Customers are of great value to every business enterprise. It is because of the customers a business expands and flourishes in the market.
In the conventional business model, attracting customers was not an uphill task. The shop owner had to set up a great storefront to catch the passerby’s attention and lure them to visit the shop. However, that’s not how it works for an eCommerce store.
In the current era, businesses have to use multiple channels to reach their potential audience. One of the most common channels is through search engine result pages.
Google.com has become a one-stop solution for internet users for all their problems. People enter their queries and google displays all the websites with relevant content or answers to their questions.
Google handles around 3.8 million search queries every minute worldwide. It means businesses have a remarkable opportunity to appear on the result pages and reach their prospective audience.
So, do you want to unveil SEO optimization techniques to rank higher and increase your visibility on the result pages? If yes, keep reading this blog post.
In today’s article, we have put together an SEO checklist 2021; it will tremendously help your business reach out to prospects and invite them to your website.
18 SEO Essentials You Need For Optimizing Your Site
1. Create Quality Content
The first item on the SEO checklist 2021 is creating informative and engaging content on your website for your audience. Creating blog posts on your website is a surefire way to increase your chances of ranking on search engine pages.
Create helpful and interesting articles on your website. Include pictures and infographics to make it more engaging. Marketers can easily integrate core keywords in the article to become visible on the search engine and reach the prospective audience.
Hence, come up with exciting ideas to compose the articles. Do not create blog posts on the abundantly available topics on the internet; instead, think of unique ideas to pique your audience’s interest and keep them hooked to your website.
However, ensure not to stuff your article with keywords. Your content should be first designed for humans and then for search engine bots.
2. Seamless User Experience
There is a reason why people prefer Google over any other search engine. It is because Google is constantly upgrading its algorithms to provide an impeccable experience to its users. The giant search engine displays websites with relevant content to the user’s query and the ones which provide a good user experience across their websites.
Thus, if your website is slow or of poor quality and fails to provide a seamless user experience to the visitors, Google will not rank your website higher.
Therefore, before you roll your sleeves and look for solutions to boost your SEO, work on your website’s layout and appearance. Ensure that it looks professional, trustworthy, and attractive to the visitors. If your website is built on WordPress or Shopify, select an attractive theme for your website.
3. Site Speed
The dependence on the internet has increased manifold because it provides convenience and saves peoples’ time. Whether connecting with a friend or purchasing monthly groceries, the internet and smart technology have made it easier for people to do everything with just a few taps or clicks.
If your website fails to load quickly, people will bid farewells to your website and switch to your competitors’ websites. Ideally, a website should load in under 3 seconds. Websites that take longer than 3 seconds to load lose up to 37% of the traffic. It means that prospective audiences sometimes quit the website without even exploring its content.
Thus, ensure that your visitors do not have to wait for the website to load. Instead, optimize your website speed and make everything readily available for your visitors.
4. Responsive Design
Laptops and personal computers aren’t the only mediums to access the internet and browse different websites. The advent of smartphones has changed the way people connect with the internet. With just a few taps or voice commands, a person can look up and browse different websites.
Mobile devices generated 54.8% of the total web traffic. Hence, web developers have become crucial to make their websites responsive to various digital devices to provide a good user experience to mobile users. In contrast, a website that doesn’t function or display correctly on mobile devices is abandoned by mobile users. Thus, increasing its bounce rate and affecting the SEO ranking on SERPs.
5. Internal Linking
Internal linking refers to the practice of interlinking the website’s pages and content. For instance, a marketer can provide the link of a previous blog post in a recently published article or provide the link of any web page of his website with other web pages on the website.
Search engine bots have limited time to crawl the websites and index them in result pages. Therefore, having a good number of internal links works as a gateway for search engine bots to crawl maximum pages. On the contrary, if the web pages and content are not internally linked, bots will not crawl the maximum pages in a limited time.
Therefore, do not overlook this vital item on the SEO checklist 2021 to optimize your SEO.
6. External Linking
External linking is the practice of linking high-authority websites on your web pages and content. For instance, if you have written a detailed article on COVID- 19, a link to the World Health Organization on your content will increase its credibility.
The content linked to the high-authority website makes your content appear trustworthy and relevant to the search engine algorithms. In addition, your website’s audience will also trust the stats and information that you have shared in your content.
Hence, whenever you state any figure, stats, research, or studies, link it to high-authority websites to build your content’s credibility and win your audience’s trust.
7. Meta Description And Title Tags
Title Tags inform the search engine and users about the content of the website in a concise way. Title tags should be 50 to 60 characters long; more than that will not be displayed on the result pages. Moreover, include your main keywords in the title tag; it increases the chances of the link getting clicked by users.
Meta Description is a brief paragraph that is displayed on the SERPs under the website’s URL. Meta description informs the users about the content available on the web page.
Though Meta descriptions do not play a vital part in improving one’s rank, they are beneficial to increase the chances of getting the clicks on the link. When a user reads that his desired information is available on the page, he instantly clicks the link to learn and explore more. Therefore, always write short paragraphs to summarize what content users can expect on your web pages.
8. Optimized Images
Using attractive images is essential to make your content and website appear interesting, attractive, and engaging for the audience. Therefore, you would definitely want search engine bots to crawl your images, too, right? If yes, then don’t forget to use the alt tag to optimize your images for SEO.
The famous search engine Google cannot see your images. However, it can read and understand what the picture is about if it’s described in the alt tag. Therefore, never leave the alt tag without describing explicitly what the image is about. In addition, include the keywords in the alt attribute to make your image rank higher in the image result pages.
9. Snappy Headlines And Permalinks
Use the old-school method of attracting visitors to your website by writing attention-grabbing headings. Make sure that your headlines contain a maximum of 55 characters. More than that will not be displayed on the search results.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between creating attention-grabbing headlines and clickbait headlines. The latter is a common tactic deployed by many marketers to increase their clicks. While this may be a smart approach to making the users visit the website, it can also backfire in an increased bounce rate if the user doesn’t find the information they were promised in the headlines. Hence, refrain from taking this path.
Keep the permalink of your webpage simple. Make it easy for users to understand the location of the content on your website.
10. Engage On Comments Section
Another tip for optimizing your site is to engage with your audience in the comments section. Unfortunately, many websites turn off the commenting option under their posts. So beware, it is not a good approach. Instead, you should ask for your audience’s feedback and answer their queries related to the published content.
Engaging with your prospects helps you understand the content they like to read and engage with. Their valuable customer feedback can help you create content that can improve your site’s ranking.
11. Fix Broken Links
How would you feel if you click on a link and arrive on a page that displays: Error 404, Page not found?
You will feel frustrated or irritated, right?
Your audience will feel the same way. Hence, ensure that all the links present on your website are working correctly. If not, fix it or remove it from your website to reduce the bounce rate.
12. Switch To HTTPS
Since 2014, HTTPS has been considered an important ranking factor by Google. As a result, HTTPS has become a safety badge for websites to ensure online users can safely browse the website without risking their information.
Websites that are not switched to HTTPS are displayed as ‘not secure’ websites by Google to warn its users.
Thus, make your visitors feel safe and label your website as secured by switching to HTTPS protocol.
13. Build Backlinks
Backlinks are the links that are earned by a website from another authority website of the niche. Remember the example of the World Health Organization, which we shared above? If different websites link to the World Health Organization website, we can say that WHO has earned backlinks.
Google considers the number of websites linked to your web pages for ranking it on the search result pages. Thus, create quality content that people would love to share on their social profiles or link to their website.
14. Take Advantage Of YouTube SEO
YouTube is the search engine for video content. It has more than 2 billion users. In addition, more than a billion hours of videos are watched on this site daily.
Wait… that’s not it… YouTube videos are also ranked on the search engine result pages before the listing of the websites. Thus, use this platform to create informative, engaging, and helpful information for your audience and increase your chances of ranking higher on SERPs.
15. Refresh Your Old Content
Creating new content is no joke. It takes a lot of time, research, and effort to brainstorm, design, and publish content on the website. As a solopreneur, it gets tough to juggle all the business activities, including content creation.
Therefore, when you are drowned in work and have no time to spare for creating new content, put your old content to use.
Update the stats and figures mentioned in your post, attach new pictures, include interesting infographics, and integrate core keywords in your content to make it compete for a higher ranking on the SERPs.
16. Optimize For Voice Search
Did you know 40% of smartphone users use the voice search feature to browse the internet? It results in 1 billion searches each month.
Hence, it’s high time for marketers to optimize their content for voice search. For example, include long-tail keywords in the content to make your site visible to a potential audience who searches the internet by voice commands.
17. Use Schema Markup
Suppose you search for the recipe of a strawberry sundae, and numerous results are displayed on the result page. Which of the following results would you click?
A) The Result with title, web URL, and short description
B) The Result with title, web URL, picture, star rating, cooking time, and customer votes
The majority of the people would select Option B because the result displayed is rich and attractive. Moreover, it provides more information to the user about the content available on the web page.
Use the schema markup tag of HTML to display your results with pictures, ratings, and other information and increase the chances of receiving more clicks than your competitors.
18. Use SEO Optimization Plugins
Tried everything on the list?
Well, it’s now time to take help from advanced SEO optimization tools to boost your website’s visibility and ranking.
However, ensure to set up these tools appropriately. Take help from an SEO expert if required. Failure to set these tools correctly can cause serious damage to SEO.
Phew… quite a long list, isn’t it?
But that’s how SEO works. It is not a one-time setup; instead, it is an ongoing process to keep your website ahead of your rivals on SERPs.
Marketers have to pour in real efforts to make their websites rank higher and appear in front of potential audiences.
So, dear readers, what are you waiting for? Roll your sleeves and start planning strategies to optimize your SEO, increase website ranking, and escalate conversions.
How large brands use SEO and Digital Marketing to reach their target audience
Digital Marketing is becoming a must-do for all businesses today. Whether small, medium or large, there are very few businesses that are immune to the allure of digital marketing.
There is often a misconception that large and successful brands have it easy when it comes to marketing, given the reputation that they’ve already earned, and the huge marketing monies and resources at their disposal.
But here’s the real deal. Despite the obvious advantages that these brands might have, it is as much of an effort to stay on top, as much as it is to reach the top. And in the digital world, where young brands do not need huge budgets to have a presence, the competition can get even more intense, with many more players vying for the same space and the same audience on digital. Moreover, there is much information and misinformation about what works and what doesn’t.
However, there are some large players across the globe that are leading the way when it comes to doing Digital Marketing & SEO, and continue to lead both online and offline. Irrespective of the budgets they employ, these brands are focussing on doing simple things right, in a consistent manner. And while at it, they also adapt their communication and strategy as needed, to real-time market and customer dynamics.
I’d like to spotlight the top proven tactics that would be of value for small and medium businesses as well.
- Investing in User Experience
Creating a pleasant user experience (UX) online is an extremely important aspect of digital success, and for that matter, even marketing in general.
Successful brands understand that the quality of a visitor’s online experience can have a huge impact on whether they choose to interact or not with the brand. It is for this reason that they invest significant time and effort in creating a stellar experience for their online visitors, akin to their offline experience.
Right from the content and design to creating a smooth user journey, the focus is to design an experience around what the target audience needs and wants. While research can help in understanding what works best, it is important to keep in mind that your owned online assets should be optimized for both web and mobile, so as to ensure a seamless experience for the visitor.
A great UX can augment visitor interest, which can translate into leads and hopefully, revenue in the long run and it is worth investing time in getting this right.
- Strategic Content Marketing
Content Marketing is becoming a highly ranked buzzword today and has evolved from a “good to have” to a “must-have” element in the digital marketing mix. Loosely defined, content marketing stands for creating relevant, engaging and valuable content, and distributing it on the right channels to attract, convert and retain your target audience. In other words, delivering the right content at the right time to the right person forms the crux of good content marketing.
It is interesting to note that while the broad digital tactics might be similar across competing brands, it is really content that helps a brand stand out amidst the information clutter in the online space.
Successful brands usually have a well-defined content strategy with clearly outlined goals and KPIs in place. If we were to look for commonalities among the content strategies of these brands, we would see that they employ different content formats that span text, audio, visual, video and more. Also, we would all agree that the brands we feel closest to bring us content that is entertaining, informative, evocative, inspirational and enriching or even all of these at once! These brands invest significant time and resources to create high-quality content for each step of the buyer journey, and beyond. There are some smart brands that not only create their own content but thrive on user-generated and curated content as well.
Whether you choose to create or curate, good content is deeply rooted in an accurate understanding of your target audience and what they really want.
- Optimizing Social Media
Social Media platforms have become the place to hang out online, especially post the pandemic. Unlike the case a few years back, an increasing number of social media users are willing to engage with brands online. Social channels offer a dynamic, ever-evolving virtual space where people share about what is important to them, and connect with people, brands and causes that they care about.
Successful online brands use this as a wonderful opportunity to not only reach out and engage with their diverse audiences’ online, but also have interactions that drive preference, conversions and encourage repeat purchases. These brands also monitor their social metrics and correlate it with business performance metrics like ROI, leads and sales.
For success on social, it is also important to also identify the right platforms where your customers spend more time and build a strong presence with well-planned content, campaigns and real-time responsiveness.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEM or PPC usually makes it to most digital marketing plans, but SEO is where the real reward lies. Most purchase decisions today start with a simple online search, and organic search results command much higher credibility as compared to paid results. In fact, this behaviour is so deeply embedded, that it feels only natural to look online when we are considering making a purchase decision. This is an era dependent on search engines, and no brand, big or small, would want to miss out on the opportunities to connect with newer audiences online.
Given that Google, which is currently the most popular search engine, receives over 57,000 searches per second, SEO is something that nobody can take for granted. It isn’t enough for large brands to rest on their offline reputation, as if they do not hold their rank, they could be toppled over by newer entrants to the market. Yes, SEO can be an equalizer of sorts.
And so, successful online brands look at SEO as an investment to maintain their online turf. Not only is it a great way to strengthen the brand association with the category, but it is a great avenue for cost-effective lead generation as well. Most of these brands and businesses also optimize for local SEO, to ensure that they are discoverable by those in close vicinity, as most people search for products and services on their handheld devices when they are on the go. Social SEO is yet another tactic that can contribute to overall visibility and rankings.
- Customer Behaviour Tracking & Data Analytics
Data mining and analytics has become a veritable buzzword today, and rightly so. Digital Marketing success today cannot be perceived without data analytics. The various analytics tools available today allow businesses to fairly predict customer behaviour and plan their campaigns accordingly. It is now easy to understand what drives prospective customers to you, what makes them stay or leave, how they feel about your brand and even whether your digital marketing efforts are working the way you had intended, among other things.
From Google Analytics for your website to independent social media analytics tools, there is a tool to measure almost anything on digital. And this makes it possible to observe and understand behaviours and patterns that we might have otherwise missed.
Successful brands have a habit of closely monitoring their data from their website as well as social media channels, mining actionable insights from it and swiftly responding as necessary, to always stay on top of their digital game. Correctly interpreting data requires a certain level of expertise, but when done correctly, it can empower businesses to make the best possible use of digital.
To sum up, well-executed Digital Marketing and SEO strategies can help your business reap rich dividends in the form of higher brand awareness and preference, and a positive impact on your bottom line. But there is one thing more important than the perfect digital marketing plan. Successful online brands go a step further and ensure that there is alignment and synergy between the online and offline interaction with their visitors. There is no point in offering a great virtual experience if you cannot back it up in the real world. And if you are aspiring for digital success, this is something you cannot ignore.
An Interview with SEO & Digital Marketing Guru John Sottile
John Sottile is a New York based SEO Consultant who has helped businesses big and small achieve their online goals. John uses a combination of techniques including On-Page SEO, Content Creation, Reputation Management among others in order to achieve desired results for his clients.
John, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur.
When I was younger, I had my own paper route for several years. That allowed me to get a taste of what it would be like interacting with customers and managing a service on my own time. When I attended college at the College of Staten Island, I never had a real direction at first. Once I decided to pursue a marketing degree, I started to look into social media marketing and search engine optimization.
I realized that not many businesses fully understand digital marketing, and realized that this was a service I could potentially offer to people. One of my first clients was a graphic design company. I used that experience to learn about how to rank a website, and from there I had the confidence to make the leap as a freelancer.
Providing quality SEO services requires a certain level of expertise. Having said that, there are a lot of SEO companies that have cropped up in the recent past providing average services. How challenging is this for your business given the kind of competition this segment has?
I think that having more SEO agencies, freelancers, and providers in the field is a good thing. Having more competition helps create more awareness for the service, and it also gives consumers more options to choose from. Since digital marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your company, it’s one of the safest investments a business can make.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady SEO providers out there too. These companies may use outdated tactics that hurt their clients’ websites. While these scenarios are unfortunate, it also creates opportunities for the legitimate SEO specialists to step in and repair the damage.
How has SEO evolved in the last 5 years?
Google is favoring websites and brands that provide value to their readers and customers. The days of spamming a website to the top of search engines with a link blast from Fiverr are long gone. You need to focus on organic engagement and create quality content that will keep people interested.
It’s also important to have a website that has an easy to understand user experience for the customer. This means that your website should load in a reasonable amount of time, it should have content that helps the user find what they’re there for, and it should have a clear call to action so it’s optimized for conversions. Google tends to favor websites that are consistently publishing quality content. Quality content also helps attract links to your website.
Do you think Google will remain the king of search engines in the foreseeable future?
I believe so. Google and YouTube are the top two search engines, and Google owns YouTube. I don’t see either of these companies going anywhere any time soon. Most people prefer watching videos over reading a blog post.
Do you think keyword research is a must for better search engine results or is it overrated?
Keyword research is absolutely important for search engine results. When you first start a blog, the truth is that no one’s going to find you and read your content. If you do your keyword research and target low volume and easy to rank for keywords, you give yourself the opportunity to compete on a smaller scale and build some initial traffic. As you continue to rank for several low volume keywords, you can build up your e-mail list and start building relationships with those viewers.
How can businesses achieve better results through On-Page SEO?
For on-page SEO, you need to make sure you nail your content and tag placement. Proper title and header tags can make the difference between whether or not your website will appear in the serps or not. A good title can also improve your CTR.
One factor that many people tend to neglect (even SEO agencies) is internal linking. I can’t stress enough on how important it is to make sure you take advantage of internal links. You can use these links to diversify your page rankings, and help your newer content rank. It’s also a user-friendly way to remind people of your existing articles and content that they may be interested in.
What SEO tips can you give to businesses who want to have an optimized online presence?
I think that businesses should strongly consider looking into keeping an active presence on social media. I always get disappointed when I see companies and brands that “don’t see the value” in social media, when everyone is addicted to their cell phones.
Social media has become a powerful tool for small businesses to reach a large audience of people in a cost-effective way. While social media doesn’t directly improve your SEO rankings, it helps more people become aware of your brand. When more people know who you are and search for your brand, you can get more traffic and user signals.
In this Interview, Jason Boyd Shares Valuable Insights into the Changing Landscape of the Digital Marketing World
Jason Boyd is the Founder & Director of Evolve Digital, a firm that specializes in SEO & Digital marketing services. We recently interviewed Jason to know more about his company and to understand the latest trends in the Digital Marketing world.
Jason, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.
I started in the digital marketing industry way back in 1998 when I had a landscaping business, and I wanted to learn how to advertise on the internet. Back then, search engine marketing was mainly based around AltaVista and also some of the online directories. So, I did that as an addition to my landscaping business.
Then in the mid-2000s, I transitioned into purely doing SEO work for myself and for other clients. I gave up my landscaping business and worked for a combination of agencies and on some private projects.
In 2010, I started my own search engine marketing business and had all my own clients at that point. Then in 2018, I rebranded that business to Evolve Digital Agency and expanded my range of services to include paid advertising and Facebook advertising.
Covid 19 has taught us that if you are not online, you are literally out of business. As a leading SEO & Digital Marketing agency, what has been your experience during this ongoing pandemic?
COVID-19 has taught me that there has been a clear shift in the attitudes of many businesses towards their online presence. Businesses that traditionally relied upon non-digital marketing services have realized that to survive, they now need to have an online presence. Most businesses cannot get by without an online presence these days.
Having said that, there’s no doubt that this pandemic has reduced the income of many businesses, and so these businesses are now very cautious about where they spend their money and who they spend their money with. They’re now looking for genuine companies that give a positive return on investment and are much more cautious at choosing which supplier to use.
What are some of the leading SEO trends one should watch out for?
One of the SEO trends that we should watch out for, is that Google and other search engines are heading down a path of offering very localized results. And, that’s not just in the Maps listing, that’s also in the organic listings. So, if you are a business that’s based in a particular suburb and your services are primarily in that suburb, this will be beneficial to you. If you’re a business that services a large range of suburbs or a whole city, or even a larger area, it can be a harder task to get traction in this larger range of suburbs.
Another trend is that Google is investing heavily in identifying the owner of a business or the author of the website content. They want to give results that have some authority to them, and so they are now looking at the person or the business who has written that content to make sure that that person is qualified to give the advice they’re giving. This is a positive step from Google and will mean that we have results that you can rely upon. It means for a business owner, it’s important to show your skills and your authority and tie that to the information or the website your own.
If for a particular keyword, your business is not appearing on the first page of the search result, chances are, no one is visiting your website. What are some of the factors that affect search engine results?
To get to the first page of Google, there’s two main areas of SEO that will help you. These are onsite and offsite.
Onsite is the work you do on your website, and that’s about ensuring your website follows Google’s best practice. This includes things like correct page titles and URLs, and ensuring your content is structured in a way that fits what Google is looking for.
Offsite is about having other websites mention your business and link to your business website. This is an ongoing thing and something that a good SEO company will specialize in.
In your view, which works better, Facebook Marketing or Search Marketing or a combination of both. In your opinion, are these marketing strategies underutilized?
The better option ofFacebook marketing or search engine marketing largely depends on the current position of your business. To simplify things, I believe Facebook is best used for branding and remarketing, not direct traffic. I believe that search engine marketing is best if you don’t have a lot of traffic and you need to get that traffic.
So, if you currently have a small amount of website traffic, then your best approach is search marketing. If you already have traffic, or once you get that traffic, then you can look at Facebook for increasing that traffic, or increasing your conversion rate.
What suggestions would you give to small businesses who do not have big marketing budget but want to spend something in their marketing campaigns? What should they focus on?
If your business does not have a big marketing budget, they should focus on small gains in Google’s organic, non-paid results. This is often highly relevant traffic that you don’t need to be constantly paying for.
As a business, you should establish what are your non-competitive search terms. These are things that people will type into Google to find your product or service. Once you’ve established what those are, and you find some that you are not competing against other large businesses, then target your website efforts towards those search terms. This will give you an initial traffic boost that you can then use to fund further marketing efforts.
As an expert in this field, what is the future of SEO?
The future of SEO is about providing the search engines with useful, well-presented content. This will always be a winning strategy. Once you have written the content or provided the content on your website, then it’s about proving that you’re an authority in your field. This is so the search engine will trust you and present your website at the top of the results instead of your competitors.
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