So you’ve put together a great website with a lot of excellent content that people should love and appreciate. Your website is online, all systems go, but you do not see much traffic. What do you do? There are several options to help get traffic to your newly created website. Some of the first things people try are:
- Facebook: An enormous amount of people use Facebook, surely some of them will want to read your content, right? You can post in groups, post on your profile, even pay for Facebook ads. All of those options are good ways to get traffic to your website, but that traffic won’t be consistent. As soon as you stop promoting, the traffic stops flowing.
- Google Ads: Google processes BILLIONS of searches per day. What if you paid to have your website show up at the top of the list if on some of those searches? Google makes a ton of money off those ‘sponsored’ links at the top of Page 1. A lot of people must be clicking on them! Google Ads, if you can figure out how to design them, so the right people see your ads can be costly. Most people have difficulty perfecting their ads. The people that do click on them aren’t in the target audience. You spend money to have someone spend only seconds on your site. And, if you do get the ads right, the traffic stops when the ad does.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is the best way to get consistent traffic to your website. If you can get Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to put your website on page 1 organically, you will get FREE traffic to your site consistently. What is the downside of SEO then? It’s not easy, and it can take several months to see any improvements. You have to spend time upfront on the hope that it will pay off in the future.
SEO isn’t easy. But it doesn’t have to be so intimidating that the average content creator can’t make progress on his/her own. This article will spend time teaching you about the top 10 things anyone can do for FREE to help improve their SEO score and get on the path to consistent free traffic to your website.
What is SEO and Why is it so Darn Important?!?!
SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization.’ It is the practice of optimizing your web pages and content to make them reach a higher position in search engines’ search results than your competition.
Even though it is called Search Engine Optimization, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s all about what Google wants. Yes, there are many things you will need to do to please the Google algorithm to improve your ranking. But, don’t forget what your objective is—getting the reader to your page! It is essential to keep your readers in mind. You need to anticipate what questions they will be asking Google, and then you can figure out how to make sure Google suggests your page as an answer.
The bottom line is, only 25% of people will click past the first page of search results. If you can manage to get on page one, you can access 75% more readers than everyone else!
Ready to Find Out More?
Remember that submitting your website to Google and posting Facebook posts isn’t enough (necessary individual steps, though). There are a ton of things to consider when it comes to SEO. Some of them are more difficult than others, but they are worth the time and effort. Competition is high. There are BILLIONS of other websites out there. The competition in your niche has already found its way onto page one. They have already done the steps below. If you don’t, you will not have a real shot at competing with them.
Before you begin, we recommend installing Google Analytics onto your website to track your progress for getting more organic traffic. It’s free and pretty simple to grasp.
Now, let’s get started without further ado and know how to improve your Google search rank!
- Keyword Research for SEO
Our first recommendation in the Top 10 Easy and Free Ways to Improve Search Ranking is proper keyword research. A keyword is something a user types into the Google search box. ‘Baseball bats’ would be a pretty broad keyword. That could generate all kinds of results about baseball bats. Types of wood, different lengths, manufacturers, etc. ‘Best baseball bats for boys under 10’ would be considered a ‘Long-Tail keyword. Long-tail keywords are much more specific, and the results that Google will produce will be more accurate for what that user wants to see.
Before writing your content, it’s a good practice to do keyword research about your topic first. Keep in mind that you need to be thinking about what your readers will be researching. Will they be looking for every piece of information about baseball bats that exists (by searching for ‘baseball bats’). Or will they be looking to answer a particular question like finding the best baseball bat for their young son (by searching for ‘best baseball bat for boys under 10’)?
If you understand that difference, you probably already know that it is a better practice for new websites to focus on long-tail keywords. They are significantly easier to rank for, and they will help you get the perfect audience delivered to your website.
The easiest (and FREE) way to get started with keyword research is to start typing in a long-tail keyword into Google and seeing what auto-suggestions it has for you. Google will auto-suggest popular searches related to what you are typing. If it’s on that list, it has a pretty good search volume and would be an excellent topic for your article.
Bottom line: focus on what your reader is searching for, not about what you want to write. Once you have identified the right keyword, you need to place it in your article strategically. Don’t merely cram it in there as many times as possible.
Bonus tip: focus on long-tail keywords that start with the following words. More and more people use them, and they signal a high level of intent.
We will have a more in-depth article devoted to keyword research in the future. Sign up to be notified when it comes out!
- Write High-Quality Content for SEO
The second recommendation in our list of 10 Easy and Free Ways to Improve Search Ranking is making sure you are producing high-quality content. Years ago, all it took to have a successful blog was a website and a lot of content. Today, there are over 600 billion blogs out there. That’s a lot of competition! There’s a lot of components to getting a high ranking on Google. All of them are important, but a lot of them aren’t tangible. You have complete control over it from the beginning and can see the results as your content’s quality.
What do we mean by high-quality content? It means that you need to write better articles than your competition. Great content separates you from the competition and keeps readers on your website longer.
Here are some items to think about when writing your articles:
- Add Value: Don’t write an article just to create content. Write a post that adds value to the reader by educating them on a topic or solving a problem for them.
- Visual Appeal: Organize your post in a way that is visually appealing and easy to read. Use bullet points, headings, and pictures to break up the content into easily digestible chunks. Don’t overwhelm your readers with a concrete uniform block of text.
- Competitor Research: Read articles from other blogs on your topic. What could you do better? The only way to know you are producing the best content out there is to look at the competition. Write a better article, and you’ll get more readers, which will help Google realize it needs to rank you first.
- Long-Form: A lot of people aren’t going to like this one. Long-form content gives Google more context about your article and why it is better than the rest. How long is long-form? It depends on how long your competitors’ content is. If a well-written competitor is 1,000 words, write 1,500. If you’re unsure, our rule of thumb is minimally 2,000 – 2,500 words. Remember, quality is more important than quantity. Don’t force yourself to hit a specific word target and add a bunch of no-value filler.
- Optimize for Mobile to Improve SEO
The third recommendation in the Top 10 Easy and Free Ways to Improve Search Ranking is more important every day. We live in an increasingly mobile world. Around 80% of your target market is searching Google via a mobile device. You need to ensure that your website is optimized for desktop AND mobile screens.
- Responsive Web Design: Use a responsive web design to make sure your website automatically adjusts itself to the screen your reader is using. It’s easier than you think! We recommend WordPress and a page building tool called Elementor. They make it easy to verify your website adjusts to different screen sizes, without knowing a single line of code! Elementor is the most full-featured free page builder that we have tried. There is also a paid add-on with additional features depending on how advanced you want to get.
- Page Speed: Readers on their mobile devices will not be patient while your website takes 10 seconds to load. The back button is right next to their finger at all times. It’s possible to have images, animations, and videos that display on the desktop version of your website, but automatically hide when viewed on a mobile device. The goal for mobile users is to get the content in front of them as quickly as possible, not dazzle them with fancy extras.
- Fingers vs. Mouse: Make sure you consider that navigation and scrolling on a mobile device are done with your fingers instead of a mouse. Make sure your links and buttons are large enough to read and simple to click. Also, make sure your navigation menu is easy to use. Test! Once you have your site designed, pull it up on your phone and see how easy it is to navigate. Don’t assume your responsive web design is going to be perfect. You need to verify it.
- Optimize Your Page Title for SEO
Meta title tags help search engines understand your webpage. They are also the first impression many people have of your page. Title tags are used in two key places that you need to be aware of: (1) search engine results pages (SERPs) and (2) web browsers
Search Engine Results Page (SERP): Your title tag determines what the search engine will display in the results list. It’s your first opportunity to tell the reader about your content. Google typically displays 50-60 characters in the title. Make sure your title fits into that space.
Web Browsers: Web browsers will display the page title in the tab of the web browser the reader is using. Clear titles are especially important when they have multiple tabs open. A unique and clear title will help them find your tab faster.
- Watch Title Length: If your title is too long, search engines will cut it off, potentially before your reader understands what they will find on your page. The exact maximum length is a complicated calculation. A good rule of thumb is 60 characters or less.
- Don’t Cram Keywords: Keywords are important but don’t cram them into your title. These aren’t easy for users to read and could harm your search engine rank.
- Put Important Keywords First: While we are talking about keywords, place the critical & necessary keywords early in the title. This helps make sure they are visible to the user.
- Write For Your Customer: Write a page title that will be meaningful for your customer, not what is meaningful to you. Remember, you’re in a customer service business.
- Optimize Your Header Tags for SEO
Next up on our list of the Top 10 Easy and Free Ways to Improve Search Ranking is optimizing your header tags. HTML header tags differentiate the headings (h1) and sub-headings (h2-h6) of a page from the rest of the content. These tags are also known to webmasters as heading or header tags.
For SEO, we primarily focus on H1 and H2 header tags. Each of the section titles on this page is an H2 tag, and the article Title is H1. Each page should have only one H1 tag but can have as many H2 tags as necessary. These tags serve two primary purposes:
- Page Readability: Think of the H1 tag as the title of a book and the H2 tags as the chapters’ titles. Proper use of these tags will make your page much easier to read and encourage the user to keep going through your content.
- Keyword Relevance: H2 tags should include keywords that users may be researching. Search engines specifically look at what is included in your H2 tags to know how relevant your page is to what the user is exploring.
There are a couple of things that you should avoid doing with header tags:
- Don’t Keyword Cram: Sound familiar? There is never a good reason to cram as many keywords as possible into any aspect of high-quality content.
- Don’t Use More Than One H1 Tag: Use this for your page title and nothing else. Technically you can use as many as you want; it’s just not recommended by anyone I know.
- Hidden Text: Some people will insert many H2 tags into their page and hide them, so they aren’t visible to users. The thought is more H2 tags means better search engine ranking. But, Google easily recognizes this and can penalize you for it. Let your content speak for itself; don’t try to trick Google.
- Optimize Your URL for SEO
Most people don’t think about the URL to their posts; they only think about the domain name. The URL of your article is essential too. Your URL will always start with your domain name. You should focus on a consistent structure for each page URL to follow. A structured page URL is easier for a user to digest than a bunch of gibberish characters.
- Keep it Short: Long URLs will get cut off by the search engine results page. Don’t take away an opportunity for the reader to understand what is on your website.
- Be Consistent: Define the categories and subcategories for your posts and include those in the URL. Don’t get carried away with too many subcategories, though. www.baseballbats.com/boys/wood/best-bats-for-boys is much easier to read than www.baseballbats.com/boys/wood/maple/short-length/under-10-years-old/left-handed/best-bats-for-boys.
- Keyword Cramming: Remember when we said it was never a good idea?
- Use Your Primary Keyword: Don’t cram keywords into your URL, but use your primary keyword once.
- Separate Words: A hyphen placed between words will make the URL simple to understand.
- Internal Linking for SEO
You don’t just want to get people to your website; you want them to stay there for long periods. More time spent on your website increases your chances of returning and increases your chances of making money through ads or affiliate links. Google also pays attention to how long people stay on your page. If they remain longer, Google takes that as a sign that you are providing high-quality content. A great way to do this is through internal linking. It’s not a complicated concept.
- Content: Create multiple pieces of content related to the same topic. Insert links into each piece on content, pointing the reader to another post.
- Relevance: Don’t insert links to other articles unless they are relevant and add value to the reader. Adding value builds trust, tricking the reader to say on your page does the opposite.
- Ease of Use: Appropriately using internal linking makes your site easy to use. Don’t make the reader search for a reason to stay on your page; give them some.
- Optimize Your Images for SEO
Images are an essential aspect of articles. When properly used, they can make it easier to read and understand. But, they can also hurt your SEO score if you aren’t careful with them. There are a couple of things you need to do with every image you insert into your content.
- File Name: It all starts with the file name. The name is your first opportunity to tell Google what the image is about without looking at it. If you’re writing an article about baseball bats, the file name shouldn’t be DSC836f932.jpg. A better name would be best-baseball-bat-2020.jpg.
- Image Scale: It’s easy to grab an image, slap it into your website, and make it fit. But, you can quickly end up with a 3000×2000 pixel image displaying at 300×200 pixels. This causes the website to load the entire large image and scale it on the fly every time the page is loaded. That can cause your page to slow down, and Google doesn’t like that. A better solution is to resize the image down to 300×200 pixels yourself in a program like paint.net (free), and then upload it to your website.
- Reduce Image Size: Once you have the image scaled properly, the next thing to do is reduce the size as much as possible. A 100kb image will load faster than an image that is 500kb. A site like tinyjpg.com will compress your image as much as possible without affecting the quality.
- Alt Tags: By default, the ‘Alt Tag’ of your image will be blank. Don’t leave it like that. Insert a short description of the image into the ‘Alt Tag’ of every image on your website. The Alt Tag of an image will be displayed if there is ever an issue with the image itself loading. The Alt text should contain an appropriate keyword for the topic.
- Captions: Image captions aren’t necessarily required, but they are a good idea. People tend to read image captions more than the rest of the text on a webpage. Don’t add a caption if an image is self-explanatory.
- Submit an XML Sitemap for SEO
Search engines can technically find your website without you taking any action. But, an XML sitemap will help them find your site and get it indexed faster. An XML sitemap also shows the search engines that you have produced high-quality content. If you use a site powered by WordPress, you can download free plugins that will generate your sitemap for you. Submit it to the major search engines and get the following main benefits:
- Get Crawled Faster: A sitemap will help the search engines find each page on your website directly instead of having to follow all of your internal links. It’s not a guarantee that you will get crawled or ranked faster, but it increases your chances.
- Content Changes: XML sitemaps are especially crucial for websites that frequently add new pages or update existing content.
- Be Patient and Have Realistic Expectations for SEO Results
SEO is hard. After you complete all of the steps above, you will still have to wait several months to see if it worked for your posts. In the meantime, DON’T QUIT. Too many people are willing to invest the time and effort to improve their search ranking but are not willing to keep working while waiting for the improvements to become tangible.
Remember, the sites already on the first page have already done the work and waited a long time to get there. It will take your site just as long to overtake them.
As you can see, SEO is a complicated undertaking that involves numerous strategies and best practices. This article has covered the Top 10 Easy and Free Ways to Improve Your Search Ranking. Each step by itself is not complicated. Putting all 10 of them together in a cohesive manner, consistently across all of your content, is difficult, especially the patience required to see the results. But, those who can do so will reap the benefits of massive amounts of free and consistent traffic from the major search engines.