6 Steps to Boost Your Google Ranking
Are you worried about how much traffic is heading to your site? Perhaps you know your on-page SEO is lacking but don’t know what steps to take to improve it?
Google used to be relatively easy to second guess. Nowadays it considers a much wider, more nuanced range of factors before ‘deciding’ how highly your page will appear in its rankings.
And let’s face it, this is important. If you’re an online business, it doesn’t matter how exceptional your website is, if nobody can find it. That’s why having a powerful on-page SEO strategy is crucial both in terms of attracting visitors and in acquiring a strong position with Google.
These days Search Engine Optimisation and User-Experience (UX) are intricately tied together. Google will only rank websites which visitors spend time on, so the good news is whatever you do to improve your SEO strategy will also improve your visitors’ experience.
Read on to find out how to get started.
- Complete an on-page SEO audit
- Check the metatags, URLs and h1 titles
- Improve your UX using Google’s HEART framework
- Improve your page speed and create a mobile friendly site
- Identify and enhance core landing pages
- Complete an SEO competitor analysis and create a new content strategy
1. Complete an on-page SEO audit
A fruitful place to start, that will give you a comprehensive cross-section of insights into your site’s functioning, is with an SEO audit.
Why is an SEO audit useful?
Well, it gives you valuable insights into how many people your site reaches, as well as letting you know how users interact with it. Once you’re armed with the facts and figures, you can begin to explore what needs to change – and how to do it.
An SEO audit considers all the criteria that are important to Google – and consequently the online users you want to attract – when it deems where your site should rank. It takes into account aspects such as UX, including on mobiles (since now, over half of all website traffic is browsing from a mobile this is more important than ever!), along with an analysis of your Meta tags, site structure and page content (and the relevance of the keywords in place).
Many high-quality SEO audits will not just tell you what’s wrong, but also offer suggestions for improvement, such as how to make headings more effective by making them more keyword rich. The audit should also make assessments of your site’s overall structure, how easy it is to navigate, and look at your click-through rate. It will give information on how often your site appears in Google search results (even if they didn’t ultimately click through) and what the potential traffic is from a wide range of keywords.
What’s more, an SEO audit can also pinpoint any technical issues you might not be aware of, such as missing code, broken links or error messages. It will analyse your backlinks, too, to help work out if you need to build in some more high-quality external links and isolate any that it would be better to remove or disavow (a process of telling Google to ignore the link). A thorough SEO audit can work wonders on your ranking, impressions and click-through rate so it is well worth the investment.
Indigoextra’s SEO audit service includes in-depth analysis on all the above factors, plus a review by experts on improving your conversion rate. Afterall, once you get the visitors, it’s important they take the next step and either order a product, or make an enquiry.
2. Check the Metatags, URLs and h1 titles
Now you have fixed any glaring problems with your website, it’s also vital that you carry out a thorough check of your Metatags, URLs and h1 titles. Metatag descriptions are often overlooked – despite being the text that is visible when users are scrolling through search results, deciding where to go next. It’s a valuable window of opportunity to persuade prospects that your site is the one to visit.
Start with keyword research and match all the core landing pages of your site to one or two keywords. Aim to choose different keywords for different web pages as far as possible. It’s critical here that you ensure keywords are relevant to that page. Aim for keywords with a high search volume (so your page appears in listings for these popular search terms). Unless you have a large budget or well-established site, also target keywords that don’t face too much organic competition.
Metatags don’t appear on your website but will appear beneath your URL in search listings. Write clear metatags and ensure they’re relevant to the information found on the page they refer to.
Write a unique Meta Description for each page. These need to read well, to encourage potential users to visit your site. It’s best if they include one or two keywords too – this way Google are more likely to show them in the search results, otherwise Google may select a piece of text that appears on your site instead, meaning you risk the description shown being less relevant.
On computers the first 157 or so characters appear in Google’s results. On mobiles, this increases to 170 characters. Crucially, Meta Descriptions should make that page sound interesting and informative.
Write in a style that fits your product and adapt the language accordingly. As an example, here are a couple of Metatags we wrote where the language used is adapted to the product being sold:
Your Metatag title is potentially even more important: these are up to 57 characters that Google displays and they act as a mini advert, so use them wisely.
In terms of your H1 titles, it is important for on-page SEO that your title tags and H1 title both feature the same keyword. Many CMS (Content Management Systems) will use the main H1 title on the webpage as the title tag. This can be changed, if necessary, on any good CMS (like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.). Discover more information on writing Metatags to ensure they are working as hard as they can.
When doing on-site SEO, you need to consider both a broad sweep across the whole site, and some deep dives into individual pages. Examine the URLs that have been indexed by Google. Having too many indexed pages might mean you have some duplicated, while too few indexed pages can suggest your site hasn’t been crawled, or you need more content. In an audit, you can find out about any URLs that have been excluded and as such, are not in Google’s index. This can happen for a number of reasons, including web pages that redirect, or pages with errors. Again, once you are armed with the information, you can implement any changes that need to be made. Knowledge is power!
3. Improve your UX using Google’s HEART framework
User Experience, or ‘UX’, now plays a significant role in where you rank. And this makes sense when you think about it; if your website is easy to navigate and useful to users, it is valuable and as such, deserves a higher place in the listings. On the other hand, if your site is full of glitches, confusing and not particularly useful, then... it needs some improvement before you can expect it to be top of Google’s recommendations.
UX can be summed up as the way your website’s design facilitates your user while they are there. It also includes an element of subjectivity: does the user enjoy being there, and are they getting something useful from it? Elements that are subjective are, by definition, harder to track, but Google uses its now-famous HEART framework. This acronym stands for the five different measures of UX used by Google. They are:
This tracks visitors’ opinions and levels of satisfactions. Often, it is measured by compiling the results of surveys.
This is tracked using in-product analytics, such as how long users spend on each page and how often they visit, as well as looking at the quantity of shares generated.
Google looks at the percentage of visitors that take up a specific feature or product on your site. This includes purchases, subscriptions and upgrading their access.
This aspect considers the number of users who come back to your site or product. It is tracked by looking at your ‘churn’ rate. Churn is a way of measuring how many users cancel or fail to renew their subscriptions. A high churn rate is a good indicator or customer dissatisfaction and will negatively impact your overall HEART ‘score’.
This is a measure of how easily and quickly visitors to your site complete their task. It considers things like search exit rate and crash rate, and is improved by users being able to find and view the content they’re after quickly and easily.
Considered in combination, they create your site’s UX rating. Optimising this is a win-win strategy for all businesses: If visitors engage with your site, they spend longer there. The longer they spend, the more likely they are to make a purchase. And crucially, the more time they spend there, the higher up the Google rankings you will move.
4. Improve your page speed and mobile friendly site
Over half of visitors to your site will be browsing from their mobile. In fact, across the web, the numbers are increasing dramatically – rising from 57% in 2019 to 61% in 2020. A mere 35% of visits were carried out on a laptop.
That’s why being mobile-friendly is a highly valued ranking factor in Google’s eyes. It’s also considered an essential part of UX. Nowadays, internet users expect a mobile site that is quick to load and easy to navigate from their device. It should therefore shrink down to be small enough to display, but still remain easy to read. As mobile devices are less powerful than computers, consider whether complex features are essential on the mobile version of your site. Only include them when they still enable users to carry out all the functions they need.
One quick check to improve load time is that your images are the same size as they appear on the screen. I’ve seen sites with 2000px wide images that are only shown as tiny icons on the site itself. To test how fast your site is on mobiles and desktops and see a range of resources on improving site speed, visit https://developers.google.com/speed.
5. Identify and enhance core landing pages
For your core landing pages you need to go beyond the basics of SEO and implement some advanced on-page SEO strategies. That’s because Google is now even ‘smarter’, using semantics as part of its algorithm to determine which site is more important. This means it can second guess what users mean by the terms they search.
Think of it as a level of inference that early versions of Google lacked. Google can ‘infer’ what you mean without needing specific search terms. For example, if you type in “mozzarella tomato”, you will get advice on “how make a Caprese salad” – even though neither the words “Caprese” nor “salad” were searched.
Your best approach for enhancing your core landing pages is picking out those pages with the most potential. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Consider sales figures and prioritise products with the most sales.
- Prioritise those pages which target large-volume search terms. These are the pages which act as your “in-roads” from Google, and so when it infers what a user means, they are more likely to be directed here.
- Look at search statistics in Google Analytics and prioritise new pages and those with the most searches.
You may have noticed that all of these approaches recommend focusing on the more successful pages. This is because most companies will get the best return on investment by improving their best pages, rather than trying to squeeze some sales from pages which show very little potential. This is true for blog posts, product pages and other landing pages.
Having your visitors land on an enhanced page is beneficial for all of the reasons outlined above: they will spend more time here, making them more likely to share content or make a purchase – factors we have already seen to be important for SEO.
Now that you know which pages to enhance, you can put some relatively simple techniques into place:
- Read through the body text and assess its keyword density. Don’t cram it full of keywords (Google can spot this a mile off), but ensure you use your core keyword a handful of times. Include semantic keywords - synonyms and related phrases competitors use - in the article too.
- Proofread the content and check for run-on sentences and unnecessarily long paragraphs. Commercial content uses far shorter paragraphs than academic content.
- See what your competitors are doing. Analyse their sites for semantically similar words which might form search terms you hadn’t previously considered – and then include them on your page. In a similar vein, incorporate semantically related words into your body text, too. Let’s say your business sells homemade bread. As well as the obvious search term “bread”, think about including alternative terms such as dough, bun, muffin and sandwich, too. (When we complete this process, we use software that scans competing sites and automatically picks up these words, but it’s also worth applying a common-sense approach).
- On these enhanced pages, consider whether it is worth creating additional content. This will give your visitors more to read (obviously!) and potentially share, but also create more opportunities to include important keywords and semantically similar search terms. Above all, make sure any additional page content flows well and is easy to engage with. (When we complete this progress, we use Semrush to check the word count against the average word count of the top 10 competitors for each keyword – we then expand the pages that need it and keep those that don’t a similar length.)
- Review the internal and external linking from each page. Consider adding links to other relevant on-page content where possible and for blog pages, consider adding one or two external links to relevant sources, statistics or quotes.
- Add ALT texts to the images on each page.
6. Complete an SEO competitor analysis and create a new content strategy
As well as improving existing pages, it's also important to identify gaps in your current SEO strategy. The simplest way to do this is through an SEO competitor analysis.
- Run a keyword report for your site and save it as an Excel / Google Sheets file. Use Semrush, Ahrefs, or another SEO software for this.
- Identify 3-5 sites which are your leading competitors. Where possible find sites where the whole domain or a specific sub-folder is devoted to a similar product range to the one you sell.
- Run keyword reports for these sites.
- Merge the reports into and save it in a second tab in Excel / Google Sheets.
- Use VLOOKUP to insert your current position and URL in the competitor keyword tab.
This gives you a spreadsheet showing the keywords your competitors rank for and how you stack up against them.
To identify keywords where you can expand your on-page content, look for those that:
- Are achievable - Look at the keywords you're in the top 10 positions for. What's the highest keyword difficulty out of 100? Add 5 to this and filter out any keywords with a higher difficulty. This ensures you focus on keywords that you can reach in the short to medium term. Better aim for the moon and reach it, than shoot for the stars and fall flat on your face with nothing.
- Have a high search volume - What high means varies by industry. If you're selling a recurring monthly service worth thousands, a few visits might be all you need. If you're selling toothpicks on an individual basis, you're going to need a much higher volume.
- Are relevant and likely to convert - Only target those relevant to your business, which potential buyers might search for.
Once you have identified your target keywords, brainstorm topics for the most important of them and plan content for each.
As we have seen, the way Google assesses your site is infinitely more sophisticated than 15 years ago. As such, crude SEO principles are out of date, and your on-page SEO strategy requires a much more refined approach. Having said that, it’s not about tricking Google; the search engines only values what is useful, worthwhile and relevant to internet users. By creating a site that is all of these things, you will please both your visitors and Google – and reap the rewards of both.
If you would like us to review your site and recommend what the priority items in your SEO strategy are for you specifically, please get in touch.