We’re nearing the mid-year mark. Are you satisfied with your website’s performance?
If not, it’s not too late. You only need to make a few simple fixes to improve your website’s rank in search and increase traffic and conversions.
Sound good? Review and implement the 10 factors listed below, and you’ll set a strong foundation for more search traffic in 2014.
1. Keyword Research
While it might be a dream come true, it’s not realistic to think that your site is going to rank for every keyword you could ever want. Many are simply too competitive, and a new website must do proper keyword research in order to find the right keywords. The ones you select should bring in traffic but also have an appropriate amount of competition.
Ever since Google released the new Hummingbird update, SEOs have started the shift from individual keyword phrases to topics. Hummingbird focuses more on the intent of the phrase with a better understanding of what the context means. This allows search engines like Google to answer questions with web pages even if that page is not optimized for that phrase.
That said, doing keyword research with the Google Adwords tool can still give you some good ideas for keywords. You want keywords that have low to medium competition in an area.
2. Great content (the longer, the better)
Great content is now a requirement to rank well. Search engines rank pages with bad grammar and spelling lower. This means that sites with well-written content are finally starting to get the ranking they deserve.
“How long should my content be?” is a question many people ask. While there really isn’t an exact answer, most people agree that 500 words is a good minimum length for your normal blog post.
It’s also a good idea to mix in longer authority posts. Research has shown that longer posts (over 1,000 words) tend to rank better—keep in mind, Google really likes authoritative posts with 2,000+ words.
Starting in August 2013, Google introduced in-depth articles as a new type of search result. Google separates these articles by placing them in a special box on the right side of the search results with other highly authoritative articles on the subject.
To improve your chances of getting an in-depth article status in the future, it must have the highest quality content, be over 2000 words, and not be promotional in any way.
One final tip: Length isn’t the only thing that matters. Make your posts fun to read. Avoid boring, stuffy content that looks like a legal document. Instead, opt for more conversational, amusing content when writing reviews, essays and guides.
3. Natural keyword usage
The primary rule for mixing your keywords into your content is to make sure they sound natural to the reader. When you write for your reader (not to game search engines) and use natural keyword placement, you can actually rank better with search engines.
4. Page titles
Your page titles should have the keyword phrase you’re targeting but also be descriptive for the reader. For example, if your article is about “Labrador training,” then a good title might be “Labrador Training in Six Easy Steps.”
The page title should not exceed 70 characters. Although search engines will index longer titles, they will be truncated in the search results.
5. Header tags
It’s generally a good idea to include the keyword phrase in an occasional header tag, but don’t overdo it. If you’re going to include a keyword phrase in a header tag, it is best to use the first heading on the page (H1) because Google will pay more attention to it.
6. Optimized URLs
You can put keywords in your URLs, but don’t overdo it. (e.g., www.labrador-training-strategies.com/labrador-training.html)
This looks suspect, with an exact match domain and a keyword-optimized url. However, a branded root domain with an optimized url is fair game, like such: http://seoproleague.com/utah-seo. The root domain still has “SEO” in it, but it’s also a branded company.
7. Page load time
According to WebProNews, when Google added page speed into their algorithm, sites that had slow load times saw a drop in traffic from Google. Page load speed is a ranking factor for Google.
In order to fix page load speed problems:
- Measure how long a page takes to load.
- Optimize your website to improve performance.
- If you are using a shared hosting server, you can try switching to a different hosting provider to see if it makes a positive difference.
- After making changes, measure performance again.
If you use WordPress, make sure you keep plugins to a minimum, as they will only bog down your site if there are too many. Also, stick with a lean code (such as Thesis and Genesis) or a website builder (here is a good list for those) that allows you to customize and tweak the code. This doesn’t necessarily help page speed, but it keeps your blog from looking cookie-cutter and generic.
It’s a good idea to periodically check your page load on a few random pages to make sure changes to your site have not affected performance.
8. Internal linking
Make sure you link your content with other internal pages that would be beneficial to your readers. This will help improve your site’s SEO and will make it easier for your readers to navigate and find more of your useful content.
9. Google authorship
Google authorship is easy to set up in your content and your Google+ profile. It allows you to establish yourself as an authority in your niche and as a result, Google will rank pages higher for your site.
10. Responsive (mobile) design
I recently read that roughly 56% of American adults are now buying smart phones and browsing the Internet with them. This is why it is critical that you use a responsive (i.e. mobile) design for your website so that pages easily show up on the small screen.
Google also recommends a responsive design because it makes it easier for visitors to have a single URL. Your web pages will load faster because your website doesn’t need to be redirected to another page for a mobile device.
Finding the right keywords first can save you a lot of wasted effort in the future. After you pick your keywords, create the kind of outstanding content that Google wants to see. Internal linking can help improve your visitor’s experience on your site as well as allow Google to find your content more easily.
Periodically checking and improving web page load times will also help your site rankings. Having a responsive design is now more of a requirement than an option. Expect users to access your site from mobile devices, so make sure your site is ready to accommodate them for success. Last, make sure you use Google authorship as it will help improve ranking over time and show Google that you are an authority in your field.
Now you: What are your best strategies for website optimization?