Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of driving more traffic by making your website appear higher up in the organic (free) search results for a set of keywords. Please watch our video “SEO in Layman’s Terms” for a quick introduction. Google’s Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird algorithm updates over the last few years have really shaken up SEO and organic search results so we have summarized what you really need to know.
Content is Still King
Fresh, unique and engaging content is more important than ever so regular updates are key. Google is really cracking down on keyword stuffing so inserting your keywords in content that does not read well or is not catered to your target market is really going to hurt your website rankings. The Hummingbird update really took semantic search further, which means that Google really seeks to understand, what the user means or intends. Thus, content should be less keyword-focused and instead created to answer specific user questions. The bottom line is writing high quality, relevant content that your target market wants to read and share and Google will reward you. Also remember that too much duplicate content makes Google unhappy as well.
Natural Keyword Phrases
You should still pepper in some keywords in your content but they should sound natural. Because people usually search by entering a conversational question, conversational style keywords will improve your website rankings. We were already doing this before with long-tail keywords but this is just taking it one step further.
Short & Descriptive URLs
By default, websites with dynamic content or WordPress URLs look something like this: https://www.kwokdesign.com/?p=123 which is considered an ugly URL. To create SEO-friendly or nice-looking URLs, you just have to change your permalinks settings in your WordPress dashboard. If you select the “Post name” option under Settings > Permalinks, your URLs will default to the page title words separated by hyphens which is much more meaningful to Google. You can also edit the URLs to be more specific but please be sure to separate each keyword by a hyphen and not an underscore.
Quality Link Building
It used to be that you could just link your keywords to different parts of your website and everything was good. Well, that is no longer acceptable. Google now wants more natural links in between pages and it credits you for inbound links based on the authority of those websites. Google wants to see a wide variety of relevant and trustworthy websites linking to your website.
With mobile traffic having surpassed traditional laptop/desktop traffic in 2014, a responsive website is more crucial than ever. Still, some companies are ignoring mobile users, which means that going responsive will put you ahead of your competitors if you have not done so already. It is important to note that Google prefers a responsive website over a custom mobile one because it eliminates the need for duplicate content. In addition, Google also prefers that your website has lighter content on mobile devices to reduce scrolling and navigation. Google is also taking bounce rates into account so if your website is delivering a poor user experience on mobile devices, your rankings are doomed.
Quick Loading Time
A lot of companies these days use pre-made WordPress themes to save time and budget and a lot of people like the idea of knowing exactly what they are getting. Although pre-made themes are crazy cheap, they will always be slower loading that custom WordPress websites. That is because pre-made themes usually are bloated with infinite page layout options and content elements, most of which you will never use because they need to sell the same theme to hundreds of times to make any real money so they need to cater to anyone and everyone. Because Google takes user experience and bounce rates into account now, a fast-loading custom website is key to better search engine rankings.
Increase Social Engagement
Search engine algorithms are now incorporating information from social signals because they are an integral part of semantic search. Hence, websites must have a strong social presence to show up in search results. It is very important to post regular fresh updates and engage your followers in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other large social networks relevant in your industry. Social media marketing is a lot of work so we have social media management packages that can help you out.
These SEO tips are not new for this year per se but they just emphasize that what was important last year is even more important now. Please contact us for SEO if you need help improving your website rankings for your San Francisco small business.