Processing roughly 3.5 billion searches daily, Google is the world’s most widely used search engine. By optimizing your website to rank higher in the Big G’s search results, you can leverage this popularity to generate more traffic, sell more products or services, and build your brand.
Identify Target Keywords
Before you can optimize your site for higher search rankings, you first need to identify the keywords for which you are trying to rank. Target keywords typically fall under one of two categories: short tail and long tail. Short-tail keywords are shorter, often consisting of just one or two words, whereas long-tail keywords are longer, often consisting of 3-5 words.
Short-tail keywords yield more searches than long-tail keywords, but they also have more competition. For this reason, it’s recommended that you focus your SEO efforts around short-tail keywords. Use Google’s Keyword tool here for ideas. It reveals traffic, average AdWords bid price and competition.
Improve Search Engine Readability
Google, like most search engines, has an army of autonomous bots that scour the Internet, crawling webpages and interpreting their content to determine an appropriate search ranking. If your site’s robots.txt or .htaccess file blocks these bots from accessing your site, however, you’ll face an uphill battle trying to achieve a desirable search ranking. Search engines won’t be able to tell what your site is about, in which case they can’t rank it accordingly in their index.
Even if you aren’t blocking bots from crawling certain web development may practices may hinder their ability to crawl your site. Relying heavily on Flash or other multimedia content could backfire. Unlike text — and even images to a degree — multimedia content isn’t readable by search engines. The bottom line is that you need to make sure search engines can easily access and crawl your site.
Reduce Load Times
How long does it take your website to load? Studies have shown that average user waits just 3 seconds for a site to load before backing out. But load times other effects on a website, including its search rankings.
In 2010, Google announced on its blog that it was using site speed as a ranking signal. So if your website loads fast, you’ll receive a slight boost to your Google search rankings. The Mountain View company says faster load times improve user experience and reduce operating costs.
Tips to reduce load times:
- Enable GZIP compression. As explained on the Google Developers portal, GZIP compression can reduce file size by as much as 90%.
- Resize images before uploading them to your website. Most content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, feature built-in image resizing and editing tools. But using these tools still forces the visitor to load the original-sized image.
- Use a lossless optimization tool like TinyPNG to further reduce your images’ file size.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare to reduce physical distances between your site’s files and visitors who are accessing them.
- Choose a reputable and reliable web host.
- When using a CMS, don’t go overboard with plugins and extensions. Using too many may bog down your web host and subsequently slow down your site.
Create Unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Regardless of how big (or small) your website is, give each page a unique title tag and meta description. This is arguably one of the most important steps in SEO, as it “tells” search engines how to create your site’s search listing. Search engines don’t always follow this structure, but normally they use the title tag for, well, the title of a listing and the meta description for the description. Sounds simple enough, right?
To maximize your site’s visibility in the search engines, create a unique title and meta description for each webpage. The title tag should accurately describe the page’s content in no more than 60 characters. The meta description should further elaborate on this, providing a little more information about the page in no more than 160 characters.
What are schema markups and why should you use them? Basically, it’s a semantic vocabulary that supports structured data markups in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Technical jargon aside, it allows search engines to create more detailed search listings. Using schema markups, for instance, you can display customer ratings within your site’s listing.
According to a study cited by KISSMetrics, websites with schema markup rank roughly four search positions higher than their counterpart. What’s even more shocking, however, is that only 0.3% of all websites use schema. Does this mean your site will instantly jump four positions simply by including schema? Of course not, but most digital marketers will agree that including more information in your search listing is always beneficial.
It’s official: more users now access the Internet on smartphones than desktop computers. As a webmaster, you should acknowledge this trend by using a mobile-friendly web design. There are several different solutions for creating a mobile-friendly site, including dynamically serving different HTML based on the user agent; using a separate mobile domain (e.g. yoursite.mobi or mobi.yoursite.com); or using a Responsive Web Design.
Of the three supported configurations for mobile-friendly sites, Google only recommends a Responsive Web Design. It automatically adjusts the viewports based on the user’s device, ensuring a high level of performance and user satisfaction.
Both Google and Bing offer a free-to-use mobile-friendly testing tool. You can access Google’s tool at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and Bing’s at https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mobile-friendliness.
These are just a few SEO tips to dominate Google’s search results. Above all else, though, continue creating high-quality content that’s relevant to your audience. If you have a strong content strategy, search rankings will follow. For more SEO and digital marketing strategies, contact us today.