Where does your website rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the pages that are most important to you and your customers? If it’s not on the first page, you should rethink your SEO SERP ranking strategy. According to a study by Chitka, nearly 95 percent of all clicks occur on the first-page listings. Therefore, failure to properly optimize your site will result in abysmally low organic traffic.
Search Engine Updates: What You Need to Know
SEO is tricky because search engines are constantly updating the way in which they index and rank websites. Google changes its ranking algorithm 500 to 600 times per year, and each update forces webmasters to adjust their strategy – especially those webmasters who are not using “best practices.”
In 2012, Google made a major update to its SERP ranking algorithm that affected more than 3 percent of all English search queries. Dubbed the “Penguin” update, it lowered the rank of sites engaging in manipulative schemes like paid links, cloaking and spamming. Prior to this update, webmasters could easily achieve a top ranking for their sites using these black hat techniques. Those days are long gone.
Webmasters and website owners must now focus on creating high-quality sites that provide real value to their visitors.
In 2016, Google rolled out a mobile-first indexing update. On its Webmaster Central Blog, the company explains that most internet searches are performed on mobile devices, and to provide a better experience for users, it’s now ranking websites based on the content and signals found on the mobile version of the site.
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
With Google’s new mobile-first indexing now in effect, it’s important for webmasters to use a mobile-friendly design. If your site isn’t compatible on smartphones or tablets, you’ll probably experience lower SERP rankings and, subsequently, lower organic traffic.
There are several ways to ensure your site is compatible on mobile devices, some of which include the use of a separate mobile domain, dynamically serving content based on the device on which it’s viewed or a responsive web design.
At Cazbah, the Production team recommends using a responsive design. With a responsive web design, your site will automatically change its layout for a high level of usability across all devices. This eliminates the need for several different designs you’d need to manage between desktop, mobile, and tablet searches.
Manually coding a responsive design yourself can be tedious and time consuming to say the least. If your website uses a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you can simply download a responsive theme. The official WordPress theme repository has more than 1,700 responsive themes or you can always hire a professional internet marketing and design company to do it for you as well.
Tread Cautiously With Backlinks
Building backlinks (an incoming link from one web page to another website) is an essential step in optimizing your site for higher search rankings on results pages. Since the early days of the internet, search engines have analyzed backlinks to determine websites’ rankings. Of course, this makes sense because each backlink symbolizes trust and authority.
If a website is useful and provides real value to its visitors, other sites will link to them. In turn, search engines will give the linked website a higher ranking.
But you should tread cautiously when building backlinks for your website as it could have the undesired effect of lowering your site’s rankings in the SERPs. With the Penguin update, for example, buying backlinks or engaging in other link schemes may place your site in the crosshairs for a ranking penalty. Backlinks are only a measurement of a site’s authority if they are genuine and natural. Since any webmaster can buy backlinks for his or her site, this strategy usually backfires by resulting in lower rankings.
When building backlinks, follow these tips to encourage higher search rankings that won’t trigger penalty:
- Don’t pay for backlinks
- Keep reciprocal backlinks to a minimum
- Avoid using the same anchor text too many times
- Avoid site-wide backlinks
- Create backlinks on sites with relevant content
- Don’t use software or services to mass-produce backlinks
- Only create backlinks on sites and pages with a few number of outbound links
Content Creation: Quality Over Quantity
There’s a reason so many seasoned digital marketers preach “content is king”. Building backlinks will help you achieve higher SERP rankings for your website, but you’ll also need on-page content.
Without content, there’s no reason for anyone to visit your site. And if no one wants to visit your site, search engines probably won’t display it very high in the SERPs. If you’re skeptical, search for a keyword associated with your site and review the top 10 listings. You’ll probably discover all have lengthy, rich content.
Rather than publishing hundreds of mediocre-quality articles, though, focus on fewer, higher-quality articles. Too many pages of low-quality content will bring down or dilute your site’s search rankings while promoting a poor user experience in the process.
Though articles are a great type of new content, they are only one type of content that you can use on your site. Feel free to experiment with other types like infographics, videos, slideshows, PDFs and photo galleries. Most professional digital marketers recommend making the bulk of your site’s content text because it’s easier for search engines to crawl, but diversifying your site with other content types will create a richer user experience.
Monitor Your Search Rankings
Keep an eye on your site’s search rankings to gain a better understanding of whether they are increasing or decreasing. You can do this manually by searching for your target keywords, or you can use a tool to automatically track your rankings. Use Google’s Search Console to track your rankings as well as clicks, click-through rates (CTRs), devices, countries and more.
Google Analytics is another great tool to monitor and track your page impressions, popularity, bounce rate and so on. In Analytics you can see what pages your viewers are landing on and their path through your website as well. Armed with this data, you will be able to determine what your top performing pages are and hopefully use them as templates to tailor future posts.
To rank well on SERPs, you need to be aware of how search engine updates are affecting your SEO campaigns. While “black hat” techniques may have been the quick and easy way to higher rankings in the past, search engines have evolved with a “user first” perspective that penalizes those sites. If you put into practice the tips and advice in this article, you’ll see your rank and customer satisfaction rise!