Whether you look at anecdotal evidence, experimental data or statistical results, the answers are unanimous. Organic search is hands down the largest source of traffic to websites around the world. Conductor carried out an interesting experiment to prove this and found that organic search accounted for at least 64% of website traffic. By contrast, leading marketing platforms like social media accounted for just 2% of total traffic.
Knowing how important search traffic is, are there any simple steps that website owners can take to improve their search rankings? Here goes.
Work on Your Keywords
Too many websites make the mistake of carrying out keyword research rarely or only in the early days of setting up their site. Just as fashion changes over time, users’ behaviour changes with time. It’s a good idea to periodically refresh your keyword lists and update your lists with new or competitive keywords. Make sure that your website as well as every piece of content you create, focus on the keywords that matter to your business.
And of course, you don’t need me to remind you that keyword stuffing is a thing of the past and can earn you direct penalties from Google.
Build Backlinks Like a Boss
Backlinks from other sites to your own site are votes in your favour according to the search algorithms of leading search engines. Consistently building more and more backlinks to your site from authoritative sites not only improves your search rankings but also strengthens your credibility with readers. Backlinks can be built in a multitude of ways like
- guest blogging on popular sites in your niche
- creating content in a format conducive to getting links from specific platforms (e.g. infographics)
- syndicating and distributing your content in places that your audience frequents
- broken link building
- reaching out to influencers and getting them to mention you or write about you
Get On-page SEO Right
Before even you begin to venture out and create mind-blowing content to lure users back to your site, get your own act in order. On-page SEO is probably one of the most overlooked, yet easiest fixes in improving search rankings dramatically. Small changes go a long way:
- Create title tags that reflect the content on the page. Your title tag must have your primary keywords, of course, but avoid over stuffing them (read: repeating words) to grab search engines’ attention. The ideal title tag would be about 55 characters long with one important keyword.
- Craft alluring meta descriptions for each page a la PPC ads or clickbait headlines. This is the description that appears in those couple of lines that appear below the URL in a search results page. It doesn’t just tell users what your page is all about; it also arouses their curiosity and entices them to click on to your page. Use your secondary keywords here; play with semantics.
- Make your site easy to navigate and a pleasure to use. This means reducing page load times, improving the relevance of your content to your target your audience’s needs, intents, locations and devices, and making it easy to find specific items on your site.
- Create XML sitemaps that are consistent with the information architecture of your site. These allow search engines to discover the kind of content your site hosts, the inter-linkages between pages, and their relative importance.
Maintain an Active Content Stream
This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind going forward. No matter how well your site is optimized for search engines, no matter how well you researched your keywords if you don’t keep putting out a steady stream of valuable content that your users can read, share and like, there’s little you can do to grow your business in the long term.
Content here refers to not just blog posts or social media updates. It also includes more interactive forms of content that users increasingly prefer like videos, slide decks, listicles, and so on.
Research Market Leaders’ Tactics
A quick and easy way to improve your search rankings is by learning what the leaders in your industry niche are doing. Find out which keywords they rank well on, which sites link back to them, what type of content performs best for them. These insights will give you a rough and ready guide about the direction in which you need to proceed.
Engage on Social Media
Social signals and their impact on SEO have been debated endlessly over the years. However, research has shown that a robust social media presence which engages with its users extensively does contribute to better search rankings. With the inclusion of the Twitter firehose of tweets directly into Google’s search results page, being active on social media (especially Twitter!) becomes extremely important.
While the optimum frequency will vary from case to case, on an average, you need at least two tweets every single day of the week to gain even 30% organic reach on Twitter. Facebook, on the other hand, with its ever-diminishing organic reach, demands paid advertising if you want to create any sort of dent on your social engagement or referral numbers.
Invite Product Reviews by Users
Interaction by your users on your site – a.k.a. user-generated content – works in your favour when it comes to your credibility with search engines. This includes blog comments as well as reviews and ratings on your product pages. Websites that are non-transactional can get away to some extent with being self-complimentary and hope that visitors will buy into their marketing spiel. But these days, a simple plugin is enough to close the gap between a blog and an e-commerce store and turn your website into a fully transactional web property.
Data from Internet Retailer magazine shows that just the addition of product reviews to your online store can improve conversions by 14 to 76%! What this means is, more than the marketing pitch that you make to your visitors, they tend to trust the word of real users who have experienced the product firsthand.
Not only reviews are great for conversions, they also improve your search rankings. According to Moz’s annual Search Ranking Factors Study, product reviews carry a weight of more than 8% amongst the attributes that get your site to rank.
While there are tons of things that a website can do to stay on Google’s good side, not every single one of them may be easily doable. Begin with these seven steps and build on them over time to consistently grow your website’s authority and conversion rates.