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.
5 Important Ways Web Hosting and a Domain Name Can Impact SEO
When starting a new business, creating a functional, memorable, and visually appealing website is considered to be one of the most important aspects, as well as focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) efforts that will make your site more visible and highly ranked in search engine results, thus possibly attracting a wider audience. But when attempting to achieve online success, your website will heavily depend on two factors many often forget: your domain name and your web hosting provider. These aspects can significantly impact your SEO strategy, and here are just some ways in which this could happen:
1. Significance of a domain name
From appealing to your target audience to pleasing search engines, a good domain name can have a significant impact on the overall success of your website. However, one of the most important roles of a domain name is to establish trust with your customers, which can easily be achieved through customization. For instance, simply using a top-level extension such as the trusted me domain can help to personalize your website and genuinely appeal to your audience.
Apart from being a safe and secure option, such domain extensions are also an incredibly quick and simple way to create a more memorable website name that easily evokes images of a more refined, humanized, and trusted business. This is one of the most efficient ways of attracting new customers to your website, while slowly building up their trust and loyalty over time.
2. Keywords in domain names
In an effort to rank higher on search engine results and appear more relevant, many businesses will decide to incorporate a number of keywords in their domain name. Unfortunately, this could often have an adverse effect, especially if businesses don’t follow through on their websites by utilizing reviews, product descriptions, and other on-site copy.
While it’s true that relevant keywords could help your website rank higher, it’s recommended to only stick to one creative keyword that succinctly describes your products and services. Short and simple domain names that are easy to remember are often favored among audiences, which is why implementing one relevant keyword in a memorable phrase or playful manner might be helpful when it comes to search engine recognition, as well as attracting and retaining potential customers.
3. Increased website speed
Once a relevant and memorable domain name is chosen, it’s time to select the best web hosting options. When it comes to purchasing hosting, speed should be one of your top priorities. While we might think that customers have more patience and understanding, the truth is that a simple delay in loading speed of a couple of seconds could lose you around 40% of your audience.
Apart from leading to a loss in customers and revenue, slower loading speeds might also impact search engine results. For instance, Google has recently started rewarding websites that provide a better and more favorable user experience, meaning that if your website is significantly slower than other similar sites, this could lead to a noticeable drop in rankings, as well as overall SEO.
4. Improved website security
Although every website could be a potential target for hackers, this becomes an even larger concern when it comes to businesses. When you’re looking for the best web hosting provider, it’s not only the security of your own information you have to take into consideration, but that of your customers as well. In case your website gets infiltrated by someone wanting to exploit your site’s data, your customers might be subject to personal data breaches and identity theft, which could take a significant toll on your business’s reputation.
For this reason, opting for a superior host that offers maximum security and protection is always advised. But apart from the safety of your business and your customers, the host you select might impact your SEO as well, as websites that are often under attack tend to deter visitors, thus lowering in rank.
5. Availability of the website
Ultimately, no customer will be able to locate your site if it’s never there. A website that often crashes, goes through long maintenance periods, or simply takes several tries in order to fully load will truly destroy your SEO efforts, more quickly than any other aspect.
Of course, no host will be perfect. Even large websites such as Twitter and Facebook experience an occasional crash, but a good web host provider will ensure near-ideal network uptime. Apart from costing you new users, potential customers, and higher revenue, having a website that is constantly down might also communicate to search engines that you’ve closed your business, being one of the worst things that could happen to your SEO.
While web hosting and a domain name might not seem quite as important at first, they are clearly the key to a stronger online presence. The more you invest in the intricate decisions mentioned above, the higher your chances will be of surviving influxes of new customers, higher revenues, and overall growth.
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.
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