As we head further into 2019, effective SEO is top of the list of priorities for savvy marketers and business owners. But the problem we all face is just how much goes into truly effective search engine optimisation. It starts with a bucket load of keyword research, an SEO plan, reams of lists containing LSI terms and topic cluster ideas, and it continues with an active blog schedule and ongoing website optimisation. If you don’t already have a great SEO base on your website it’s likely to also require a complete re-write of all your website copy. Then you have your on-page plan, your off-page plan, and you can’t turn on your computer without being inundated with dashboards from various SEO portals, Google Analytics, ranking tools, and reports.
If it’s giving you a headache just thinking about it, you’re not alone.
Somewhere in all of that you also have a Google sheet or three that’s struggling to keep it all organised, and enough painkillers to stockpile a small pharmacy.
For the majority of marketers, time is a constant enemy, and while SEO is important it’s not something you can afford to utterly devote yourself to, simply because there’s so much else to do.
When you’re a CEO, the same applies, but tenfold and with the added bonus that you already have a full time job running your business and need to leave marketing it to someone else.
And yet, whatever position you hold and however much time and energy you’re currently pouring into optimising your website for search, a few core needs remain:
- You need to grow you traffic and ensure it’s high quality.
- You need to increase leads and ensure they’re your ideal clients.
- You need a content marketing plan that is sustainable, works and delivers a high ROI.
- You need to knock your competitors off the top spot on Google and make sure you stay there.
While these are common objectives, few businesses manage to achieve them easily. The number one spot on Google, in particular, is a lofty goal. Many settle for making the top ten, while most have resigned themselves to the fact they’re never going to make it to page one, and focus on other forms of marketing instead.
It’s understandable to neglect your SEO, but it’s also a mistake. Ranking well on SERPs pages is absolutely essential for any business in the modern digital age. SEO is simply not something we can afford to neglect, no matter how headache-inducing, time-consuming, or resource-guzzling it may be.
Yet effective SEO seems to get increasingly complex with every passing year. You have meta descriptions to contend with, featured snippets, image packs, knowledge panels, the need for video, video, and more video, and you’re not completely sure you’ve nailed the basics yet, let alone the most current trends.
We get it.
You’re not alone.
Here’s how to perfect your website SEO in 2019…
Nail The Basics Of SEO Before You Get Fancy…
SEO strategies quickly get overwhelming, so before you try to wrap your brain around the complexities of a truly comprehensive plan, make sure you’ve nailed the basics. When you strip it all back, SEO consists of two sets of goals – what you’re trying to achieve by optimising your website for search, and what Google and the other search engine gods are aiming to accomplish by creating those dreaded algorithms.
In other words, look at the why behind SEO.
Why is it so important for our websites to rank well on those SERPs?
Why do search engines rank content the way they do?
The first question is easily answered: You need your business to rank highly so that you get found, gain new customers, and grow your business.
At first blush the second question seems trickier to answer, but it’s actually deceptively simple.
Online searches can seem really random. Seriously, take a look at the autocomplete on Google some time and ponder the weird and wonderful stuff it comes up with. Some of my favourites include:
- Am I a vampire?
- Is there a spell to become a mermaid that actually works?
- Are babies dishwasher safe?
- What to do if a dolphin wants to mate with me.
- I accidentally killed my cat in the dryer, and of course the inevitable follow on from that…
- My cat is trying to kill me.
What does this tell us? That the people using search engines want very specific answers to their queries (even when what they’re wondering in inexplicable). They want answers, details, and they want them instantly. The fact the autocomplete function exists at all is evidence that what people really want is for Google to know the answers before they’ve even figured out the question.
That’s a tall order.
And it goes a long way towards explaining why search engine algorithms (and the SEO strategies needed to get your website to rank well in 2019), have become so utterly convoluted.
Search engines have become exceptionally good at providing accurate answers to all manner of bizarre and unusual questions, and this of course is why they rank content in the manner that they do.
It’s All About The Users…
Everything about SEO is user-driven.
Google isn’t making you jump through so many hoops for their own amusement. They’re doing it so they can continue to provide the level of information the world has come to expect.
If you’ve ever wondered how search engines rank content, the answer is surprisingly simple despite the complexities of practically achieving a high rank:
Google wants content that gives people what they’re looking for. If you provide that content, and make it better than everything else answering the same question, your rank will go up.
The SEO gods have decreed content is all about audience intent and needs, which means you need to create content that is driven entirely by a desire to provide high-value and quality answers to the questions your audience are asking.
Even when those questions are really, really odd.
Learn Your Ideal Clients’ Language, Use It Consistently…
A huge part of ensuring you are approaching SEO from the perspective of your users is understanding their language.
What questions are they asking?
What terms do they use to ask those questions?
What topics are they interested in?
What do they need, right now – what nasty little pain points are keeping them from sleeping at night?
The huge mistake most businesses make when it comes to both SEO and content marketing is making it all about themselves and not about the people they’re trying to attract.
Businesses talk in their own language, answer the questions they themselves feel are important, using their jargon and expert terms, cover subjects they find most relevant and interesting, and try to sell people on what they do, rather than why they do it.
Understanding your ideal client is essential for business development, and particularly vital for effective marketing.
While it’s possible to improve your rankings without focusing on your ideal client’s language, it won’t do you any good. You’ll rise in the ranks and be top of the SERPs, but you still won’t be in front of the people you’re trying to target, because you’ve not optimised for anything they’re actually searching for.
Figure out what your ideal clients are looking for, and the specific words they’re using to search for that information. Optimise your website for your audience and what they genuinely need and care about, rather than for yourself and what you care about and think they need.
Beyond the fact this method will ensure you’re optimising for the right terms, to attract the right people, you will also find the content you create naturally includes the language of your industry – speaking your customers’ language doesn’t mean giving up your own! This is great for authenticity, but also something Google and the other search gods have become sophisticated enough to recognise and reward you for, so it’s a win-win all round.
Audit Your Website…
When you’re aiming for perfect website SEO it’s vital to get a completely clear view of how well your site is currently performing. To do this, you need to audit your website, and identify problematic areas that need improving. Common issues we see all the time include:
- Page titles that are too long, missing, or don’t include the core keyword.
- URLs that are too long, or don’t include the core keyword.
- Images that are missing alt text and (to a lesser extent) don’t have file names including the core keyword.
- Meta descriptions that are missing, too long, too short, or don’t include the core keyword.
- Broken links and links missing anchor text including a keyword relevant to the content to which it’s linking.
- Pages that have too little text, or no text at all on them.
- Pages that are slow to load.
- Images and files that are too large.
These issues are easily fixed once you know where they are, and what they mean. Our first step when taking on a new SEO client is to perform a website audit, identify problematic areas, and come up with a plan to correct them all. We then repeat the audit on a regular basis to ensure all new content added doesn’t create any new issues, and that established content hasn’t developed problems in the interim.
This is known as on-page SEO and covers both the optimisation of your content and the HTML source code, and it’s absolutely vital if you want to effectively optimise every page of your site to rank as highly as possible.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can perform one audit, fix the problems, and never have to worry about it again. A huge part of effective website SEO is making regular updates and publishing regular content. This means that your website is constantly expanding, and every new page, post, tag, and category has the potential to inadvertently undermine your SEO if you miss something.
Check Out Your Backlinks…
Backlinks are pretty much the bane of every marketer’s existence. There was a time when (pretty much) all you needed to do to make a site rank well was farm a shed load of backlinks, while stuffing your site with as many keywords as possible, and you were set. There were (and still are) ‘SEO specialists’ and services out there that will charge you a small fortune to create a slew of backlinks to boost your site.
These ‘blackhat’ SEO tactics no longer work, and will actually damage your ranking.
As with most areas of SEO, backlinks have become a lot more complicated in the last few years. While they’re still important, they’re only important if the strategy you employ to create them is as sophisticated as the search engine algorithms have become when analysing them.
A backlink is simply a link from a site that isn’t your own, to a page or post on your website. It’s one form of off-page SEO that is incredibly useful, but requires you to do some work away from your website itself.
The theory behind backlinks is simple: if other sites are linking to you, it’s because you have great content.
When you have no backlinks, Google assumes it’s because you have nothing on your site valuable enough for other people to reference it.
That isn’t good.
Yet the search gods are aware of the people trying to game the system. They no longer simply count how many links you have and bump up your rank higher the more backlinks exist. Rather, they judge the quality of your backlinks, and award a higher rank to sites that are being linked to from highly credible sites.
In other words, if the industry leader in your niche links to your site, it’s a huge boost to your SEO.
If, on the other hand, you have backlinks from a hundred random sites that are unrelated to the industry you’re trying to rank for, it’s not going to do you any good. Likewise, if you have backlinks from sites in your sphere, who are themselves occupying a very low rank in terms of credibility, there’s no help there either.
But if Google respects a site, and it links to your site, your rank will go up.
If there’s one lesson you take to heart where SEO in 2019 is concerned, it is this:
Quality over quantity. Always.
This is true of backlinks, blogs (both in terms of their frequency and the perfect length for your blog posts), sales page copy, images, video, you name it…
How To Build Quality Backlinks…
To improve your backlinks, begin by auditing them and seeing who is currently linking to your website. If you’ve never actively tried to build your backlinks, the odds are you won’t have many, and any you do have won’t be of high quality.
That you can fix.
Guest posting on highly relevant and well-respected sites in your niche, and creating exceptionally high-value, original, thought-leading content that requires people to link to you in order to cite their source is a great way to start. Beyond that, you can build your social reputation and develop relationships with relevant influencers in your industry, and encourage them to link to your content.
If you really want to supercharge your backlinks, get a little sneaky about it and check out who is linking to your competitor’s sites. If they’re ranking higher than you on SERPs, and have great quality backlinks, finding ways to gain backlinks from the same influential websites they have is a great way to topple them from that pedestal.
Bump Up Your Listings…
Another form of off-site SEO you can use to boost your ranking is to improve your company listings. Also called citations, listings are the inclusion of your business details and a link to your website in both local and national directories, and catalogues that are very specific to your niche.
Like backlinks, the presence of your business in such listings tells both your prospects and Google who you are, what you do, and where to find you. Creating authoritative, consistent, and up-to-date citations for your business ensures you get more exposure, and establishes the credibility of your company.
Including a listing strategy in your SEO plan is particularly critical to local businesses, as Google presents search results based on location. The rise of mobile technology has made it easier than ever for searchers to find answers to their queries that are as close to home as possible.
Boosting your listings in local directories will do wonders for ensuring you show up at the top of those SERPs whenever someone searches for what you do in your area.
Setting up your Google My Business account and working on building your profile with relevant information and reviews is a great start. Creating bespoke pages and content on your website for every local area you want to target is also essential. You’ll need to effectively optimise everything for local keywords and tactics that will allow you to rank for searches including ‘near me’, as well as specific locations. Beyond that, work on getting yourself listed on as many relevant and respected directories as possible.
Website Security And Speed…
Two hugely important but easily overlooked aspects of effective SEO are the security and speed of your website. The search gods like to know their users are safe on the sites they’re sending them to. That means having an SSL certificate and ensuring you have the all-important https, and a little closed padlock next to your domain name is essential.
In 2019 there’s no getting around the need for security – websites that are unsecure are flagged, and that kind of flag will tank your rank.
Going back to the desire of the search gods to ensure a great experience for their users, page speed is also hugely important.
If your pages are slow to load, Google won’t want to send people to them.
Well, people have an increasingly short attention span. If they land on a page looking for an answer, and don’t immediately see what they want, they will click away in annoyance.
You have 3 seconds to load any given page on your website.
If your site takes longer to load, you’re in trouble!
Create High-Value, Useful, Consistent Content…
It’s no secret that optimising a website hinges on content. What a lot of business owners fail to truly wrap their head around is exactly how much content is involved in doing it well. It begins with your website copy for static pages, continues with blog content, and becomes ever-more sophisticated as you add in advanced content marketing strategies such as lead magnets, content upgrades, white papers, live chat, video, podcasts, and more.
Content creation is a full-time job for any business.
It’s essential for your SEO for many reasons. You need to regularly update your website with fresh, original, high-value content in order to raise and then maintain your rank. The search gods prioritise content that is high-value, as well as content that is presented in multimedia format (i.e. a written blog post, accompanied by images, a vlog, and/or an audio version). They also give extra credit to sites that not only update, but update consistently.
Remember the number one SEO lesson: quality over quantity.
The more frequently you post, the higher you will rank, but only if every single post you create is high-quality and high-value.
Be consistent in your quality, be consistent in your schedule, and be consistent in the level of take-away value your audience can get from your content.
If you really want to maximise your website SEO this year, and you haven’t already, start a vlog: the SEO benefits of embedding video content on your website are simply immense, while starting a YouTube channel gives you a foothold on the second most powerful search engine behind Google itself, and every video can be repurposed for your social media channels.
Promote Even More Than You Create…
Speaking of social media, as important as it is for you to create amazing, high-value content, it’s even more vital that you promote it.
In fact, for all the time you spend creating, you should be spending four times that length of time promoting everything you’ve made.
It may seem counterintuitive to spend a massive amount of time promoting content you have specifically optimised to attract organic traffic through search, but here’s the thing: Google is watching.
Just as high-quality backlinks demonstrate the credibility and value of your content, the more traffic you drive to your content through social media and other forms of promotion the better. This acts as social proof for the search engines, demonstrating that you know what you’re doing, and are doing it well enough that people love you for it.
The 20/80 rule applies a lot in marketing:
- Spend 20% of your time promoting yourself, and 80% of your time providing value.
- Spend 20% of your time creating content, and 80% of your time promoting that content.
If you can get this ratio right on both counts, and consistently continue with your marketing plan for 6 months, you will experience a snowball effect that is quite spectacular to behold – just hang in there, it does take time and consistent effort!
Embrace The Data, It Loves You…
Which brings us to our final point – time. When it comes to any marketing strategy (SEO or otherwise), there is a huge amount of trial, error, and time involved. Try things out to find what works for you and what doesn’t. Give each new tactic you try enough time to play out before deciding it’s not working and moving on to something else. And don’t fly blind.
Data is your friend.
When it comes to SEO, having an effective means of collecting and analysing your data is essential. It’s the only way to know if what you’re doing is working, what you need to change if it isn’t, and how you can continue to improve upon areas that are showing promise.
Settle on some core goals for your SEO efforts and use relevant metrics to measure your progress. For example, if your main goal in attracting traffic is to drive signups to your email list, your main KPI will be the number of new subscribers you gain. Likewise, if you have a specific product or service you want to sell, the number of conversions on that item will be a core data point.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the massive amounts of data you’re able to collect around your website. Filter out the noise, focus on what matters. There will always be a huge number of areas you can learn more about from your data, and in time you can get all of them working for you perfectly.
But it does take time.
Perfect Your Website SEO In 2019…
SEO is a long game. If you really want to ensure your website is perfectly optimised this year be prepared for it to take you the whole year, and a substantial investment in either time or money to get it there.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, SEO aint it.
It is, however, an incredibly effective means of marketing your business when done right. If you don’t have an in-house SEO expert on staff, you’re going to struggle. Fortunately, that’s where we come in. We’ll audit your website, fix any problems, optimise every single page and post, map out your ideal client’s language, plan a content schedule that will make the Google gods exceptionally happy with you, and help you with everything from backlinks to listings, video creation, and promotion. Get in touch today to book a free, no obligation consultation, and find out how we can help you rise through the ranks and reach that coveted spot at the top of the SERPs…
Our Head of Marketing, Hazel Butler, is an award-winning author, copywriter, and editor. Part ghostwriter, part blogger, part videographer, and part strategist, when she’s not endlessly penning content for our clients Hazel’s happily concocting the perfect marketing plans to propel their businesses forward.
Get to know her...