Rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) in the age of Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird requires both strategic SEO intelligence and a systematic approach. If done correctly, SEO is very much a living, breathing part of an organic search content strategy. As a result, we’ve outlined seven essential steps you need to take to rank for your keywords.
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1. Research of keywords
Researching keywords is the key to optimizing your site. There are a few fundamentals to be aware of when you are starting out:
- Create a keyword portfolio by starting with a seed list of keywords. Use a spreadsheet (for example, Excel or a Google Drive sheet) to organize your keyword research, including your own and competitor’s ideas.
- You should add the keywords that drive the most impressions to your core list from your Google Webmaster Tools account.
- Perform a search of your website using the BrightEdge Data Cube to find out which keywords you’re ranking for (including which pages), and add those to your list. Check your competitors’ websites next.
- In order to discover additional keywords, use Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
- The final step is to organize and prioritize your keywords by category, such as “products,” “services,” and “news.” This will help you build your website structure, which we will discuss next.
2. Structure of the site
With your keyword research, you can develop a structure (aka navigational framework) for your site that will be easy for search engines to understand and easy for your users to navigate. Search engines can better understand whether your site is relevant to the user’s query if your site is organized around targeted keyword categories or themes. Using the keyword research spreadsheet as a guide, proceed as follows:
- Incorporate your more general keywords into your website’s overarching themes.
- Determine the major categories and subcategories of your website with more specific keywords, again based on the keyword research you conducted.
- Improve individual page optimization by adding “long-tail” keywords (discussed below) specific to that page. It is here that you can “move the needle” by making small tweaks that result in drastic changes in your SERP positioning (what we refer to as “striking distance”).
3. SEO content audit
Although an SEO content audit is optional, it is recommended since it helps you assess which content on your site is performing well and which is not in terms of search rankings and ROI. Using this benchmark as your starting point will guide your future content strategy. The tools you can use to gather the data you’ll need for an SEO content audit will depend on your needs. The BrightEdge SEO platform comes with both analytics and reporting tools for enterprise-level firms and larger websites that measure organic search and revenue performance for individual pages as well as site categories and subcategories.
- The data you’ve gathered from your content audit needs to be exported into a spreadsheet, just as you did for keyword research. Pages views, organic visits, bounce rates, conversion rates, and page speed are some of the key SEO metrics to analyze.
- You should pay attention to the performance of key landing and sales pages on your website.
- In addition to Facebook shares, Twitter retweets, Google +es, and shares, you need to monitor your blog’s backlinks to gauge its authority and credibility (which affects your blog’s search ranking).
4. On-page SEO and content optimization
The next step is to create content for new pages on your site or to optimize those that already exist with the relevant keywords you gathered from your research. Here are the principles to follow:
- Ideally, you should aim for a word count of 250 words or more for the purpose of making the content feel complete. Don’t stuff the page with keywords that are irrelevant to the topic, and don’t add unnecessary content. In addition, make sure that written content is visible near the top of the page (don’t make ads the first thing people see).
- Ensure that you do not create duplicate content, which may result from mistakes such as duplicating meta data (discussed below).
- Create unique Meta data for each page of your site to let search engines know what the content is about. In addition, this is the information that can be clicked on in the SERPs, which plays a major part in search ranking.
- As well as written titles, descriptions, and tags for rich media, search engines also require written titles, descriptions, and tags for videos and images. Use the keyword in the corresponding text or Meta data to optimize on-page rich media.
- Use heading tags (H1, H2, H3) to structure your page content headers and subheads to help search engine bots better understand the page, and to aid readers in scanning your content.
- Whenever possible, use internal links to connect various pages on your site. The robots in search engines read Web content by following links, so providing an internal, connected structure helps them, as well as your site visitors, navigate your site.
- By using Web “robot” code of XML tags, you can submit an XML Sitemap to the major search engines to further inform them of the content of your site’s individual pages. The “Googlebot” and other search engine robots can “crawl” and index your website more easily and accurately on very large and/or new sites, as well as sites that feature remote content and/or rich media.
5. Link earning
In a nutshell, link building is the process of creating content that others wish to link to and/or associate themselves with. An inbound link can point to your home page, an internal product or service page, or a particularly good blog post. The backlink profile of your site consists of inbound links from other websites. When assessing the relative importance, authority, and credibility of your site, search engines take into account both the quantity and quality of your backlink profile. Your organic search content rankings are based on the results of this assessment. An SEO site’s backlink profile should be benchmarked and monitored using link audits, just as with content audits. Backlink management is simply the process of monitoring backlinks. My article on the BrightEdge blog explains how to conduct a qualitative and quantitative link audit following a basic four-step process. The article also discusses creative (and legitimate) ways to build links. The following 10 backlink building ideas could be of great assistance if you are looking for something you can implement in a day. You can accomplish these 10 simple link-building initiatives within a day if you don’t have much time or resources. Mark Mitchell outlines them here. The author will also share techniques for conducting a backlink analysis, disavowing “bad” links, and avoiding a “Penguin slap” from Google.
6. Social media
During our discussion of SEO auditing blog content (Step 3), we also discussed how social media influence organic search visibility and ranking. Taking into consideration Google Plus and Bing’s partnership with Twitter for their SERPs, “social SEO” has become part of content marketing.
Social media has played a significant role in Brightedge data over the past few years, and there are no signs that this trend will slow down. Now, search engines recognize sharing quality content as a signal of trustworthiness. A Twitter case study of Tiny Prints, a specialty online boutique that relies on organic search traffic and revenue to drive its Web traffic, illustrates the synergy between search and social. The company increased its organic search rankings for long-tail keywords by 47 percent and tripled its Twitter follower engagement by leveraging Twitter. You can learn more about search and social synergy by reading Mark’s post on social signals and SEO, and Andy’s article on how search and social data go together to produce search rankings.
7. Track performance
You need to benchmark your organic search content performance before developing a smart content strategy. You can do just that with the analytics and reporting tools included in the BrightEdge SEO platform. In Step 3 (content audit), we discussed our content-centric page analysis and reporting technology as perhaps most pertinent to keyword ranking. We have mentioned previously that our page reporting tool measures and reports organic search and revenue performance at the page and group level, not just on an individual page level. Last but not least, keep in mind that this is not a one-and-done project. To achieve superior SEO content performance, revisit each step cyclically to gain the insights you need to stay ahead of the competition.
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