There’s nothing easy about getting your content noticed in a place where literally everyone is creating something new every week. Your competitors seldom take a day off, and every single day you have to get your content out there and get your page ranking higher in Google searches.
The internet is basically just a big claw machine, with a rotation of players with an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s. If what you’re offering doesn’t attract their attention right away – bounce – they’re gone, and on to the better-looking things in the pile.
What happens when you put the content out there, diligently and consistently, and your site still doesn’t rank? There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been spinning your tires and never gaining any traction.
Why High Page Ranking on Google is So Critical
While Google rankings aren’t everything, search engine users are a major driver of traffic. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google has become the driving force behind audience growth and revenue potential for everything from e-commerce sites to blogs.
If your page isn’t ranking well in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), then you’re missing out on a massive chunk of audience that could absolutely be a game-changer.
If people can’t find your website with a Google search, you’re going to be forever relegated to building your audience the hard way – through networking, advertising, and cross promotion. It’s labor-intensive, it’s often very expensive, and it’s not going to pay off nearly as much as just being on the first page of the search engine results.
Why Your Site Isn’t Ranking
So what’s the deal – why isn’t your site ranking?
The answer is never simple, but the culprit is usually a combination of SEO errors and poor content. Content is king, but even high quality, organic content is a massive factor in good SEO practices.
If you’re not paying attention to the basics, keeping your content focused, or engaging in good linking practices, your site won’t just stay off the SERPs – it might even get penalized by Google’s algorithms.
Bringing Your Site’s SERP Rankings Up
It’s time to stop just mindlessly posting content, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. Your competition is going to try harder than that, so you can bet you’re going to have to as well. Don’t be a punk and rig the game, but don’t count on the raw awesomeness of your content landing you on the top SERPs either.
Here are some basic SEO practices that you can start incorporating into your strategy TODAY, and make that editorial calendar of yours actually work.
#1 – Make Your Content Relevant to Your Target Audience
All too often, we get so caught up in the brainstorming and content creation aspect of running our sites, that we forget who we’re talking to. If you’re not tailoring your tone and content for your target audience, they’re not going to stick around.
Spend some time getting to know your target audience and their interests. What kinds of problems do they have? How do they typically speak? What is their age range?
Just like you likely wouldn’t speak to a college professor the same way you’d speak to a friend in a bar, you need to customize your voice and subject matter for the people you’re trying to reach. It’ll keep them around, and keep them engaged with your site.
#2 – Create Actionable Content
All too often, blogs are publishing content that really doesn’t do anything for the reader. In the content creation community, we know what’s up – those people are just writing for the sake of their posting frequency, and not actually to add value for their readers.
Whenever you write something for your blog, ask yourself:
What problem is this article solving for my readers?
If it’s not providing content that readers can take and apply to their own lives to solve a problem, then it’s not going to do anything for your traffic.
Remember: subscribers = sustained traffic, and without the traffic, your page isn’t going to rank in the SERPs.
As you put together blog posts, structure them like this:
- Who is my target audience?
- What is a problem they have in common?
- How will this article help them solve that problem?
- Offer the solution, and include a firm call to action to keep them engaged.
People notice when a blog is providing more than just filler. If you build it, they will come.
#3 – Plan Time-Sensitive Content Ahead of Time
I’ve written for a lot of agencies over the years, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten some last minute, urgent, top-of-the-stack article request because the editor just realized a big event was approaching that we had to cover.
The bottom line is, current events get a lot of search traffic, and it’s a great way to bring in fresh readers to your blog. Get a feel for the events that your niche audience is interested in, and then orchestrate plenty of content around that to stick in your editorial calendar.
Keep in mind too that most events have something to do with most niches, so even if the spin isn’t apparently obvious from the beginning, just put yourself in their shoes for a moment and consider what the event might mean to you.
Boom – you have your angle. Now put it in your calendar.
#4 – Only Post Well-Written Content
As a writer, it is insane to me what counts for passable writing on the interwebs these days (and hey, some of you may be thinking the same about me).
The bottom line is, poorly written content can and does affect your page rankings and SEO, so don’t allow guest posts on your site that are written in garbled, broken English, and always hold your own language skills to the highest standard.
The Yoast SEO tool has a readability function that you can either choose to take or leave, but it’s a good way to gauge how well your content is flowing.
Here are some common problems with content I see:
- Wandering topics
- Long, dense blocks of text
- Improper punctuation
- Sentence fragments
Keep it on topic, use some tools and extensions to check for basic grammar and punctuation, and be sure to keep your article easy to read. You’ll notice readers sticking around longer, and your rankings improve as your bounce rate goes down.
#5 – Keep the Number of Links Within Reason
Including links in your posts is helpful to readers because it provides them with in-text references. When you talk about something and feel like an explanation of the topic would be an article on its own, or like someone else would be a better authority on the subject, that’s when it’s time to use a link.
You can have links flow naturally within the text without devoting any attention to explaining it, like this:
The architecture in Sydney is world-renowned for its elegance and modernism.
, or you can try for something more direct, to encourage your readers to check out a resource that you value and trust. It’s a healthy link to have on your page, and definitely a great way to build a relationship with another site (link exchange anyone?):
To learn more about architecture in Sydney, check out the Sydney Architecture Walks.
What raises red flags for Google is when an article has several outbound links. Avoid these mistakes when adding links to your content:
- Linking to spammy sites
- Using links that aren’t relevant to your content
- Using paid links
- Using more than one or two per paragraph
Can you link internally to one of your own pages or posts? Absolutely, and it’s a great way to help the Google crawler index your site. If you’ve already written something that’s relevant to what you’re posting, or have a product that may help your readers solve a problem referenced in your article, link away!
#6 – Don’t Over-Optimize Your Anchor Text
In addition to sourcing quality, relevant links for your content, make sure you’re using anchor text that flows naturally. It’s fine to use anchor text optimization to improve your SEO to a certain extent, but doing so over and over again will set off alarms for Google that you’re trying to inorganically rank your pages.
Diversify your anchor text to keep the content flowing naturally.
#7 – Using Keywords in H1 Text
This one is pretty important. If you’re trying to boost your site’s rankings for a particular search term, then you need to make sure that you naturally work that term into as much of your H1 text as possible (headers).
While Google’s algorithms are generally pretty good at overlooking common stop words (at, the, a, etc.), it’s always best to avoid letting them break up your target keywords too much in your H1 text.
Again, make it flow naturally, but make sure it’s in there.
#8 – Include Target Keywords in Your Meta Descriptions
Your meta descriptions are the text that shows up underneath your listing in the SERPs. While not necessarily a factor in rankings, meta descriptions play a huge role in your CTR on the SERPs.
These descriptions are typically 155 characters in length, and describe the content of your page in enough detail that a user can decide if it’s the result they’re searching for.
While including your target keywords definitely can’t hurt, it’s important to make sure that the meta description accurately depicts the content that the user is going to get. If it’s misleading for the sake of keyword stuffing, your bounce rate will go up, and this can negatively impact your page rankings.
#9 – Include Target Keywords in Alt Text for Image
Alt text, or alternative text, is basically a description for the images on your site. Besides the title you choose for your image, this detailed information tells Google what your image is about, and helps your pages rank higher for your target keywords in the SERPs.
Always make sure the alt text you write is accurate and relevant, and include crucial keywords. Keep in mind that in cases in which the image doesn’t render, or the user is visually impaired, the alt text will be all that the viewer sees, so make it relevant and well-written. Usually three to five words is sufficient.
#10 – Use Relevant Titles for Images
As you’ve probably guessed, the same goes for image title text. This is another piece of the information puzzle that Google will use to help searchers find your images, so make sure you optimize them for easy identification on your site and make them easy to find for searches.
Use your target keywords in the titles of your images (where relevant), and opt for hyphens (-) over spaces and underscores (_) to make it easier for Google to find your image.
#11 – Create a Natural Backlink Profile
High-quality backlinks are extremely sought after in the SEO world, and for good reason. Getting an unpaid link on a high authority site will not only help to send more traffic your way, but will tell Google that your site is associating well with other reputable sites. We call this ‘good neighborhood linking’, or ‘white hat link-building’, and it’s a fantastic way to ascend the ranks of the SERPs.
Here are a few ways you can ethically source backlinks:
- Create fantastic content that people want to share
- Use plugins to make it easy for other sites to share and link to your content
- Provide useful information with backlinks in forums and Q & A sites
- Guest post on other sites
- Use social media (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+,etc.)
- Put together an expert roundup, and encourage participants to share the link
In every case of sourcing a backlink, to keep the practice ethical, the link must be relevant. Guest posting for backlinks is a bit of a grey area in the SEO community, but when done openly and honestly with relevant links to the audience, it can be a powerful aid to your rankings.
Don’t go into it rubbing your hands together like a greedy little link-farming creton, and generally the outcome will be a positive, natural backlink profile that creates an organic network of links all of the web to your content.
#12 – Include Semantically Related Keywords
In the content creation industry, there is definitely such a thing as niching down too much. All too often, there are websites that miss out on massive traffic potential because they refuse to operate even one iota outside of their niche, and it’s hurting their rankings.
Using a semantic keyword tool like Text Tools, you can pull together data from your competitors that shows you what other topics they’re incorporating into their content that are semantically related to yours.
For example, maybe your blog is focused on architecture. When you do a little bit of playing around with Text Tools, you can see that your competitor pages are also ranking high for keywords like ‘design’ and ‘art’, so maybe focusing all of your content on architecture is actually narrowing your audience too much.
Chances are, a great deal of your readers work with other related industry professionals, so keep the core of your content niche focused, and then let your editorial calendar branch into these related topics to diversify, build your traffic, and scale the Google page rankings.
#13 – No Keyword Stuffing
Optimizing your content for your target keywords is one thing, but replacing every pronoun with that keyword (and then some) is not only going to make the copy painful to read – it’s going to set off alarms with Google.
Keyword stuffing takes optimization to the extreme and produces content that is robotic and clearly written for SEO, not for readers. At the most, the usual recommendation for keyword density in a page is 2-3%. Focus on using keywords in title text and where it flows the most naturally. If you can’t quite hit that 2-3% range without your copy suffering, don’t sweat it.
Remember: people first, SEO second.
#14 – Use Accurate Headlines
Misleading headlines and title text is some of the worst SEO around, so don’t let your drive to optimize turn people off from actually getting what they want from their searches. It’s wonderful if your site is turning up in the first page of the SERPs, but if people are expecting one thing from your headline and getting another when they actually click, your bounce rate is going to go sky-high, and your rankings will suffer.
If your target keywords don’t fit in with the actual content of your page, just leave it out, and focus on making your title text relevant for searchers. Don’t stew on it – the traffic will come.
Honest, Ethical SEO + Great Content is the Best Way to Raise Your Rankings
When it comes right down to it, great SEO isn’t really that complicated:
- Create fantastic content that solves a problem for your target audience.
- Plan your editorial calendar well.
- Include links within reason.
- Make sure that it’s searchable by including target keywords in the copy.
- Give images sensible names and accurate alt text.
- Don’t leave your meta descriptions blank.
- Facilitate healthy relationships with other sites to naturally build your backlink profile.
- Create content for people, not search engines.
If you take this advice to heart, your pages will climb the ranks of the search engine results, and people will start finding you more. More importantly though, they’ll stick around, because what you’ll have on your site will actually be of value to them.
The internet can be a sleazy place, but Google is certainly doing its part to reward creators of helpful, actionable content, and keeping spammers at bay with algorithms that shut down cheap SEO tactics.
Climbing the SERPs takes time, and any SEO ‘expert’ that promises you a result in a set time frame is likely blowing smoke with false claims. The simple truth of ranking higher comes down to hard work, great content, and being a good networker. Get your name out there, and build that name on the quality of the content you deliver, and your rankings will come.
Looking for fresh ideas for your editorial calendar? Get Text Tools here, and start reaching a broader audience today.