How to rank higher on Google in 2021: Step-by-step action plan

Organic SEO can bring consistent traffic to your website and create long-lasting results in leads, clients, brand building and revenue.

Is your goal to rank your website higher on Google?

YES?

Then this post is for you!

Organic SEO can bring consistent traffic to your website and create long-lasting results in leads, clients, brand building and revenue.

I prepared a step-by-step action plan to rank your website on Google.

Selling to everyone, is selling to no one!

Search Engine Optimization or SEO

SEO is a process of optimizing your web pages to increase visibility to searches. More visibility results in more traffic and potential clients.

Why is SEO important?

81% of people search for products and services online. Your web pages need to show up at the top of Google listing/ranking to attract these people. Google uses over 200 signals and factors to rank your pages in the lists. To get to the top, you need to optimize your web pages for search engines and more and more for the user experience of its visitors.

How to rank better on Google SERP?

SERP is a Search Engine Results Page. It is the result Google returns after you google a specific term, question or phrase. This is also known as searh query

In the past, Google SERP only offered traditional organic results. Today, Google SERP consists of organic traffic, paid ads, or various rich results also known as SERP features. SERP features or rich results are any additional search result feature that gives extra information to standard search results. These can come in the form of

  • Feature Snippet
  • Local Pack
  • Reviews
  • Sitelinks
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Twitter snippet
  • Knowledge panel
  • Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ
  • Related Questions (People also asked)
  • Flight block
  • Hotel Pack
  • Job Listings

You can test your webpage for rich results here.

Why is the first page of SERP significant?

93% of internet users start their online journey with search engines

75% of people will only choose a result from the first page of Googles’s SERP. Depending on how much traffic you desire, it’s still OK to be on the second page, but the big numbers are at the top.

Is it even possible to get to the first page of Google?

It isn’t easy, but it’s still possible. All that matters is your competition that occupies the top spots. Google the search terms that you want to rank for and research the top websites.

Google is very secretive about ranking the web pages, but few signals tell you right away if you stand a chance.

Does your competition add new content regularly?

How detailed/relevant/recent are the information on the website?

Is the website loading fast?

Does the website have a logical structure?

Are there links between various pages of the website?

Are there outbound links to other authority pages?

If your competition is lacking most of these elements, you have a strong chance of occupying the top spots of Google SERP.

How long does it take to improve your ranking on Google?

SEO is a long-term game that requires persistence and consistency. There are no shortcuts and quick results (unless you pay for ads, but that is for another blog post). John Mueller, a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, stated that it takes months or even a year for the Google algorithm to evaluate your site after any changes. John also said that the ultimate goal for a website is continuous testing and improvement of all SEO aspects.

What is the difference between a website and a webpage?

Webpage

A web page is a single page of your website with a unique URL address. EG: https://webxone.ca/services/web-design

Website

A website is a collection of these web pages under one domain. EG: https://webxone.ca

Create content around the user search intent

User intent is simply the main goal of a person when searching on Google or another search engine. Informational, commercial, navigational and transactional goals are the main types of user intent.

Why is user search intent important to Google?

Google’s primary goal is to satisfy a user by delivering the most accurate and relevant information to search queries.

How to understand user intent?

You need to know everything about your target audience. Have accurate and highly developed buyer personas. Understand their goals and problems. Understand who they are, their values and desires.

Input your search query into Google and investigate the top sites. How does their content meet the search query? The top pages are at the top because they have satisfied the user intent. Try to find common patterns and create content that is better than what you see.

What are the top pages? Blogs? Product pages? Category, landing pages?

What format are they? “How to” guides? Step-by-step tutorials? opinions, reviews, comparisons, case studies?

Don’t be afraid to bring a new format that has something different to offer.

Create great content that people will want to read, talk about and share.

Great content will give a highly valuable, thorough, all-encompassing and relevant answer to user search query.

This is Google’s mission statement: ” to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google’s goal is to give useful information. Google organizes its information according to its usefulness. You need to develop content that aligns with this mission.

Why is great content important for SEO?

If people will read and share your content, Google will think of it as useful. If your content is useful, Google will serve it at the top of its listing.

How to create great content that people will read and share?

  • Create highly expert, relevant, original and detailed content.
  • Create content that has context. Talk about related topics to create deeper content so Google understands what you’re focusing on in your article.
  • Use LSI keywords (Latex Semantic Indexing) or related terms, to write contextually with a deeper meaning.
  • Answer all the questions that your visitors may have.
  • Write content in clusters. Create the main post and multiple sub posts to give more details about a specific topic.
  • Interlink these subtopics in between and with the main post.
  • Link to other high-authority websites to give authority to your content.
  • Create all forms of content. Text, images, videos or infographics.
  • Structure content with headlines.
  • Strategically use keywords in your content.
  • Use the E.A.T. principle when developing content. Expertise, authority and trust.
  • Know your target audience whom you are writing for.
  • Understand the search intent of your reader.
  • Optimize for user intent and the larger picture rather than single keywords.
  • Develop content clusters that are related to each other and the main topic.
  • Back up claims with data and facts.
  • Create long-form content. This will allow you to use more keywords and give more context to your content.
  • Use images, videos, infographics in your content.
  • Align images with your articles.
  • Provide information that people will want to share.
  • Make your content easily shareable with social share buttons.
  • Create a conclusion at the end of the article.
  • Create easily digestible content. Separate each 3-5 lines with space. Create lists or bullet points.
  • Optimize your content for featured snippets.
  • Optimize your content for long-tail keywords.
  • Consider using emotion and storytelling in your content.
  • Write best-of lists.
  • Write case studies.
  • Write in simple language.
  • Use short, easy-to-read sentences.
  • Include your keyword in the first 200 words.
  • Use your keyword 4 times in 1500 words. Be reasonable and use it naturally. You write for people in the first place.
  • Add a cheat sheet to your content. Add a downloadable that will go with your content.
  • Know the intent of your content. Write with a specific goal in mind.
  • Research your competition.
  • Research the format of top ranking content.
  • Focus on one problem/issue/keyword/question.
  • Write about tools.
  • Write about trends.
  • Emphasize location. Clearly indicate city, country, geographical area, famous sites around the place of business.
  • Keep updating your existing content.
  • Write a short introduction.
  • Relate to your readers with emotions. Show your readers empathy and understanding.
  • Don’t use variations of keywords. Google understands that it is the same thing.
  • Use storytelling, metaphors and examples in your text.
  • Create content based on local news/stories or events.
  • Speak directly to your local customers to grab local attention.
  • Create location specific web pages with high quality local content.
  • Crawl and index your new content/webpage after you publish it.
  • Promote your new content/webpage after you publish it.

Optimize your website structure

Website structure defines how your web pages are organized and interlinked in the website hierarchy. Good website structure groups content and helps visitors find information, understand the order and predict patterns based on logical consistency. Structure designed for people will also delight search engines.

Why is website structure important for SEO?

A good website structure increases dwell time and click-through rate, both of which are strong signals for Google to increase the ranking of your website.

Google can reward great structure with sitelinks (image). Sitelinks are additional links to other web pages on your website that show in SERP. These give users the most relevant information and increase your website’s trust and reputation.

Google bots will have an easier job of crawling and indexing your site. I would argue that a bad website structure can doom your SEO efforts.

How to create a good website structure?

  • Plan out the hierarchy of individual web pages to organize your content.
  • Transform this hierarchy to site navigation and URL structure.
  • Make your structure logical and straightforward.
  • Create unique main website categories.
  • Create related subcategories to the main categories.
  • Keep the subcategories balanced, and even if you can.
  • Don’t create more than three levels of depth.
  • Your navigation header/menu should contain all the main categories.
  • Use appropriate anchor text for links to categories and subcategories.
  • Strengthen the website structure by interlinking related subcategories and main categories, effectively creating content clusters.

Use headings (header tags, H1, H2, H3) to structure your pages and posts

Headings are HTML tags, as well as actual headings on your webpage. They give you an idea about what the page is about, how it is structured, and the content of individual sections.

Web pages have six levels of headings, although it is not recommended to go deeper than H3.

Don’t confuse headings and titles. Headings are visible on the webpage and are part of the content. Titles are not.

Why are headings important?

Headings give the text structure and separate the content into several blocks. Giving each part an appropriate keyword-rich heading allows readers to scan the text faster and focus on what they’re interested in. Powerful headings also motivate readers to continue engaging with the text.

Headings allow for accessibility as assisted devices can read and understand them, allowing impaired people to decide if they want to engage with the actual text. User experience and accessibility always support SEO.

Headings increase readability and user experience, which influences SEO.

How to use headings?

  • Provide structure
  • Break up text into readable parts
  • Use keywords in your headings. Don’t stuff them but use them in a natural flow of language.
  • Keep the heading format consistent.
  • The best practice is to limit characters to a title length.
  • Write powerful and engaging headlines that grab the attention of your reader. Remember that 80 cents rule for writing headlines?

Use headings for featured snippets. Create a heading that consists of a long-tail keyword question. Answer it in the paragraph below.

Create headings as bulleted lists to support bullet lists featured snippets.

Perform keyword research

Keywords are the main search terms that you want to rank for. They are the terms that a person is inputting into Google (also known as search queries). Focus keywords describe the content and the topic of your webpage.

There are two basic groups of keywords.

    1. Head keywords are usually one-word terms with high search volume. The initial impulse for the general public is to optimize their webpage for these head keywords. But head keywords have huge competition, and long-established, high-authority websites are usually ranking for them. Can you compete with websites such as Wikipedia? Use these head keywords in your content but don’t optimize for them.
    2. Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases. They have lower search volume but also lower competition. Optimize your content for long-tail keywords.

Why are keywords important for SEO?

Keywords help search engines to define and understand your webpage. Using the keywords in the right places will help Google match your webpage with a specific search query.

How to do keyword research?

  1. Before you start with keyword research, make sure you understand your target audience, goals, and problems. Knowing what your audience is searching for will allow you to use those terms in your keyword research. Focus on one specific problem and research the most relevant keywords.
  2. Use keyword research tools to determine the search volume and competition of your keywords. You can find great tools in this Backlinko article or Neil Patel’s post.
  3. Research your competition to understand what keywords they are using. Type your desired keywords into Google and research the top pages.
  4. Know where your customer is in a buying funnel/circle. You will need to write content for all stages of the buyer’s funnel. Educate, inform, inspire and built interest in your reader before recommending a product. Generate content for awareness, research, comparison and buying stage
  5. Try to rank for topics rather than keywords.
  6. Remember to prioritize low competition keywords but make sure it has some search volume.
  7. Use relevant local keywords or popular search terms in your local region

Important points

  1. Keywords help search engines to understand your webpage.
  2. Understand your target audience before doing keyword research.
  3. Focus on long-tail keywords.
  4. Prioritize low competition keywords.
  5. Make sure your keywords have search volume.
  6. Take advantage of free keyword research tools that offer demo searches for free.
  7. Keyword research is essential for your SEO, and you will need to spend money on it.

Use LSI keywords in your content

LSI keywords or Latent Semantic Indexing are keywords closely related to your focus keyword (they are not synonyms). LSI keywords create a context around your focus keyword.

If “How to make cold brew?” is your focus keyword. LSI keywords would be boiling water, coffee machine, coffee-producing countries, etc.

Contextual articles raise content relevancy, increase the number of people who will find your content and boost the SEO rankings for that article.

Remember that Google wants to understand the context of your page, not just read keywords. Context allows Google to better understand your blog posts and allows it to rank higher.

Why are LSI keywords important?

LSI keywords or Latent Semantic Indexing are keywords closely related to your focus keyword (they are not synonyms). LSI keywords create a context around your focus keyword. If “How to make cold brew?” is your focus keyword.

LSI keywords would be boiling water, coffee machine, coffee-producing countries, etc. Remember that Google wants to understand the context of your page, not just read keywords.

How to find LSI keywords?

Ubersuggest by Neil Patel, Keyword Tool or LSIGraph are a few examples that you can use to generate LSI keywords. You can find more on LSI keyword tools at Brian Deans post on LSI

Use your LSI throughout your content in paragraphs but also in titles, heading tags, alt text. Your goal is to create content with context. Content should give an overall information on the topic rather than a single keyword.

Optimize your content for keywords

Content of your webpage can be text, images, videos or sound, and its purpose is to educate, inform or entertain.

Why is it important?

Keywords in the crucial places give your content more context and help Google understand your whole webpage, and determine if it answers the search query. Keywords will also grab the attention of the readers and assure them to engage with your content.

Where you should include your keywords?

  • URL or webpage address.
  • Title tags of your webpage.
  • Meta description tags.
  • Headings H1, H2, H3
  • First 400 words of your content.
  • Logically and naturally spread your keywords throughout the rest of your text.
  • Image files names.
  • Video files names.
  • Sound files names.
  • Image title attribute.
  • Image alt text that describes the content of an image, helping visually impaired visitors to understand it.
  • Schema markup to add more context to your content.
  • ARIA tags. ARIA tags are a set of attributes that help people with disabilities to interact with web applications through the use of assistive technologies

Important note on keyword usage

Remember that keyword stuffing can get your website penalized, so use keywords in a natural conversational manner. Focus on a topic rather than on separate keywords and create contextual content. Don’t overuse keywords. User Experience is the mantra of Google.

Focus on one keyword per webpage. Google needs to know which keyword/term/focus is most relevant in your article. Don’t let your webpage compete with itself on multiple keywords.

Avoid creating pages with thin content.

Pages with thin content are pages with no relevant content that provides little or no value at all, give no relevant answers and resolve none of the search queries.

Why is thin content bad for SEO?

Thin content causes people to click the back button since they don’t see any relevant answers to their searches. The bounceback is a strong negative signal for Google. On top of that, your brand’s reputation and authority will suffer, and you will lose your potential client’s trust.

What to do to avoid publishing thin content?

Don’t copy/paste content from other websites? Don’t use automated writing tools to create content. Don’t create affiliate pages with no value. Don’t create doorway pages. Create only pages that give your visitors real value, quality and relevant content.

Optimize your website titles

A website title or title tag is an HTML element that specifies the webpage title.

You can find web page titles in 3 places.

  • The most important one is on SERP
  • The browser tab shows your web page title as well.

If you share your webpage through social media, the webpage title will show there too.

Why are web page titles important?

Google uses title tags to determine the page’s topic, which influences your website’s SERP position.

Webpage title importance as a direct SEO factor has diminished. Instead, titles have become a vital UX factor that indirectly influences SEO.

Search engines return a list of results after a person enters a search query. The standard organic results consist of URL, title and meta description.

The title is the first information people will see. They help people determine what your web page is about and its relevance to their search query. Write powerful titles to grab your readers’ attention and compel them to read your content.

How do you write titles that people click on?

You are writing your content for your target audience. Always have their search intent on your mind. Your content should address your audience’s problems and answer their questions. You should align your webpage titles with your content. The titles should clarify what your content is about and address the benefit of reading it.

Write unique, engaging titles for each page of your website. Write in the natural flow of language. Be clear and simple. Remember that clarity is the ultimate goal of all your copy and content writing. Write for people, not search engines.

Place keywords in your title organically and naturally. Place the most important keyword at the beginning of your title. Don’t stuff keywords into your title. It will look unnatural and spammy, and Google might even rewrite your titles.

Write accurate titles relevant to the page content. Titles set certain expectations for the content, so make sure to align them. If people don’t get what the title promised them, they will leave your page quickly, which is a bad signal for Google.

Do you want to get inspired by your competition titles? Input the search term that you want to rank for. Look at the top results and the ad results from the first page and get inspired by their titles.

Important points

  • Know your target audience and what they want.
  • Write for people, not the search engines.
  • Write unique titles for each page.
  • Describe the content with the title.
  • Be clear and simple.
  • State the benefit of reading your content.
  • Use keywords at the beginning.
  • Don’t stuff keywords into your title.
  • Use numbers in titles.
  • Use punctuation in your titles.
  • Write titles between 50-60 characters.
  • Add your brand name to your title at the end.
  • Leverage emotion in titles.
  • Evoke curiosity.
  • Use power words.
  • Use years in your titles.
  • Look at paid ads website titles and get inspired.

Optimize your meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are HTML elements that offer a brief summary of your web page. Think of them as subtitles that provide additional information to your webpage title.

You can see meta descriptions on the SERP even before you click on a website. Meta descriptions are not a direct SEO factor, but user behaviour is. Description strongly contributes to user behaviour.

Why are meta descriptions important?

Meta descriptions and titles are the first pieces of information a person gets about your webpage. They have the power to persuade users to click on your website as well as deter them.

Well-written, engaging, accurate and relevant meta descriptions will increase the traffic to your website. And more visitors means better Google ranking.

How to write persuasive meta descriptions?

Write a description that is appealing and people will want to click on it. Focus on customer experience first. Write a unique and exciting description. Avoid being boring by using an active voice.

Write unique, engaging titles for each page of your website. Write in the natural flow of language. Be clear and simple. Remember that clarity is the ultimate goal of all your copy and content writing. Write for people, not search engines.

Clearly state the benefit and the value of the content. Align the description with the content of your page. Use keywords, but use them in the natural flow of language.

Use structured data, and they might show up in your meta descriptions. Use your brand voice. Include a Call to Action. The official Google length of meta description is 160 characters. Still, experiments have shown that Google might not always trim it if it’s longer.

Focus on user experience rather than length, but state the essential facts in those first 160 characters. Show specifications like price, location, tech specs or manufacturers. Remember that people are most likely looking for something specific.

Get backlinks

Backlinks or inbound links are links from other web pages to your webpage. Links are similar to citations as they reference another source or data. Linking to quality sources gives you more authority but also gives more authority to that source.

Don’t just try to get links from any source. Google understands the differences between backlinks, sources where they’re coming from, position on the page and other factors that influence the strength of the backlinks.

Backlinks should come from authoritative sites, should be relevant and earned with content. Your backlinks shouldn’t be bought or sponsored.

Why are backlinks important?

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors.

Backlinks give your site trusted authority. Trusted authority means a better SERP position.

How to get quality backlinks from authority sites?

  • Analyze your competition with Backlink Analytics Tool from SEMRush
  • Find out what websites link to your competition’s content. Analyze that content and develop better, relevant, up to date and valuable content. You can offer your content to those authoritative websites afterwards.
  • This requires genuine relationship building in your business area, understanding the need of those authoritative web pages and such. The point still stands tho. You need to create content that people will want to read, talk about and share.
  • Look for broken and outdated links from high authority pages and offer new content that you have made on the topic. You are helping them fix their SEO and user experience issues (that broken links are), plus offering suitable alternative content (that you have created). You can find broken links on your website with Ahrefs broken link checker tool.
  • Look for mentions of your brand/company that don’t have links to your website. There may be many mentions of you on blogs, online media or reviews. Use Brand Monitoring Tool to find these mentions. Try to reach out to these people to link to your website. Try to present a benefit of why linking to your content is a good idea.
  • Are you reselling other companies’ products? Reach out to the manufacturer to link to your website. This will help the manufacturer as well.
  • Are you a member of associations? All of them have websites that can link to your website.
  • Promote your specific services or products for other blogs for their “top 10” lists. You get exposure, but you can earn a link to your website as well.
  • Use Backlink Gap Tool to find sites that link to your competitors but not to you. Try to analyze and understand why they link to your competition and try to persuade them to link to you.
  • Promote your brand to create hype and get influencers to talk about you. You can always get links from these kinds of promotions.
  • Use the famous Skyscraper Technique by Brian Dean. Find successful content that has many links. Create better content and try to acquire those links. Promote your content to get attention.
  • Connect with journalists, offer your expertise, and you can create some great link-building opportunities with HARO app.
  • Write a great case study about a product or service. The owners might want to link back to your website.
  • Write content that statistically generates more links. List posts, Infographics, Videos, How to posts, Why posts.
  • Create guides. Detailed, all-encompassing guides that answer all the questions a person might have. Search for topics that have been covered but not in an extensive form. Create an ultimate guide.
  • Establish a term for industry. If it catches on, people will be mentioning it all the time. This has to be something new and unique that doesn’t have a name yet.

Important points

Understand people who should link back to you. Understand their needs and their benefit of why linking to you is a good idea. You need to give them something great. Their appreciation will come in the form of a link.

Have a quality proposition to sell them the idea of linking to you.

Brian Dean of Backlinko advises to send a “feeler email” with the actual content before you ask for a link. Two email sequences have 40% more responses than 16% coming from a one email proposition

Use outbound links

Why are outbound links important?

Linking to another authoritative resource adds more context, credibility, expertise and trust to your information.

You’ll become an expert by linking to expert sources.

Your data and insights become trustworthy if you link to reliable sources.

Links to relevant sources and creating topics help Google to understand your page better.

How to create outbound links?

Make sure to link only to sites that use HTTPS protocol.

Use relevant keywords for anchor text that you use for outbound links. Anchor text should clearly describe the page on the other side of the link.

Create natural outbound links. Don’t force them just for the sake of creating links.

Regularly check and repair broken outbound links.

Check for broken outbound links.

Broken links are links that you established at some point in the past to relevant content. Content on these sites is not there anymore, and your links lead to an error.

Why are broken outbound links bad for your SEO?

Broken links lower your site’s reputation and trust, which might cause people to move to another website. And user signals are a vital SEO factor.

How to find and fix broken links?

Use Chrome extension Check My Links. It will crawl your website and check for broken links. Check My Links will discover both outbound and internal links. If the link wasn’t giving important context to your information, you can remove it. Try to find the new location of the original page. Link to another authoritative source.

Use internal links on your website

Why are internal links important?

Internal links help Google find, crawl and index all pages on your website and spread page authority across your whole website.

Internal links help Google understand the content of individual web pages, structure and hierarchy of your website.

How to use internal links on your website?

  • Use naturally sounding keyword-rich anchor text that gives a clue where your link is pointing.
  • Mix up anchor text for your internal links. Avoid using the exact phrase.
  • Don’t use the exact anchor text for two different pages.
  • Link from pages that already have authority so you can distribute it to other pages on your site.
  • Place internal links to the top of your pages to improve your visitors’ time on your page and prevent them from leaving.
  • Your home page is usually the most authoritative so use it to link strategically to other parts of your site.
  • Link strategically to create content clusters that are logical to read by people and search engines.
  • Don’t link for the sake of it. Ensure that internal links give more context to the original page. Your visitor should benefit from following the links.

Have consistent N.A.P.

N.A.P. stands for name, address and phone number.

Why is N.A.P. important?

If Google finds different contact information for your business across the internet, it evaluates it as unreliable and will lower your ranking.

Consistent N.A.P. creates trust in your business.

How to optimize your SEO for N.A.P?

Display this information visibly on your website as text.

Claim your Google My Business listing and update the correct N.A.P.

Use Google search for your business name to locate incorrect N.A.P. information.

Create business listings off your website and update them with accurate N.A.P.

Optimize your website for mobile devices

The beginnings of the web and the internet are closely connected to desktop computers and laptops. With the introduction of the iPhone, the internet found its way into our mobile devices.

Our computer screens are horizontal and large. Mobile screen devices are vertical and small. Desktops and laptops use wi-fi, but our cellphones use mobile data.

What worked for our desktops is not working for our cell phones. Your website needs to work well on your cellphone as well as your laptop.

Why is it essential to optimize your website for mobiles?

Mobile internet users outranked desktop ones in 2014! 71% of the total online time in the USA is generated on mobile devices.

  • Mobile-friendly sites rank higher on Google search
  • Mobile searches make up majority of Google searches
  • Visitors will leave your website if it’s not mobile friendly
  • Websites get most traffic from mobile devices

Mobile devices and specifically smartphones, have become a primary means of how people access the internet and your website. This has been reflected by Google as well. Google crawls and indexes the mobile version of your site, not the desktop one.

Use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to determine any problems with your website.

Most people will browse your website from their cell phones. Will they have a great user experience when doing so? Will your website load fast? Is it easy to navigate on a small screen? Is it easy to take action like calling you or searching for a product?

Remember that user signals are a strong SEO factor. If your mobile site delights users, it will also delight Google. Having a mobile-friendly website should be one of your primary objectives when developing one.

How to optimize your website for mobile devices?

  1. Build a responsive web design. Responsive design is based on detecting your visitor’s screen size/resolution and adjusting elements to reflect it. You can choose from many responsive themes if you’re building your site on WordPress.
  2. Optimize your website for speed. Mobile devices mostly run on mobile data instead of wi-fi, which makes speed a critical essence. (I talk more on speed optimization below)
  3. Abandon old technology like Java and Flash and get on board with HTML5 for your development.
  4. Understand why your visitors came to your site and optimize it for that purpose. Keep it simple, and build your design to allow your visitor to achieve a specific goal.
  5. Have your call to action clear and easy to access. Most visitors to your website will want to click on the email/call button or order a specific product. Create buttons that easily allow this action.
  6. Develop simple layouts. The small screen size on mobiles doesn’t allow for fancy designs suitable for desktops. Remember the purpose of your site. It’s not for your visitors to look at and admire your website.
  7. Use white space. Make webpage elements separate and let them breathe. Your visitors will notice them quickly when there is nothing else to distract them.
  8. Optimize image size.
  9. Optimize text size.
  10. Don’t use pop-ups on cell phone screen size.
  11. Design for large fingers.
  12. Use schema and aim for rich results. This will help you stand out on the mobile SERP.
  13. Keep the user experience in mind. Create the best possible experience for your visitors. Keep testing and adjusting.

Don’t forget to use Google Mobile-Friendly test to see how Google sees your website.

Optimize your website speed

Page speed is the time it takes a web browser to display your web page after clicking on a link.

Page load time is the time for a webpage to show on a device screen.

Time to the first byte is the time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of information from a web server.

Why is page speed optimization important for SEO?

  • 25% of visitors leave a website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.
  • 46% of people don’t revisit poorly performing websites.
  • 74% of people leave a mobile website if it takes more than 5 seconds to load.
  • 47% of e-commerce clients expect a maximum 2 second loading time.
  • Your page speed impacts user experience, Google ranking, sales, conversions and revenue.
  • Clients don’t want to wait for answers, in your physical store or on your website.

Google is rolling out a Core Web Vitals update: Page Experience algorithm in May 2021. Loading (Largest Contentful Paint), Interactivity (First Input Delay) and Visual Stability (Cumulative Layout Shift) are becoming vital SEO factors.

Page speed has been a strong User Experience factor. As of May 2021, Google will include page experience signals in the Google Search ranking.

How can you test your website speed?

The best way is to use the Google Speed Insights test here

How can you speed up your website?

  1. Optimize your image size before you upload them to your website. Make them as small as possible while still maintaining good quality.
  2. Reduce the number of images to only ones that support your webpage’s written content.
  3. Use image optimization tools/plugins after you upload your images to your website.
  4. Confirm that image dimensions fit into the space that you created for it.
  5. Use browser caching to store website resources locally on user’s computers. The browser won’t have to load them every time a user visits your website. There are various plugins to achieve this goal.
  6. Reduce your code to only what you are using. Note that various visual website builders such as Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, Visual Composer and others are built with a lot of code. These will naturally clog your website with a lot of excess code that you cannot remove, thus slowing down your website. I recommend using WordPress with lightweight themes or a straight-up clean code.
  7. Compress your code with Gzip. Gzip is the standard to locate similar lines of code and replace them. This can reduce the response size by 70%
  8. Minify files. Minification removes everything that is not required for the code to run.
  9. Merge multiple script files into one to reduce the number of calls to the server.
  10. Use a hosting provider that focuses on the performance of their servers.
  11. Remove widgets and plugins that you don’t use. Test your website speed with and without those plugins and determine how much you need them.
  12. Use asynchronous loading to allow the files to load simultaneously.
  13. Defer loading JavaScript files.
  14. Use CDN. CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a global server network that hosts your files in various locations. CDN allows data to be delivered faster.
  15. Host video on external platforms and use links and embeds to place them on your site.
  16. Reduce the use of web fonts. If you have to use fonts, use modern formats WOFF2, include only character sets you use, and choose only the needed styles.
  17. Reduce redirects.

Add schema markup (structured data) to your website

Schema markup is a form of tags added to your HTML to give it more context.

Why is schema markup significant?

A schema describes to search engines what this code means and how it should show it on SERP. Search engines will interpret your HTML code better and display it in search results in the form of rich snippets.

How to use schema markup?

Structured data must truly represent the content of your webpage.

Provide as many markups as possible to allow for the best results.

Each page should have relevant structured data.

Use JSON-LD as the current standard for schema markup.

There are many types of schema that you can use depending on the purpose of your website. Local Business, Restaurant, Book, Movie or Event are few examples of schema use. You can find the complete list and additional information on schema and its use here

Use the Structured Data Markup helper or Schema Markup Generator from Merkle to create the schema for your website

Test your schema in the Rich Results Test.

Identify problems with crawling and indexing your web pages

Crawling is how Google Bot discovers new and updated pages and adds them to the Google index. Google Bot processes all the crawled pages to compile a vast index of all the web pages’ words and their location on specific pages. Google then searches these indexes after people have submitted a search query to return the most relevant result.

Why is this important?

If Google doesn’t crawl or index your pages, it cannot show them in the SERP.

How to make sure that Google crawls and indexes your pages?

Login to your Google Search Console. Add your website as property and verify it. You can find common verification methods here

Submit an XML sitemap to the Google Search Console.

Monitor the Index Coverage report and fix any crawling and indexing issues.

Use Screaming Frog tool to identify SEO problems

Secure your site with HTTPS

HTTPS is a secure communication protocol that replaced insecure HTTP. Security has always been a priority for Google. To force web admins to switch to HTTPS, Google announced in 2014 that HTTPS would be an SEO ranking factor. For security, trustworthy or SEO reasons, an HTTPS swap is a must for your website. The encrypted communications channel is using SSL protocol or a newer TLS protocol.

How to switch to HTTPS protocol?

The easiest way is to contact your hosting provider and ask them to transfer you to HTTPS.

Purchase a SSL or TLS certificate.

Fix the duplicate content issue and define canonical pages

Duplicate pages may happen in e-commerce stores when you have a product that is attached to multiple categories. The canonical tag tells Google which page to index and rank.

Why is avoiding duplicate content important

If Google doesn’t know which one of the similar pages to index and rank, both versions of a page suffer. It is up to you to tell Google which one is a master page by giving it a canonical tag.

How to implement canonical tags.

There are multiple standard methods to use canonical tags.

  • Setting rel=”canonical” HTML tags
  • Setting rel=”canonical” in HTTP headers
  • Using sitemaps to set canonical
  • Using 301 redirects to divert traffic to the master version

Have a look at official Google documentation for best practices.

Add Frequently Asked Questions to your web pages.

Frequently Asked Questions answer the common questions that a client might have to a business.

Why is having FAQ important?

By answering questions, you’re showing your necessary expertise to become an authority. Authority generates trust, and trust generates sales. Answering questions about your industry gives you legitimacy and professionality.

You build stronger relationships by being transparent and addressing any questions beforehand.

Frequently asked questions are an excellent opportunity to leverage voice search and appear as a featured snippet. You ask and answer specific questions that people ask on Google. Featured snippet or voice search optimization can give your brand or business an excellent opportunity for exposure and traffic.

How to create FAQ?

  • 66% of adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing that business can provide. You cannot be available 24/7. Having a FAQ is the second-best thing to create a delightful user experience.
  • Take advantage of answering clients’ negative points and perceptions and prove that your brand has a solution.
  • Understand your customers and their real problems and answer them.
  • Answer questions that people have asked you before.
  • Answer in simple and straightforward language. Use words “You” and “I”.
  • Are you reselling other companies’ products? Reach out to the manufacturer to link to your website. This will help the manufacturer as well.
  • Are you a member of associations? All of them have websites that can link to your website.
  • Use examples and images to illustrate your solution to a question better.
  • Allow people to rate the usefulness of your answers.
  • Have navigation that allows people to access your FAQ.
  • Have a search box for people to ask those questions as well.
  • FAQ presents an opportunity for interlinking your answers with the products and services you offer.
  • Have a clear CTA. FAQ might have been the last thing your client needed to see before buying your product.

Implement hreflang if your website is available in more than one language

Hreflang is an attribute specifying language that Google should use for specific pages.

Why is this important?

You can serve your global visitors a proper language version of your site and prevent users from bouncing off.

When to use hreflang tag?

Google should generally recognize what language to serve but there are certain examples where setting up hreflang isa good idea.

If your main content is one language but your header, navigation and footer have language variations.

If your content has regional variations even though it is served in single language.

If your site is fully translated into multiple languages.

How to set up hreflang

Best way is to follow Google documentation here

Check and optimize your 404 page

404 is a page that gets displayed when someone is trying to access a non-existent page on your website.

It’s a HTTP code displayed when the server cannot locate a desired web page.

Why should you have an optimized 404 page?

Your visitors might abandon your website completely if they see a standard “not found” page without any direction on what to do next.

404 error page can have a clear link to a page where your visitors should have ended up, thus keeping them on your site.

Even 404 error page can be optimized to represent your brand identity and create a positive association.

Branded 404 error page can create a positive user experience by positive visuals and linking to other parts of your website.

How to optimize your 404 page?

Create a visually attractive branded 404 page with memorable messaging that will leave a positive impression.

Insert a search box into the 404 page so your visitors might search for what they need.

Offer a lead magnet and capture your visitor’s email.

Offer a coupon with a pop-up when your visitors intend to close the web page entirely.

Direct your visitor to another page on your website like home page or product pages. You can use simple navigation or a single link.

Additional Tips

Embed Google Map to your website. Increase the user experience of your visitors by showing them the location of your business directly from your site. Google maps give your visitors a quick directions to your business. Your business contact information like address, phone number, reviews or directions are embedded on the map and easy to find. Google maps show nearby points of interest making it easier for them to find your business.

Clean up pages that are not relevant to your website. Category pages, archive pages, search results pages, old pages or pages with thin content.

Get your web pages/services to relevant listings and encourage your clients to leave reviews on those listings. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Airbnb. Optimize your listing accounts into relevant categories.

Create specific landing pages for your business.

Study Google primary sources on SEO.

If you’re building your site in WordPress, make sure that you have your visibility turned on. Go to settings and reading and make sure that the Search engine visibility box is UN-CHECKED.

Conclusion

SEO is a long-term strategy, so be ready to wait a few months to see some results. A long-term strategy also means long-term effects so keep consistently making your website better.

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