I get it. As creatives, we don’t have time to learn another highly technical discipline such as Search Engine Optimization. Besides, we’re creative enough to market ourselves online even without understanding SEO. We know that there are social media channels we can use to promote our products and services, and we can rock those channels creatively. I know a lot of designers and creative shop owners who thrive even without implementing SEO, and using social media as their marketing strategy instead.
But here’s the thing. You’re likely missing out on a lot of opportunities if your website is not visible in the search. The world is going mobile, and how else do mobile users find what they’re looking for but type in keywords on Google? Studies show that 60% of website and mobile traffic actually come from Google.
Needless to say, if you’re serious about growing your traffic exponentially and reaching a global market, you need to be visible in search engines, more specifically in Google.
Lauren did a comprehensive SEO guide few months ago, so if you haven’t read it yet, you should read it now (or review it!) before you continue reading this post. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.
In that article, Lauren covered the essential things you need to set up if you’re doing SEO for the first time. Following Lauren’s post, here is a quick SEO checklist you need to implement if you haven’t yet:
- Submit your content to Google
- Set up Google Analytics (Yep, let go of all the other web analytics tools you’re using. You only want to use Google’s very own Analytics. It’s the most accurate data you can get since it generates website traffic data as seen by Google.)
- Set up Webmaster Tools
- Integrate Your Webmaster Tools to your Google Analytics
- Add your sitemap to Webmaster Tools
- Fetch and see how Google is crawling your site
The above SEO checklist is a one-time set-up thing, and I know it’s a pain to do it but you just have to get it over and done with! After you’ve done those steps, you can now check your Google Analytics regularly to see if your efforts are giving you significant results. You’ll be able to see which keywords are bringing traffic to your pages, where your traffic is coming from (referring websites, social media referrals, demographics, location, etc), which therefore allows you to understand and profile your market better.
So. Once you’re done setting that up, it’s time to get to work.
As Lauren said, Search Engine visibility is a long-term strategy. There are no shortcuts to doing this. Google algorithm changes periodically (I’ll discuss this further later), so you have to be fully committed into integrating your SEO / Content strategy to your business process if you want to do this right.
Are you ready? Let’s do this.
Here are 5 essential factors that will make a website rank better in Google:
1 | Quality Content
Over the years, Content Marketing has become a popular and effective way to rank better in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Content Marketing is the process of creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined target audience, with the end goal of driving profitable customer action.
Keywords are essential in creating quality and search-friendly content. You need to know which keywords are relevant to your business and create content that will attract people who are searching for these keywords.
When we discuss “Quality Content”, I want you to think about this one super adorable creature—Panda.
The Google Panda Update
Are you game to get a little bit more technical (and historical)?
A while ago I mentioned something about Google algorithms. Google ranks websites according to an algorithm (mathematical formula) that calculates website authority and relevance. Keywords is one known factor in this equation. Pretty straightforward, you naturally become visible in Google for the keywords that you have in your web pages.
In the early years of SEO, however, SEO Specialists have learned to “game” search engines’ algorithm by keyword spamming their pages. Through keyword saturation, they’re able to boost their sites’ rankings and sadly, this gave users results that were just that--websites with poor quality content and jibberish keywords. Because of this, Google has been improving the way it calculates keyword relevance and content quality, and in the process eliminating websites that are merely keyword spamming. These ongoing updates to the Google algorithm is collectively called the “Google Panda Update”.
That being said, quality content is something that Google is serious about. They want to eliminate websites that are not relevant, at the same time, promote websites that provide real, informative and helpful content to its users.
Blogging is a tested-and-proven way to do Content Marketing, and Elle and Company attests to the benefits and results that come with blogging strategically.
When you blog consistently and passionately about a specific niche or topic, it’s like you’re hitting several birds with one stone.
- It adds credibility to you as a thought leader in your niche or expertise.
- It injects keywords into your website, such that, when you blog about “web design” or “user experience” or “online marketing strategy for creative businesses”, you naturally incorporate these terms into your website. Google then sees your website as an authority in these inter-related topics.
- It adds fresh content into your page regularly, which, they say is also a ranking factor. Every time you update your site with new content, Google immediately picks it up and places you in the results pages.
- It creates opportunities for link building and social activity, which I will discuss next.
2 | Quality Links
Aside from keywords and content, links is another known factor to rank better in the search. If publishing quality content in your site is “on-page SEO”, building links is your “off-page SEO”.
Many online marketers claim that “Content is King, Link Building is Queen.” I cannot stress more how important links are in increasing your website’s authority. Links are like votes. When websites link back to your site, it’s like giving you votes.
In fact, if your website is new and you didn’t submit your site to Google, Google bots naturally find you through a website that is linking back to you. That is just how powerful links are.
The Google Penguin Update
Google seems to love cute creatures! If Panda Update is for quality content, Penguin Update is for quality links. In the same way that schemy SEO Specialists have keyword-stuffed their way to manipulate Google rankings, many have also tried to spam links. This is the reason why we get a lot of comment spams on our blogs. These spammers are after the links.
Therefore, to eliminate these bad linking practices and to clear up the SERPs from sites that are manipulating bad links to boost rankings, Google periodically rolls out algorithm updates collectively called “Google Penguin Update”.
One must avoid bad linking practices if you don’t want to get penalized or banned by Google from showing up in the top ranks.
That being said, quality links are important in boosting the credibility of your site, therefore, you should be more intentional in building links.
Creating quality content and building links go together like peanut butter and jelly. When you create quality content, other bloggers and websites would naturally link back to you. The more relevant your content is, the more chances for other authority sites to refer to your content and link back to your site.
Another effective way to build links is through guest posting. When you guest post, you are also hitting several goals with one stone.
It allows you to reach a larger, more established audience and drive more traffic back to your site.
It’s an opportunity to build your site some links.
Take note, of course, that you want to link back to your site only when it’s relevant. Quality links mean links that are within the same or related niches, and therefore natural and deserved.
3 | Social Signals
Google is not saying how exactly it ranks pages, that’s why there are SEO professionals who make a living out of understanding how to make websites rank better. However, there are factors that Google is explicit about, and in 2010 they officially announced that social signals do have an effect in search engine rankings.
What do we mean by social signals? Social signals are Facebook likes and shares, Twitter favorites and retweets, Linkedin posts and comments--any social activity that connects to your website content.
Aside from the value this adds to your visibility in Google, we all know that social media brings a significant amount of (immediate) traffic to your site. It’s easy to update your network about a new post or a new project through social media. It’s also a good venue for discussions and relationship building. Everyday we find new blogs or websites to follow through our social feeds. The point is, whether for search visibility, personal branding, or building connections, social media is a great tool to market your business.
Note, however, that you want to use your social media accounts wisely. While there isn’t any Google penalty for websites that are manipulating social signals yet, don’t resort to unnatural and manipulative social media practices. Keep your social activity clean, interactive, and relevant. Offer something useful and informative, and not simply promotional.
4 | Mobile responsiveness
As of July 2015, mobile digital media time in the US is now significantly greater at 51% compared to desktop browsing (42%). Everyone is going mobile. I use my laptop for work, but I spend a lot of time reading blogs and browsing sites leisurely through my smartphone. Even the new Google logo was said to have been implemented because of mobile considerations. This trend alone is enough reason for website owners to make their sites mobile responsive.
But more importantly, early this year, Google rolled out an algorithm update that makes mobile-responsive sites rank better in search. Online marketers called this “Mobilegeddon”, and the digital marketing industry went on a frenzy, making sure that their websites are mobile responsive and ready for the “apocalypse.”
If your site is not yet mobile responsive now, it’s about time to make the transition! You’re not only losing the interest of your readers, you’ve most likely lost a significant amount of search rankings and traffic too. What are you waiting for?
5 | User experience
As I’ve reiterated, Google is very intentional in ranking websites that show relevance and authority, and eliminating those that are not meeting quality standards. Aside from giving preference to mobile-responsive websites in the SERPs, they also give credit to sites who care about user experience.
Mobile responsiveness and user experience go hand-in-hand, and Google acknowledges websites that care about these two. To check if your site is mobile-friendly, click here.
Are you still with me? :)
A decade ago, the way to rank in the search is to make your site search-friendly. Google has seen what’s wrong with that, especially when people started manipulating their web pages to be more “search-friendly.” Today, the way to rank in the search is to make your site user-friendly. This is the reason why, when you focus on creating targeted content and offering something valuable to your target market, or when you have active social media channels that constantly link back to your website--even without the knowledge of SEO you find that your website still attracts organic traffic!
But now that you know these things, it’s time to get more intentional with your SEO strategy and see how it takes your creative business to the next level. Let us know how it goes. :)
About the Author
Rhiza Oyos is an SEO & Content Marketing Strategist in the day, and a freelance Web Designer at night. She blogs about Content Marketing, SEO and general Online Marketing topics on the Spiralytics blog, and maintains a personal blog, Chasing Dreams, which she uses as a platform to help other women and creatives pursue their passions and make their dreams happen. She’s a mommy of twin girls, loves being a wife, and currently based in Manila.