SEO is an interesting beast in today’s world. Gone are the days when singular keywords ruled the roost. With Google constantly changing the rules of the game, there is no hard fast rule in creating a perfectly SEO optimized site. However, there are a few things that will always remain true as we move forward when it comes optimizing your site for the end user – and they are things that Google is starting to put more emphasis on in order to reward your site with better rankings.

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1. Page Load Speed

This is a big one! The average web user expects any page they navigate to to load in 2 seconds or less. That’s not a whole lot time to get your manicured content on stage at a moment’s notice! Any type of image or graphic that is loaded onto the site needs to be less than a MB. Much bigger simply slows down the site, exceeding that 2 second limit. Having optimized images is VITAL to meeting the expectation of the end user.

There are several ways you can go about optimizing your images. If you use Adobe software solutions, they have their wonderful legacy feature, “Save for Web & Devices…” This helps export visual content into a compact, optimized, format. Keep in mind there needs to be some balance and compromise in our ruthless quest for the smallest file size. With Retina and UHD displays on an ever rising trend, the smaller file size takes a hit on quality.

Interesting to note: Google is splitting up search results based on either Desktop searches, and mobile searches. Which means your site has to be up to snuff on both platforms if you expect to rank high in each category. Some websites resize automatically to fit inside the different sizes browsers. Some sites have a dedicated mobile and desktop version. To rank in mobile search results, you first have to make sure that you have a mobile friendly site. Then you need to make sure that heavy elements of your site are optimized for fast loading.

2. Being Relevant

This is something Google has been working on for a long long time to improve the search results we see every time. If you’re providing content that is that is most likely to answer a user’s web search… you’ll be ranked high. If you’re not… Google assumes you’re not the site to answer the user’s question and gives you a lower ranking. Of course it depends on a few other metrics, but generally speaking if your content isn’t relevant…. you will not rank.

There’s a few ways in which a site produces relative content. Each industry is different in how it’s target audience consumes content. However, any type of content that will stand the test of time is content that will rank high because it’s answer will be the same today as it will be in 5 years. This is a hard one to master but it pays off in the long run as you eventually become an industry leader with and audience that trusts you and keeps coming back to you.

Personally, blogging is one of the best ways to achieve this. Sharing your knowledge about the industry and sharing it with the world. There are probably a dozen questions you get regularly all the time from every customer that you can think of right this very second. Write about it. Take pictures of it. Let your customers know you have such a resource online for them. That’s how it starts.

The more you share, the more people come to you. Together it signals to Google that you’re a trusted resource that needs to mentioned at the top of a Google search.

3. Link Love

Having other sites link to you is good. Having other sites in the same industry link to you is better. Having high traffic sites in the same industry link to you is great! The better the link, stronger the signal it is to Google that your site is worth paying attention to – i.e. Ranking higher.

Having other sites link to you is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ve got to provide a compelling reason for others to stay on your site once they get there. Relevant content. Whether it’s videos, text, images, etc.

Once you have a sizable collection of content on your site, help users stay on your site by linking to other posts that are relevant or a continuation of what they were just reading. This helps lower your bounce rate and increase your page views. All great things in Google’s eyes!

4. Local Search Rankings

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to sign up and create a profile with “Google My Business.” This helps put your business on the map (literally) along with any other business information that’d be helpful for anyone searching in your area. You can provide basic information such as phone number, address, and website. This is another VITAL step to take for anyone doing a mobile search because it will most certainly be based off of their current location.

If you can’t be found online. You don’t exist. In today’s modern world that is a problem and if you’re reading this article, you understand that.

5. Social Proof

This step is not for the faint of heart. Gaining social proof is not a sprint, but a marathon. Engaging in and creating conversation online is not something that happens over night and will take time to really build something up here that you can rely on. Social proof simply means that the masses have given their stamp of approval and trust you, your product, etc. This really stands out to Google because are people not only visiting your site, but they are engaging with it.

Social proof extends beyond the number of comments that are generated on a given post. Social proof is a beacon to new visitors of your site or social media profiles just how widely accepted you are as a brand. It could come as the number of comments. The number of likes. The number of retweets. Such numbers indicate to an individual what others think of your business. Content that is shared is great. Content that is shared and creates conversation with a lot of comments on it is really great!

You have to really understand your target audience and what they are looking for. This might be trial and error but you will learn where your demographic is and how they want to be engaged by.

6. SEO Markup

WordPress already comes SEO optimized to help do it’s part in providing search engines with the information it needs to show what each page on your site is about. There are a lot of extra plugins out there that help enhance this, but having complete information on every post (i.e. Title, tags, categories, links, comments) just helps things go a lot further with Google.

Keywords are still very important. How you say things and the way you link to other content is very much calculated into Google’s algorithm for providing the best results for each search.

But you can have the best and most well written article on the planet. But if the steps aren’t taken to entice people to click “Read More,” then a whole lot doesn’t matter after that.

Over The Next Few Years

We are at the cusp of a HUGE change in how content is delivered to us – Voice search. That’s us asking Siri or Cortana where something is or how to do something. The way this works will improve and change over time, but what’s important to note on this topic is that these digital assistants are really good at finding content based on exactly how we ask for it. Which means, we need to create content that’s phrased exactly as someone would ask Siri for it.

The more voice search improves and Siri’s ability to comprehend everything we ask for, the more defined content is delivered to us.

It will have an impact… but today… it’s still a little too new but something to be cognizant of because the name of the game is being relevant for years to come. There’s a reason that these digital assistants require the internet to function.

Next Steps

Being familiar with your website, you probably already identified a few things that are missing. Albeit, there are probably still a few more things we could add to this list that we could also do to improve SEO performance.

To start – focus on one or two of those things. Get it worked into a standard everyday work flow and then add another item. It’s not realistic to expect that you can be blogging every day, creating conversations on all the popular social media outlets, uploading new products to the site, reaching out to big name industry leaders to engage with you online, etc. In time it will all come and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come when you look back. Just start where you can and start with what you know.

In addition to this, and not exactly SEO related, is creating and maintaining an email marketing list. Newsletter stuff. If you can get customers to sign up for your email list you’re golden. They are already telling you that they love your business enough to hear from you again. Email marketing is still the most successful form of online marketing out there today. There’s a lot that can be said about good email marketing techniques, but you have to have the list first and a way for more people to sign up.
A good email list will drive traffic, increase sales, and foster greater loyalty when you can make the email about them… and not another sales pitch.

Download our 2016 SEO Guide (PDF).