Having your web pages rank high in Google’s organic search listings for important keywords can be incredibly valuable. And while Google is constantly tweaking their search engine algorithm to determine page ranking, here are some fundamental best practices to get you started on improving your Google SEO ranking.
1. Define a keyword list
It’s unreasonable to assume that you will pull top rank in Google for every keyword relating to your industry. Your goal should be to pull top rank on the most desired keywords. This is an exercise that will take the effort of both marketing and management. Think about how people would search for your products and services, make a list of these keywords, and check the traffic for each term with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. Naturally you will want to rank for the keywords with the most traffic, so whittle your list down to the highest-trafficked, most relevant terms.
2. Good content will win out
Before you dig into some of the more technical ways to improve SEO ranking, always remember that writing compelling, high-quality content that attracts interest and compels visitors to share it and link back to it is vital. Good content has the best chance of being viral content, and Google rewards content virality heavily in its rankings algorithm.
3. Create cornerstone pages
If you have 10 pages relating to the same set of keywords, Google will have a hard time determining which page is relevant. Instead, merge your content into a single cornerstone page. With one authoritative cornerstone page on a specific topic, there is no SEO confusion, and you should rank higher.
4. Use keyword repetition and variation in page content
While there are several HTML tagging techniques that improve a page’s Google SEO results, creating relevant page content is still the best way to rank high. A big part of content creation is your use of targeted keywords. You should include important keywords in your first 50 words, since early placement can be a signal of relevance. And while you should never repeat keywords too often at the expense of good writing, you should repeat keywords in your content two or three times for short pages and four to six times for longer pages. Also, you may wish to use some keyword variation in your content such as splitting keywords up as this could potentially improve your ranking.
5. Optimize your page titles
The <title> HTML tag defines a web page’s title and is meant to be a concise description of that page’s content. It is the first line of hyperlinked text Google displays in their organic search results, and it is what appears in the top frame of most web browsers for that page and in tabs. Google considers this to be the second-most important on-page SEO element (overall page content is still the first). When you write your page titles, keep them less than 70 characters, since any text beyond that will be cut off when listed in Google’s organic results. You should include your important keywords in the title, preferably in the beginning. It is also a good idea to include your company name as well towards the end.
6. Write compelling meta descriptions
The <meta name= description content= > HTML tag is meant to be a concise explanation of a web page’s content. Google displays your meta description beneath the page title in their organic results. While meta descriptions aren’t as important as page titles in your Google ranking, they do play a big role in getting clicks from users. People read descriptions as a preview of your page and use it to determine if your content is worth visiting. You should keep your meta descriptions to under 150 characters since Google won’t display text beyond that. You should also include target keywords in your text, since any words matching a user’s search query will be displayed in bold.
7. Use keyword variations as anchor text for internal linking
Anchor text is the visible words and characters that hyperlinks display when linking to another page. Using descriptive, relevant anchor text helps Google determine what the page being linked to is ?about. When you use internal links (links on web pages that point to other pages on the same web site), you should use anchor text that is a close variation of your target keywords for that page, instead of phrases like click here or download here . But at the same time, avoid overuse of exact match keywords. Using close variations will help you rank better for more keywords.
8. Don’t forget about ALT tags
ALT tags are HTML elements used to specify alternative text to display when the element they are applied to (such as images) can’t be rendered. ALT tags can have a strong correlation with Google SEO rankings, so when you have images and other elements on your web pages, be sure to always use a descriptive ALT tag with targeted keywords for that page.
9. Your URL names matter
Shorter URLs seem to perform better in Google search rankings than longer ones, so keep that in mind when you architect your site. Keep the slashing to a minimum. You should also include keywords in your URL names, and try to place them closer to your domain name. When you have multiple keywords in your URLs, separate them with hyphens.
10. No black hat
Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick the search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. The risk is just too great. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.
11. Track your visitors and leads
In order to optimize your SEO results, it’s important to measure the impact of your efforts on web site traffic and lead/sales generation. Google Webmaster Tools can give you important insight into how your site is functioning and identify potential errors you should correct. An analytics tool such as Google’s Universal Analytics is helpful for measuring changes in search traffic as well as tracking visitors interactions with your web site that are a direct result of SEO. Marketing automation tools and call tracking tools can help you tie leads and sales back to SEO.
12. Get social
Social signals are already impacting Google SEO rankings and many industry experts believe that will only increase. If you haven’t already, consider setting up some social media pages such as Google+ and Facebook, and start engaging with your audience.
13. Have a link-building strategy
Link building is a catchall term for the practice of creating new external links to your site. Beyond creating great content people want to share, guest blogging and asking webmasters from authoritative sites relevant to your business to link back to your pages are great ways to build links. When possible, use keywords are the anchor text for your links, as this will help send signals to Google that your pages are relevant for those terms.
If you are interested in learning more about how businesses and agencies track and optimize SEO and other marketing using call tracking, you can download The Marketer’s Big Book of Call Tracking Success Stories.