The term SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, represents a range of techniques that help your site rank higher for search engine queries related to your business. Web users are more likely to click on the top search results because they trust that those results will lead them to quality, relevant answers to their questions or research.
That means that boosting your site’s SEO ranking is a powerful way to generate traffic and drive sales for your business. There are numerous positive factors that contribute to higher search rankings, including optimized web content, text structure, internal links, and more.
In this article, we’ll explore the most effective SEO strategies that you can leverage to increase organic site traffic and fuel business growth.
1) Conduct Effective Keyword Research
Thorough, accurate keyword research is the first step toward a successful SEO strategy. Knowing how to identify the words and phrases people use to find products and services in your industry helps you make informed decisions about everything from on-page optimization to content marketing.
The quality of your target keywords can make or break your Google ranking, so here are a few ways to get the most out of your research:
Define Your Goals
The first step in researching keywords is defining the goals you want to accomplish with SEO. Are you looking to drive more traffic to a specific product page, or gain visibility for your business as a whole? Are you building your mailing list, generating leads, or targeting a specific goal for online sales?
Before you dive any further into your keyword research, list out the business goals that will guide your SEO, content, and marketing strategies.
Consider Search Intent
It isn’t enough to simply look at a list of keywords and stuff the words with the highest search volume into your website’s content; Google’s algorithms now compare search terms with user queries to determine the intent behind the searches.
For example, when someone types “cheap credit card” into Google, they’re looking for information about credit cards with low rates. They want to know what the cheapest credit card is, how much it costs, and where they can get it, and content that answers these questions satisfies their search intent.
However, when they run a search for “credit card deals,” the intent is different. They’re not interested in finding out which credit card offers the lowest rates; they want to find out which credit cards have great bonus offers and ongoing rewards programs.
Understanding what people actually want when they search for certain terms will help you create a laser-focused bank of keywords and generate the useful and highly relevant content users (and search engines) love.
Leverage Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools are designed to help you find high-value keywords in a snap. There are a number of reputable keyword research tools in the market — such as web-based Soovle and Jaaxy — that can pinpoint trends and mentions across the digital landscape.
You can also use your Google Search Console or your Google Analytics account for finding high search volume keywords. Google Keyword Planner can also help you discover new keyword ideas to increase website traffic and improve your site’s ranking potential.
Compile Seed Keywords
Breaking down your company’s offerings into smaller topics will allow you to create a list of seed keywords that can then grow into a comprehensive keyword list. The topics should be focused and specific to your brand and audience. For example, if you sell personal care products, your topics could be broken out as follows:
- Sunscreen for kids
- Men’s deodorant
- Cruelty-free skincare
Brainstorm the questions your target market would ask about each of the topics — and use keyword research tools for real-time data. These will be the seed keywords that will help you grow a bigger, more relevant list of keywords as you distill and align your research findings.
Identify Long-Tail & LSI Keywords
Long-tail keywords are highly-specific, less-competitive keyword phrases (generally 3 or more words) that usually represent searches users generate when they are close to making a purchase.
Because long-tail keywords are more likely to satisfy the user’s intent, they help generate more targeted traffic and have a higher conversion value. In fact, these keyword sets tend to generate a click-through rate that is 3% to 6% higher than generic searches.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are words and phrases that are commonly found on web pages with the main keyword, but are not synonyms of that keyword. Because LSI keywords are semantically related to your main keywords, they help put your content in context and boost your site’s relevance — for both users and search engines.
You can find relevant long-tail and LSI keywords to use in content creation by running a Google search, looking at the related searches at the bottom of the SERP page, and picking out keywords that are specific to your content.
2) Optimize On-Page SEO
On-page SEO (or on-site SEO) refers to optimizing web page content for search engines and web traffic. Updating websites for improved on-page SEO is one of the fastest and most effective ways to achieve higher Google rankings, and best practices include optimizing the following:
- Title and meta tags
- Semantic markup
The title tag, or meta title, is an HTML element that defines the title of a web page. As the clickable headline for a given search result, the title tag should be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content.
To optimize for both user experience and search engine rankings, you should:
- Position your keyword as close to the start of the tag as possible
- Keep it under 60 characters
- Avoid stuffing your tag with multiple keywords
The code used to create a basic webpage, also known as, Semantic HTML (hypertext markup language) is made up of tags that define different elements of a page and how they relate to one another. Semantic HTML uses header hierarchy — with header tags such as H1, H2, and H3 that visually distinguish headers from most to least important. This practice effectively signals to search engine crawlers and users what type of data is contained in different sections.
For example, your H1 tag should be positioned at the top of your page, reveal the purpose and nature of the content, and contain your primary keyword. Subsequent header tags should also reflect the relative importance of the different sections of your content.
Building your site’s content according to semantic markup structure ensures that the most important content on your site will be seen and indexed quickly by search engines. But, just as importantly, this semantic structure also makes your site more accessible, enabling all users to make full use of your site’s features.
SEO-friendly URLs help search engines and users alike understand what your content is about and how it’s relevant to their searches. The most effective URLs are short, easy to read, and include descriptive keywords; you can further optimize by executing on the following:
- Including page-specific target keywords
- Using hyphens to separate words
- Avoiding underscores
- Using clear, simple language
3) Create Strategic Content
Creating strategic content that is engaging, informative, and valuable for your customers is vital to growing your online presence and improving your search engine rankings.
High-performing content is well-written, interests your target audience, and clarifies a given topic while keeping readers engaged.
Include internal links
Linking readers to other content on your website drives more internal traffic and keeps visitors engaged with your site longer. This additional traffic boosts rankings by signaling your site’s relevance and ease of use to search engines. Think about it: If you don’t link to your own web content, who will?
To keep your content clear and focused, center your content around one primary keyword. The keyword can be either short-tail or long-tail, and you should include it in your title tag, meta description, H1 header, and introductory paragraph.
Your primary keyword should also be weaved throughout the text, but keep in mind that search engines flag too much repetition of a keyword as a sign of low quality, which hurts rankings. Try synonyms, rephrasing, and pairing your primary keyword with LSI keywords to avoid sounding repetitive.
Boost conversions with CTAs
Clear calls to action (CTAs) are essential to getting your reader to make a desired move, whether your primary intent is to ask them to sign up for a newsletter, download an app, or simply share your article with a friend.
The most effective CTAs are relatively short, easy to understand, and well-placed on the page. Often, CTAs can be delivered in just a few words: “download now!”, “sign up,” or “subscribe today” are all examples of clear CTAs that accomplish their goals in a few short words.
You can further persuade your reader to take action by incorporating an offer with your CTA. For example, directives like “subscribe today and get 20% off!” or “sign up now for your chance to win!” add an urgency that transforms your CTA from an action to an incentive.
Improve rankings with frequent content updates
When creating content for your website, quality over quantity matters; however, the algorithm favors sites with fresh, updated content, so some frequency is key to boosting your site’s ranking.
When you don’t have the time or resources to do it yourself, consider hiring writers experienced in SEO-optimized content creation; often, this is the best way to secure a steady pipeline of well-crafted pieces for your website.
4) Build Backlinks
Backlinks, also known as incoming or inbound links, are hyperlinks that connect one website to another. Backlinks from other sites are virtual votes of confidence that expand your reach and build your authority – in the eyes of users and search engines alike.
However, not all backlinks are useful; along with quantity, search engines also take into account the quality of backlinks when ranking sites.
For a backlink to be effective, it should be:
- From a recognized and authoritative site
- Featured prominently on the page linking to you
- Embedded as a “dofollow” link (this method allows search engines to get the full SEO value of the link)
Best practices for building quality backlinks to your site include:
- Publishing original, high-quality blog content on your website
- Boosting your visibility through social media forums
- Linking to other sites in your content and asking the sources for backlinks in return
- Guest posting on other sites and inserting your own links in the content
5) Understand Google’s Core Web Vitals
Google’s core web vitals measure three specific page speed and user interaction metrics considered essential to the overall user experience of a website based on data from actual users:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
- FID (First Input Delay)
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
Google has made page experience an official ranking factor, and these Core Web Vitals are an important aspect of that score. You can access this data by navigating to the ‘enhancements’ section of your Google Search Console and finding the Core Web Vitals data for your website.
Understanding what each of these factors measures – and how to improve your scores — is a key step to enhancing your ranking in search results. Whether you are in the process of a new website design and development or have an existing website, core web vitals can no longer be ignored.
LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
LCP measures how long it takes a page to load after clicking on a link. It takes into account even the heaviest content elements on the page, such as video, images, GIFs, etc. The smaller these assets, the faster a page loads – and the better the overall user experience.
A good LCP score is 2.5 seconds or less. Supporting Google’s metrics, studies show that when opening a site on mobile, 53% of users will only wait for 3 seconds before leaving the page. To speed up your web pages’ load times and reduce bounce rates, you can:
- Remove all unnecessary third-party scripts
- Improve your hosting solution
- Optimize images for mobile
FID (First Input Delay)
FID measures the amount of time it takes for a web browser to respond to a user’s command (for example, how long it takes to open up a menu), as well as how quickly links and buttons on your website load.
CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how visually stable a page is as it loads. A high CLS score indicates that items on your website shift as they load, and users may end up clicking where they don’t intend to. This could lead to an increase in bounce rates and lost sales opportunities, especially if you rely on pop-ups and ads for revenue.
To minimize the CLS for your pages, execute on the following:
- Use precise dimensions for any media on your site (including videos, images, GIFs, and infographics) so that the browser knows how much space it should occupy.
- Reserve space for ad content so that it doesn’t push other content around as it loads.
- When adding new UI elements, put them below the fold so the old content stays where the returning user expects them to.
6) Identify Google Search Console Errors
The Google Search Console, or GSC, is a powerful tool for maximizing your site’s visibility that allows you to identify and eliminate errors that can impact searchability and user experience.
The GSC provides regular reports that detail web errors, including:
- Crawl Issue
- Server Error (5xx)
- Marked ‘noindex’
- 404 Errors
- Redirect Error
- Blocked Resource
- Unauthorized Request (401)
While some Google Search Console errors won’t directly impact your SEO, they can still have a negative effect on your site by preventing users from getting to your content. Secure your site’s ranking and accessibility by learning how to troubleshoot the following common GSC errors.
Server Error (5xx)
A 500-level error occurs when the server returns a page other than the one requested by the user. This is often a temporary issue, so first, wait a short while and then check the page again; you may find that the issue has been resolved. Otherwise, contact your webmaster or hosting company to find out whether they’ve experienced any recent outages.
Next, check to see if your particular configuration blocks crawlers from accessing your web pages. This could include robots.txt files or password-protected areas of your site that require login credentials. You can solve this issue by either excluding these pages from your sitemap or using an authentication method that allows crawlers to access them.
This error message means that Google bots are prevented from crawling the page – a necessary step toward having the page indexed – due to a rule in the robots.txt file.
To ensure the page can be indexed and made available on Google’s search results, you’ll have to identify the rule that’s causing the block (but be sure to use a tester to confirm the issue before inadvertently making unnecessary changes). Once you’ve identified the culprit, you can either remove it or alter the rule so that it no longer applies to the page.
404 errors occur when previously indexed pages can’t be found – typically because the page no longer exists, is missing content, or is otherwise inaccessible to Google crawlers. There are two types of 404 errors:
A soft 404 occurs when Google has discovered and submitted a page for indexing, but the server still returns an error code. This happens when a page contains no content – either because it’s a category page without any posts in it, or because your theme is generating pages that don’t need to be created.
To resolve a soft 404, you can:
- Redirect the page to a new location
- Create content for the page
- Convert the page into an actual 404 page, and then resolve accordingly (see below)
Actual 404s (URL Not Found)
An actual 404 occurs when a URL that was previously included in your sitemap has been moved, or no longer exists (for example, a blog about an old product or outdated technology that you have removed and no longer want featured on your site).
To solve this issue, you can remove the outdated URL from the XML sitemap or redirect it to another relevant page on your website.
Ignite Business Growth with SEO
SEO is one of the most effective ways to grow your business in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With a well-researched and executed SEO strategy, you can gain visibility, foster trust, improve rankings, and trigger exponential growth.
But it’s important to note that SEO is a long-term strategy, and many businesses don’t see results for months after implementing a powerful SEO plan. It takes time to build authority with search engines, but patience and consistency will help you reach your goals.
Always keep your site health strong and web content relevant by keeping it up-to-date as search behavior (and the corresponding search terms) change, trends evolve, and the algorithms are updated. Staying current will help you maintain your ranking — and a competitive edge.