The Insider Guide to SEO in 2021
It is important to get the basics right when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization, which is getting a search engine to show the link to your page or website at the top of the search results when a user searches for something related to you or your business.
ADOPT AN SEO STRATEGY
You need to have a SEO strategy in place, because while quick-fixes can get you onto the first page of Google search results, staying there calls for a more sustained effort.
Here are a few things you should pay attention to.
White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO
White hat SEO is about optimizing your content for users, while black hat SEO is about optimizing your pages for search engines. The latter involves keyword stuffing and invisible text, which is easy to achieve when the font color and the background color are the same. This might work for the short term, but as the search algorithm changes, it could lead to the page being banned from the search results entirely.
Always focus on the long-term approach. Label your images, use alt text for the visually impaired, have clean and structured HTML code for your page, link out to respected and reliable sources – there is so much you could do to stay on top of the game.
There are still a few gray areas. Google doesn’t approve of link building to improve SEO, yet backlinking to your website or page with the purpose of improving your brand’s corporate image and/or driving verified user traffic works great for SEO. So the intention behind guest posting pretty much matters. And because Google is getting better at what it does every day, guest posting done right can do wonders. This is where you should get a reputed SEO agency to help you with your SEO.
On and Off-Page SEO
It is not about choosing one over the other. You need to have both done masterfully. Only a great SEO agency adept at its craft – SEO – can do this for you in a tasteful manner that improves your search engine rankings.
What exactly is off-page SEO and on-page SEO?
Off-page SEO is about backlinking to your website. In other words, it is about manicuring the lawn and creating a great front yard that invites people to come into your house. But once inside the house, what do people do? Do they leave immediately, disappointed at the state of affairs, or do they stay, exploring other rooms in the house? This is what on-page SEO is about.
If people leave immediately after coming to your website, leaving the page they landed on without exploring other pages that is considered a bounce. And the higher your bounce rate, the worse it is for your search engine rankings.
It was Bill Gates who said that content is king. And believe it or not, he made this prediction in 1996, long before Google arrived on the scene. It still holds true, and you need to make sure that everything on your site is informative, not great copywriting. Because Google’s searchers are looking for information, not advertising. And 75% of all searchers use Google.
Let us say somebody was looking for information about something related to CrossFit. You provide a well-researched article, the user consumes the content on the page, and leaves without looking at anything else. Is that bounce good or bad for SEO? Google knows this is a possibility, so it looks at the amount of time a user spent on the page before leaving. And that alone outranks the bounce rate. Most news portals, which are highly-ranked, often have a high bounce rate. Users are interested in checking out the news they are interested in. The amount of time they spend on the page is proof that the content – and by extension, the page – deserves to be highly ranked.
The bottomline is, the interiors of your house need to be as appealing and impressive as its exteriors. On-page SEO and off-page SEO work in conjunction with each other. Together, they deliver a powerful punch that knocks the lights out of the competition.
How to Improve SEO?
There are ways you can improve on-page SEO. One of the most common ways is by doing your keyword research right. Find out what exactly your target audience is searching for, and optimize your content for these searches. For example, if you are a seller of enterprise resource planning software, very few customers are actually going to be entering in that long-tail keyword or even the term ERP. You have a greater chance of connecting with potential customers if you use simpler terms like accounting software or logistics software.
And then there is the problem with too much traffic and few conversions. The point of SEO after all is to improve business, so if you ranked highly for “free t-shirt” but in reality was running a “Buy One, Get Another One Free” promotional offer, you end up attracting the wrong kind of visitors. Most people visiting your page would be those looking for free stuff and the high bounce rate has the opposite effect of driving down your website’s search engine rankings over the long-term.
There are tools which help you determine the right keywords for your page. Long-tail keywords like “blue polo t-shirt” are more restrictive than “t-shirt” or “polo t-shirt” but by ranking highly for these long-tail keywords, you can attract users who are specifically looking for blue polo t-shirts and have a greater degree of confidence in a sale.
You could also look at your more highly-ranked competitors to see what keywords they are ranking for, and use the same keywords if applicable. 67% of all clicks happen for the first five search results, so by getting an experienced SEO agency on your side, you could rank higher than your competitors. This is highly recommended if you are unsure of how exactly to use keyword research tools, or how to optimize your content for the keywords thrown up by these tools.
There is also a difference between singular and plural forms of the keywords
Google knows that when someone is searching for say, “undergraduate degrees in London”, he/she is more likely to be looking for a comparison of various undergraduate degree courses. However, when someone searches for “undergraduate degree in London”, he/she is often looking for the best course. So when you are optimizing your content for search engines, be sure to attract the right kind of user traffic.
Who exactly are your searchers?
This is an interesting way to improve conversions. There are tools which let you know what exactly those searching for a particular term do. For example, those searching for “best email marketing solution” are a mixture of small businesses, B2B users, startups, and WordPress users. Those who are B2B users and venture capital-backed startups obviously would have more money to spare than small businesses, so if yours is a premium offering, you need to target the keywords that B2B users search more of.
A good SEO company can help unearth hidden insights like these and ensure more bang for your buck when it comes to your SEO strategy.
Now let us get a bit technical.
The title is basically the headline in the Google search results. The meta is about 150-160 characters long (it could also be less) and appears below the main headline in the search results. If you are familiar with HTML, you can indulge in a bit of copywriting to make the title and the meta appealing enough for someone to click on. Even if you are not familiar with HTML or are using a template for your website, there should be a website editor that allows you add the title and meta.
In case there is no meta, Google scans the page and reproduces some 140-160 characters from the text as a Featured Snippet. So if there is no way for you to add a meta, have a description (about 140-160 characters long) in the content that captures the essence of the information on the page.
There is a difference between HTTP and HTTPS, the latter stands for HTTP Secure. In short, an HTTPS site is a secure website. And upgrading from an HTTP site to an HTTPS site requires you to get an SSL certificate, which costs just $5 or so.
Secure websites are ranked more highly than non-secure website. There is more – even if one clicks on a non-secure link that appears in the search results, most browsers display a warning that the user is being redirected to a non-secure site. This warning message is enough to make most people second guess their decision, and you subsequently see very limited traffic from daring users.
Google ranks websites with updated content more highly than websites or pages with dated content. One way to see to it that your website appears to have updated content on it is by having a blog section, and updating this section regularly.
But this is also where a potential pitfall lies. Some update their blog page according to a timetable, and not because they have anything useful to add. Google pays attention to quality over quantity. You should update your blog section only when you have something useful and informative enough to contribute.
One top-ranked blogger has written just 30 articles over two years. Yet he remains at the top of the rankings for his niche because he updates his existing blogs with fresh content. This is another technique you could try if you are running short of content ideas for your business blog.
This is basically what SEO is all about. Searchers are often looking for information or something else, and the better of a user experience you can provide them, the stronger your chances of moving up in the search rankings. Google SERP (Search Engine Ranking Pages) is about which link provides the user with the best User Experience or UX, customized to his/her needs.
Which is why you shouldn’t squander an opportunity to make your website mobile-friendly. 50% of the world’s internet access happens on mobile devices, and if your website can render correctly on a mobile device and provide enough of an engaging experience, it will be ranked higher.
Another technical factor is page speed. If a page takes too long to load, users are more likely than not to leave and go to another website where the page loads faster.
There are tools you can try out to determine exactly how long your page takes to load. The shorter it is, the better.
One way of improving page load speeds is by making use of a CDN or Content Delivery Network. Not only do they improve the page load speeds by serving requests from the server closest to the user, they also compress High-Definition images by as much as 64% to improve on this aspect. And their compression algorithm is based on the question “By how much can I compress this image so that there is no visible loss of quality?”. This means that they look at the hardware’s rendering capabilities – there is no need to display a 4096-pixel image in the same resolution on the average smartphone.
The user experience is greatly improved, so CDNs are becoming more popular these days.
20% of all searches are voice-activated these days, so Alexa, Siri, or Google just might pick your website when someone queries for something related. If it has been optimized for voice search, that is.
When someone searches for “pizza”, they are definitely not going to be ordering from a Pizza Hut location hundreds of miles away from them. They are looking for something local, and if your website is optimized for local search, the chances are greater that someone near you will find your brand and buy from you.
If you offer say, product design services, and you have no qualms if your clients are located in another country, go international. Think about which markets you would like to target – would you be interested in France, for instance? If yes, then having a French website can get native French-speakers to connect with you – your French website will be ranked higher by Google France than your English website.
But Google also knows when you use a translation tool, so if you are doing this, get a professional French translator to do the job for you. There are finer nuances of the language, such as grammar, that translation tools often fail to capture when doing a word-by-word translation.
The thing about social media is that it consists entirely of verified users. And so, traffic from social media platforms is valued more highly than traffic from search engines, as bots can now be programmed to enter queries in search engines. So traffic redirected from search engines may not necessarily be that of real users, and search engines have woken up to this fact.
Publishing links of your website on social media pages and driving verified user traffic from there should be a part of your SEO strategy. If you are not sure which links would be the most engaging to post, a good SEO company can help. It can actually make the content on your page(s) engaging, and customized for the right kind of target audience.
Instagram users, for example, prefer more images to text, while Facebook users prefer it the other way around. Twitter users are looking for a short amount of text accompanied by infographics or images that convey information. Decision-makers on LinkedIn do not usually have the time to read long articles or look at several images, so the content must be customized to their preferences. A good SEO company can help you out with this part.
When you are getting backlinks, make sure they appear on trustworthy sites. Google assigns a PageRank to every site, and if the site that the link to your website is appearing on is ranked lower than yours, it won’t help your own PageRank or search engine rankings.
Need Professional Assistance?
If you think paying attention to everything that has been outlined above is a bit beyond your personal capabilities, it might be a good idea to call in the experts. HelloPixels is an Abu-Dhabi-based SEO agency that has named among the Top SEO Companies in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as being included in the list of Top B2B Website Design Companies in the world.
A network of offices in Dubai and throughout the United Arab Emirates helps HelloPixels to serve its overseas clients better. It was recently listed as among the Top Ecommerce Development Companies in the Middle East.
HelloPixels currently has a client satisfaction rate of 98% and aims to do even better. With a team of 50+ staff that includes SEO and SEM experts, digital marketing professionals, UX designers, web developers, social media managers and content creators, HelloPixels strives to continually push the envelope in all that it does.