You know you need to invest in search engine optimization (SEO). The buzz is deafening at times. You read about it online, hear about it on podcasts, and social media is filled with companies sharing success stories. The problem is you haven’t done as much as you should. So you feel a twinge of guilt and regret every time SEO is discussed.
Is it too late to go all-in on SEO?
And if you do decide to optimize your website and enhance your content strategy, where can you get the most bang for your buck?
These are valid questions that deserve concrete answers. So in this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the topic of SEO and which techniques are working right now.
Let’s begin by addressing the topic of relevancy, because it seems to be something a lot of entrepreneurs and even digital marketers are discussing these days.
Is SEO still important in 2021? And will it continue to be a high returning investment in the years to come?
The simple answer is yes.
Search engines still exist.
More people are using search engines to find content than ever before.
And Google prioritizes quality content and authority more than ever before.
But things aren’t the same as they once were.
Search is changing, which means the approach to SEO is as well.
It used to be that 99.9 percent of searches were conducted at a desktop computer with a keyboard and mouse.
If a person wanted to know how to groom their puppy, they got on their computer and typed it into the search bar. An up came a handful of resources on how to groom your dog, how to find a groomer, what not to do, etc.
Then smartphones exploded onto the scene and we saw a massive shift to mobile search. Suddenly half of all searches were being conducted from mobile.
Then came voice search.
And as voice search technology has improved, so have the number of people using it to search the web.
While the relative percentage of voice searches compared to text-input searches is still relatively low, the raw number is quite large. And it’s rising.
Research shows that 27 percent of the global population with internet access uses voice searches. And in the United States alone, over 111 million people use voice assistants.
There are an estimated 21.4 million smart speakers in the U.S. (with 16 percent of Americans owning at least one).
Approximately 39.3 percent of millennials use voice-enabled assistants at least once per month.
And these numbers are growing by the week.
In other words, internet searches are more relevant than ever. And while the specifics may evolve over time, the reality is that businesses that understand how to optimize their websites and content strategies for search will continue to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
Want more proof? Consider the following SEO statistics:
If you want to increase exposure, drive traffic, and bolster your company’s bottom line, SEO is an investment worth making.
You just need to make sure you’re doing it right.
You can waste your time on flashy SEO trends with short expiration dates, or you can focus on proven principles that continue to provide value year after year.
We choose to focus on the latter – and believe you should, as well.
Here are some of our favorite techniques:
Technical SEO isn’t the sexiest part, but it matters. And before you invest a ton of resources into content, keywords, links, and all of the other high-touch elements of SEO, you’d be wise to get the technical foundation cemented into place.
The first step is to make sure your entire website loads on HTTPS. Google takes website security very seriously and sites that aren’t secure, or websites that have a smorgasbord of security features, often struggle to rank. If you haven’t already made the switch to HTTPS, now is the time. Not only will it enhance your SEO, but it also makes it harder for malicious outsiders to attack your site and compromise your data.
Secondly, be sure you have Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) enabled. AMP combines three specific components: HTML tags (helping web patterns render quickly), AMP JS (a built-in “library” of resources for fast rendering), and AMP cache (a content delivery system for rapidly loading content).
Thirdly, correct your semantic markup so that Google understands your website. This is basically the process of giving the search engines the right HTML tags to emphasize key information and tell their search crawlers and spiders what each page is about.
Finally, run a search for any 404 “page not found” errors and fix/redirect them. There are a number of tools and plugins out there that will help you clean up this aspect of your site.
Have you ever paused to consider what Google’s goal is?
It’s very simple: Keep users happy so that they come back over and over again.
How does Google make users happy?
By delivering the most relevant and highest quality content based on the search.
But it goes deeper than this.
Google also wants to make sure users are experiencing the least friction possible. So they tend to send users to websites that have both good content and impressive UX.
If your website looks dated, is slow to load, has a confusing navigation, and/or appears too promotional, you aren’t making Google happy. Good content might be enough to overcome these flaws, but they certainly aren’t helping your case.
Make it a point to enhance your website experience by simplifying the parts that are too complicated or clunky. Tips include:
Google likes intuitive websites. Any work you put into enhancing your site’s UX will deliver a positive return on investment.
As technology has improved, user expectations have soared. It’s no longer acceptable for a web page to take three or four seconds to load. And if your site is slow, you’re losing conversions. And once Google notices that your site is clunky, it’ll respond accordingly. (Remember, they want positive UX!)
How important is website speed? Consider that:
If you’re working with a slow website, you need to speed things up ASAP.
Start by using a tool like PageSpeed Insights to get a feel for where things stand. Armed with this information, make tweaks like minifying unnecessary code on your pages, deferring JS loading, choosing better hosting options, reducing server response times, enabling compression, compressing images, etc.
One of the biggest shifts in digital marketing and SEO over the past five years has been the evolution from short-form content to long-form content.
While short-form content still works in certain areas – like social media, SMS, and email – long-form content is certainly more effective with traditional content marketing and blogging.
Long-form content, which could be described as content in the 1,000-5,000+ word range, is perceived as being more authoritative and tends to allow for more natural keywords. It also commands a higher than average time on site, which is good for both SEO and conversions.
Keywords still matter, but the way in which they’re used has changed pretty significantly over the years. Short, exact match keywords are no longer the gold standard. Google has gotten smarter and they’re able to infer a lot more than they once could.
Google now understands intention and can rank pages based on relevancy. So while you can still use keywords, “topic clusters” are arguably more important.
A topic cluster is a collection of related long tail keywords used naturally throughout a piece of long-form content. When Google notices you using these search terms across a variety of interlinked content, it makes it easier for them to understand your website. This results in better search rankings and greater authority.
We love backlinks over here at SEO.co – and for good reason! Not only do they help you generate more traffic and exposure from other websites, but they also represent one of Google’s most important ranking factors. If you want to enhance your SEO, backlinks must be part of your strategy.
There are a couple of different schools of thought with link building. You can invest in link earning or manual link building. Both are effective. And, if we’re being honest, your link building strategy should include room for each.
Earned link building is basically a sit and wait approach. You constantly create quality content and then wait for other bloggers and websites to link to you. This strategy can take years to gain traction, but is free (and highly effective).
Manual link building involves effort. Not only do you create the content, but you go out and acquire the links through strategic networking. This method can cost time and money, but tends to generate faster results.
It’s kind of a small thing, but URL optimization can have a significant impact on your SEO. Here are a few quick pointers:
There are plenty of other things you can do, but applying these tips will significantly improve your ability to rank for specific pages.
Did you know that you can go back and refresh/republish old content and give it a boost in the search rankings?
That’s right! Updating content with new statistics, new information, and timely details can take a page from being seen as outdated to relevant. You should insert “refresh” dates into your content calendar so that you’re constantly going back and updating information that’s now dated. (Frequency will depend on subject matter.)
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, voice search is more important than it’s ever been. Make sure you’re optimizing your website content for voice search. This means writing in the way that people speak.
Cut out unnecessary words, use contractions, and speak in first and second person. Try reading your content out loud before publishing to get a feel for how it sounds in this context.
You have to know if your SEO and content strategies are working. And the best way to do this is by setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking them religiously over time.
Every website is different, but at the very least you’ll want to track traffic, sessions, referral sources, conversion rates, bounce rate, average time on page, click through rate, and any specific goal conversions you and your team have established.
At SEO.co, we take a holistic approach to search engine optimization and digital marketing.
We don’t believe in using flash-in-the-pan strategies or questionable tactics just to produce some quick results.
We’re committed to building a strong foundation for future growth – something we do by emphasizing the basics and relying on proven concepts that continue to work year after year after year.
When you work with our team of experienced SEOs, content creators, and digital marketing professionals, we’ll help you scale your organic traffic with the highest quality content and backlinks services.