Ever wonder how some websites always seem to have more views than yours? Are you always second or third down the list in a Search Engine…or even a page or two deep in the search results? Frustrating!! Luckily, there are many different adjustments you can make to move up the list and gain more traffic on your website. This whole process is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. It can seem daunting at first, believe me. There are all these different catch phrases that mean something to an SEO. Companies often hire an SEO group to jumpstart their growth, improve their marketability, and even to increase revenues. Your imagination is truly the limit. Let’s dive in and see what it takes to rank a site in a Search Engine in 2019.

Here is an example:

 

 

 

 

 

Keyword Research

First off – Keyword research. This is one of the most important parts of improving your rank in a Search Engine. This may seem obvious initially, but it becomes more in depth very rapidly. You need to know what keywords customers or prospective customers are using to find you. That is the easy part. Sell cupcakes? Cupcake would be the obvious keyword. Frosting, the size of your cupcake, dietary specialties (gluten free, vegan, etc.), and location would also be useful keywords. You also need to know what related keywords could be used. Related keywords are usually something indirectly related to your product, or a different way of searching for your product … easy catered desserts could be an example. Add content that also consider these indirect keywords. Perhaps an article on the best kitchen utensils for making cupcakes, or piping tips for beginners. Draw in your prospective customers with useful, helpful information. They will be more likely to come back when they need your services.

Another way to improve your keyword hits is to use a keyword tool, such as Ahrefs or Google Correlate. Many keyword tools tell you the difficulty or quality of your keyword or key phrase. This can help make sure you are moving in the right direction. For example, using “milk” as a keyword for a cupcakery may not be the best…and these tools will tell you that. They also tell you how many people have searched with those words in the last month and give you suggestions for similar, more popular searches, which will help you make the most out of your keywords.

The goal is to qualify as many keywords as possible. Qualifying a keyword means that it ranks as compared to other sites in the keyword tools, suggesting that your website is a strong match for that word or phrase. Once you identify which keywords you are going after, you will need to have articles or pages on your website dedicated to those specific keywords. The more times those keywords or phrases appear on your website, the better. Make sure you use those keywords in the url and the meta description that shows up in the search engine as well! The challenge to this task is how to improve your keyword hits without overdoing it. This is a fine balance, so be cautious!

Content Is King!

Next, you need to look at the content on your site. Believe it or not, the length of your posts, articles, verbiage…all matter. Google and other Search Engines have some fancy comparison tools. They believe that the more content you have (like a 1,500-word blog post as compared to a 300-word post) means that the longer post has more value to provide the person who is searching. The search engines believe that you are more likely to be the subject matter expert. Now, it would take some creativity to talk about kitchen utensils from the example used above for 1,500 words! Search Engines compare your site to other sites. If the other cupcakeries in the area are not posting articles or blogs, then continue to do so.  Find the word count that makes sense and be consistent. Periodic refreshing of articles or posts on your website also help. It shows that you are an active business.

              Another name for this process is called “Topic Authority.” Think about it this way – would you as a consumer trust a site with just one article about a subject? Or would you be more likely to trust one with many articles on a subject, as well as articles on related subjects. Google and other search engines follow the same principle. More content on a subject (ideally one of your keywords), the better off you are in their view.  Remember to use those keywords you came up with earlier when writing your articles. As I said before, don’t go overboard, but make sure they are in there! It has been seen that website with articles or posts of at least 2000 words seem to fair better in the search engine ranking. But the search engines are also looking for quality. Finding that balance for your business will be crucial. Finally, timeliness of content should be considered as well. There is no reason to post about Christmas-y flavored cupcakes in June. Keep your posts and articles a mix of both content that is informative year-round, as well as content that is more seasonal/up to date with current events.

Website Load Speed

Website load speed is huge! We have become so spoiled in our expectation of how long a website should take to load. Most consumers want instantaneous access after a click…or nearly instantaneous. Not many people will be patient enough to wait for a page to load in 2019. There are two key ways that a business can improve website load speed. The first is straightforward. How fast of a download speeddoes your website host guarantee? Is there a better, faster option out there? You might be surprised. This may take some time and some research to find the right option for your business. Many people believe that this is one of the most critical changes that a company can make to improve their site ranking. We are talking about load speeds of 100-200 milliseconds…literally about the same speed as a blink of an eye! This can make a big difference if your website loads faster than your competitors, since everyone is looking for instant gratification.

The other way to improve your load speed is to review your content and make sure ALL your pictures are compressed. I cannot stress this enough. There are various ways to do this for FREE online. Tinning is one site, and Microsoft Office products have this option as well. Compressing pictures does not diminish the quality; it only allows other users to view it in a timelier manner. This is one of the easiest things you can do, and it will make a massive difference! Having pictures that are slow to load will simply cause potential customers to back out of your website and try one of your competitors…they will not wait! Be sure to check all your photos that are currently on your site, as well as adjust your process for adding content to include a step to compress photos/pictures/other digital media before loading it to your page.

Did you know that even what images you have on your site can matter? Humans are such visual creatures. They are drawn to pleasing imagery. Have you ever searched for an image of what you were looking for first, and then used that website as the end all? I have. Whether you are looking for the cutest puppy or kitten…or a specific vehicle online, it pays to have best image possible. I know the last time a close friend bought a truck, he completely skipped over all the different styles that didn’t have pictures…even though the truck he was looking for may have been perfectly described in words…he just couldn’t visualize it without a picture. This is true in many industries. Take the restaurant industry as another example. Ever order the menu item that has a picture? I am guilty of this one.  Bottom line…the right images are crucial.

On Page SEO

One way to improve your website rank in 2019 is to focus on your “On Page SEO”. This is a fancy way of saying focus on your website content/design and HTML coding. This is really making sure the keywords we discussed above are used on your page in a Goldilocks manner (not too little, not too much, but just right). It also means using the tag function within the HTML code (some website design applications do this work for you or make it very easy to add) and making sure the keywords are in those tags as well. This can be for pages, titles, captions, etc. You also need to make sure your web page has the right balance of text, imagery, and even video. Finally, make sure your website looks good on all types of devices, from cell phones to desktop computers. You never know how your prospective customers will be looking for you!

Another aspect of your website to consider is the layout itself. Is it easy to navigate? Does it make sense? Is there a main page with other content branching off it? Can you access everything on all types of devices? Do all your internal links work? This review can be tedious and often time consuming. But at the same time extremely valuable. Most, if not all, consumers will leave your site very quickly if they cannot navigate to where they want to go.

The latest recommended site design is called Topic Clustering. This is where you have your main page, and then general content topics that branch off (hint: Main keyword topics!) called pillars. From those points, you will then have further detailed links or articles or pages that match the pillars that they are linked with. It allows the user to follow the path of your website from general to specific and back very easily. And ease of use is key to increased traffic!

Did you know that even what images you have on your site can matter? Humans are such visual creatures. They are drawn to pleasing imagery. Have you ever searched for an image of what you were looking for first, and then used that website as the end all? I have. Whether you are looking for the cutest puppy or kitten or even a specific vehicle online, it pays to have best image possible. I know the last time my wife bought a jeep, she completely skipped over all the different styles that didn’t have a picture, even though the jeep she was looking for may have been perfectly described in words, she just couldn’t visualize it without a picture. This is true in many industries. Take the restaurant industry as another example. Ever order the menu item that has a picture? I am guilty of this one.  Bottom line…the right images are crucial.

Something else to consider when updating your website – does your imagery even match your site? A dog sitter should not have kittens on their website, as an example. Many times, it seems that companies find images initially, but as their company and brand grows, these images stay the same. Before you know it, a consumer will have a hard time understanding why your website is all about dog sitting and grooming, yet you still have images of all household pets all over your site.

Branding is very important as well. Is your brand image tied into your brand? Does it make sense? This can be challenging to find something unique that represents your company well. Be persistent on this! Do not just find the first digital image that is close and call it good. That makes you no different than your competitors. Take the time to design an image that matches your brand and philosophy completely.

Domain Name Describe your Business?

Does your website url match what you are doing? Or is it old and outdated? How about your title? Is it consistent across all forums? In 2019 it is becoming more and more important to show consistent branding. This means that titles, urls, and tags all need to use the same key phrases. Think about it in this manner… if you were looking for a website to help you plan a trip to the beach, it would be very confusing if the title of the page or the url did not mention beaches, travel, or even trips at all. By essentially creating a brand and continuing it through your content, it allows Search Engines AND consumers to trust you and believe that your site is a valid and trustworthy place.

This concept of bringing your keywords and phrases carries over into the world of “meta tags”. Meta tags are part of the HTML code that helps identify topics and purposes of content. Some main categories of meta tags would be title tags, image alt text, and meta description.

Title tags are self-explanatory. This is the title of the page, article, post, etc. in the HTML format. This is especially helpful for pages with content or useful information that may not be set up in an article format or post. It will allow the search engine to key in on the tag (which hopefully contains one of your keywords or phrases) and allow users to find that page easily.

Image alt text, also know as alt tags, is used to help search engines “read” images. By describing the images, it helps shape the context of the picture regarding the content on the page, thereby boosting your site views.

Finally, meta descriptions are the small blurb of information that you typically see under the link in a search engine. Essentially it is a description of the page that the link will take you to. This description does not have to be filled with keywords or phrases, but all search engines prefer there to be some sort of description. Think about whether you would click on a link in a search engine with no description. I wouldn’t.

User Engagement

Another important aspect of improving your website rank is reviewing user engagement. What does the customer see on your page? Is it just paragraph after paragraph of vital information? Break up the text! You want to make sure your audience does not lose interest. Try to find a balance of images, videos, etc. Use bullet points or lists as well to keep the reader focused. This balance will vary based on what your content is and who your expected consumer may be, but recognize a website should have all or nearly all these types of content. ­

In 2019, users want to be able to interact and engage with the website…not just read. This is one of the main things that Google looks at when it is ranking websites. Check out your competitors’ websites. What are they doing better than you? This is the time to eat the humble pie and learn from others. Take IDEAS (not exact copies) and spin them to make it your own. For a cupcakery, how cool would it be to have an interactive tool that allows users to mix and match flavors of cake with flavors of icing to get an idea of what would be the outcome (with descriptions and potential improvements from you) would be without having to go through the trial and error process of DIY. What about discussion forums? Or social sharing features? Or a place for users to solicit feedback or ask questions? All these tools allow for the user to become more engaged with your site.

Back-links Part of Off Page SEO

Search Engines also look for links on websites to determine if they are valid and useful sites. This piece can be a bit tricky. You want to again find the right balance of links to your social media sites, to other external sites, and to internal links within your own site. The sites you link to need to be value added sites, not some random site that has nothing to do with your content. I cannot stress enough that they must be high quality. These “cheap” links will drag you down the list, not build you up. Take the time to make sure your social media sites are updated. Here it is really quality over quantity. Haphazardly posting to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other sites will not help you build a consistent base. It would be better to reliably post to one or two. Users will expect content and follow up on a frequent basis.

Be a good friend to your potential clients. Don’t just use your social media accounts to constantly try and sell product. Post infographics, videos, or other content to help them. If you own a cupcakery, video how to use the different piping tools. Or make an infographic on flavors that mix well for cake and icing portions. If there is a cause that you believe in or stand for (especially if you can relate it to your business) do so in a professional manner. As an example, the 4th of July would be a great day to post something patriotic. It can be any topic too! Be creative!

Get your Schema Right to improve your click through rate

Improving your click through rate is another way to boost your rank within the Search Engines like Google. This would essentially be your online marketing campaign. Whether you send emails to prospective consumers, provide links in your social media pages, guest post on other’s websites, or even have paid advertisements for your products…all these marketing strategies lead customers back to your website. The more visits your website has more than likely will improve the number of sales you make. It will also boost your value in a Search Engine’s eyes and therefore increase your rank.

 Another important aspect of click through rate would be your “title tag” or the link that customers would use to access your website. This needs to be unique! It is fine to use your keywords, but if you are only using those and not differentiating yourself from your competitors using the same keywords, customers may not be able to tell that your website is the one they need to click on. By making your title tag customized to you and your product or organization, it will produce more visits to your website, leading to more sales!

Whether you choose to tackle all or some of these different ways to improve your rank within Search Engines like Google in 2019, just remember that it is a process. Start where you feel comfortable, or where you can feel you can make the most improvement, and then work  from there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either. That is why groups like us are here – to help you navigate this sometimes-complicated world…to show you how to kickstart your growth, increase your revenues, and improve your marketability. You can take the step to improve your website rank in 2019!