We recently explored the question ‘What Is SEO?’ and shared several success factors for improving search rankings. In this article, we defined search engine optimization as the recognition that search engines have certain rules and formulas for how web pages are listed in a search, and that there are many things small business owners can do to improve their ranking. Today, let’s take a closer look at some simple ways we can improve your content for SEO.
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7 SEO Factors that Determine Search Ranking
With our definition above in mind, we explained that there are seven things that search engines are looking for when determining the rank of web pages in search results:
- Content: Is your content informative and does it match the search terms a user types into the search engine?
- Architecture: Is your web page built well and is it set up to make it easy for the search engine to crawl?
- HTML: Is the ‘behind-the-scenes’ coding of your web pages optimized for keywords?
- Trust: Are there indicators beyond your website that suggest you are a trustworthy source?
- Links: Are respectable sites linking to your content using ideal anchor text?
- Personalization: Does your profile (country, city, topical focus, etc.) match the profile of the person searching?
- Social: Is there ‘social proof’ that you are a trusted and reliable source of information?
These seven factors give a well-rounded idea of what SEO is, beyond just equating it with keywords. However, as we mentioned in our definition, ‘there are many things small business owners can do to improve their ranking,’ and that is where the fun comes in!
Let’s now explore the elements of these SEO factors to identify the simplest and most practical ways small business owners can improve their content on their website to please the search engines.
3 On-the-Page SEO Areas Where You Can Improve Content for SEO
The seven factors listed above are split between on-the-page SEO (#1-3) and off-the-page SEO (#4-7). On-the-page refers to the things that can be manipulated or adjusted right on the website itself. Since a small business owner can directly control these items, This is where we’ll focus to make the most of your content for SEO.
Content is arguably the most important factor in determining your search rank position. We have a saying here at VirTasktic:
“Never write for SEO, but always write with SEO in mind.”
Taking that saying into account, here are some of the elements you can use to improve your SEO:
The search engines are getting smarter and smarter and with the introduction of AI (artificial intelligence) to aid in evaluating content, quality is going to become more important than ever.
When creating content, go deep and give people real substance, preferably with actionable advice that they can use and share. Try to deliver unique value that they will not find elsewhere.
While keywords are no longer the ‘big’ focus in SEO, they do still matter. When choosing a keyword to focus on in your blog post, never assume that the way you (as an expert) speak about the issue is the same language that people use when searching. That’s why it’s imperative to find the right keywords to use in your content.
Using tools like Google Keyword Planner, you can find average monthly search volume of a number of keyword options to make sure you are using the best possible keyword or phrase.
Once you’ve chosen your keyword(s) for your article, it’s time to work them into the blog post. Experts say there is no ‘ideal’ keyword density, although, in practice, plugins like Yoast SEO give a ‘green light’ to content with a density between 0.5 and 2.5 percent.
The most important thing with keywords is not density, but simply that they are present a few times and that they are placed in natural, strategic positions.
“Vertical” results are those sub-sections of the main search that include images, news, shopping, videos, more.
Verticals are excellent places for people to discover your blog, too. The easiest way to work this into your SEO efforts is to add images, making sure to add a description that includes the keyword in the alt text box of that image when you upload it.
Unlike Content, most of the elements within Architecture are not things you adjust for each blog post but rather things that should be set up at the beginning to ensure everything is running properly. There are, however, a few things you can be thinking about for each blog post for optimization.
Faster sites get a slight advantage over slower sites, all in an effort to please search engine users and provide them with the best experience. A common factor that slows down page speed is images. For each blog post, ensure that your images are optimized for web and their size is minimized for quicker load without compromised quality.
There are a number of WordPress plugins you can install to help optimize all images upon upload to simplify the process.
Although not a major factor, descriptive URLs tend to outrank those that are not descriptive. In WordPress, the default URL naming structure uses numbers (not descriptive text), but you can change that to make structured URLs that include the title of the blog post and your keyword.
These on-the-page SEO strategies are simple changes to the HTML coding of your blog post that the search engines interpret when they crawl your page. Don’t let ‘coding’ scare you – these things can be done right in the WordPress editor, and there are also plugins that can help.
The title tag is the way the title of your blog post will display in the search results. Although by default it is the same as the title of the blog, you can alter it for optimization purposes.
Title tags should be short (50-60 characters), descriptive, and should include the keyword for which you want to rank. All of this can be handled by the Yoast SEO plugin, and you’ll find more of their tips for creating a good title tag here.
Meta Description Tag
The meta description is the sentence or two that appears under the title in search results. It should give the reader an understanding of what the article is about and also entice the reader to click. Ensure that your meta description is descriptive, actionable and contains a call to action. Also, aim for 160 characters or less, and make sure to include your keyword.
Headers are marked in the HTML code as H1, H2, H3, etc. When reading a blog post, you will typically notice the headings because they stand out in a larger font and sometimes in a different color.
Headers help not only search engines but also readers to understand the structure and organization of your content. Make sure to utilize them when setting up your pages and posts and including keywords in them is also a good idea.
Don’t Stop When You Hit Publish
You should not check SEO off your to-do list as soon as you hit publish. While a lot of these things will be going on in the background automatically as search engines crawl your page, taking a content marketing approach can help extend your SEO efforts.
By sharing your quality content via email and social media marketing, you can improve engagement measures such as bounce rate and time on site, plus establish yourself as an authority (Trust factor). The buzz you create can also make more people aware of your content, which can help elements within the Links and Social factors.
Once again, it is evident that while keywords are an important part of SEO, they are certainly not the only thing that matters. By using these actionable steps to improve your content for SEO, you’ll hopefully start to see an improvement in your placement on the SERP’s.
Got questions? Ask them in the comments below. We are happy to help you optimize your blog so you can turn it into a powerful marketing tool!