Here’s something you mightn’t have known about search engine optimisation: what works for your closest competitors in your niche may not work for you.
To add to that, search engines have constantly-evolving algorithms. Google is always changing how search works (much to our eternal frustration).
Worse, many of these changes go completely unannounced, meaning that the strategies you have used in the past may no longer work in the present.
It’s a constant battle to get the most out of your SEO strategy. The devil’s in the details… that said, there are still some constants.
To help you with that, iformat has created a checklist of things you can do to improve your SEO ranking. If you want to build a more effective SEO strategy, you’ll want to make sure each of these pointers are ticked off!
Pointer #1: put the “key” in keyword
Way back in the early “Wild West” days of Google, all you needed to boost your SEO ranking was to cram your content full of keywords that users might be searching for.
Back in the day, you’d have websites where literally all of the content was nothing but keywords – we’re talking about lawyer’s websites where every second word was something like “accountant in Melbourne”.
Today however, it’s a different story.
Google nowadays uses a huge range of factors when ranking pages to get around this exploit. Sites that still rely on good old-fashioned keyword stuffing can even be punished under the current regime!
Of course, while Google has decreased its reliance on keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant.
With keywords, both quality and quantity matter – however, the first trumps the second. When optimising content for your website, remember that the relevance of the keywords you’ve chosen are far more important than their density.
When choosing keywords, you need to be strategic to get the results you desire. Select phrases and terms that:
- Your customers are actually searching for – if you only service Melbourne, you don’t want to waste time ranking for Geelong
- Match your business – what’s the point of ranking well for a product or service you don’t even offer?
- You can compete on – if you’re a small business, there’s no point optimising for searches dominated by big businesses like Kmart
- Fit with your overarching SEO goals – some search terms are stepping stones to bigger things
Pointer #2: proper “indexing” is key to SEO ranking
Before your site can be found on Google, it has to be on Google!
Make sure that the webpages you have built are correctly indexed on search engines like Google, before putting in time starting your ongoing SEO efforts in earnest.
How do you get your pages indexed? You wait for Google’s bots to crawl (discover and read) your site. Fortunately, Google works pretty quickly – in most cases, manual submission won’t be necessary.
Alternatively, you can speed up the process by submitting individual URLs to Google Webmaster Tools for (near) immediate indexing
To make sure that your pages are indexed by search engines accurately, you need quality content. You’ll also need to make sure your website has an accurate sitemap – think of it as a page of contents (but more on that later).
This ensures that when search engines are crawling, they’re able to pick up your pages.
More importantly, it boosts your rankings and ensures your pages are turning up for the searches you actually want!
Pointer #3: submit an updated sitemap for Google to check
Think of sitemaps as the blueprints for how your brand-new site is going to look, laying out every button, banner and image is going to go.
They’re great for getting a feel for your new site. Equally as important, they also help search engines make sense of your site’s structure. Through your sitemap, search engines can identify and index newly-added pages sooner by:
- Helping Google understand what pages relate to each other
- Helping determine what individual pages are about (based on the pages they’re linked to from or connected to)
- Figure out what your website is all about
Whenever you make changes to your website, you should be submitting an updated sitemap to search engines – think of it as giving Google a heads-up that you’ve made some changes.
It’s important to note however that Google doesn’t crawl sitemaps that exceed a certain size – 50MB and 50,000 URLs, to be more precise. Keep things short and sweet, and if you can’t, break your site into multiple sitemaps to get your site crawled sooner.
Pointer #4: optimise your pages for speed
Why does page speed matter? It’s simple: Google’s algorithm has changed to rank pages based on the mobile version of their sites, for the simple reason that more people are using smartphones than desktops.
And when you’re searching on-the-go, convenience is king. That’s why loading speed matters all of a sudden.
We’ve actually discussed the importance of page speed as well as other implications of mobile-first indexing in a previous post (which you can read here). Just to reiterate though, pagespeed looks like it’s shaping up to be one of the most important factors that would affect SEO rankings.
Don’t just take our word for it – Google itself announced that starting July 2018, mobile page speed would determine mobile search results.
The key takeaway? Get mobile, and get fast!
Pointer #5: use metadata – name your images and videos
When we say that content is the key to SEO, we mean it. And we aren’t just talking about written content when we say this, either – images and video can give your SEO efforts a boost.
Years ago, Google wasn’t very good at figuring out what these images and videos were showing. As such, metadata was critical in helping Google determine what content is on a webpage.
Each piece of content on your site comes with metadata. These are like footnotes that tell Google what your image, video or graph is showing.
Filling these in helps Google figure out what your page is about. And that means it’s more likely to turn up in relevant searches.
Nowadays however, things are different.
Google has gotten scarily good at interpreting images. Don’t believe us? Just try out this link to see how good Google has gotten at understanding images!
Of course, it isn’t perfect, and sometimes it’ll still mess up – which is why it’s still important to add metadata to any images or videos you upload.
Is it a little thing? Maybe. Can it make a difference? You bet!
When putting images on your website, make sure you:
- Name your images
- Fill out the description
- Keep it relevant and avoid overstuffing.
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