3 Pillars of an Effective SEO Strategy to Help Improve Your Website’s Organic Ranking
Have you ever wondered what factors determine the positioning of sites on search engine results pages (SERPs) such as Google? What causes your competitor’s site to be ranked on the first page while yours is on the second? Or even on the fifth? The elements that can influence your positioning on search engines are numerous. Some of them, such as the algorithms, are even beyond your control.
The good news is that there are a lot of things you can work on to try and improve your organic rankings. This article will outline three search engine optimization (SEO) strategies with the goal of helping you understand what kind of improvements and efforts you can make in an attempt to get closer to position #1 on Google*. Let’s uncover the basis of:
*As Google is the most popular search engine, this article focuses on optimization tips for it. However, note that other search engines, such as Bing, have a similar process when indexing web pages. So by optimizing for Google, you are also optimizing other search engines.
1. Technical SEO: Optimize Your Website’s Architecture And Improve Your Organic Ranking on Search Engines
Technical SEO focuses on improving your site’s performance and architecture. It allows users to navigate through your pages intuitively and without interference. Better user experience due to a great navigation menu usually results in better ranking and in page indexing.
But what exactly should be optimized?
1.1. Optimize the Navigation Menu And Content Hierarchy
Your visitors need to be able to easily find the content they are looking for, whether it’s generic or specific. This means that each page must be accessible from a navigation menu and/or a link in the body of the text. In addition, Internet users must be able to easily return to your home page. A general rule of thumb is to have your logo at the top left of every page and link it to your home page.
Like humans, Google robots that crawl the web use the various links on your site to discover your pages, analyze their content, and index them. If your site architecture is too complex, it will create a bad user experience and make it difficult for robots to crawl and index, which could penalize your positioning.
1.2 Create a SEO-Friendly URL Structure
Yes, URLs are also crawled and analyzed by Google bots. You should definitely take a few seconds to properly structure your links, so that they reflect your content hierarchy. . According to Google’s SEO Getting Started Guide, there are three best practices when it comes to writing a URL:
- Use keywords rather than numbers and IDs;
- Create a simple directory structure;
- Use only one version of the URL to refer to a document. Failure to do so could damage the reputation of the content.
1.3 HTML and XML Sitemaps to Facilitate Navigation
The HTML sitemap is a Web page that acts as a directory by displaying the links to all the pages of your site. This is particularly useful for users, since it allows them to quickly find the information they need. But this also helps robots browse all of your web pages. This sitemap must be clearly structured according to a well-defined hierarchy in order to be profitable to your SEO strategy.
The XML sitemap on the other hand, is created to tell robots which pages of your site should be indexed. In this file, you can also note several other pieces of information for each page, including the date of the last update, the modification frequency, the importance of the page in relation to the others, etc. This allows bots to crawl your content more logically and intelligently and discover your site faster.
1.4 The Integration of a 404 Page and the Management of Error Statuses
In order to offer a good digital experience to your users (and to robots), you will have to pay attention to display errors on your site. Although many possible cases of errors exist, you must ensure that your visitors’ experience is not impacted when these occur. To do so, make sure to display a 404 page when a URL breaks in order to redirect visitors to your home page.
If your page has been updated or merged to another location, you should set up a 301 redirect. This forwards a page permanently to the new URL.
If the errors displayed “temporary”, such as status 500 for server errors and 503 for unavailable service, let the bots know that you are aware of the issue and are working to resolve it through Google Console.
By taking the time to let bots know you’re doing everything in your power to provide a good user experience, you shouldn’t be penalized for errors displayed. This will improve your technical SEO and therefore your positioning on search engines.
1.5. Other Technical Features To Improve Your SEO
Your goal with this SEO strategy should be to optimize for a great user experience. By putting the customer at the centre of your Web development process, you ensure that the robots that crawl your site will also have a good experience. This will reflect on your organic positioning. To assess the technical performance of your site, you can use the Website Grader, a free tool by HubSpot.
2. On-Page SEO: Content Optimization to Help You Rank Organically on Search Engines
On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, consists of optimizing the content of your site for search engines. If you are familiar with SEO, you know the importance of creating content based on the keywords used by your target audiences and their search intent.
A keyword search is used to determine the terms for which you want to position yourself on the Web. It’s a thorough process and must be implemented correctly.
2.1. Defining a Hierarchy in Your Content and Integrating Keywords in Titles
In order to help robots read your content, you will need to include different titles and styles in your text. For example, the main title of your page or article should be defined under an H1 tag, or “Header 1.” The subtitles that follow should be identified with H2, H3, H4 tags, according to the structure of your content.
These headings will allow robots to distinguish the value of each subheading and, as a bonus, it will help your readers to better understand your article. Each heading should have its own style to reflect their importance in the content hierarchy and ensure consistency across your site.
A good SEO practice is to include your main keyword — the one you want to rank for — in the page title, the main header (H1), as well as in the second-level subheadings (H2). This will help robots understand the main topic of the text and analyze it better. However, be mindful when writing your titles and subtitles, you do not want to be keyword stuffing. Include your keyword, yes, but in a way that feels natural for the user.
Here are some best practices to optimize your titles for search engines:
- Place your keyword at the beginning of the title, because the words placed at the beginning of the sentence have more weight for the robots;
- Opt for a title between 55 and 60 characters;
- Insert only one H1 tag per page and as many H2 as necessary;
- Formulate natural text and prioritize user experience over search engine optimization.
2.2 The Meta-Description, an SEO Component Not to be Overlooked
The meta-description is a text element that allows the reader to have a summary of what a web page contains, even before clicking on the link on Google. According to Rebekah May, SEO trainer for Coursera, the meta description does not directly help your site rank on search engines, but it is an element that cannot be overlooked to encourage Internet users to click on your link.
If you don’t write a proper meta description, Google will choose one for you and it might not accurately reflect the content of your text. A good meta description is a sentence of no more than 160 characters that prompts action and includes keywords.
2.3 Content Optimization for Search Engines
The creation of original and quality content is essential for good SEO. Google attributes higher rankings to sites with unique content that add value to readers. So you’ll want to take the time to create something new, informative, and useful.
If your site has little or no unique content or has a large amount of duplicate or even copied content, this can result in poor search engine rankings, even leading to more serious penalties for your business.
When writing your content, several elements must be taken into account to ensure good optimization for search engines:
- In the body of the text, naturally insert the keywords for which you wish to be referenced. Do not hesitate to use synonyms in order to be less repetitive and to reinforce the theme of your article;
- Add images, videos or any other visual to support your text;
- Insert links to other pages on your internal site and to resources outside your company;
- Be sure to create content related to the industry in which you operate. For example, if you are a personal trainer, you may want to write articles about health and fitness to reinforce your site’s theme rather than writing about something unrelated to your industry, even if you are passionate about it.
3. Off-Site SEO: a Strategy Outside of Your Site to Better Rank on Search Engines
Off-site SEO is a strategy that consists of carrying out actions outside your site to improve your positioning on search engines. The objective of this type of SEO is to develop a reputation, or domain authority, so that Google considers you as an expert in your field.
The methods to improve your authority outside your site are numerous. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on two of the most important, namely the implementation of a link acquisition strategy, or backlinks, and the influence of social media on reputation.
First, the backlinks tactic is all about building relationships with companies and individuals in your industry so that they share your content from their website. The more you are cited by quality sites, the more Google will consider you as an expert in your field, and the better your organic positioning will be.
As this backlink strategy is fundamental for good SEO, I wrote a full article on the subject if you want to know more. But for now, know that you should put some effort in place to promote your content so that it gets referenced by other leaders in your industry.
Then you should also develop a bulletproof strategy for your various social networks. When your business is mentioned on a channel or your content is shared by multiple users, it helps build your notoriety, and by extension, your reputation. Some networks are crawled by Google robots, including Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, and can have a significant impact on your organic positioning.
One thing to remember is that SEO work must be done continuously and it can be a long process full of trial and errors. Not to mention, it can be difficult for your team to know where to start.
Do not hesitate to contact us so we can assist you in this process. Our professionals will be able to guide you and make appropriate recommendations based on your business objectives, in addition to ensuring regular follow-up.
Holder of several HubSpot Academy certifications, she uses her expertise to ensure the creation and development of the company's Inbound Marketing strategy.