To understand the importance of search engine optimization, you need to consider just two facts. First, click-through rates on the first results page of a Google or Bing search fall from 30% (position one) to less than 2% (position ten). Secondly, only one in twenty searches leads to the second page of results.
It’s immediately clear that elevating a website’s position in results pages is vital for boosting traffic and achieving the site’s main objectives – usually either selling or informing. The financial and logistical investment in launching and maintaining a site demands a reasonable volume of traffic. This is where an SEO guru comes in. They can improve the performance of existing sites by suggesting how to maximize the appeal of proposed platforms before going live.
SEO is an endlessly evolving challenge since the algorithms used to calculate ranking positions change almost as frequently as competitor websites. Techniques that worked a decade ago are counterproductive today, and little is known about the exact combination of attributes required to achieve a coveted first-page results position. Even so, SEO specialists offer a variety of services known to improve search engine optimization:
#1. Undertake competitor analysis.
Where better to start than with competitor SWOT analysis? Some industries have more cut-throat SEO competition than others, but there’s no excuse for not investigating how rivals present themselves. An SEO expert worth their corn will identify how competitor websites perform for common keyword and long tail (strings with three or more words) web searches.
#2. Optimize design for mobile.
It’s widely known that most web traffic is carried on smartphones and tablets these days, rather than desktops or mobiles. Mobile audiences have limited bandwidth and smaller screens, and therefore need clean, minimal page designs that resize to suit their devices. Large menu buttons, stripped-down forms, and compressed graphics all help to display content faster.
#3. Ensure listings appeal to mobile searchers.
While the majority of web traffic is displayed on mobile devices, search results receive far fewer clicks on mobile. A Moz/Jumpshot survey in 2016 suggested 57% of Google searches on mobile don’t lead to click-throughs. The comparable figure for desktop devices is just 35%. Solutions involve concise page descriptions and original, relevant content.
#4. Eliminate duplicate content.
So, you have a great press release introducing your business. So why shouldn’t you post it on your website, your Facebook page and on LinkedIn? The answer to this is you shouldn’t, as duplicated content is dismissed by the search engines. In their quest for original content, anything capable of failing a Copyscape plagiarism check is dismissed out of hand and won’t boost a page’s ranking.
#5. Develop quality inbound links.
A key metric in results rankings is how many reputable external sites link to yours, from directories to news outlets. An external site willing to direct traffic away from its servers suggests the destination content is valuable. Building links on established websites needs patience, persuasiveness and a bulging contacts list – all tools in an SEO guru’s armory.
#6. Optimize keywords.
This article features the phrase “SEO guru” four times, and it appears in the title, too. You may well be here because you searched for that term in the first place. This is keyword optimization in action. It involves identifying which terms you want to appear in response to searches for, based on words or long tails. It’s also a constantly evolving challenge, not a one-time deal.
#7. Exploit metadata.
The text on this page has been tailored for search results. However, SEO goes beyond body copy or blogs. It includes captions and placeholder text for images. It demands page titles directly relevant to the content, not a random string of alphanumeric characters. And it involves bespoke snippets of text, tailored for search results to encourage click-throughs.
#8. Develop a social media presence.
Having a Facebook account isn’t enough. You need to ensure that every website update, new blog post and client acquisition is promoted across several social profiles – ideally Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This provides high-quality inbound links, displaying content to the widest audience and reassuring search engines your brand is active.
A number of myths are frequently peddled about SEO, from outdated techniques to outright lies. It’s crucial to identify these and understand that they aren’t effective before approaching an SEO specialist, to avoid unscrupulous or back-alley practitioners who may do more harm than good. And since managing expectations ought to be an important aspect of any SEO guru’s brief, avoid any individual or company making the following outlandish claims…
#10. The first page of Google is guaranteed.
Such tiresome claims are regularly made by black hat marketing agencies in unsolicited emails. Of course, they rarely stipulate which search terms will be guaranteed. In addition, the algorithm used by Google (and Bing, for that matter) is highly secretive and constantly evolving. As such, a third-party agency can’t possibly guarantee a “#1 position”.
#11. Inbound links are vital.
Another black hat trick concerns over-emphasizing the importance of third-party links. The agency will pay a few dollars to publish URLs on dozens of low-grade link farms, claiming it’ll boost inbound traffic. Though briefly popular ten years ago, associations with link farms are now highly damaging and association with them is heavily punished by Google and Bing.
#12. Every industry’s SEO operates along the same lines.
Getting an ecommerce platform to rank highly involves a different set of challenges from a freelance Inkscape designer’s WordPress site. Keywords are particularly variable; some industries experience far more long tail competition and topical content generation than others. Be wary of employing an SEO specialist unfamiliar with your particular niche.
#13. SEO finishes when the site launches.
This is a myth promoted by agencies who want a rapid turnover of clients. It’s also clearly untrue. Every revision to search engine algorithms affects your website’s SEO performance. Competitors are constantly raising the bar by relaunching sites and improving content. A website is an organic thing requiring constant attention, not a one-off task.
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