Guest Post Written By Kate Scott
Kate Scott is a Squarespace designer + expert who helps entrepreneurial women grow and streamline their businesses through the power of strategic web design. Grab a copy of her Homepage Blueprint and book a free discovery call at katescott.co.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a marketing strategy that requires a substantial investment of time and energy. But it’s an investment worth making because SEO is one of the most sustainable ways to drive targeted traffic to your website. And whether you’re an online enterprise trying to sell directly to website visitors or a brick-and-mortar business trying to raise brand awareness online, a solid SEO strategy can go a long way toward helping you achieve success.
The rules of SEO have changed dramatically over the last decade. And they’re going to continue to change as search technology advances further in 2020. Here are 10 things you need to know to stay ahead of the curve.
The #1 thing you need to know about any keyword is how competitive it is.
If you have a choice between targeting a highly competitive keyword that receives ten thousand searches a month and a low-competition keyword that only receives a few hundred searches a month, you’ll receive more traffic by targeting the low-traffic, low-competition keyword.
95% of search traffic only sees the first page of Google results. And the more competitive the keyword, the less likely you are to rank on page one.
So let’s say you rank on page three for a highly competitive keyword. And let’s say that the keyword is searched about ten thousand times a month. If you’re very lucky, you might get 0.1% of the traffic from that keyword. That’s 10 visits per month.
Alternate scenario: you rank #1 for a low-competition keyword that is searched about three hundred times per month. The #1 search result typically receives 32.5% of all clicks, so that’s about one hundred visits per month, which is more than 10x the amount you would receive in the first scenario. In other words, it pays to be a big fish in a small pond.
You can find search volume and SEO difficulty (competitiveness) data on any keyword using Ubersuggest, a free SEO and keyword research tool.
If you use a tool like the Yoast plugin, you might know that keyword density is a ranking factor. In any given piece of content, you want to use your target keyword enough times that Google recognizes its importance but not so many times that Google thinks you’re keyword stuffing.
What you might not know is that keyword density is only half the picture. Google also looks for related keywords.
SEMrush offers a suite of premium SEO tools including the SEO Writing Assistant. This app integrates with Google Docs and gives you live feedback as you write. It measures keyword density and suggests semantically related keywords that will help you rank higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
The more intelligent search algorithms become, the more they are able to deliver relevant, high-quality content. And that’s why writing amazing content is more important now than ever before.
What constitutes quality? In a word, comprehensiveness.
The best thing you can do to drive organic search traffic to your website is to produce content that turns its subject inside-out. Go all in and cover every facet of your chosen topic.
You don’t need to cap the length of your blog posts. In fact, longer posts tend to attract more backlinks, rank higher in search results, and get more traffic as a result. So if you feel inspired to write a 10,000-word blog post, go for it!
User intent is about making sure your content is helpful to the people searching for your focus keyword.
For example, if someone types “interior designer” into Google, it’s probably because they’re looking for an interior designer, not because they want to know how to become one or find out how to DIY a home makeover.
If you’re not sure whether your content matches the user intent for your focus keyword, do a quick Google search to check and make sure you’re on the right track.
If your SEO game is on point, you have plenty of backlinks to your site, and you’re still struggling to rank, check your page speed. Page speed is an oft-overlooked ranking factor that can affect your SEO and conversion rate.
Use a tool like Pingdom or GTmetrix to gain insight into your website’s performance and take corrective action. Here are two of the most common causes of slow page speed and what you can do about them.
Large image files take forever to load and can really slow down your site. Resize images to no more than 2000px width (smaller for images that don’t need to be that large). Then, compress your images to remove unnecessary data from the files. I recommend using TinyPNG, which works for PNG and JPG files.
Third-party scripts and plugins can really weigh down your site. If you have a WordPress site, delete any unnecessary plugins. If your website is built on Squarespace or another platform, go through any scripts you’ve added and remove any that you don’t really need.
What you may not know is that fonts are scripts that can slow down your website. Don’t use more than three fonts on your website (two is better).
Last year, Google started rolling out mobile-first indexing, which means that your ranking is based primarily on the mobile version of your site.
What does this mean for business owners? It means that if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you don’t have a chance of ranking anywhere near the first page of the SERPs.
The best way to ensure your website meets Google’s mobile standards is to sign up for Google Search Console. If there’s an issue with the mobile indexing of your site, Search Console will alert you.
Hackers and data thieves abound and Google doesn’t like websites that are vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important to have a valid SSL certificate on your site.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL stands for secure sockets layer. Basically, it’s a security protocol that protects data as it is transferred between the server where your website is hosted and the user’s browser.
Without an SSL certificate, your website has very little chance of ranking on page one of the SERPs.
If you’re not sure whether your website is secure, just look at the URL. If it starts with HTTPS, you’re good to go. If it starts with HTTP, contact your web host to learn about getting an SSL certificate for your site.
Video is the content medium of the future. In fact, video makes up 80% of content consumed on the Internet.
Despite its overwhelming popularity, most content creators still don’t use video. Maybe it’s camera shyness, maybe it’s the time it takes to edit video. Regardless, there tends to be less competition with video than written content.
This lack of competition makes it an ideal marketing strategy. You may not be able to rank on page one with a simple blog post. Add a video to that blog post and your chances have just increased 53x. Yes, you read that right. Video is the secret weapon of ranking on page one of the SERPs.
Google is always trying to assess the authority of a webpage. Is this source reliable? Does it answer the user’s question? Is it what people want to see?
There are many factors involved in determining the authority and subsequent ranking of a page. Here are two of the most important and what you can do about them.
A backlink is when another website links to a page on your website. The more quality websites that link to your website, the greater your chance of achieving a high ranking.
It may seem like you have little to no control over how many websites choose to link back to your site but there are a couple of things you can do to move the process along.
First, you can write guest posts for other websites and blogs in your industry. Many websites—from small blogs to major editorial websites—accept submissions and will be more than willing to include a byline with a link to your website.
Another great way to build backlinks is to get listed in professional directories. This could be a local directory like your chamber of commerce or an industry directory. Lots of industries have online directories, so do a quick Google search to find one that seems like a good fit for your business.
When you search for a local business on Google, the first thing that pops up (after the ads) is a map with a list of results. All of the businesses listed here have a Google My Business profile. You might also notice that the top listing almost always has the most reviews.
One of the best ways to build authority fast and claim that top spot in local search results is to sign up for Google My Business (it’s free) and ask your clients and customers to leave reviews. If you can get more positive reviews than your competition, you’re almost guaranteed to rank #1 in local search results.
Pillar content is essentially an epic piece of content about an umbrella topic that links to a lot of other related blog posts on your website.
For example, let’s say you’re a restaurant consultant. You could write a five thousand-word pillar article on how to grow a successful restaurant. That core piece of content could link to other blog posts you’ve written about how to manage cash flow, the laws that govern food businesses, how to keep your servers happy, etc.
My 2020 guide to Squarespace SEO is a great example of what pillar content looks like.
To create pillar content, follow these steps:
This strategy of interlinking related content makes Google see you as an expert in your niche, which can have a huge impact on your SEO.
We have been working on revamping, adding in, and updating SEO for so many businesses since the COVID pandemic has started. It is making such a difference when it matters the most. We would love to chat with you if an SEO refresh/check is something your website needs! You will see a difference literally within 24 hours of completion.