If your site isn’t getting the rankings you’d like, it may be time to get back to basics. While Google’s algorithm changes almost daily, the core functions of SEO generally stay the same. By carrying out these simple, yet extremely important strategies, you’ll undoubtedly see your rankings improve.
The following are seven core SEO functions you can’t afford to ignore!
1. Keyword research
A successful SEO campaign always begins with keyword research. This research will help you identify topics and themes that your target market is actively searching for. It will also help you pinpoint words and phrases that aren’t too competitive; this way you actually have a chance of ranking for them.
Use a tool like the Google Keyword Planner to help you find relevant keywords
An ideal keyword or keyword phrase will meet these three basic criteria:
- It receives a fair amount of searches. This will ensure all your hard work can potentially generate a decent amount of traffic.
- It isn’t too competitive. Highly-competitive keywords may be too difficult for smaller sites to rank for.
- It matches the products, services or content you offer on your site. Words that aren’t a good fit for your site will never result in conversions and will leave visitors unsatisfied.
For more tips on how to do your own keyword research, check out my posts The 5 Components of a Modern Keyword-Based Strategy and The Startup’s Guide To Doing Keyword Research Like The Pros.
2. On-page optimization
This is the process of making sure Google understands what your content is about. It involves using your keywords in strategic locations on your page, in a way that makes sense both to Google and to your readers.
The most important places you should use your keywords and phrases include your:
- Title tag
- Header tags (H1, H2, etc.)
- URL (e.g., www.yoursite.com/your-keywords-here)
- Alt image tags and captions
- Within your content
While keyword usage is important, it’s also useful to note that the precise use of your keywords isn’t as important as it used to be. Since the rise of semantic search, Google is now able to evaluate the topic of your content through looking at the entire context of the page.
This means you don’t need to obsess over using your exact keyword x number of times. Instead focus on using a variety of related words and phrases, covering relevant sub-topics, and making sure your content is long enough to comprehensively cover your topic.
3. Technical optimization
Technical SEO involves making sure everything behind the scenes is set up for optimal rankings. The primary goal of technical optimization is to ensure your site structure allows Google to easily crawl and index every piece of content on your site.
Site speed is a key component of technical optimization. We know that median time to first byte – how long it takes for a site to first start loading – is a key ranking factor. This is why it’s so important to regularly check out your’s site speed using a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Other important technical SEO strategies include having an HTML and XML sitemap, using a flat site architecture, using schema markup and making sure your site is optimized for mobile users. For help with any of these strategies, check out the QuickSprout guide to technical SEO.
4. Link building
Multiple ranking factors studies have shown that inbound links are critical for high rankings. Google has also recently confirmed this. In a Google Q&A video, Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, stated that the two most important ranking factors are content and links.
Link building can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but it’s absolutely necessary for achieving high rankings. Some strategies I recommend starting with include:
- Submitting your site to local directories like Yelp and Google My Business, if you’re a local business.
- Use SEMRush or Ahrefs to find out who links to your competitors. Ask those sites to link to your content as well.
- Create long-form, authoritative content that bloggers and journalists are likely to link to
- Guest post on high-quality sites in your niche
For more link building strategies, check out my post 6 Link Building Techniques You May Not Know About.
5. Add a steady stream of content
As mentioned above, Google has stated that content is one of the top two most important ranking factors. In other words, no matter how hard you work at implementing the strategies outlined in this post, they’re unlikely to work without a solid foundation of content.
I recommend starting with at least 10 in-depth articles that cover topics in your niche. After that, commit to adding new content at least once a week (more often is preferable). Do keyword research to ensure you’re choosing topics that people are actually looking for, and then optimize your posts based on what you’ve found.
In general, it’s best to shoot for an article length of at least 1,000-1,200 words. While shorter articles can rank, some research suggests that the highest ranking pages are in the 1,200-1,300 word range.
6. Internal linking
Internal linking is an often overlooked strategy, but one that’s vital for boosting your rankings. It helps Google and users navigate around your site, helps spread link equity among your pages, and provides a way for readers to find useful, relevant content.
To use internal linking effectively, focus on linking from higher authority pages to lower authority ones. Use anchor text that makes sense both to Google and to your readers. Always link to relevant content that offers further info on the topic of the post. In terms of the number of internal links you should use, don’t go overboard: for a 1,000 word post, using 2-3 should be sufficient.
Keep in mind that your navigation menu(s) are also considered internal links. Use these to your advantage by linking to high-value pages you’d like to see move up in the rankings.
7. Promote your content on social media
Many business owners believe that Google counts social media shares as links. However, Google has explicitly stated that links on Facebook and Twitter are not part of their search ranking algorithm.
However, social media can be an extremely important tool for promoting and distributing your content. As your content gets shared, more people see it. And as more people see it, the chances of accumulating links increases. In this way, social media shares indirectly lead to increased rankings.
To ensure your content gets the attention it deserves, have a plan in place for how you’ll promote it – especially on social media. You might even consider boosting your exposure by investing in some social ads. Here’s how.
Each of the seven strategies above are integral to getting high rankings. They’ll ensure you create content that both Google and your readers love, and will set you on the path to increased traffic and conversions.
What would you add to the list above? Are there any core SEO functions you think are missing? Share below!