A Brief Look at How to Reap Big SEO Rewards from Small Changes
How Small Website Changes Deliver Big Search Engine Results
Financial advisers tell clients that small changes add up to big savings. That daily trip to Starbucks seems like a small indulgence, but over the course of a year you’re spending hundreds of dollars. Multiply that by all of your other non-necessary expenses, and you’re looking at thousands of dollars each year. This wisdom holds true in the small improvements you make to your website. A few percentage points in increased traffic here, another point there, and before you know it, your results may increase by a solid 20 percent. What’s more, thanks to constantly evolving technology and tools, these incremental gains are easier than ever to achieve and prove.
Internet powerhouses like Amazon and Google already know this; they’ve built their brands on endless series of incremental gains. According to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, repeated testing of alternative layouts for Amazon’s homepage ensures they find the perfect combination that maximizes sales. Each change may only make a small impact on its own, but aggregated over time the results are huge.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll write in-depth about each of the ideas presented in this post. For now, this overview will get you on your way to increased site traffic, more conversions and an overall better user experience.
Why are Spelling and Grammar So Important to Your Website’s Success?
You want your site to convey an image of professionalism and reliability. If its pages have spelling and grammar errors, though, your site’s visitors receive the opposite impression, and they likely won’t return. Some people believe the average user doesn’t notice these errors, but Success Works’ Heather Lloyd-Martin, a 20-year SEO veteran, says that’s a myth. Lloyd-Martin says your customers do notice, and “it makes your company look unprofessional, like you can’t spell, and like you don’t care.” How can you get their order right if you can’t get your own site right? Fixing these errors is quick, simple, and free, so there’s no excuse for ignoring them.
Finding Your Brand’s Voice & Tone
Your site tells the story of your brand. Tell that story in your own voice, using a conversational, natural tone. The goal is to deliver your message in a way that reflects how you’d convey that same information in a person-to-person interaction. Know your audience and adjust your tone accordingly. A site selling medical equipment has a different audience than an entertainment blog, and therefore different audience expectations. Keep your reader in mind when telling your story.
Hold off on Keyword Stuffing, It’s Just Old-School
In line with adopting a conversational tone on your site is abandoning keyword stuffing, which makes your message unnatural instead of your brand’s story and tone. Not only does keyword stuffing negatively affect your site’s readability, it can easily steer readers from your website. Search engines will notice if you engage in this practice and they’ll penalize you for it. You don’t have to lose the keywords altogether. Rather, focus them where they’ll have the biggest impact: title, headers, and in the first paragraph. Keep your keyword density low and remember to replace some occurrences with synonyms.
Effective and Correctly Constructed URLs Make a Difference
The perfect URL structure is simple, straightforward, and meaningful. Construct your URLs logically, with an eye toward readability. According to Google, this means using words rather than strings of product numbers, not adding underscores to separate the words in a URL, and avoiding overly complex URLs with special characters etc. Potential site visitors scroll through a long series of search result returns, so make sure your URLs stand out by being easy to read and letting the reader know at a glance that your page will give them the information they’re looking for. Google also advises avoiding word repetition in your URLs, as this may cause users to assume the site is spammy and it doesn’t look good – don’t believe us, find out for yourself. Using keywords in your URLs is okay, but don’t overdue it and above all else, try to make your URLs short. Short URLs win.
Look Good with a Responsive Website Design
Yes, it’s nearly 2016 & yes, there are still websites that do not serve mobile and tablet users. Strange, right?
Responsive web design ensures your site looks good no matter what device the user chooses, from desktops to tablets to cell phones. This technology responds to the reader, automatically adjusting to fit not only the correct screen size, but also when the user switches from portrait to landscape view. Using CSS frameworks like Bootstrap, ZURB, CSS boilerplate and other coding options, responsive web design not only re-sizes and re-formats content, but also hides or moves content as needed, ensuring readability and a positive user experience. Employing this technology also removes the need to redesign your site each time a new device hits the market. I am literally shocked that companies do not have responsive websites. I know, you’re busy, but it’s been 6 years coming and more than 50% of your users use non-desktop devices. Furthermore, Google actually punishes you by not showing your website in search results when users use devices that your website doesn’t accommodate. I can’t blame them, they want every user to have a great experience and in my opinion they’re doing you a favor. In fact, if I were you, I’d find out a way to contact Google and thank them for helping you out. An email would do, but a card may be a little nicer.
Tackle Crawl Errors, Yep, They do Affect Your Website’s Search Engine Performance
Fixing crawl errors positively impacts user experience and makes the major search engines trust your website more. According to YouMoz, it also helps your rankings when you redirect crawl errors to a good URL, so you aren’t missing traffic from other sites. Free accounts like Google Webmasters and Bing Webmasters make this process an easy and inexpensive fix (if you can do the fixes yourself), even though it may look daunting when you see the number of impacted links. Luckily, the aforementioned search engine tools offer tricks and easy ways to fix them. If you’re looking for a paid option Moz.com has excellent tools. I’m not recommending you fix crawl errors to simply appease search engines. I’m recommending that you fix issues because you could lose valuable links. Example: Mike built a list of amazing resources and one day Mike decides to check on that list of Amazing resources to ensure his users are still getting “Amazing Resources,” well if you haven’t taken the time to fix your crawl errors, Mike may discover that your page is now a 404 error page. This would lose you a valuable link and it may be a link on an amazing site – maybe a government site, maybe a strong education website, or maybe Mike just has an authority domain. Either way, you lost a great link and getting that link back, may not be possible. I am also recommending that you fix crawl errors to provide users with a better website experience. Take care of your site and search engines will take care of you. Deal?
The Importance of Microdata/Schema & Metadata
Once upon a time, a group of competitors got together to create a product to make life better for all of their customers. Even without the “once upon a time,” that sounds like a fairy tale. Competitors don’t work together that way. Coke and Pepsi never teamed up to make a soft drink everyone likes. But Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Yandex worked together to create microdata available to the public at schema.org, to make life easier for webmasters, developers, search engines (see it wasn’t just for users) and end users. That should make the power of microdata clear, but the practice has yet to take root in most of the SEO world, and that’s pretty unfortunate. We typically find the “best” SEO companies completely ignoring microdata. By applying the right schema or microdata markup to certain aspects of a page, you’re giving search engines, and therefore potential readers, vital information they need about your site, which may improve your search engine ranking positions – especially over sites without microdata. Schema, microdata – whatever you call it gives search engines metadata above and beyond what used to be available which can greatly improve a much better browsing experience for users. Take away tip – look into and use microdata.
Location, Location, Location: Winning the Local Optimization Game
Up your local SEO efforts immediately with brand citations, onsite optimization (locally geared), reviews, business signals and local business directory profiles. Search engines like Yahoo!, Google and Bing search for this information and return relevant results to users based on data such as your NAP (name, address, and phone number) and business signals e.g. categories, reviews and the proximity of your business to the searcher. Obviously, this information needs to be correct on your own site (schema wouldn’t hurt on your own site either), but you also need to make sure it’s correct on other sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, Google Places, Bing Places and several other local business directories. I like to think that doctors and lawyers have it easy, because they have a plethora of industry-specific websites that they can use to up their local optimization game. According to Moz, nearly 40% of local SEO success depends on website signals e.g. NAP, categorization, page titles etc… and business directory information including citation volume and NAP information. Read the page linked above, there’s a wealth of information that you can use to dominate your local market. And if you get nothing out of this entire paragraph – remember this – get reviews. Reviews matter, they matter in more ways than you can imagine. Develop a review earning strategy and work at it daily for years. Trust me, online reputation matters, and more users than you’d ever imagine trust reviews online more than reviews from friends and family.
The Importance of an SSL Certificate
Sure it’s about security, but it’s also about optimization…
An SSL Certificate creates a secure connection between a browser and a server by encrypting the data sent from a website to a server. Commonly used on pages where sensitive information is exchanged, such as passwords and payment data, this security feature is vital to ensure visitors trust your site. Luckily, it’s easily discernible thanks to visual indicators such as the padlock icon and green address bar, so trust between you and your customers is quickly established. Trust is huge, which is why it was mentioned first. However, since August 6, 2014, Google announced that an SSL certificate could help your search engine rankings. They did say that it’s not a “huge boost,” but this entire post is about the little things that add up to big results. Trust and higher rankings means that an SSL certificate is essential. Don’t worry if you’re lost, contact us today. We’ll get you what you need and get everything setup for you, so that your customers feel safer on your site, and so that Google feels safer about sending customers to your site.
Lower Your Bounce Rate, Here’s a Few Tips
Closely related to the time spent on site metric, bounce rate is the percentage of visitors your site receives who navigate away after viewing a different page. This is kinda misleading, and you can read about it more here, but the short of it is-is that if a user does something on the page that’s considered a “hit,” and they leave the page without visiting another page, then they officially did not “bounce,” The Bounce rate essentially tells you how effectively your content resonates with visitors and matches what they’re looking to find. If it’s high, that means you aren’t communicating your message well, or you’re attracting bad visitors. Contributing factors include design and usability issues, incorrect implementation of your tracking code (small chance but maybe), and visitors who got the information they needed off that one page. Answer websites typically see very high bounce rates, because visitors go, find the answer, and leave. To lower your bounce rate, make sure you tell your content is quality and matches what users would expect to see on the page. Make sure your story engages users on your landing page, deliver on expectations, employ clear site navigation and responsive design, and be proactive on social media. Test different landing pages to see which ones perform the best, but make sure you collect enough data on your landing pages to make an informed decision. We believe that depending on the type of site you operate, Bounce rates can affect rankings.
Consistently Deliver Engaging Content & High Quality Content
You may be able to lure in readers with catchy, intriguing titles, but without engaging content, you’ll never get that reader to take the most important next steps: returning for more and/or sharing your story with others via social media. To continue driving traffic to your site, you must get readers to take these steps. Jeff Bezos has been quoted many times as saying Amazon relied almost solely on word of mouth to build awareness of their site, so do not underestimate the collective power of satisfied customers. Add in the famous Panda update Google implemented back in 2011 (followed by similar moves on other search engines), and keywords alone are no longer enough to drive growth. You must deliver the goods, and do so consistently with engaging, original content and high quality content. If you’re writing about something, find 5 similar articles, maybe 6, and before you publish your article on the same topic, make sure it’s the best article of the bunch. Use the other articles as resources and cite them for their work, but make sure your article tops the list. Throwing together articles with decent content is a tired and old game. To win in this content game, you need top-notch content regularly.
Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry
By this point, we’re all in agreement that keyword stuffing is out, and top-notch content is in. How do you achieve this top tier status? If you listen to Google’s Matt Cutts, you’ll become an authority in your niche. This links strongly (no pun intended) to a previous entry, delivering engaging content. Thought leaders are recognized authorities within their own field. It seems daunting, but you can achieve this position by posting insightful, engaging blogs, articles, and white papers. The reward? Brand recognition, improved SEO, speaking event invitations, and repeat traffic. Ah, I almost forgot, links and social signals that will endlessly help you kill it online. Study up, write a lot and put yourself out there for criticism. Check this link out for a bit more information on though leadership and how to become one.
Small things that add up, the conclusion…
Employing the above tactics should generate increases in traffic and help out with your search engine rankings. Even if each change returns only a small improvement, over time and combined together, those small gains will help you reap big rewards, driving more traffic to your site and steadily improving your goals. In the end, they’ll help you pull ahead of the competition and win the web game.