How are you finding new products and services to help you fix problems that you’re experiencing right now in your daily life? A high probability that everything starts by searching the web.
Being able to get found online via search engines are essential for any successful website. Search engines, however, would like to know what your site and your content are all about. People are having a problem or a question, and they are searching for an answer.
For you as a website owner, your goal is to create a helpful piece of content that answers those questions in the best way possible.
At its core that is what SEO is all about. Someone has a question, they are searching for a solution, and you can supply the answer to their problems.
For example, you could search for “lead generation”, when you want to generate more leads for your company.
In the picture above you can quickly see related search terms of people seeking to get more leads and the associated costs (CPC) of 28.09 dollars. As a result, you can understand why organically showing up in search results is vital for any business.
Earlier we defined the definition for Content Marketing:
Content marketing is just solving the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote.
Getting found online starts by defining what the problems are that you’re trying to fix with your business. Before you can start with optimising your website for SEO purposes, you first need to define the search terms related to the problems that you’re solving.
Thankfully, you’re not alone in this, and there are plenty of tools out there who can help you:
- SEMRush (the paid version is, of course, better than the free version, but the free version is enough to get you started)
- Keywordtool.io (Google Suggest)
- Keyword planner of Google Adwords
Now that we know what the search terms are that we as a company want to rank for, it’s time to start optimising your website!
#1 Determine the difficulty level to rank for your keywords
To be able to identify the quick wins for your site, it is a good practice to determine the difficulty level of ranking for the search terms you defined. Some words have a higher competitor level, there are a lot of companies trying to rank for those words on the first page of Google and results are not easy to get on a short-term basis.
SEMRush is a great tool for this because you can quickly identify how difficult it is to rank for certain keywords.
Of course, this should not mean that you should not try to pursue the more challenging keywords, the results for you as a starting business, however, are slim that you will succeed quickly. It is something to keep in the back of your mind though. As soon as your website authority start to grow and you’re getting more and more related valuable content it will be much easier to start ranking for these.
To start your SEO efforts, it is best to start with the “low-hanging fruit”.
Identify related search terms that are relevant to your industry and focus on these keywords or topics to start building your first content.
#2 Semantic search (Latent Semantic Indexing)
Of course, every person is different and although most people might use the same words like you to find answers to their problems. For each search term, there are always different variations or synonyms people are using. Google is very sophisticated in not just seeing what you’re searching for, but also the deeper meaning and what you’re searching for.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a mathematical method used to determine the relationship between terms and concepts in content. The contents of a web page are crawled by Google (or Bing), and the most common words and phrases are collated and identified as the keywords for the page.
LSI looks for synonyms related to the title of your page. For example, if the title of your page were “Classic Cars”, the search engine would expect to find words relating to that subject in the content of the page as well, i.e. “collectors”, “automobile”, “Bentley”, “Austin” and “car auctions”.
Focusing on these LSI search terms can make a big difference for your company. Most of the times indeed people are searching for the most common search terms, but because most people are doing this, it means it is also easier to rank for these LSI terms.
Finding these LSI terms is pretty straightforward. Let’s stick to our example of “lead generation”. If you go to LSIgraph or the online thesaurus, you can easily find words that have a lot lower competition than your more keywords.
Of course, the search volume for these words are lower, but ranking on a number one position for these words could still bring in lots of traffic.
#3 More visitors with better meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are short snippets of code on your website that tells Google where your content is about. These meta descriptions technically need to be in the top part of your code (in between the “head” tags and are critical.
Why are they so important?
Because they are being used for the small little snippets, you see when searching online. You can see this as a small little piece of copy that can help lure the person searching to click through to your website. In it, you can tell, what the benefit of your content is about, how you’re going to solve the problem they are searching for, etc.
Although adding stuff to the code of your website might sound scary, there are a lot of good SEO plugins available for WordPress that are there to help you out. Our favourite is Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO gives you the option to edit this meta description for each post and page. It even gives you a preview of how it would like if people saw your page appearing in Google:
Don’t forget to do this exercise not only for your posts but also for the pages you have on your site. If you know how to operate the Google Search Console, you can even identify which pages have a low Click Through Rate (CTR) and try to optimise the description for these pages.
Important to know if you’re going to optimise your meta descriptions (and page title):
- Put the search terms as early as possible in your copy
- The title of a page should not be more than 70 characters long
- Try to seduce the people with good copy to help them click through
- The meta description itself can’t be longer than 156 characters
- Include your primary keyword in the meta description
- Just like with your title try to seduce people enough to click through
Just this little bit of work can already make a big difference when people see your content in their search results. Spend some time on this and make it count.
#4 Focus on the visitor
Average content is not going to help move the needle to attract more visitors. Over the last couple of years, Google and other search engines became better in recognising content that helps the person looking for an answer. They use things like bounce rate etc., to determine how well the answer to the question was received.
But what makes valuable content?
If we go back to the start, think of the problem that you’re trying to solve. Someone is having a problem and is actively searching for a solution.
You present that solution with content.
The most important with the creation of the content though is to focus on the visitor and not Google. When you fully optimise an article just for Google, it is not valuable anymore to the visitor trying to fix their problem. Google start to understand this better and better every year.
The best way to do this is to optimise your titles and subtitles for search terms but make everything as natural and easily readable as possible. To give you an example, which of the following two reads more natural?
- 42 SEO tips to increase the visitors on your blog
- The best 42 SEO search engine optimisation tips for more visitors on your website and blog
#5 Choose the correct search terms
Of course, it is important to have your primary search term in your title and URL of your content; this is what we would like to call strategically placing of your search term.
Next, to that, you’re making sure that your pictures have the correct search terms in their descriptions and alt-copy. This is what they call on-page SEO and isn’t that difficult (when uploading a visual on WordPress you can do this straight after uploading, or otherwise you can edit this for all individual images by going to media > library in the backend).
The follow-up step into optimising your content is by using that same Google tools (like Adwords Planner) or SEMrush to look for relevant related keywords you can add to your content. You can add these in subtitles to make sure there is enough variation in your content.
Of course, looking at the previous tip, always focus on the visitor. Don’t go spamming your related keywords throughout the entire piece of content, making it barely readable anymore.
For this article we’re looking to rank for the search terms “SEO tips”, and that is our primary search term. But as you can see we’ve got different related subtitles, optimised around the topic to make the content flow naturally and make it more readable.
Try to always find a balance in this, but in the end, you want to start ranking for as much related search terms and different search terms on your website as possible.
In every market there is a potential of a lot of search volume, the key is to finding the correct words for your niche and start ranking for them by providing relevant content.
#6 Stop counting words
How many words does an article need to be for it to start ranking on that first page of Google? A question often asked. But the best answer to that question is a very simple one:
As long as is needed
Some people can get their message across in 500 characters or less. Seth Godin is a master at writing this kind of content. Other people produce content that is on average 2.000 words like our content at Inbound Rocket.
But of course, though you want to be able to rank in the end. A trend we’ve been seeing growing more and more important in that sense is the ability to create “Skyscraper Content”, content that is ten times better, longer, more in depth than anything out there to outrank all competition.
Skyscraper content is content that even though it is longer in form, every part of it is still relevant. Don’t try to create longer form articles just for the sake of it and try stuff it up with as much filler words as possible. Going back to point four, focus on the visitor and the relevance they are getting out of it.
Think of it as writing a paper in high school, the paper can be very long but if it misses depth, structure, etc. you still will only get a C. With a piece of content that is rated as a C, you end up with not that much visitor. Always try to go for the best you can do.
#7 User Experience is key!
Focusing on the reader does not end with the content alone. A big part of the experience has a lot to do with a positive user experience in general. That is why search engines are taking the overall user experience into a bigger and bigger consideration.
A big part of SEO is how a visitor perceives the content and how it is presented, think of:
- Give a clear answer to their problem
- Clear language
- Designed from a mobile first perspective
- Fast loading times, people don’t like to wait
- Beautiful pictures
- Different ways of interacting (think of comments, social media, interactive content)
- Internal link / related articles
- Call-To-Action’s(CTA), the possibilities to take the next step, solving the problem
For a search engine, it is crucial that the consumer of the content has a positive experience.
Think of it like this, when someone searches for “SEO Tips” and the first article he or she clicks on is below average, there is no answer to the question. This person will then immediately click back to the search results, and the search engine did not do a good job.
If this happens too often, this person will start to look for alternative search engines because the one he or she uses is not given him what he or she wants.
#8 Focus on unique content
In the marketing, lead generation space there is A LOT OF content, and a lot of the same topics are being discussed. There are other niches where the same is happening, think of health and fitness for example. Most websites don’t have that much of a differentiating experience.
Something that is even for us a challenge sometimes. So how can you differentiate yourself from the rest? We try this with our content to focus on the small businesses struggling, trying to find their way in this immersive landscape of trying to survive online and get concrete business results out of it.
So how can you create unique content? Unique content is more than just using some different words than your competitor. Unique content is trying to deliver that extra piece of value in an already crowded space. Look at your competitors, which questions are they trying to answer with their content? And which questions are left unanswered? How can you do it better? Different? With another angle?
As you might imagine, there is already a lot of content online about SEO, with this piece of content we’re trying to focus on the more global picture. So you can understand what the core of SEO is all about. And that it’s not about particular technical wizardry but that even you without that technical background can start implementing it and optimising your website for more traffic and more leads.
#9 Clear structure
A great piece of content is understandable for different types of readers. The different skill level of users makes them consume content in a variety of ways. These different ways are called “learning channels”. If you want your content to be truly valuable, you’re making use of these learning channels. For example:
- traditional readers that read the entire article (less and less people)
- scanners, people that read most headlines and some relevant parts to them
- people who need picture, video and audio to help them understand the material
What is your favourite way of consuming content? What is your learning channel? Do you read entire pieces of content, or are you just skimming bits and pieces and get the gist out of it like that?
The attention span of people is getting smaller and smaller, and there is ever more distraction. As a result, more and more people are just skimming through content to try to get the answer to their question. You would need to start adapting your content to this type of behaviour if you did not already do so.
We try to use different subtitles, enough spacing in between the fonts, some pictures and a video if needed to make everything visually attractive. Trying to create infographics from your content, or an audio version so people can listen to it while they commute are different ways to try to capture the attention of people and having them consume your content. That brings us to our next point.
#10 Boosting content with visuals
People love beautiful pictures. A trend that has been growing over the last couple of years. Where ten years ago you could just take a random stock photo and put it next to your piece of content. People are demanding better quality visuals now. Some companies who got the time and resources are even creating their own stock photo’s or in the case of MailChimp, animated gifs.
For smaller companies it still pretty easy to get better quality visuals. Sites like TheStocks are helping us for example with high-quality royalty free visuals for our articles. But also tools like Canva are there to help you easily create your content, without you having to invest lots of money in expensive software licenses. Some of the templates we created for previous articles are created using Keynote for example.
Concerning SEO, there is a lot you can do with visuals as well. Although Google is on its way to start understanding the contents of a visual by just looking at it, we’re not fully there yet. So how can you optimise your images for SEO?
To help search engines to better understand your visuals and having them appear in Google Image Search you can do a couple of things:
- the filename of your visual contains a search term
- include alt copy for each visual when uploading
For example, a visual included in this article could have the file name “13_SEO_tips.png” and the alt tag “13 SEO Tips”.
Going back to point seven. User Experience is key though. You can create beautiful visuals, but if the file size is too big, they are slowing down your website. Within WordPress there are two simple things you can do for free to improve the experience around visuals:
- The “Compress JPEG & PNG images” plugin automatically optimises the file size of the visuals you upload
- If you install JetPack for WordPress, you can enable “Photon”, by activating Photon, your visuals will be hosted for free on the CDN of WordPress. Especially if you have a cheaper hosting that might result in longer loading times, having your images served from the CDN of WordPress can give you an enormous boost in speed.
#11 Internal linking
If there is one thing that will make a significant impact on your SEO, it is internal linking. Just like a lot of the previous items, this has a lot to do with the user experience (do you start to notice a broader theme here?). If people continue to stay on your website by going from one link to another, it signifies that your site showed them the correct answers to their questions.
For a search engine, it is important to understand the relation between the different pieces of content on your website, to better understand the site as well.
One of the great examples of internal linking is Wikipedia. They got so much different content, and are having such a great internal linking structure that you as a reader can easily go from one piece of content to another and gets sucked into their website.
Let’s say I created a piece of content about creating Buyer Personas as part of your marketing strategy to better define to whom you’re targeting your content. If I then create a broader piece about creating a Content Marketing strategy, it is logical to create a link to that original article. By linking to relevant articles that give a lot of value to the reader, you make it easier for them to stay on your website, just like with Wikipedia.
That is the core of internal linking.
Another advantage of creating internal links is that you can control which articles are more relevant than others. By continuously linking to them, you show the importance of these pieces of content to search engines.
#12 Content Promotion
After you finished creating a new piece of content, what do you next? Are you just going to leave it there waiting for people and search engines to show up?
Of course not, you need to promote your content from the moment you put it live. From Social Media to email. Let the world know that you created a new piece of content that is worthwhile for them to read, enjoy and even share.
The more people share it, the better this will start to help rank your content in the different search engines as well. For a relatively small budget, you can use a service like Quuu promote to help spread your content to via the relevant people already sharing the same types of content to a willing audience.
Another easy and cheap way is Facebook; there are very sophisticated targeting options within Facebook to make sure that the audience that could be interested in your content get your content in their feed.
Boost your content, don’t be afraid to invest (little bits) into it, after all, you spend so much time producing it that it would be a terrible thing if nobody would consume it.
#13 Consistency is how you win the game
Our last tip and probably the most important one is to go for consistency, not perfection. It is in human nature to make a mistake now and then, and people might correct you for this in the comments of your content. But make a small mistake and later adapting is, is still a lot better than not having any new content at all.
Or as Gary Vaynerchuck says “One Is Greater Than Zero.”
The internet is a very fast moving medium, and the websites that keep on producing fresh, interesting content are the ones that are ranking on the top of the search results. Merely because they are the most valuable.
Of course, producing content might feel more natural for one person or company than for another person or business, but don’t let fear of failure hold you down. Don’t think to yourself: “I’m not going to publish an article about XYZ because there is already so much content written about that”. Or “I’m not going to post an article about XYZ because this is such common knowledge everyone knows this”.
Think of it like this, the moment you first walked into University you did not know anything. You did not know the location of the library, the toilets, which professor to talk to about which subject. It was all new. Four years later, these things seem so natural to you and your peers. That makes you think that since all the people around you know these things, everyone must have that knowledge. Completely forgetting that moment when you first arrived at University.
The internet is like your University, but instead of new people arriving only once per year. New people are arriving every day, every minute and they are all searching for a potential solution to their problems.
It is your job to be there for them. To give these new arrivals with the best experience and to provide them with the easiest access to help them fix their problems. If you do that, and you keep on consistently deliver them great value your ranking will go up, and you will start to see a return on your efforts.
The above thirteen-point checklist may not include everything a person could know about SEO, but by just following the above tips, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition and will likely see your posts get significant SEO traffic.
If you read all the tips carefully, then you will notice that thinking like a human being, looking at your content not through the eyes of a search engine robot, but through the eyes of someone looking for help is already the first and biggest step you can take.
Did you discover some new SEO tips that you hadn’t seen before? If so which one? Did you miss anything that could greatly benefit the other people reading this article as well? Drop a comment below and let us know!