A website plays a critical role in the success of your startup, but only if it appears high in search results. With 91 percent of U.S. internet users conducting searches every month, without a well ranking website, you basically don’t exist to potential customers. Your goal should be to appear on the first page of search results because 75 percent of internet users never scroll past the first page. For those who appear in the top 5 results, they’ll get over 75 percent more clicks. To achieve these results, you must have a solid SEO strategy to get your website ranking.
Use Relevant Keywords
The foundation to an SEO strategy is the keywords used within your website. Keywords are relevant words and phrases pertaining to the topic of your website’s content. When strategically placed within website content, search engines index your site based on the keywords to generate search results when an internet user types in a related search query.
Use Google Keyword Planner to conduct keyword research to find the most appropriate keywords that have the potential to raise the visibility of your website on search engines. Then, use these keywords naturally within your content to allow readers to clearly understand the content, but don’t overwhelm the content with keywords. If you do, you’ll suffer a penalty because it’s misleading to search engines because it appears as a manipulation to traffic.
Create Page Title Tags
Next to content, page titles are probably the second most important onsite SEO element.
Titles tags are the first line of text that appear for a particular page when search results are generated to inform readers and search engines about the topic of a webpage. Include your primary keyword focus, the name of your website, and a brief description when creating unique title tags for each page.
Develop Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions provide a brief summary of the webpage’s content to tell search engines and internet users what your page is about. Not to mention, it’s an opportunity to incorporate keywords into the description to help rank your website. Meta descriptions should be about 155 characters and include your keywords to match search queries; however, the descriptions must be written naturally to better connect users with their search.
Enhance Your Site’s Structure
Your chance for ranking higher on search engines increases if you have a well structured site. Good structure promotes the user experience, resulting in a more reputable site in both the eyes of search engines and internet users. This will act as the core to optimizing your site for search engine crawlers.
Improve URL Structure
Customize auto generated URLs to remove numbers and letters to instead include specific and relevant keywords to allow users and search engines to better navigate your website. Create unique, short, and easy to remember URLs for each page to avoid any confusion and to make the URLs more sharable. The better crafted your URLs, the better the indication is to search engines and users about the content of the page to match search queries.
Promote Website Navigation
The navigation of your website is critical as search engines take the user experience into consideration when ranking websites, not to mention your bounce rate will increase as users abandon difficult to navigate sites. Users must be able to navigate from page to page easily, with all webpages accessible from one another in less than 3 clicks from the homepage. The better your site is organized for navigation, the better search engines and users will understand the flow of your site.
Create an XML Sitemap
Websites must have an XML site map that’s structured to provide search engines with relative information pertaining to the website for navigation. With a primary text-based structure, search engines can easily crawl your site to improve accessibility for better search results.
Develop Quality and Useful Content
Quality and relevant content is king when it comes to building your website’s authority, traffic, and ranking. Maintain high standards for your content to offer users unique and valuable information that’s based around your keywords. Content should be at least 300 words and tightly targeted to your specific audience while flowing naturally. Then, organize the content using specific categories for quicker navigation.
Improve Your Anchor Text
Anchor texts are the words that contain a hyperlink to connect content pages to one another, both internally and externally. Use specific and descriptive anchor text to describe where the link is taking a reader to allow search engines and users to view the link as a relevant query. The text should be clear and concise while only linking to reputable websites. Never duplicate anchor text or it may be viewed as a manipulation, causing a penalty.
Use Heading Tags
Heading tags are used to show the structure of your website to help with ranking while providing readers with the main points of the content to present specific sections for organization. Not only does this make your content less overwhelming, but it’s an opportunity to use keywords to further help indexing for a higher ranking.
Optimize Your Images
Content that contains images receive as much as 94 percent more views than those without; however, images must be optimized with distinct file names and “alt” tags to help users and search engines understand the relevance of the images. The combination of specific file names and alt tags allow search engines to view the image as an anchor text to display relevant search results. Combine your images into a single directory to simplify both user and search engine navigation, but keep file sizes small to promote a fast load time as 40 percent of people will leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Limit Robot.txt File Crawling
Website crawlers systematically browse websites for certain aspects to index websites for an appropriate ranking. If certain aspects of your website aren’t helpful to users, you’ll need to limit crawling to those areas with robot.txt files. This notifies search engines that certain files and directories shouldn’t be accessed.
Help Prevent Comment Spam
Spam comments and links on your site will hurt your site’s reputation. To prevent this, add “no follow” inside of the link’s anchor to tell search engines not to follow a certain link to protect your site‘s reputation. Use the “rel” attribute inside of the anchor tag and add “no follow” in user-generated content sections to cut down on spam links.
Incorporate a Mobile-Friendly Design
Websites must be optimized for mobile devices as mobile searches now exceed those of desktop. A responsive design is considered to be the best option because it automatically adjusts websites to fit a screen size. If you aren’t using a responsive design, you’ll need to redirect users to the appropriate version to prevent the desktop version from appearing on mobile devices.
A mobile site map will need to be submitted to the appropriate search engines, but only contain the links to the mobile pages displayed on the mobile website. Include a link to the desktop version of the website to provide to users with the option to visit the full site version.
Promote Your Website with Organic Connections
Organically build your site through natural connections and communities to further help establish your site’s traffic and reputation by blogging. Blogging provides 434 percent more indexed pages to increase traffic and promote more leads. Add an RSS feed to allow follows to stay connected with your blog posts to maintain traffic and encourage new visitors. Include your website’s URL on other appropriate outlets, such as social media, newsletters, and printed material.
Build Your Online Community
Connect and engage communities, businesses, and influencers on social media sites and networking opportunities to become a well recognized voice in your industry. You’ll promote yourself as an industry influencer to build your reputation, but don’t be too self promoting. You want to engage in relevant conversations to add value.
Use Webmaster Tools
Use free webmaster tools, like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to have a comprehensive understanding of your website’s traffic and how it’s viewed by search engines. Use these tools to monitor and track your website’s performance to make necessary adjustments to increase search ranking and user interactions. Increasing your website’s ranking won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it and make the necessary adjustments, you’ll steadily increase your search engine visibility.
“6 Sticky SEO Facts All Marketers Should Know” Hub Spot
“24 Eye Popping SEO Statistics” Search Engine Journal
“17 Compelling Stats that make the Case for Smarter Website Design” HubSpot
About the Author:
John Lincoln is Founder and President of SEO and Social Media at Ignite Visibility, a premier Internet marketing company focusing on providing the highest level of service and strategies in the industry. In addition to his role at Ignite Visibility, Lincoln teaches a quarterly course at UC San Diego on SEO, social media and analytics.