The world of SEO is fast. Just when you’ve got your head around it, something changes. In this article, you’ll get seven steps to take right now to improve your web rankings and look awesome in front of, well, everyone.
SEO is no different. It used to be all about keywords – stringing words together in a kind of magic spell to abracadabra you a great search ranking. You’ve probably agonised over H1 tags, and paid for writers to cram search terms into copy that you’re otherwise happy with.
Think about those days as the horse and carriage era of SEO. It got the job done, but it was hardly delivering on what search engines could be (ie. really, really useful). With every new Google algorithm release, everything gets more sophisticated. Google’s now good at things like context, geographical location, what users have searched before and even synonyms. So what does that mean? It’s made your job as a communications person easier and harder – now you can write websites that are just good to read, targeted and clear without agonising over keywords. But the work’s shifted. Recent studies have shown that 85% of your ranking is down to things that happen off your site – that’s stuff like people sharing your blog on social platforms, or other sites linking to you.
So what does that mean when you’re talking to your clients about SEO? To look really smart in front of them, here’s what you need to know.
1. Stop agonising over static copy
Let’s be clear: there’s only so much you can achieve by just tinkering with the static copy on your site – that is, the copy that’s going to stay there for a while, like on the Home and About pages.
Get a copywriter skilled in web to write you something that’s on brand, on message, clear and targeted, get it up and move on.
2. Invest in dynamic, ongoing content
With Google’s fancy new algorithm, good search rankings are all about a fresh stream of relevant, original and useful content that will keep people coming back, and make other sites link to you.
Content is no longer king – good content is the new reigning sovereign.
Google doesn’t care how many keyword dense pages you put up on your site if no one ever reads or shares them. Here’s an article with some ideas on generating content that people will actually find interesting and useful.
Part of that also entails having a content management system that’s really easy to use, and will label and index your new content automatically. In the early days of Words for Breakfast, we loaded up HUGE numbers of well-written articles that were entirely useless for SEO. Why? Because our CMS didn’t deliver unique, key-word dense URL slugs. They were all just labelled /article. So, as far as Google could tell, they were all just one article (eye roll emoji).
3. Untidy code is a big problem
When Google is choosing the most relevant and credible content to deliver to a searcher, it looks long and hard at site architecture – is the code tidy? Is there anything broken? Anything that looks suspicious, or jerry-rigged? Do the pages load fast?
See, if the code is nice and clean, and built all up to spec, that gives Google a big thumbs up that this is a site to be respected. Broken links, poor code, weird indexing – all of this is the Google equivalent of a tradesman turning up in an old van and strapping together some scaffolding with boot laces and bamboo. Credibility falls through the floor.
It’s why there seems to be such huge variation between how much web developers charge. Getting it all right – and looking good – takes time and expertise, so you get what you pay for. A cheap site might look pretty, but there’s plenty that could be going wrong under the surface – like paint over mouldy walls, or a new kitchen put in over rotting floorboards.
4. Get responsive or get out
You’ve probably heard this before, but if your client’s site isn’t mobile responsive, you might as well give up and go home. Nothing else you do is going to matter until you get that sorted.
5. Look at your user experience
It makes sense that Google would love sites that are easy and useful for people to navigate – the robots can see where people click on your site and can tell if it’s easy to get around, with relevant internal links and related content. That’s also great for converting leads too.
6. Search results should be treated like little ads
Your search results are essentially little ads for your site. Making them more attractive won’t directly improve your ranking much, but will mean people are more likely to click through. That’s gold, in Google’s book.
Here are some of the things you can be thinking about:
- The meta description is that little blurb underneath your URL in a search result. They should be 135 characters, and give people a hint of what each page is about when they’re scrolling through search results.
- Page titles, aka title tags and title elements, can be seen at the top of every browser window, and heading up search results. Make them 55 characters, descriptive, benefit-led and in title case.
- Schema markup means you can add things like star and customer ratings, images, and various other bits of helpful info. Multimedia!
7. Location, location, location
Google knows where people are, and serve results based on their location. If you’re being targeted with your approach, that’s actually a good thing for business. As a very first step, make sure your client’s business is registered with Google My Business with all the up to date info.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know to look super smart in front of clients. Obviously implementing all of this is a huge task – but there are plenty of clever experts out there who can help you do all that. In the meantime, you’ve helped your clients by clarifying what they should be doing, and where their best spend of money is. Yay you!