Standing still is going backwards. That’s how it works in the world of SEO. In a way, it’s a strange idea that there is an ever-increasing competition for a shrinking piece of digital real estate. With paid search ads pushing the organic listings below the fold, the introduction of answer boxes and Google experimenting with ‘answer only’ search result pages, it has become harder and harder to do well organically. That’s the rock, and the hard place is that people don’t visit the 2nd results page.
To do well in organic search, you need resources and patience. That deep investment in time and money, the outlook of having to invest continuously and not getting a pay-off immediately will put most people off. However, that challenge does not take away that most established websites get up to 30-35% of their sessions from organic traffic. That is a huge chunk of traffic to lose. Google Analytics has now the option to benchmark your site traffic with other websites of similar traffic within your industry vertical. It’s worth checking out.
Regardless of where you stand by comparison on the benchmark, the conclusion is mostly the same: SEO is vital to maintain and perhaps even grow site traffic. So, it is time to understand the fundamentals.
Make sure Google understands your site! This is mostly site hygiene that revolves around having proper metadata in place describing what your site and pages are about. Also ensure you have appropriate header tags in place, such as H1 and H2. One commonly overlooked elements is ensuring your images have a precise description as, although a user might not see it, the Google crawlers need this to understand how a picture relates to the context around it.
Also, make sure the Google crawlers are focused and indexing the right things. Sometimes it is unavoidable that certain pages are very much alike, breaking the cardinal rule of providing unique content. In those cases, it’s worth looking at giving a ‘canonical link’, telling Google which page you want it to ‘weigh’ most prominently. In some cases, you might want to disallow indexing a page altogether.
A common mistake that people make is taking shortcuts in providing ‘local’ content. With Google’s push to offer search results within context, which includes geo-location, website builders have gone nuts in delivering local templates which were merely an automatic duplication of site content with a city or town name dropped in.
A good crawl of your website is always a good idea to pick up on the issue above. It’s also good to understand which links are leading to broken destinations or weird redirects. A common problem found with redirects is where 302’s (temporary) are left in place, where they should have been 301’s (permanent).
A final technical element you should consider is using ‘schema markup’ where applicable. So where the meta descriptions tell you something about the page itself and how it shows in the search results page, the schema microdata tells the crawler what the content means. This is one of the most powerful ways to help Google understand your site and content.
Talking about content, you are most likely familiar with the expression ‘content is king’. This is still very much the case, and it’s not a quick fix either. In recent times the internet has been flooded with ‘the top 10 of …’ and ‘5 tips to …’ to gain organic rankings. The point of difference is the topic you select, and the keywords associated with it. If you are selling mattresses you don’t need to blast out content about how good your mattress is; you could consider creating content about sleep in general or even as far as talking about sleep behaviour of animals. Being able to ‘own’ a content space where others haven’t ventured yet is key to being successful.
The final and critical differentiator between a well-maintained page and a poor one, is the quality of links, more specifically who is linking to you. The days of linking farms are long gone, and Google will penalise you know if it considers most of your backlinks of dubious quality. There are plenty of tools out there to help you, SEOJet has put together a good list for you to use. Running any of these tools will provide you clear insight into what URLs you might want to disavow.
Remember, proper SEO requires investment and patience. Make sure your site is technically sound, help the Google crawlers understand what the pages are about, be creative in what content you provide and make sure your backlinks are of quality. Do all this, and you will see your page climbing the organic ranks!