Do you want to rank #1 on Google’s search results? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t want to generate thousands, if not millions of visitors to their site each day. Unfortunately, Google and other search engines keep their search ranking algorithms top secret. Search Engine Optimization is more than just a buzzword used by marketers and consultants. In this post, I will give you some of my tips that I have learned over the years to improve my websites’ position in Google’s search results.
1. Do Keyword Research Using Google Keyword Planner
Understanding what your potential customer are searching, how competitive your market is, and generating long-tail keyword ideas should be the first step you take before you begin crafting a new piece of content.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a fantastic tool to generate new keyword ideas, get search volume, and learn the competitiveness for the keywords you are targeting. When I’m doing keyword research, I try to target low competitiveness keywords with 1K-10K monthly searches. This gives you the best chance to reach the first page of Google.
Google Trends is an excellent tool to see search trends for your keywords, as well as get additional keyword ideas by checking the “Related Queries”. Another good technique to generate new keyword ideas is to simply look at Google’s autocomplete suggestions. This is a great way to find long-tail keyword ideas. Then use the Google Keyword Planner to find the search volume and competition. Thanks Google!
It is always a good idea to see which sites show up when you are performing a search for your targeted keywords. If the first page is dominated by Fortune 500 companies, odds are your blog isn’t going to crack the first page of Google. However, if there are some personal blog sites and other smaller websites, there is a good chance that you can out-SEO the competition and snag a spot on the first page. There are Google Chrome Extensions, such as MOZ Bar, that can give you the page and domain authority of websites to see how tough the competition is.
2. Utilize Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools (and its counterpart, Bing Webmaster Tools) is an essential, and FREE, tool for webmaster to use to ensure Google (and Bing) are crawling your website, indexing your pages, and providing you with essential search data. I could write a whole post on using Google Webmaster Tools (and maybe I will…), but we will focus on just a few key features.
Submit an XML Sitemap
Submitting an XML Sitemap of you website to Google Webmaster Tools will provide Google with a list of all your websites pages, along with the URLs and will add the pages to its index. By providing Google with a sitemap, you are ensuring that your site will be added it’s index and begin showing up in search results.
If you are using WordPress, the Yoast SEO Plugin is a great plugin to use to generate a XML sitemap (Not to mention the other wonderful features).
Google Webmaster Tool’s Search Analytics
Using the data found in the Search Analytics section of Google Webmaster Tools can provide valuable insights into which keywords are generating you the most traffic, and what keywords you should focus on implementing into your site. You can see the number of clicks and impressions you are receiving from various keywords, as well as the click through rate and your site’s position in the search.
In addition, you can filter by down the results by query, landing page, country, devices, and search type.
3. Generating Quality Backlinks to Your Posts
Backlinks are the lifeblood of a high ranking post. Generating quality backlinks from authoritative sites will greatly improve your chances of moving up the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Google has been known to penalize sites that have backlinks from shady directory sites or sites that charge to have backlinks posted on their site. So how do you generate quality backlinks?
Write a Guest Post on a Related Blog
Writing guests posts is probably the best way to not only generate quality backlinks, but to expose you and your blog to a whole new audience. You can start by researching related blogs and reaching out to them on social media, their contact page, whatever. Begin building a relationship with them, and then politely ask if they would be open to you writing a guest post for them. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They say no? If you are writing quality content that is relevant to their audience, chances are they would be open to having you write a guest post.
Reach Out to Webmasters
So you don’t want to write a guest post for another blog, that’s fine. Just reaching out to webmasters of related blogs and asking if they would be interested in exchanging links on relevant posts is a great way to start. Again, the worst thing they can say is no. Be sure to send a link to the content you would like them to link to, and that you are willing to post a link to their blog as well.
4. Optimize your Meta Tags and Heading Tags
After doing keyword research and analyzing your Google Webmaster Tools search data, you should have some insight into what keywords are performing well for you, and which keywords you should be targeting. Now is the perfect time to revise your meta title and description, along with your H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags in your content.
Update Meta Titles and Description
Your meta title and description are the first thing that people will see when your post shows up in search results, so you will want to ensure that they are captivating and that your target keywords are featured in both the meta title and description. You’ll notice Google even bolds your search text in the results’ title and description.
Incorporate Long-Tail Keyword Searches in Your Content Organically
As you analyze your keyword data, try to find longer search phrases that are generating a high number of searches or impressions and try to incorporate them naturally into your content using your H1, H2, and H3 tags. If you can’t fit them naturally in your headings, try to incorporate them in your content organically.
5. Optimize Your Images
It is tempting to put the highest resolution photos on your blog, but having too many large images on your page will kill your page load speed. Google takes site load into consideration when ranking search results.
Reduce Your Image Sizes and Use an Image Compressor
One of the novice mistakes I made when I first started blogging was not being aware of my image sizes. Make sure you are not using high resolution photos and reducing the size of the image by using the height and width properties. You should use photo editing software, such as GIMP, to scale your images down to the size you want them. I also use compressor.io to compress my images even further before I upload them.
Include Search Keywords in Your Image’s Alt-Text
Including your search keywords in images’ alt-text and title attribute will assist in creating more keyword density on your site. Including captions in your your image will help as well.
6. Optimize Your Site to Improve Site Load Speed
In the age of mobile, your site needs to load quickly, even over spotty mobile connections. We already discussed optimizing your images for faster loads times, but there are a few other tips and tricks to improve you site’s load time.
Use Google PageSpeed Tools
Google PageSpeed Tool is a wonderful application that will test the speed of your site for both mobile and desktop, and provide you with potential optimizations to increase your sites load speed. Google provides recommendations on how to implement the suggested optimizations, as well as a module you can install on your website’s server to automatically make these optimizations.
Minimize The Use of WordPress Plugins
One of the benefits of using WordPress is the extensive library of plugins to use on your site. While there are many valuable plugins to be used with WordPress, having too many can drastically increase the amount of time it takes your website to load. Take a look at which plugins you are actually using and deactivate the ones you are not.
7. Create Great Content
While all the previous SEO tips are valuable, nothing will do more for your SERP ranking that creating amazing content. Google has become very sophisticated, so trying to game the system is pretty much pointless.
Great Content Will Generates Backlinks On it’s Own
If your content or product really resonates with a user, they will want to post it on their blog, share it on social media, and tell their friends about it. Invest in creating quality content and your users will notice. Researching questions or problems your target audience has and creating content answer those questions or solving those problems is a great way to start.