Ranking higher on search engines increases the visibility and credibility of your website. In order to rank higher, you need to implement a strong SEO campaign. Search engine optimization is all about getting your website to rank higher on the search engine ranking pages (SERPs). However, the task is very challenging today because search engine ranking algorithms have become much more complex and intelligent than they were about five years ago. Moreover, minute changes are made every few months.
So, if you don’t keep yourself updated about the latest ranking requisites and don’t make the required alterations in your SEO campaign, your website could end up plummeting in the ranking overnight.
Design a combination of offline and online SEO strategy
In order to move your website to the top of the search engine ranking pages (SERPs), you need to design a well coordinated online and offline SEO strategy.
On-page SEO strategies include the use of title tags and meta tags, H1 tags, graphic alt text, layout and design, on-page content, keyword relevancy, keyword-rich URLs, internal linking and sitemaps, among others. Off-page SEO strategies include social media optimization, commenting on blogs, directory submissions and others.
Analysis is the first step of creating a SEO campaign strategy. You need to analyze your own website, the websites of your competitors, keywords and the behavioral patterns of your target customers. Google Analytics is a good tool to begin analyzing and strategizing. The results of the analysis will give you a direction to design an effective SEO strategy.
The most important aspect in SEO is continuous evaluation of your SEO strategies. You need to check whether your methods and techniques are working. If you don’t see expected results, analyse your methods again and make the required alterations to make your campaign effective.
Important steps to rank higher on search engines
Get the technical aspects of the website right – Technically speaking, SEO is the method of engineering your website so that search engine ranking algorithms can read it perfectly and rank it favorably. Therefore, it is crucial for your website to be perfect technically. Moreover, since search spiders spend a small duration on each website they visit, you need to make sure that they get as much information about your site within that short duration.
You need to keep the code clear, minimize inline mark-up and make every page spider-friendly. Also make sure that the website has HTML and XML sitemaps so that the spider can find its way through the site easily. Using Flash is not a good idea because the spiders cannot read Flash programming.
Speed – Website speed plays a role in customer engagement as well as search engine ranking. Speed is one of the criteria considered while ranking websites. In fact, senior technical executives of Google have spoken openly about this criterion several times.
In order to keep the speed of your website high, you need to write smaller and simpler code. Additionally, do away with Flash and instead use HTML5 for graphics and animations. Use Google’s speed analysis tool to check the load time of your website and correct the programming if the speed is low.
Mobile optimization – Is your website optimized for mobile use? If not, you need to take immediate measures to upgrade your website and make it suitable for use on mobile devices. Google favors responsive websites because this type of design ensures consistent and good user experience, irrespective of the type device they use. A mobile-optimized website definitely does well on the SERPs.
Get organic traffic – Focus on acquiring organic traffic. Search engines are the main source of organic traffic. Use the right long tail keywords and search terms to attract traffic organically. Additionally, you can attract people through off-page SEO methods, such as guest posting, commenting on blogs and participating in forum discussions, among others.
Leave the link of your website in these places so that people who want to know about your views can visit your website. Social Media Marketing (SMM) is also a potential source to generate organic traffic.
Natural progression – The activities on your website, such as inbound linking, uploading content and incoming traffic should follow a natural progression. If they increase suddenly, Google gets suspicious and might reduce the ranking of the site. When done organically, these aspects grow gradually and steadily.
Diversification of content
Diversify the content on your website into textual content, video content and images. Also include news articles wherever relevant. This strategy not only increases the content value of your website and engages visitors, but also gets you into the good books of Google.
Engage visitors – Visitor engagement might not seem to have a direct link with ranking. However, there is an indirect link. Search engines consider the amount of time that visitors spend on your website since it is the sign of the site’s quality.
So, if the bounce rate of your website is high, it means that more number of people leave the site before spending a reasonable amount of time on it. This in turn implies that your website is not good enough. As a result, your ranking could fall.
Therefore, make efforts to engage visitors so that they don’t bounce out of the site prematurely. Engaging content, creative layouts, pleasing presentation and a good user experience are a few factors that can help you engage visitors, and hence add to the ranking value.
Relevance of content – Be it the links on the website or the content on it, everything that is posted on the page should be relevant to its purpose and niche. The more specific you are in addressing issues that are related to your niche, better for your SEO. Irrelevant content could be considered spam and blacklisted.
Social sharing – Search engine algorithms use social media “shares” and “likes” to determine the likeability and popularity of your website. So, if you come up with excellent content that is shared extensively over different social media channels, your website is definitely going to do well on the SERPs. In fact, it has been seen that even website pages with low competition keywords do well if they obtain a good number of likes and shares on social media.
Maintenance – Building a website that is friendly towards search spiders is not adequate to get you a good rank. You need to ensure that your website works optimally all the time. Make sure that the links are not broken, the website speed is high and that the site is free of all unnecessary spam.
What not to do – A few interesting case studies
Do not create bridge pages – In 2006, BMW, the world famous car company, made this mistake. The website managers of BMW created a doorway page named BME.de with high ranking keywords, such as “used cars”.
The intention was to attract inbound links and to increase ranking for competitive keywords. The trick worked. Unfortunately, Google found out about this black hat tactic and the BMW website’s Pagerank was down to 0. What is more BMW.de was blacklisted.
Do not trade links for benefits – Online retailer Overstock.com tried to be over smart and traded links for benefits to educational institutions and universities. The deal was simple. Academic institutions were requested to embed Overstock’s website URL into their precious.edu domains.
In return, the retailer gave discounts to their faculty and students. Links flooded in and the website’s ranking steadily increased until Google wondered why all these academic institutions are linking their web pages to an online retailer. Google penalized the website and Overstock lost $1.05 billion revenue in 2011.
Don’t use paid links – J.C.Penny had to bear the brunt of Google when it suddenly started ranking on top of the search ranks for all keywords, such as dressing, bedding, comforters, furniture, home decor and almost every other such word. The online retailer had apparently paid for links and its website was flooded with inbound links for all these keywords. Paid links are a big black hat SEO technique. Google slammed J.C Penny and penalized the company.
Don’t build link chains or link networks – Link networks are a complete no-no. Rap Genius, the music website, lost 80 percent of its traffic because Google detected its black hat method. The website was drawing hundreds of backlinks through a network of bloggers who were given free publicity in exchange for their links. Interestingly, after the site was blacklisted by Google, the owners owned up the mistake and publicly admitted to it. Google forgave them and brought them back on its SERPs.
In addition to these techniques, some of the other things you should stay away from are large scale article spinning, keyword stuffing, unnatural anchor texts, using hidden texts on web pages and stuffing advertisements on the page.
Here’s the best of it. In 2012, Google penalized itself (Google Chrome) because it was obtaining benefits through paid links. Chrome’s ranking was lowered for two months. This was not the first time Google penalized itself. It has happened four times before in Google’s history.
That’s how strict Google ranking is. So, make sure that you use the right methods and stay away from the wrong ones when you try to increase your search engine ranking.