Website optimization is like getting an off-the-rack suit tailored. With the right nips and tucks, a modestly priced suit can look like a million bucks and attract all the attention. The same goes for your website. You may have to hem your web design and taper the content to capture the attention of your audience online.
Like suit alterations, web optimization depends on the needs of your clients (or potential ones) and requires crucial steps so you can achieve a perfect fit. While we’re not experts on suits, we know a thing or two about search engine optimization (SEO) and how it can help your website attract visitors and potential clients.
Here’s a broad four-step guide to optimizing your website for Google and other search engine users:
Analyze Your Target Market
Whenever we take a new web optimization project here at our digital marketing firm in Virginia, we start by analyzing the website’s target market. Google, the largest and most popular search engine, has openly told marketers to focus on optimizing their websites for Google users, not for its algorithm.
The Google algorithm has changed a lot in the past years. But there’s one algorithm update that has a great impact on search results today as it satisfies the search needs of Google users — RankBrain.
How Does RankBrain Work?
RankBrain is one of Google’s most important ranking signals. Relying on artificial intelligence, RankBrain has two main jobs:
(1) understand search queries or keywords, and (2) measure how users interact with the results.
In the past, Google would try to match the words in a query to words on a web page. Say, a user typed “real estate in Arizona” in the search box, Google would crawl all the web pages to see which ones had similar terms on their on-page content and list these web pages on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Now, with RankBrain, Google tries to understand what the users mean with their search terms. It now thinks that a query about “real estate in Arizona” may also mean “homes for sale in Arizona” or “residential properties listing in Arizona.” Google will likely offer web pages that talk about homes, real estate, or residential properties listed or for sale in Arizona as search results.
How will Google’s RankBrain know if its search results are good? It measures the satisfaction of the users; if many people click on one particular page in the results and read its entire content, Google will give that page a rankings boost. Otherwise, it will drop that page and replace it with a different page for the next similar search.
Since RankBrain works by meeting the search needs of online users, it is crucial for you to optimize a website in a way that it answers many, if not all, of the possible queries of your target market online.
How Should You Analyze Your Target Market?
Before tweaking anything on your website, take a closer look at your target market. This way, you’ll know whose queries you must answer to rank high on Google and, of course, to attract qualified leads.
Here are a few tips to analyze your target market effectively:
- Demographics explain who your buyers are: their age, gender, income level, and marital status. Psychographics, on the other hand, explain why your buyers buy.
- For instance, you run an organic food delivery service. The psychographics of your target market will probably include buying motives like switching to a vegan diet or wanting a healthy lifestyle but lacking time to prepare their own meals. When you know why your buyers buy, you can create a well-defined buyer persona. More importantly, you can come up with queries your website has to answer to be visible on Google.
Do a Competitive Analysis.
- Now that you’ve come up with several keywords your target market will likely use when searching online for a product similar to yours, type these keywords on Google’s search box to see your top competitors. Then, enter your competitors’ URLs in competitive data tools like SEMrush to find out other keywords your competitors use and target.
Perform Website Analysis.
- Use Google Analytics or other web analytics tool to track and assess the traffic your website receives. This way, you’ll know which pages position well on search engines and which ones require optimization.
- No matter how engaging your website content is, it won’t attract your target market online if it wasn’t created with an SEO strategy in mind. SEO is what makes web page content stand out among thousands of blog posts, news articles, magazine features, and other articles flooding the internet these days.
- Google uses content as a ranking factor. Unfortunately, it has not specified how it measures content. But let’s go back to RankBrain and how you should optimize your website, specifically its content, to answer the possible queries of Google users who fit your buyer persona.
Many marketers today still wait until the end of content creation to bring in SEO as a tool. In other words, they finish writing a blog post first, and then they plug their targeted keywords in the blog. This once worked with Google’s algorithm, but this won’t be effective now that the search engine giant has RankBrain.
Here are several ways you can optimize your website content with Google users in mind:
Create Content Based on User Intent
- When you know what queries your potential customers are making online, and what kind of content they’re looking for, you can design an SEO content strategy that answers those specific questions. Understanding user intent helps you create content that moves these users through your sales funnel. This is why the first step on this entire guide is to analyze your target market — their psychographics.
Write for Your Audience
- Keep your target market in mind when creating content. Refrain from using too much industry jargon and make sure the language is easy to understand. If it’s possible, use short paragraphs, bullet points, lists, bold texts, or subheads to make the content digestible. Also, choose a topic that answers one of your target audience’s possible online queries, but you should make sure that topic is engaging. Write for people, so search engines like Google can also understand your content — not vice versa.
Make Sure Content is Better Than Current Top Ranks
- Go back to your competitive analysis, and review the content of the pages that are currently ranking well for your target keywords. How were they written? What can you write to make your page better than those pages? Perhaps, you need to write a longer, more thorough blog post about a similar topic. After all, an industry study by Backlinko found that longer content tends to rank higher on Google.
Check Keyword Usage
- Keyword stuffing is no longer effective. Besides, Google is getting better at understanding related terms or LSI. It also looks for LSI keywords to determine a page’s relevance and possibly quality. Don’t be afraid to use synonyms, abbreviations, and so on. The natural use of keywords and their variants in content makes your page like it’s written primarily for people, and Google appreciates that.
Cite Reliable Sources
- Linking to news sites and other reliable sources makes your content reliable, and it’s also good SEO. Those external links show Google you know what you’re talking about and you’re associating with the right crowd.
Create Correct Content
- While there is no present evidence that grammar is a ranking signal, it’s a factor that makes your content credible and affects user experience. Before posting new content, check if it is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t forget to proofread and have someone else proofread your text. And in this age of fake news, it’s a must to fact-check your content and verify your sources.
Do a Technical SEO Audit
Other than optimizing the content, be sure to do a technical optimization of your website. While some technical SEO factors require site-wide audits and cleanups before you can even optimize your content, here are a few technical considerations you can take into account while improving on-page content:
- 1Create Accurate, Compelling Meta Titles. Google usually displays 50 to 60 characters of a title tag. Take advantage of that to create compelling titles that grab the attention of Google users. Your title, however, should accurately tell searchers about the content of the page. Clickbait titles could get you the clicks, but these would affect your bounce rate. Since RankBrain measures how users interact with search results, high bounce rate could pull down your web page’s rankings, defeating the purpose of optimizing your web content.
- 2Fill Out the Meta Description Tag. Along with the meta title, the meta description tag also appears on SERPs. Capitalize on that by writing an accurate, engaging, and keyword-rich description of your page to attract potential customers online.
- 3Use Keyword-Rich HTML Headings. HTML headings help you divide your on-page content into separate sections, making it more digestible. They can do more than that, though. Use keywords in these headings (especially in the first one called the H1) and Google finds it a bit easier to match your page with the queries of your target market.
- 4Improve URL Structure. URLs of your web pages should be easy to read and remember. If your URL still includes a series of numbers, replace them with words that are short, memorable, and related to the page. And when using multiple categories and tags, make sure you have a proper URL structure to distinguish each category and tag.
- 5Optimize Website for Mobile Phones. More and more people use their smartphones to search online. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it probably loses a huge chunk of traffic even if you have optimized its content and other elements. Make sure your web design is responsive, so mobile searchers can see your website perfectly, no matter the size of their screens.
- 6Boost Website Speed. Your content should load quickly, ideally in three seconds or less. Google now uses site speed as a rank signal for mobile search. Make sure your infographics, images, and videos aren’t slowing down the loading speed of your web page, especially for mobile users.Enable caching, too. Typically, users do not make a purchase or schedule a service on their first visit to your website. This first visit takes place most likely during the research phase of a potential buyer. By enabling caching, you can significantly reduce the time it takes for returning visitors to load your website.
- 7Improve Site Navigation. Make sure a site navigation menu is accessible through your homepage, and all the pages are included in the XML sitemap. More importantly, don’t forget to submit this sitemap to Google. This makes it easier for Google and users to find and understand your content.
Test and Measure
Like tailoring a suit, optimizing your website can’t be done in one go. You need to check if the changes you’ve made have worked — if you’ve achieved a website that’s a perfect fit for your target market. You should also track the test results to know what you can do better next time.
Plus with the constant changes in the Google algorithm, SEO trends, and consumer behavior, ongoing modification of keywords and on-page content are necessary to improve the search rankings of your web pages continually. Getting high rankings on Google is good, but staying on top is more valuable.
Web optimization can be tricky for business owners and marketers alike. It can also be costly to experiment on these changes, so it’s best to find an expert digital marketing agency to lend you a hand. That’s also what you do before you get any kind of suit alterations done — you find a quality tailor.
Here at Alkries LLC, we will optimize your website using the best SEO practices that put you above the competition and help Google – and your target users – find you online. Schedule a consultation with us today.