If you think that SEO is a one-time process, you’re wrong. Google releases new algorithm updates almost daily, search patterns change, and new competitors appear now and then. Therefore, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to improve SEO rankings for your website and enjoy organic traffic growth.
SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It entails a broad range of techniques and best practices that help websites to rank favourably on search engines.
There are many incentives to achieve higher SEO ranking, particularly on Google. The continuous stream of search traffic means businesses can be less reliant on paid advertising.
Appearing on the top results of popular keywords is also great for brand marketing. SEO can also increase sales conversion if webpages are optimised for transactional keywords.
Getting SEO done right isn’t easy as there are various factors involved. This guide is specially created for
Google is all about providing the best search experience for its users. Therefore, your website needs to have high usability.
It’s a general term that defines how users can easily access, navigate and consume content on your website.
If the users are confused over the menu on the website or take forever to locate the CTA button, the site has low usability.
Think of website usability as the path for the users to accomplish their goals on your website. If they’re looking for a product, it should take as little clicks as possible.
Occasionally, users may seek contact information on your website or are looking for the ‘about us page’. If it’s not listed clearly on the website, you have a usability issue.
A website with usability issues tends to turn users away. It isn’t surprising, considering that users have little patience when they’re not getting what they want and there are other options available.
It’s no secret that Google boost websites that exhibit higher user engagement. If users are driven away by bad layout, confusing website architecture or other usability issues, the site’s ranking suffers.
On the other hand, if you’re doing your best in ensuring the users get what they are looking for in the shortest time, the site’s going to rank nicely on Google.
Now, let’s get deeper into the vital elements that improve website usability.
A slow-loading website will hurt your SEO effort.
So, what’s the exact definition of a ‘slow’ website?
According to Google, the recommended page loading time for a website should preferably be under 3 seconds.
However, in 2018, Google reported that the websites still take an average of 15 seconds to fully load on a mobile device.
So, if you’re clocking 15 seconds and above, your site is considered slow even amongst industry average.
It may still be acceptable (for now) if it’s between 3 to 15 seconds. However, if you’re hoping to achieve Google’s recommendation, you’ll need to reduce the page loading time to below 3 seconds.
Here is how you can improve your page speed.
If your site has serious problems with the page loading speed, one of the most obvious signs is the increased bounce rate. Users who got frustrated waiting for the page to load will hit the back button, which causes a bounce.
Based on Google’s study, a site’s bounce rate increases by 32% when the loading speed exceeds 3 seconds. Bounce rate rises by almost 300% to 90% when a page takes more than 5 seconds to load.
Bounce rate is directly affected by how fast it takes for webpages to load. While bounce rate isn't a direct SEO ranking factor, slow-loading pages affect user experience, and it’s one of the ranking factors used by Google in its algorithm.
Here are some SEO tools that help to measure the page loading speed.
It’s a free tool provided by Google that analyzes a page’s loading time and provides detailed recommendations for improvement.
GTMetrix allows web pages to be analyzed for loading speed and graded on each factor. Registered users can run a test on the sites from the various servers in major countries and access to more metrics.
With Google Analytics, you’ll get the actual page loading time instead of running analyzes on URLs. You get reports of loading speed segregated by pages, countries and the types of browsers your site is accessed from.
Screaming Frog is a popular SEO Spider Tool used by SEO professionals for site audit. It can be integrated with Google PageSpeed Insights to provide reports on page loading time for your site.
Content remains the primary driver of Google SEO. No amount of backlinks or speed optimisation will help if your website is lacking or publish sub-par content.
If you want to improve Google ranking, it is mandatory to produce content that serves the users well.
A hastily-cobbled up article is going nowhere on Google. Nor does a single-paragraph, 200 words article that attempts to answer “how to increase SEO ranking”.
Google’s algorithm is engineered to reward content that is high-quality, recent and relevant. By high-quality, it means the content is well-written, showcases expertise, and addresses the topic thoroughly.
It doesn’t mean that creating a 5,000 words article will guarantee ranking on Google. Google has stressed that word count isn’t a ranking factor. Yet, thin content often fails to rank as it doesn’t thoroughly satisfy the user’s search intent.
Your content also needs to be recent, if the accuracy and usefulness are time-sensitive. For example, an article that goes by the title ‘Best Movies in 2020’, is only good for the current year. The content will be outdated by 2021. Merely changing the date isn’t good enough as Google is able to detect if the content revised accordingly.
You could have a long-form content with thousands of words. However, if it deviates from the title, it isn’t going to rank. That’s what being relevant is all about.
There was once when sites that are bookmarked on browsers offer SEO link-values. However, browser bookmark links have since been devalued.
Still, you should focus on creating bookmark-worthy content. In other words, you’ll want to create content that users would like to save and read later.
Content that stands out from the rest enjoys high user engagement. Such articles are shared around on social media, clicked and often generate backlinks naturally. Google takes user engagement into account, such as ‘clicks’ when ranking websites.
If your content is bookmarked, shared and engaged multiple times over, the increase in social and direct traffic will lead to the webpage rising on search ranking.
Backlinko’s SkyScraper strategy is an excellent place to start. The strategy involves checking out your competitors who are ranking for the particular keyword.
Then, based on what you’ve gathered, create better content than the competitors in the following ways.
Does the Skyscraper strategy work?
Here’s the result for the search term ‘marketing tips’. Check out how the top article that lists out 64 different ideas generate 7,000+ backlinks compared to the next article. It was also shared more than 800 times on social media.
SEO rankings are not permanent, and it’s a mistake to assume they are. Even when you’ve got your content on the top page, sometimes it does drop over time.
New competitors could be targeting the same keywords with fresher content that outrank yours. Your competitor may also be applied to the “SkyScraper Strategy” on their older content, which lifted them above yours.
Sometimes, a keyword can suddenly become a trend, which becomes a target for many publishers.
You’ll want to keep an eye for an abnormal drop in traffic, which could mean that your old content needs a timely refresh.
Use Google Analytics to track changes in traffic to your top pages over time. If you spot a declining trend in traffic like below, it’s time to revisit and refresh the content.
Ahrefs Content Explorer allows you to gain valuable insights, such as content trends and how frequently your competitors are updating their content.
Buzzsumo helps you to identify content ideas that are likely to resonate with influencers and possibly increases engagement.
Both tools help to provide ideas that would turn a jaded piece of content into one that’s relevant to the current timeline.
If you can put yourself in your readers’ shoes, and create content that serves their goals, you’ve crossed the hard part of SEO.
Google has been harping on search intent for years, and recent SEO algorithm upgrades only strengthen its implementation.
If you want to improve your Google ranking, you need to learn how to satisfy users’ search intent.
And it isn’t too tricky.
The key lies in the keywords that users are searching on the search engine. Take a deeper look into the search phrases.
Are they informational, navigational or transactional?
The different types of keywords reflect the mindset of the readers when searching on Google. If the user is searching for ‘how to clean basketball shoes’, he or she is likely more interested in a cleaning guide than shopping for a pair of new basketball shoes.
Once you’re clear of the reader’s search intent, create content that serves it. If readers find your content helpful, so shall Google.
Is readability an SEO ranking factor? Probably not, but it can indirectly determine how good (or bad) your site’s SEO performance.
Readability refers to how well the average reader could understand the content of your site. If your content is written with poor grammar, you can bet that the reader will hit ‘back’ amid the first sentence.
But readability is more than perfecting grammar. If you’re throwing industrial jargons that are too complicated for consumers, you’re making a mistake in readability.
The same goes for writing in long sentences or paragraphs.
You can use tools like Readable to check the readability score of your content. If your site is built on WordPress, Yoast has a readability checker, which highlights problematic parts of the article.
Here are a few tips to improve your content’s readability:
Building content for SEO isn’t like writing a novel. If you have dozens of unstructured paragraphs in a page, it’s unlikely to sustain the users’ attention.
People who ended up on your content have a very short attention span. They are on the lookout for information, and they want it fast.
Therefore, use header tags to break the content into smaller pieces. Header tags stand out from the normal text and allow users to quickly scan through the content.
Usually, the header H1 is used for the title, while H2 is for sub-topics of the content. If you’re writing long-form content, using H3 and H4 helps present the information systematically.
While Google has played down header tags as a ranking factor, the usage of header tags, particularly H1, correlates to better positions on the search engine.
It isn’t hard to understand why header tags are essential for SEO. The H1 tag tells both readers and search engines what the webpage is all about, while subheaders improve how readers consume the content.
Text-based content isn’t going anywhere, as far as SEO is concerned. Yet, if you want to increase engagement and further strengthen your site’s ranking drastically, you’ll need more than text.
People are attracted to visuals, and you’ll want to consider adding images or video into your content.
If you’re creating a tutorial-type content, it helps to include a video demonstrating how the process is done. You don’t necessarily need highly-expensive production as sometimes screen-recording and narration are all it takes to create an engaging video.
Websites that include video in the content are also found to have a 4.9% conversion rate, compared to 2.9% of those without.
Content like fashion and food are perfect to be paired with visually-appealing images. Images serve as a focal point for the readers and help to sustain their attention on the content.
Also, you’ll want to include unique images as many other sites are using the same generic stock images without modification. Here’s how to create unique images.
Consider using an image enhancer tool to improve the quality and visual appeal of your photos, making them stand out in a sea of generic visuals.
You’ve published a piece of high-quality content. The next step is to share it with your readers.
Considering that most internet users are active on social media, you’ll want to make your content easily shareable.
Install social sharing buttons on your webpage, preferably one that displays the share counts. People tend to share if others have already shared the article.
Sharing your content on social media indirectly improves Google ranking. First of all, it triggers engagement, which leads to clicks, views and time spent on the page. These are metrics that help Google to determine if the content is useful for users.
Secondly, sharing on social media increases your brand engagement. It tells Google that your business is legitimate and is popular amongst the audience. Such signals help when you’re targeting local SEO.
Some marketers are afraid to include outbound links in their content. They are so scared of ‘bleeding’ traffic to other websites.
That’s a narrow and incorrect mindset when it comes to content SEO.
Outbound links, when used properly, helps to build authoritativeness with your readers. For example, if you’re quoting statistics in your content, you’ll want to link to the source, preferably a scientific paper.
If you do not include the links, you’re depriving your readers an opportunity to explore the subject in detail. It also gives off the perception that you’re not doing your homework when creating the content.
SEO is often a matter of building connections with other webmasters in the same niche. If you’re specifying tips offered by a related site, linked to it. Mentioned an authoritative source in your content? Give it a link.
Sometimes, the webmasters may be alerted of the outbound links by their monitoring tools, which leads to your content being shared on their circles of audience.
Whether it’s for the sake of SEO or building rapport with your audience, it never hurts to add outbound links to relevant and trustworthy sources.
Keyword-stuffing no longer works in today’s SEO. If you do that, you’re going to get penalised by Google.
However, keywords remain important in helping search engines to understand the context of your article. It helps Google to return the right results to the users.
You’ll still want to use keywords, albeit naturally where it matters. Here are some tips on using keywords in the content.
Some marketers harped on meeting a certain keyword density. However, intentionally doing so can cause the article to be written unnaturally. Google may pick up that as a sign that you’re trying to game its algorithm, and the effort may backfire.
Therefore, you should prioritise in creating great content that is helpful to and write naturally. Often, the relevant keywords will appear naturally when you’re done with the content.
Avoid obsessing on keywords density, or having perfect-match keywords throughout the article. Google has evolved way beyond such primitive concepts.
Check out our keyword research guide to find out how to get the best keywords for your SEO plan.
Latent semantic indexing or LSI is an algorithm introduced in the 1980s to understand information based on related terms.
With Google’s evolving intelligence, it is believed that Google has long ditched the LSI calculation in its search algorithm.
However, it is still recommended to use LSI-keywords when you’re creating content. This is because some users could be looking for the same information, but are searching with different but related terms.
Using LSI-keywords help your content to rank not only for the targeted keyword but also for other related searches.
For example, a piece of content is built around ‘how to choose a coffee maker’. Despite that, some searches with the same intention may use the following terms:
Now, these LSI keywords are not wild guesses. With Google’s People Also Asked section, you can have a good idea of the LSI keywords to be included in the content.
Also, if you scroll towards the bottom of the search page, you’ll find a set of phrases that are related to the primary keyword. These phrases are also useful for optimising the content for LSI keywords.
Just like optimising with keywords, you shouldn’t resort to stuffing the content with the LSI keywords. Use them naturally in the content. Often, the LSI phrases can be used as subtopics.
We’ve mentioned how using images can help retain the user's attention. Of the various types of image media, the infographic has the highest rate of engagement.
According to SEMRush, content that includes infographic results in a 95% increase in views. Infographics are not only visually appealing, but they also allow users to digest the crucial point of the content easily.
Content that features infographic is also more likely to go viral on social media and attracts large numbers of backlinks.
And it isn’t hard to create an infographic, even if you’re not a graphic designer. Canva offers a variety to choose from, where you could modify and fit your content.
Alternatively, you can hire a graphic designer to produce stunningly creative infographics. Considering that infographic helps boost brand awareness, it’s worth the cost.
Besides, it makes text-only content look more appealing.
Check out how we’ve included an infographic detailing Singapore’s 2020 general election in our article. It provides an option for readers who are more inclined to visuals than words.
Does this mean you’ll have to be a certified expert in one way or another to create content that ranks?
There’s no denying the fact that Google tends to reward content that is written by niche experts but being an expert in the digital world is about increasing your brand presence.
You can do so by participating in forums or social media by helping others with your knowledge. While doing so, share relevant content from your website.
Avoid spamming your content, as this could result in getting ignored or banned from social media groups.
Quora, a popular Q & A site, is a good place to start. Here’s an example of a branding expert replying to questions posted by users on Quora.
Focus on being helpful and drop links only when appropriate.
With consistent effort, you’ll soon be the perceived expert within the online community. Naturally, more members will start interacting with your content.
It’s only a matter of time before you’ll drive significant traffic from the content shared, and this indirectly improves Google SEO.
You can have the most exciting content ever, but if you’re neglecting the meta titles, they are likely to be ignored by users.
Compare “Best Marketing Tips” and “21 Proven Marketing Tips From Seasoned Marketers”. Naturally, readers are more likely to click on the latter title.
The fact that users are clicking into the article helps to boost webpage ranking. Clicks are used as SEO ranking signals by Google.
Therefore, you’ll want to put more attention into creating a title that leaves users no choice, but to click on it.
Here’s how to do so:
The meta description is the short snippet of text that appears below the title at the search result page.
It used to be a significant ranking factor in the past, but Google has since ignored meta description in its latest algorithm.
Google has also made it a habit to fetch parts of content to replace the default meta description in most results.
However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore or be nonchalant when writing the meta description.
The meta description is still visible when the content is shared on social media. If you’re publishing unoriginal and dull meta descriptions, don’t be surprised if you’re getting a low click-through rate.
For business websites, Google still displays the meta description for most of the web pages. So, doing a lacklustre job with meta description can damage brand reputation.
On the other hand, the meta description is an excellent place to convey your brand value. Here’s how Sushi King optimises the meta description for its home page.
Short, simple and effective.
You can also use the meta description to give an overview of what’s offered by your company. Here’s an example by Adidas.
Like meta titles, you’ll only have a limited number of characters for meta description. Use our SERP meta preview tool to ensure that it is within the viewable limit to avoid getting truncated.
There are times where you can increase website ranking with minimum effort, and we’re talking about harnessing the power of internal links.
Google’s ranking algorithm treats internal links as an indication of importance. If a page is linked to by many other pages within the site, Google will assume that it’s important and vice versa.
With the same logic, a page that has no internal links pointing to it may suffer in SEO ranking. Such pages are called orphan pages.
To start boosting your pages with internal links, you’ll need to identify pages that are lingering on the 2nd page and beyond.
If you’re using tools like Ahrefs, you can track pages and their ranking for the targeted keywords.
Once the page is identified, you’ll need to find the pages where it can be linked to naturally. To do that, use the search operator site:website.com “keyword”.
Here’s an example of searching for the term “Google SEO” from our site.
When you’ve got a list of webpages containing the related keyword, you’ll want to identify which ones to link from.
Pages that have gained high-ranking and attracted backlinks offer more SEO juice when linked from. You can use Ahref Site Explorer to determine which of your pages are good candidates as “power pages”.
Sometimes, the reason why your website is not ranking as it ought to is because of some technical SEO issues.
Google crawler is a piece of software, and if it receives signals that your site is inaccessible, it is going to ignore it and move on. The same goes on other technical issues bugging the site.
Here are common technical fixes for websites.
Broken links, whether outbound or inbound, do hurt SEO.
When you’re linking to external sites, you have little say on what the webmaster does to the content. If the existing content is removed, you’re then sending users to a non-existent resource.
Outbound broken links lead to negative user experience and also Google SEO. Use Ahrefs to detect broken outbound links and replace them with new resources.
What about inbound links?
Well, that’s equally, if not more damaging to SEO.
If you’ve created a great resource and websites are linking to it, then you’re gaining from the SEO value passed by the backlinks.
However, if you’ve shifted the content, domain or changed the URL, the link is broken. All of the backlink values are lost.
You’ll want to run a thorough link audit with ScreamingFrog to identify broken inbound links. Then, you’ll either:
If the URL of your webpages look anything like this, you may have a tough time improving Google ranking.
URL is one of the lesser ranking factors, and unlike a catchy title, you’ll want to keep it short and simple.
Here are what a good URL should have.
Run through the URL of your pages and optimise those that aren’t helping with SEO.
Start a code audit and have the web developers remove unnecessary code. Doing so will increase the site’s loading speed, and thus, improves SEO.
Google has long stressed the importance of having mobile-optimised websites. In September 2020, Google has entirely switched over to mobile-first indexing. It means that search results are ranked based on how the pages appear on mobile devices.
Slow-loading pages, tiny fonts, closely-cluttered menu, and rigid desktop layout are signs that your site isn’t mobile optimised. If that’s the case, it will be nowhere near the top of the search results.
Here’s an example of a non-mobile optimised website that’s displaying the desktop layout on the smaller screen.
Meanwhile, this is how a mobile-optimised website should look like.
You can use Google Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your site is mobile-optimised.
If it isn’t optimised, consider doing the following:
The Featured Snippet is a container of the information listed above the traditional position 1 on Google search result. It is sometimes called the #0 on the SERP.
Here’s a Featured Snippet for ‘how does investment work’.
There is a clear benefit of getting listed on the Featured Snippet. It could get you at least 8.6% of click-through-rate, according to SearchEngineLand. In a way, the Featured Snippet took away a significant chunk of traffic to the #1 of the search results.
If you’re already ranking on the first page and would like a bump to the top, then optimise the content for Featured Snippets.
There are a few types of Featured Snippets,
Not all search queries return the Featured Snippet in the results though. To find those that do, use Ahrefs to filter out keywords that you’re ranking which also has a Featured Snippet in the result.
Remember that position #1 still gets more clicks than Featured Snippet in general. Therefore, only optimise for Featured Snippets if you’re in position 2 and beyond.
There’s no sure way of getting into the Featured Snippets as it’s decided by Google’s algorithm. However, you can check out the one that’s currently featured, and try to improvise on it in your content.
For example, this Featured Snippet for ‘ways to meditate’ isn’t exactly showing the intended information. Instead, it is showing ‘types of meditation’.
From the current Featured Snippets, you know that Google prefers a numbered list. You can then optimise your existing page with a numbered list, but with more accurate text on how to meditate.
You may have heard some marketers have success in ranking without backlinks. That may be true for non-competitive keywords.
If you’re trying to rank for competitive keywords, or in a competitive niche, building backlinks are still a must to break into the first page of Google search results.
Google still depends on backlinks as signals to determine the authoritativeness of a site. However, Google has grown more adept in picking up attempts to manipulate its algorithm.
Linking from PBNs, reciprocal links, and other shady practices are easily detected and punished by Google.
Yet, you’ll still need to pursue link opportunities for SEO, albeit in a legit manner. Here’s how.
You’ll always want to diversify the nature of the backlinks. Even if you’ve got access to a leading publication, avoid getting links only from the site.
The same goes for focusing only on ‘do-follow’ links, just because they are of more value.
When you’re building only a particular type of backlinks, Google may view it as a suspicious link-building activity.
Even if it’s not, getting flagged by Google causes unnecessary complications. Therefore, keep a diversified link profile.
Learn more about link-building the right way in this article.
Q & A sites like Quora and Answer.com are great places to build backlinks. Usually, the backlinks on such sites are ‘no-follow’, but that shouldn’t stop you from building links.
The idea of building links on Q&A sites is to establish brand authority and possibly create a group of followers.
Therefore, your strategy is to offer useful information to the community and only include links where relevant.
You may have heard of how sending press releases to multiple PR sites could gain easy backlinks.
While that’s true, Google has decreased the value of PR backlinks as they have been often manipulated.
Yet, if you’re launching a new product or have industry-worthy news to share, you’ll want to get the press release published.
While the direct PR backlinks offer little value, genuinely interesting press releases will capture the interest of influencers, reporters and bloggers.
From the secondary engagement, the press release will likely be linked to. Some articles covering the news could also provide a direct link to your site.
Either way, your site stands to benefit from the additional link juice for improving SEO.
In some industries, getting backlinks is difficult. Guest blogging opportunities are scarce, and there aren’t any news-worthy pieces for PR submission.
In such cases, you’ll need to get creative.
For a start, you can find out who’s linking to your competitors and start an outreach campaign. Spying on a competitor backlink is easy. Use Ahrefs Backlink Checker to get a list of backlinks for a competing site.
Find out the content that is linked to, create a better one and send an email to the webmaster. If it’s willing to link to your competitor, there’s a great chance that the webmaster will link to yours, if you have better content.
You can also attract links by creating content that is relevant to non-competing sites within the same vertical. For example, a pest-control site could create a blog on getting rid of bed bugs on a mattress. A website focusing on the mattress could find the article interesting and link to it.
Sometimes, you’ll need to talk your way into getting a backlink, in the form of an interview. If you’re aware that a publication is interviewing competitors within the industry, reach out and explore the possibility for an interview.
When the interview is published, you’ll naturally obtain a backlink to your site. Repeat that, and soon you’ll have a handful of naturally-generated backlinks.
Blogging remains one of the best ways to increase search traffic to your site. If you’re sticking to product and service pages, there is only a limited amount of keywords you can target.
By turning to a blog, you can target long-tail keywords, which are more focused and offer better conversion.
For example, a business website selling dehumidifier can create blog articles like :
Blog articles help answer readers questions in detail. They are also an excellent way to increase your brand presence and engagement.
Google has always stressed the importance of demonstrating expertise, and the blog is the best place to do that. Explore the subject in detail and create a blog article that genuinely answers the user’s query.
If you’re kicking off your blogging campaign, you’ll want to have an editorial schedule. Rather than how many blog articles you’re publishing, you’ll want to be more concerned about maintaining a consistent schedule.
Regular publishing helps to boost SEO as Google rewards sites that are continually updating its users with fresh content.
If you’ve yet to start a blog for your business, now’s the right time to do so.
When you’ve put in the right effort, you’ll eventually get results. Look for signs like increased organic traffic, keywords ranking or a higher click-through rate to your web pages. Learn how to evaluate these metrics and more in this guide.
SEO is a complex discipline that requires proper planning, taking action and staying patient. It is a dynamic field of knowledge where the best practices continuously change, and results are not immediate.
This lengthy guide is designed to help you to plan and execute your SEO strategy. You’ll still need to do the hard work.
For business owners, executing the mentioned SEO techniques can be overwhelming. Your time is better spent dealing with your business than picking up skills that still require years of honing.
You’re more likely to achieve promising results by engaging an experienced SEO agency like Heroes of Digital. After all, we’ve spent years working on SEO for businesses in various industries, and our results speak for itself.
If you need a boost in website ranking, feel free to drop us a message.
HEROES OF DIGITAL
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