site’s link relevancy through a number of factors like content and online tools. Focusing on real websites, or websites that experience a lot of traffic along with using authority sites will also boost your rankings.
4. Make Your Site Easier to Navigate
This one’s pretty easy to grasp too. Just don’t fill your site up with a much of unnecessary clutter. Clean simplicity is one of the reasons that Google was so successful as a search engine in its earlier stages. You want your site to get to the point. You want to capture your users and have them understand the purpose of your site within seconds. Finally, you’ll need to arrange buttons and widgets around a theme or style that appeals to the visitors for maximum ranking results.
Even Google itself thinks organization and navigation clarity are important in its SEO guide. It emphasizes things like the relationship between clean navigation and search engines and makes suggestions like planning your site around your homepage in order to make visitor browsing more convenient.
5. Consider RankBrain’s Algorithms
The significance of technology appears to have subtly increased to a great degree over the years. Google’s RankBrain is an example of an algorithm has been making waves on the issue of search traffic and rankings.
So how does Google do it? The larger category of technology is called artificial intelligence, coding computer to perform tasks that only humans normally handle. But with the arrival of a type of artificial learning called machine learning, RankBrain has certain elements that are capable of rewriting their own software to get better at ranking the most relevant sites.
The real impact of RankBrain manifests in its ability to interpret human meaning (in searches) to an extent: “RankBrain is designed to better understand the meaning behind the words a person uses and types into his or her search engine because 15% of queries per day had never been seen by Google” (Broadbent, 2017).
With the powerful machine learning technologies guiding SEO and the calculations behind the rankings of site relevance, focusing and studying up on the latest SEO trends across popular platforms has never been more important.
If you know anything about SEO marketing strategies, then you probably know that they’re incredibly fickle. Just as soon as one “best practices” article appears online telling you how to make the most of the latest update, there’s another algorithm ready to go in and mess everything up again.
There are many different strands of SEO to consider, and one that’s often under-estimated is local SEO. As the name might suggest, local SEO is all about appealing to customers in your general area. Perfect for small businesses and brick-and-mortar companies with an online presence, local SEO helps you pinpoint your customers when they need you most – for instance, when they’re searching for somewhere to go for dinner, or a nearby place to buy shoes. After all:
- 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their phone visit that store the same day
- 71% of people surveyed look up the location of a business before visiting it
- 87% of people use a search engine on their smartphone at least once a day
Across the globe, local competition in the digital sphere is heating up, and it’s crucial for businesses to learn how they can improve their search efforts if they want to get ahead of the game this year. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this, from refining your content, to taking social media measures. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most-up-to-date, and timeless tips you can follow to enhance your Local SEO marketing strategy.
Tip 1: Your Title and Meta Description Tags are Still Important
Meta description and title tags are elements of HTML that can be customized to outline the content of a webpage. In other words, it’s like a mini-advertisement, a taster of what your consumer can expect when they click onto your page.
Not so long ago, Google increased the width of the primary search engine results area, which meant that description and title tags were able to get a little bit longer. However, keeping things short and simple is often the best way to go.
Take advantage of the space that you have, but use it wisely. Make sure that you double-check to ensure that you’re hitting keywords, and that your titles aren’t getting cut off in the search results. If you’re not sure how your tags are going to look in action, you can use emulators like the Yoast SEO Plugin for extra help.
Tip 2: Use the Local Schema Markup
Local schema markups are basically structured pieces of data that inform search engines of what your business does, and where it does it. These markups are only used by around 31.3% of websites, but when accessed in your marketing strategy, they can be a great way to make your business stand out, and even ensure that you rank higher than your competitors.
Google wants you to make the most of schema markups because it helps their bots to crawl through your website and find out what you’re all about. That’s why they’ve introduced their very own “Structured Data Testing Tool” which will help you to pinpoint errors in your data.
Correctly using a schema markup can raise your local ranking by several positions -yet most businesses still don’t do it. That’s great news for you – since you can take advantage of the benefits other companies in your niche are missing out on.
Tip 3: Optimize “Google my Business”
Google estimates that around 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to conduct their local searches. However, despite this, many small businesses have never claimed a single listing online – which means they’re missing out on some serious opportunities for growth.
One of the most important listings you can organize today is your “Google my Business.” This listing influences search engine users, and some studies show that users who view a complete listing are 30% more likely to visit a store.
If you’re looking for SEO rankings, then it’s worth knowing that Google likes to keep things in-house. In other words, it prefers its own business listings when giving local results to users. Additionally, if you want to make sure that you show up for the most relevant search results in your niche, then you’ll need to optimize your listing, hopefully with a lot of great reviews.
Tip 4: Publish Plenty of Locally Optimized Content
When you need information, where do you go?
Once upon a time, the answer might have been “a phonebook”, or “a library”, but today, nine times out of ten, you’ll get your information from the internet. Businesses can boost their presence online by providing content that’s connected not only to their business and niche, but their local area too. For instance, it’s the difference between writing a blog called “How to Find Great Shoes”, and “How to Find Great Shoes in New York”.
Since search engines prefer fresh content, it’s a good idea to use your blog to post plenty of copy answering questions that people might have in your industry. Make sure to include your keywords in the title, tags, and headlines consistently, and organically. At the same time, you can expand your content marketing strategy efforts by sharing locally-optimized pieces on social media too.
Tip 5: Build an Appropriate Link Strategy
Links that span outwards from your company’s website to other websites, and vice versa, are essential to your business marketing strategy. These links help to indicate the authority and credibility of your business to Google, so that it knows where it should rank you. Links are great, but if you try to game the system and fill your pages full of them, you’re just going to end up damaging your reputation in the long-run.
Instead, you need to focus on building strong, reputable links with local companies, brands, and communities. For instance:
- You could share links on social media to stories from local publications that are relevant to your industry
- Include links to your website in your email newsletters, and the updates you post for customers
- Sponsor or host local events that allow you to link out to neighborhood businesses, or ask for guest-spots posting on their blogs
Perhaps the most important part of building an authentic link strategy is to make sure it’s authentic. Ensure you know exactly who you’re linking to, and that the people you connect with are relevant to your business. Also, make sure that you don’t venture out to third-party content providers who claim they can fill your content full of SEO-boosting links. Trust me when I say this could have a disastrous impact on your reputation.
Tip 6: Post more Customer Reviews Where They Matter Most
According to recent surveys, around 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation. In other words, if someone isn’t sure whether they should buy your product, they’ll go elsewhere for advice on what to do.
Google has put a great deal of emphasis on customer reviews lately, showing snippets on the search engine results page with bright golden stars designed to draw attention to your business. Getting those reviews to show up in relation to your business is one of the best ways you can boost your business trust levels, and enhance click-through rates.
The best way to increase your chances of getting great reviews for your company is to offer incredible products or services, and simply ask your customers for what you need. Some people will be so impressed by your product that they’ll be happy to write a testimonial for you without any prompting, whereas others might need the promise of a future discount to get their fingers twitching.
Either way, by adding positive customer reviews to your local SEO marketing strategy, you’re giving people close to your business the information they need, when they need it most. If someone passes your store and wonders whether you’re trustworthy, or worth their money, then all they need to do is look at those golden stars.
Building Local SEO
Obviously, building your local presence is only one aspect of a killer marketing campaign, but it’s one of the best ways to combine your offline and online advertising efforts for more traffic and more customers. If you can give your customers the information they need to find your store, and then offer an incredible experience that links back to your brand, you’ll be on your way to a profit-generating reputation in no time.
The Web is getting more complex, which means good SEO is getting harder and harder. While Google’s crawlers are getting more advanced, they’re still not perfect and sometimes have trouble deciphering information they discover on the Web.
This is where schema comes in.
Schema.org is a collaboration by the major search engines to create a consistent language that helps them understand entities and their relationship to one another. Structured data is one of the best ways for you to communicate important information about your website to Google.
At it’s essence, schema is code typically written in HTML or JSON (I prefer JSON) that helps Google better understand the data on your website. Google has attempted to incentivise the use of schema by displaying rich snippets for domains that use them. These rich snippets are essentially additional text or images that will result in a user being more likely to click on your result. No matter what industry you’re in, you can utilize website schema to help Google better understand your website’s information and improve your SEO.
Official Documentation: https://schema.org/Organization
Even if you are brand new to the concepts of SEO and structured data as a whole, Organization schema is fairly straightforward and easy to wrap your head around. No matter what industry you belong to, as long as you are a business that sells products or services, Organization schema can be used on your website.
So what is Organization schema? Essentially, what this markup will do is signal to Google crucial information about your website. Within this structured data you can include business information such as your name, address, phone number and associated social profiles (Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Organization schema can help your website in a number of ways. It can send clearer information about your business to Google. This is especially crucial for Local SEO where it’s important that your name, address and phone number are consistent across the Web. As well, Organization schema improves your chances of receiving a Knowledge Panel. Here it will be especially important to use same properties to associate your Wikipedia page and social profiles.
Industry-Specific LocalBusiness Schema
Official Documentation: http://schema.org/LocalBusiness
For some industries, you can make your structured data a little more specific than the Organization schema above. Instead of simply telling Google: “I am a general organization with the following information”, you can give the search engines more detailed data on what your business does. So what kind of industries have LocalBusiness schema available to them?
Insurance Agents? Check
Your local mechanic? Check
Whatever broad category defines your industry, try Googling “[Your Profession] Schema” and see if any results come back. If you find one that fits your business, you should use that in place of the Organization schema to be more specific.
Once again this will help Google get a better understanding of your business. As well, in the future, Google could very well offer some sort of rich snippet for your particular industry. If this occurs, you will be well set up for any algorithm changes that may occur.
Official Documentation: https://schema.org/BreadcrumbList
If you’re not using a breadcrumb on your website, I would recommend you consider doing so. Breadcrumbs can be a great way to improve the user experience of a website as they will allow users to navigate through the different page levels with little effort. As well, they can also improve the internal linking structure which is crucial for better distributing link equity throughout your site.
If you’re using a breadcrumb, great! Now it’s time to mark up it up with BreadcrumbList structured data. The BreadcrumbList schema will define each URL in the breadcrumb to Google. This can be beneficial because you can generate a clean looking breadcrumb rich snippet in the search results.
More importantly, you will be giving Google detailed information about the structure of your website. This may not have tremendous advantages if you manage a small ten page website. However, if you have a large eCommerce store, this is extremely useful information to pass along. Google’s crawlers often have a difficult time crawling these large websites and they can potentially spend a lot of time looking at pages they shouldn’t.
However, by implementing the BreadcrumbList schema, you will be giving Google clear information about the hierarchy of your website. This will give it better guidance on how to crawl and discover the pages on your domain. In my experience, if you can make Google’s job easier, this is likely to have a positive impact on rankings.
Official Documentation: http://schema.org/AggregateRating
Of all of the structured data on this list, AggregateRating schema probably has the most tangible results. If implemented correctly, this type of structured data rewards websites with bright yellow stars that appear in the search results. The final outcome is that search results that display these stars typically end up with higher click through rates. Higher click through rates obviously leads to more organic traffic.
Not surprisingly, this type of schema is extremely popular amongst eCommerce stores as specific product queries typically trigger results with review star rich snippets. For product-centric websites, implementing this type of schema is an absolute must as Google is either already displaying review stars for your target queries or could possibly show them in the future.
However, even if your website isn’t eCommerce, it could still be worth exploring the possibility of implementing AggregateRating schema. There are many examples where websites with non-physical products or services could benefit from this structured data. For instance, after performing a search for “laptop insurance” I can see that Google is displaying review star snippets for the query:
To find an example of review stars, I had to navigate all the way to the fourth page of the search results. None of the websites on the first page have these review stars displaying. This presents a good opportunity for the company to first implement AggregateRating schema on their landing page.
At the end of the day, schema is going to help take your SEO to the next level. As companies invest more and more into in-house and SEO agencies, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to compete in the limited real estate of the organic search results. Implementing good schema will help give your website an additional competitive advantage and can result in Google being more likely to rank your key landing pages.