The most profitable and sustainable digital marketing channel through which to build a business’s long term flow of leads and new customers is via organic search.
Unlike paid search marketing, you don’t have to consistently pay for each click to your website.Building organic search means that you are truly earning the user’s click by providing the best answer to the user’s question or query. While that may seem simple, it can get complicated quickly, and that is why “SEO Consultant” is a job and why internet marketing agencies like Bridges can make money helping businesses exceed their revenue goals with SEO consulting services.
Here are five tips from successful and respected SEO consultants who teach search engine optimization services, that you can use to boost your business’s search engine rankings and earn more website traffic, leads, and new customers/clients.
Boost Your Algorithmic Credibility
Credibility is crucial to SEO success. Each component part of Google’s EAT model of quality rating points to credibility as a critical factor.
EAT is an acronym for:
While you and your business may have expertise and authority in your industry; and, you have developed a high level of trust in your community, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Google and other search engines view your business as credible.
Few websites are actually evaluated by a human being as part of Google’s process to determine rankings. That function is accomplished by the well-known and oft-referenced Google algorithm, which is one of the most widely-used artificial intelligence engines in the world.
While the search giant doesn’t share much about how their algorithm works, we use our understanding of how artificial intelligence works, trial & error, and what little information Google makes public, to constantly update our SEO best practices.
Algorithmic credibility is built through activities that help Google’s algorithm understand that your business has expertise, authority, and trust within your industry and the communities that you serve.
Here are some key elements to building your business’s algorithmic credibility.
The basic details of your business should be accurate and consistent across the internet. Basic local SEO efforts will help here. This means that your:
- Google My Business should be claimed and managed by you.
- Bing Places should also be claimed and managed by you.
- NAP (name, address, phone) citations across the internet should be consistent and accurate. Services like Yext can do this for you.
Pay close attention to how your business’s details are appearing in all of these places. It should be exactly the same.
If your business has moved recently or changed names, make sure that the change has been reflected across all of your digital assets, including GMB, Bing Places, and NAP citations.
Even if your business doesn’t have brick-and-mortar locations, these local SEO best practices are still important in establishing your algorithmic credibility.
Emphasize Your Relationships
If your business is established in your community and industry, then you probably have strong relationships with other businesses and people in your business community.
You should make those apparent to the Google algorithm.
Do you volunteer for a non-profit? Ask the organization to link from their website to yours.
Are you purchasing products or services from a vendor in your industry? Offer to provide them a free blog post written by you (an expert in your industry) and make sure that your bio includes a link to your company website.
Make sure that the chambers of commerce and other industry groups to which you may belong include a link on the organizational website to your business’s website.
SEO professionals often refer to this activity as link building. Joshua Hardwick, Head of Content at the SEO software company, AHREFs, writes about link building and off-page SEO at his company’s blog [found here].
Links to your business’s website from other websites that have strong algorithmic credibility will bolster your own site’s credibility, resulting in higher rankings in search results.
Use Your Data to Establish Credibility
One great way to build links to your website is to create content that is likely to be used as a reference, according to SEO consultants Jim Harmer and Ricky Kessler of DIY blogging site, Income School.
This can be study results or other industry data that is statistical in nature [YouTube video source].
Build Trust Through Reviews & Review Responses
There is an entire sub-category of digital marketing built around online reviews. It is called reputation management, and it is an important part of algorithmic credibility.
Positive online reviews are an obvious credibility-builder. However, there is one more step to take to maximize your algorithmic credibility with online reviews. You should respond to each review, positive or negative. Not only is this just a good business practice, but it also demonstrates to Google that you are responsive to your customers, which is a factor for ranking.
There are marketing technology companies, such as BirdEye, that automate much of the reputation management process, even automatically pushing out positive reviews through your social media accounts.
Provide Comprehensive Content
Google and other search engines reward content that most completely answers the user’s search query.
SEO educator, Brian Dean analyzed more than one million websites and concluded that longer content correlates with higher ranking. Across the board, the average content length for Google first-page results is almost 2,000 words (source).
Write Around Topics First and Keywords Second
Back in the earlier days of SEO, you could get your website to rank by using seemingly esoteric tricks.
An impactful SEO strategy involved doing keyword research to tease out every valuable search term that a user might query and then stuffing all of your content with those words and phrases. The content didn’t necessarily have to be valuable to the user nor did it have to be complete or comprehensive.
Now, the Google algorithm is much smarter. It understands word meanings more accurately and will, in fact, penalize web content that seems spammy and low value.
While keywords were king before, today, it is best to think about topics first and then keywords, according to Drew Fortin, formerly of HubSpot [source].
By tackling a topic, instead of focusing on including a certain number of exact keywords, you are more likely to write content that will be valuable to the person searching, which Google will reward.
But Don’t Forget Keywords
Keywords are still important. It is best practice to include the primary keyword or phrase for which you want to rank, in the blog post’s title, URL, and meta description.
Pay Attention to Structure
The Google algorithm understands and values structure. Two great examples of building structure that Google will reward are:
- How information is organized on an individual page
- How pages are linked to another on the same site
How Information is Organized on an Individual Page
The base language of the world wide web, known as HTML, is fundamentally a system for organizing data, which uses so-called tags to specify what kind of information is on the page.
There are tags that establish the title of the page. There are a set of six header tags that communicate an outline structure and tags that make lists. There are tags that provide emphasis and tags within which regular paragraph content is contained.
When Google crawls your site, those tags help the algorithm understand what your site is about.
Using these tags have a subtler but arguably more powerful SEO function, which we will address below in the section entitled Invite Your Users to Stay Awhile.
How Pages are Linked to Each Other on the Same Site
Remember when we said that Google rewards comprehensive content in regard to individual posts or pages? That is also true for groups of content.
One of the most effective current content strategy models is the content cluster.
A content cluster is a group of individual content pieces (like a blog post) that are related to one another. There is a central piece of content, known as the pillar page, that addresses a broad topic, and is usually the longest piece of content in the cluster.
There are also shorter content pieces, known as cluster pages, that treat a narrower topic that is related to the larger topic of the pillar page. Each of the cluster pages links to the pillar and vice-versa. HubSpot’s Mimi An is an advocate of this model [source].
Fix Your Technical SEO Problems
Technical SEO problems are like carbon monoxide poisoning. It is hard to notice without a special detector and it can be deadly.
If you have been doing everything right; your content is comprehensive and well-structured; you have boosted your algorithmic credibility; your business has positive reviews to which you have responded; and, yet you still can’t your website to rank well, then you probably have technical SEO problems.
Technical SEO problems are technical issues with your website that suppress rankings.
Some common technical SEO problems include:
- Robots.txt file prohibiting Google from crawling the site
- No sitemap or an incorrect sitemap
- The site loads slow
- Multiple pages on the site with identical or near-identical content
- Domain/subdomain problems
The good news is, these kinds of problems can easily be found via some free tools. You can use ours here.
Have you ever clicked on a link only to arrive at a page that is just awful? Maybe the type is too small or the text color doesn’t contrast enough with the background to be read easily. Or, more commonly, you are confronted with a wall of words.
You don’t stay on that page very long, do you? Neither do your website visitors if your site isn’t inviting.
If users are turned off by the design of your site and/or the presentation of the content, it won’t matter how well written and organized it is. They won’t stay on the page for very long and that hurts your SEO
Once your website’s content begins to rank on the first page for terms that generate traffic, Google will measure how long the users remain on your page.There is an unofficial metric known as dwell time, which is the amount of time a user spends on your site, after clicking on your website from the search engine results page, before returning to the results page.
To search engines, a long dwell time indicates that the page content is valuable to the user.
That page is likely to move up the rankings for that particular search query, as Joshua Hardwick from AHrefs pointed out [source].
While dwell time isn’t a metric that you will find in Google Analytics, there are a few related metrics that you can use to understand how relatively strong or weak each individual page’s dwell time is.
In your Google Analytics, look for the metric called average session duration, which is the total amount of time that a user spends on the site from arriving at the first page to clicking on to loading the final page viewed.
Filter your Google Analytics view to just organic-originating sessions. While dwell time and average session duration aren’t the same things, they tend to correlate.
Your goal is to increase the average session duration.
Use On-Page Optimization Techniques to Increase Average Session Duration
There are two ways that you can lengthen the average session duration (and dwell time) of a page that we will address here. They are:
- Structure content to match the way that users read
- Encourage another click
Structure Content to Match the Way that Users Read
Hardly anyone reads a webpage or blog post from beginning to end. Rather, they tend to scan the length of the post to take a full measure of it, and then decide whether or not to read it, and which parts to read.
This is where headers and other HTML tags, that we talked about before in the section about structure, become valuable.
Headers are normally styled in a way that communicates their importance. There are six levels of headers. The highest level, known as an H1 is usually the title of the content and is styled to be the largest text. The second-level headers, H2s, are slightly smaller, etc.
By structuring this way, a user can skim the content and easily understand the structure.
Often, a reader’s priority doesn’t necessarily align with the order in which you wrote the blog post. In this case, the headers help the user locate their highest priority information and read that first.
While it seems counter-intuitive, making it easy for the users to find what they are looking for on the page actually increases dwell time and average session duration. If they can’t easily find it, then they are more likely to immediately return to the search engine results page and choose another result.
Encourage Another Click
From the point-of-view of a search engine, the perfect website visit from an organic search would look something like this:
- User makes search query.
- Search engine returns results on the search engine results page (SERP).
- User clicks on one of the results.
- User reads the majority of the content on the page.
- User clicks on an internal link on the page and reads the majority of the content on that page.
- User clicks on another internal link in order to read a third page… and so on.
If your website experiences a lot of visits like this, it will rank highly!
So, how do you make this happen?
Give the user opportunities to read the obvious next topic or subject. Or, allow the user to click a link on your site that might more tightly fit their needs.
For example, on a webpage about “accounting for small businesses,” you might have multiple links to content that covers “accounting for small retail businesses,” and “accounting for wholesalers,” and “accounting for businesses that are having cash flow challenges.”
You can also take advantage of Google’s People Also Ask feature.
Additional Advice from SEO Consultants
These tips from SEO consultants are only the tip of the iceberg regarding effective and profitable SEO practices. If you want a more personalized and tailored experience; advice and a plan that addresses your specific situations and goals, then schedule a call with me or one of my colleagues at this link.