Every day, consumers turn to search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing to find what they’re searching for. In fact, Google processes more than 40,000 search queries per second on average. That’s 3.5 billion searches each day!
Given the prevalence of online search, it’s not surprising that every business wants to appear at the top of search results when a consumer is looking for a particular product or service it provides. However, the reality is that achieving that coveted top ranking calls for more than just a great business and online presence—it requires having a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place.
In a nutshell, search engines serve two main functions: crawling and building an index, and then generating a ranked list of websites based on what the search engine has deemed most relevant to users. Utilizing SEO is key to improving the visibility of your brand’s website, in turn enhancing its organic search ranking. When implemented in a strategic manner, SEO can help drive more traffic to your website, improve your ROI, generate more leads and boost overall brand awareness for your business.
As a starting point for your SEO strategy, use these five fundamental tips to improve your brand’s organic search ranking:
1. Identify Your Target Keywords
One of the first steps to developing an SEO strategy that aligns with your business goals is to identify your target keywords—that is, the primary words and phrases that embody your brand and its content. By conducting keyword research using tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner, WordStream or Wordtracker, you can determine which keywords are most relevant to your target audience—insight that will help you expand the visibility and reach of your site’s content in search results. Ultimately, this builds the foundation for your content strategy by guiding you to create valuable content that is specifically targeted to your audience.
In general, a good rule of thumb for your SEO strategy is to focus on optimizing your site’s content with 1-3 keywords. Though this may seem like a small number, incorporating too many keywords can actually hurt your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing, the practice of filling a webpage with the same target terms in an effort to gain a higher ranking.
2. Perfect Your On-Page SEO
Simply put, on-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual webpages with target keywords so they rank higher in search results, attract more traffic and convert more visitors. Implementing on-page SEO is an essential component to increasing the online search ranking of your business.
Once you’ve identified your brand’s target keywords, the next step is to optimize your webpages by incorporating the keywords throughout each of these key areas:
- URL structure – Though URLs play a small role when it comes to SEO ranking, a well-optimized URL allows visitors and search engines to easily identify and understand what the link destination is.
- Title tag – A title tag is a simple, but essential, element of on-page SEO—it’s the main heading that shows up in search results and in the title bar at the top of your web browser.
- Body text – Body content is the main text on your webpage and the most important place to include keywords, as it contains the bulk of the information your visitors are searching for.
- Meta description – Meta descriptions appear in search results and provide a short summary about a webpage. Thus, if your meta description includes your target keywords, your webpage is more likely to attract visitors.
- H1 tag – The H1 tag is the main heading that users will see upon visiting your webpage. Its purpose is to indicate what the webpage entails and, as such, should contain keywords that are relevant to the page’s content.
- Image ALT attribute – Another way to increase your SEO ranking is to add keywords to your image ALT attributes, which provide alternative text to describe your images in the event a user is unable to view them. These attributes are also shown as a tooltip when you hover over an image.
Using an on-page grading plugin—such as WordPress Yoast SEO, HubSpot’s Website Grader or Moz On-Page Grader—is a great way to visualize how your on-page SEO stacks up. Then, you can adjust your site’s webpages accordingly to further enhance your search ranking.
3. Develop a Killer Content Strategy
Search engines favor websites that are regularly updated with fresh, high-quality content. So, in order to develop a content strategy that will drive traffic to your site, one of your main objectives should be to create quality content that is optimized for search.
That said, although “content is king” may be a popular mantra, not all content is good content. To get the most out of your content strategy, create and publish the kind of content that will help your brand build topical authority—or the key topics for which you want to be known as an expert—while leveraging relevant, targeted keywords.
Once you’ve identified your content goals and core topics, the next step will be to build out your content strategy. Keep in mind, though, that different parts of the sales funnel require different types of content, as your audiences’ needs will differ as they move through the buyer’s journey.
Having a blog is a great way to populate your website with high-quality content that is relevant, valuable and/or interesting to your visitors, in turn helping your brand to build more page authority and rank higher in search results. In fact, companies with blogs generate 67% more leads monthly than those without blog. This content can then be promoted across other channels—such as social media, email and digital advertising—to drive even more traffic back to your site.
4. Master Link-Building Tactics
Another key element of an effective SEO strategy is to implement outbound, internal and inbound link-building tactics. One of the main ways that search engines like Google gauge and rank the quality of site content is through backlinks, or “inbound” links, a form of off-page SEO. Essentially, these are links from an external domain that point toward one of your webpages. Websites with more high-quality backlinks from other relevant and reputable sources tend to rank higher in search results.
A great method for attracting high-quality backlinks is through guest blogging, creation of useful or interesting content, infographic distribution or promotion of an event. Focus on the quality, instead of the quantity, of links you’re attracting from other sites that are relevant to your business or industry.
An additional link-building tactic is to incorporate a mix of internal links, or links to another page on your own website, and outbound links, or links from your website to another reputable source. A blog, in particular, is a great place to leverage these internal and outbound links.
5. Republish Your Existing Content
One of the main benefits of having a blog is the SEO value it provides. It’s also a great way to keep your website current and up to date. Since not every blog post you create will get the visibility it deserves, it’s important to take the time to breathe new life into top-performing content that’s still relevant and valuable by updating or republishing it with new content and images. Not only will this extend the longevity of your content, it will further optimize your site while building upon the existing SEO value that your content has accumulated over time. In fact, refreshing old blog posts can increase organic search traffic to your site by up to 112%.
That said, not all blog posts are created equal—some are worth more than others when it comes to SEO. As part of your content marketing strategy, it’s important to strategically plan out which blog posts are worth refreshing to in order to generate the best search results. A good place to start is by creating an inventory of all content. Then, take a look through your site traffic stats and determine which posts:
- Feature more in-depth information
- Are more likely to be shared by readers
- Have a higher conversion rate
- Better resonate with your readers (i.e., more time on page, lower bounce rate)
As a general rule of thumb, a best practice is to update and/or republish old content every 3-6 months, depending on the frequency of your content creation efforts.
Once you’ve optimized your site for search, it’s critical that you continue to regularly monitor its performance using an analytics tool like Google Analytics to determine which keywords and traffic sources are producing the most conversions. This data will help to identify the best keywords to target with your content strategy moving forward to get the best results, and which keywords you should ditch altogether.