According to recent research, startups are keen to invest time and budget in SEO. At the same time, they do not tend to develop a long-term strategy first, and only 8% of them hire an agency or an independent consultant. This means even though SMBs are willing to spend their time and money on SEO, they are not ready for long-term investments since SEO seems to be full of uncertainty and slow results.
Let’s take a closer look at what SEO is all about to see what you, as a business owner, can do yourself and what you should undoubtedly outsource to experts.
Everything starts from the audit. At this stage, your website is analyzed as an integral part of your company’s marketing strategy, as the following is considered.
- The field your business is now in.
- Your competitors’ activity and target audience. Your web presence should be competitive and addressed to a specific group of people.
- The region of promotion. For faster results, it is better to choose 1-2 regions.
- Website structure.
- Technical audit, including loading speed and mobile optimization.
- Content audit, including tags and titles, keywords and descriptions, and images optimization.
- Current website position, keywords, and their commercial value.
- Quality and quantity of backlinks.
This stage is essential since it helps to determine the next steps and prevents from wasting time and budget later. Once the audit is done, you understand the current state of the website, its strengths and weaknesses.
Next, the actual work begins. You need to be ready for 1-2 months of preparatory work. During preparatory work, semantic kernel, website structure, and additional pages prototypes are created. Small but crucial changes on the website are made. All services for analytics are set up and ready to work.
There are three main SEO branches: off-site, on-site, and the most challenging one: technical SEO. If you work on these branches at one time, the positive results in your rankings will happen quickly. Let’s try to go deeper into the peculiarities of each.
Technical SEO relates to all the SEO activities excluding content optimization and link building. In simple terms, it covers search engine requirements to improve crawling. Conditions are continually changing, and search engines are becoming more difficult to keep up with. So, we can say technical SEO is in a state of constant refinement.
Website speed. Slow loading speed equals SEO death. There is a strong connection between loading speed and Google rankings. This shouldn’t be a surprise for you. From the side of an average user, how long will you wait for the site to load? Google cares about its users and wants to show them the best search engine results pages (SERPs).
Here are a few actions you can do yourself:
- Keep your theme simple. Creativity is always welcomed, but keep the design lean so you do not slow down your site with big images, videos and the like.
- Optimize your images. Yes, images can significantly slow down a page.
- Upgrade your hosting. Look for an optimized speed server.
- Clean up your code. If you are not a programmer, hiring a coder will improve your site performance. A technical specialist will check it for errors and eliminate them.
Is your website mobile-friendly? If no, the fact that mobile search accounts for 71% of total online time in the U.S. will be something to consider.
Google is working on separating indexes for mobile and desktop. Moreover, primary search index will mobile, which will give top positions to sites with mobile-friendly content. Here is what you can do to improve your performance on mobile:
- Use accelerated mobile pages [AMP] markup. With the help of AMP, a duplicated layer of your content is optimized for all mobile devices.
- Implement Schema markup. This is a form of microdata, which gives an enhanced description of your web page to Google and appears in search results.
- Web design should be responsive. This is the most efficient way to maximize end user’s experience while also minimizing HTML code on your end;
- Remove pop-ups from your mobile site. You can still run pop-ups on desktop, but they’ll become less and less effective as more searches migrate to mobile.
Site architecture. Simply put, your website should be well-organised. This means designing your site so crawlers find and index your best and most relevant content consistently.
A technically optimized site is a must. If you go and check your competitor’s’ sites, almost all of them will have technical SEO as part of promoting their web property. Since everybody understands this part of optimization is very important, and needs to be done in a proper way, you can’t stand out of your competitors just for this. The solution can include providing unique content. Filling your site with optimized special content will allow you to get ahead of top-ranking companies.
CONTENT IS KING
On-page SEO is primarily about what is written on your website pages. Follow these tips to get more traffic to your site:
- Optimise it for relevant keywords. Use Google Keyword Planner. Pages shouldn’t be spammed with identical sets of words. Try to reach an ideal combination of text quantity and frequency of keywords used.
- Use SEO-friendly URLs. They should be short and have keywords.
- Use media content. This will reduce bounce rate, because if someone searches for a keyword, clicks on your page and quickly leaves, it sends a message to Google that your page isn’t a good fit for that keyword.
- Use outbound links. Linking to a page around the same topic as yours helps Google figure out what your page is about.
- Put social sharing buttons. This will make it easier for readers to share your website content and therefore raise your chances to get natural backlinks.
- Post long content. It is no longer a secret that long-form content tends to rank higher than shorter content. BuzzSumo found that longer content tends to generate more social shares.
BACKLINKS, or OFF-PAGE SEO
Which store would you prefer to go to: the one your friend proposed or the one you found on the internet without any recommendations?
Natural links from relevant websites act as an independent “vote of confidence,” which helps search engines trust you more. The study carried out by Backlinko revealed the most important ranking factor is the number of different websites linking to your page. Here are some tips for you to follow:
- Backlinks should be from different domains. Domain diversity matters for rankings as a quality over quantity approach.
- Try to get links from authoritative websites. TechCrunch is better than somebody’s blog.
- Buy backlinks neatly. If you don’t want to be suspected in blackhat SEO and be banned for that from Google, be careful.
Enough was said about what you should DO. Now, let’s consider a few DON’Ts:
- Don’t go with vendors that say they can get you to the top of the ranks in 1 month. If you’ve read this far in the article, you probably got the idea that SEO requires ongoing investment, and nobody can guarantee you the first, second, or third place in searches even in 3 months.
- Blackhat SEO. Do not use spammy techniques. Google is smart, and the consequences of cheating towards fast results can be painful.
- Do not duplicate content. Remember two words: unique and original.
- Paid links. Yes, the process of getting natural backlinks isn’t easy, but it’s worth trying. Paid links will bring fast but temporary results. You don’t want that, right?
I asked our lead SEO specialist what is crucial in SEO and what is the most important to keep in mind. He said, “A complex approach.” And this is true. A complex approach, based on a developed strategy you follow step-by-step, not rushing and being patient, will bring your website to the top.
The question was whether you need the agency to do SEO. We would recommend hiring an agency for a couple of reasons:
- SEO is time-consuming. As a business owner, you will not be able to fully manage all SEO tasks, sales processes, documentation, etc. You will have to sacrifice something.
- You don’t want to waste extra money. Since the agency develops a strategy based on your financial capacity, you will be spared from unplanned expenses.
- Technical SEO. If you have business in the non-technical sphere, it will be tough to manage this part without a solid technical background. That is why we highly recommend you hire a professional with expertise in this area.
Hopefully, everything written above made the overall picture of search engine optimization clearer and will help to improve your site performance.
Cider is a Software Development Company based in the heart of Silicon Valley. We combine business domain knowledge and technology expertise of more than 50 development studios spread around the world.
We help companies in developing an SEO strategy, taking into account the results they want to achieve and their financial capacity. Our team will help you in all technical aspects of SEO, starting from cleaning up the code you have and bringing it to the next level for Google crawlers. We also have content managers on staff, so you do not have to worry about writing unique content or obtaining backlinks.
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