SEO is constantly changing. Following multiple recent updates from Google, some new thinking around how search engines work is needed to achieve effective SEO, writes Becky Mercer, Head of Business Consulting, Zymplify, Belfast
Marketers and businesses have been taking steps to educate themselves and adapt their SEO strategy to ensure that Google’s updates do not negatively affect traffic and rankings.
Yet the pace of change is so quick that it can sometimes be difficult to know which SEO techniques remain consistently important and which are outdated and ineffective.
This guide will help you navigate the SEO landscape in 2019, so you can be confident that your efforts will continue to boost your sites reputation with search engines.
Step 1 – Effective SEO Content
It used to be necessary to write content containing the exact keywords you wanted to rank for. However, now Google makes use of an algorithm which can identify keyword topics that are related to one another.
The rise of voice search has also had an effect on SEO, with queries being more conversational and question-based rather than needing to be exact matches of keywords.
This has been a major factor in a shift away from a concentration on a small number of short keywords towards looking at hundreds of long-tail variations on certain topics.
They will continue to punish sites that engage in ‘keyword stuffing’ – putting as many keywords on the page as possible. You may be able to get away with it for a while but eventually Google will catch on and your website will be penalised.
Your top priority must be to write for your human visitors – not bots. Keep your visitors in mind and generate content that is meaningful, using language that is friendly and human, and relevant to them.
Step 2 – Change Your Approach to Links
In the past, achieving excellent SEO rankings involved building as many links as possible.
This is still an important factor for rankings, yet now the emphasis has moved from the quantity of links to focus instead on the quality of links.
These days, search engines are looking for sites that contain content which is engaging and contains relevant links. Investing in good content for lead generation campaigns, blog posts and web pages can help you build up a strong network of relevant of links.
Don’t try to hide poor links from search engines, as they will always find out. Google can impose penalty algorithms which can have a negative effect on your SEO if you are not careful.
Keep an eye on your analytics and disavow low-quality links that you think are negatively affecting your rankings.
Step 3 – Tech Setup
For effective SEO, there are some things you may need your web developer to consider.
It’s important to ensure your site is secure. This means ensuring that your URLs begin with https:// rather than http://. The extra s indicates that connections to the site are encrypted and that hackers can’t access any data.
The technology behind this encryption is called a Secure Sockets Layer, more commonly known as SSL. Google gives URLs beginning with https:// preferences over URLs that begin with http://.
Browsers these days also indicate to users whether the site they are on is not secure, which may cause them to leave in a hurry, leading to a negative effect on rankings.
It can also be useful to have your web developer look into how crawlable the site is and investigate what to do about 404 pages and other potential issues. Website testing sites such as seobility.net are great at pointing out potential problems with your site, completely for free.
Don’t forget to ensure your site is mobile responsive – if not, Google will penalise you.
There is a perception that SEO requires a few technical tweaks and that it is something that your IT department can take care of. Your dev team certainly has a role to play when it comes to the user experience (UX) of the site, but successful SEO is a long-term strategy that requires a lot of thought with regards to content.
Optimising pages and content for mobile should be at the forefront of your mind, remembering that Google rewards mobile-friendly sites and penalises those that are not optimised for mobile.
You may find your current website is holding you back. Take time to discuss your options with your team and develop a long-term strategy, remembering that giving the best user experience to your visitors should be your top priority.