Does your SMB struggle to generate leads from your website’s organic traffic? Having quality content is vital, but it’s not all there is. More prospects will find your pages once you know how to improve website SEO or search engine optimization. But isn’t learning how to increase your visibility on Google a costly, time-consuming endeavor?
Learning how to increase SEO for website search traffic can be challenging. Moreover, effective strategies take commitment and continual updates. Fortunately, free tools help simplify SEO basics and save time. The tactics here work with new projects or to revamp old, underperforming SMB websites.
Whether you plan to optimize your own business site or hire an expert to implement website SEO best practices, it pays to know the basics. This guide reveals eight powerful ways to improve SEO rankings. These proven methods are evergreen and stay current, even after algorithm updates. And they are all white hat strategies that adhere to Google Quality Guidelines.
Before Reading Our Website SEO Basics
If you’re an SEO novice, you may want to first look over our glossary of basic SEO terms (link below). You can also use the index below to jump to our top SEO tips.
8 Website SEO Strategies Every SMB Should Know
Remember this simple rule as you read these tips… first impressions matter. Visitors arriving at your website will decide to stay or leave within the first few seconds.
#1 Ensure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
User experience means everything when creating a website for business. Site design and functionality significantly impact how the search engines rank you. There are several considerations here. The first way to improve your website is to ensure it displays well cross-browser and cross-device, so it needs a responsive design.
|Why Responsive Web Designs Matter|
Responsive web designs adapt to make web pages display and function well across various internet-connected devices and screen sizes .
Responsive Website Options
You can buy responsive templates. But if you employ a professional website builder to develop a unique site from scratch, make sure it’s mobile-friendly. No user will try to navigate and engage on smaller devices if your site has an unresponsive design. And the horizontal scrollbar is a surefire way to have visitors hit that back button.
Point to Note: Google’s algorithm now first crawls the mobile version of websites to rank and index its pages. Thus, its mobile-first indexing hurts sites trying to rank with unresponsive designs.
Tip: Use Google’s free Mobile Test Tool to see if your site is mobile-friendly.
#2 Check Website Health & Functionality
Most websites listed on page one of the search engine results pages (SERPs) purposefully follow SEO best practices. These projects will most likely check the following boxes:
What Your Visitors Look for in a Website
- Fast-loading pages
- Clean layout, easy on the eyes
- Quick navigation
- Highly relevant content
What SEO Algorithms Look for in a Website
- Site speed and usability
- Reliable web hosting
- Working robots.txt for instructions on what and what not to crawl
- Content relevance to the search term
- Content uniqueness (web)
- Duplicated files (site)
- Authority, trustworthy content (more on that soon)
- Various off-page factors
|Google Continues to Dominate Online Search|
Other search engines are available, but Google drives the most traffic. In 2021, Statista found that Google handles 85.55% of all search queries .
Off-Page (Off-Site) Website SEO
Off-page factors include external interaction. For example, other websites linking back to your pages—the quality of those sources—and social media shares. The more people who find you and value your content enough to link, reference, share it, the better your off-page SEO. There is more on off-page SEO best practices later in the guide.
Advanced SEO Clean-Up Strategies
A couple of the more advanced SEO tactics are code minification and using a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Here’s how they can help clean up a website.
It’s a process used to minimize webpage code and markup (computer language that provides instructions). Minification helps by reducing a site’s load times and bandwidth usage. That can dramatically improve your site speeds and accessibility. So the result of minification is an improved user experience and enhanced website SEO.
CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Content delivery networks (CDNs) are available in free and paid options. A network of servers works together in geographic locations to improve load speeds in different parts of the world. Delivering your content from a closer server to site visitors is faster, more reliable, and thus improves the user experience.
One of the SEO benefits of a CDN is faster page speeds. But it also uses caching algorithms and canonical (HTTP) headers that combat duplicate content issues, which can dramatically impact your website’s rankings.
Don’t Struggle with Technical SEO
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#3 High-Quality Unique Content
Quality on-site articles and content marketing attract the most eyeballs. Use this section as a guide to create new content or rework old content that lacks SEO.
It doesn’t matter how visually attractive your site is if the content falls short. Quality content is about authority and presentation. Search engine algorithms have become incredibly smart at defining valuable text and punishing attempts at keyword manipulation. The secret is to always write for your reader first, not the search engines.
|Content Length Matters, Suggests Research|
Articles that offer value tend to be longer by covering a topic in more detail. According to new research, the average length of web content in the Google SERPs top slots is 1,447 words .
Keywords and Keyword Phrases Matter
Words matter for website SEO purposes but use them wisely. As a business, you should be able to write with authority about your products or services.
However, knowledge is not always an advantage for inexperienced writers. It’s easy to think everyone knows what you mean. But that might not be the case if you unconsciously omit certain details or write in complex industry jargon. Instead, use words that everyone can understand when possible. No web visitor will ever complain that something is too easy to read.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing (Black Hat SEO)
Keyword stuffing is a dated black hat SEO practice, yet some webmasters still attempt it. Content creators fill a page with repetitive and often irrelevant keywords to try and manipulate its position on the SERPs. It used to work, but not anymore, and such an approach adds zero value for the human reader.
SEO Top Tip: Aim to keep keyword phrase density between 0.5% and 3%. Search engines may view anything over 3% as keyword stuffing. You can check your content’s KW density using one of several free or paid online SEO tools.
Use Authority Keywords and Phrases
One of the biggest mistakes made by content creators is to write around one or two keywords or phrases. But unfortunately, this leaves out other words that would add value to the piece. Say, for example, you had a dental practice and wanted to write about cavities. And your primary key phrase was ‘treatments for tooth decay.’
You would expect to see other related words in the piece, such as root canal, cavities, rot, tooth, teeth, and gums. But if you check the sites at the top of the SERPs for the main keyword, their content would include many more “authority” words.
|Why Pages Need to Rank in the Top 5|
It’s the top five slots in the SERPs that matter most, according to 2021 research. These positions account for 67.6% of all clicks .
The Benefits of Authority Content
Proper keyword research ensures you don’t leave out any critical points as you prepare content outlines. Authoritative content is highly informative as it covers a topic more thoroughly. It also attracts quality backlinks or inbound links and shares, which helps off-page SEO. The idea is for the piece to answer all the questions based on the title.
For example, don’t say something is an excellent choice without saying why.
Authority Word Cloud Sample
This word cloud shows the authority words used by experts writing about treatments for tooth decay. Any content on this topic that excludes authority words may lack credibility. And that means little chance of replacing those pages at the top of the SERPs.
#4 Content Format & Layout
No one likes reading huge blocks of text, no matter how informative it is. Your visitors and search engines prefer well-presented text with plenty of white space. That makes the content scannable and readable, which is attractive to busy visitors.
How to Present Your Web Content
Your content should flow logically and be easy to read. Introduce your focus keyword in the first paragraph, one or two subheadings, and a few other places. Best practices for the content layout of a webpage include:
- Keep paragraphs short and concise
- Avoid overly long words or jargon unless it’s needed
- Don’t repeat the same words in the same sentences
- Use headers and subheaders to break up different sections
- Insert bullet and or numbered lists if appropriate
- Use photos and graphics where possible
- Add informative Alt Tags to your images and graphics
#5 Optimize Your Meta Tags
Meta tags are invisible to site visitors but appear in the SERPs for web searchers. A webpage has two meta tags, Title, and Description. These text snippets should include your primary keywords and describe the web page.
Think carefully about the text as it needs to entice the viewer to click through to your webpage. Search engines also use this data to determine the page content.
Keep title tags to around 60 characters and descriptions to 160 characters, including spaces. Here’s how the metadata displays in the SERPs. In this example, the primary keyword is Dallas B2B marketing agency.
#6 Optimize Page Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
Another SEO tip is to make your page URLs human and bot-friendly. In most cases, shorter is better for obvious reasons. Hiding the www will also shorten a URL. A short, relevant URL tells visitors and search engines what the page is about (examples below).
The URL structure below follows these best practices:
- Uses HTTPS protocol (a more secure version of HTTP)
- Includes one or two meaningful keywords
- Uses hyphens to separate words
- Avoid stop words when possible, e.g., a, an, and, for, the, etc.
- Redirect old URLs to avoid issues with broken links
- Avoid or remove dates in URLs to make the content timeless
This example of a short, clean website URL pleases visitors and search engines:
And this long, hard to read URL does little to help users or search engines:
Research suggests that the average URL length for top-ranking sites is 66 characters .
#7 Build Quality Backlinks (Off-Page Website SEO)
Backlink building is a critical off-page SEO tactic. The more other link back to your pages, the more authority and trust it has in the eyes of a search engine. And that results in higher SERP rankings. The type of link also matters. To be valuable, a link must have the “do-follow” attribute, as search engines ignore links with a “no-follow” attribute.
Website URLs are “do-follow” by default. “No-follow” links are used in very specific instances. You can learn more about no-follow and other types of link attributes here.
Quality Links Trump Quantity
The most significant off-page SEO benefits come from a varied backlink portfolio. For instance, five do-follow links from various high-quality, high-traffic sites are like SEO gold. In contrast, 100 links from low-ranking, poorly optimized blogs with little traffic are next to useless. So, when it comes to building backlinks, think quality over quantity.
The Holistic Website SEO Strategy
Link building should be part of your holistic website SEO strategy. By adhering to SEO best practices, your site will become a serious competitor.
Holistic SEO follows these five principles:
- Implement and maintain proper on and off-page SEO strategies
- Consistently add and update high-quality, well-structured, easy-to-read, scannable content
- All aspects of the site offer a great user experience
- keep the site safe for users and secure from bad actors
Don’t Wait for Backlinks
Trusted SMB websites get more natural backlinks from viewers and other industry-related sources. And that includes social media (SM) shares. SM links are only helpful in driving traffic as they are all nofollow by default.
But SM backlinks are far from useless. In addition to boosting website traffic, there does appear to be some correlation between a website’s content being shared on high-authority social media sites and the content’s ranking, despite the no-follow attribute.
Relying on backlinks and SM shares from others is not enough, especially with newer sites. Thus, you need to embrace link building as an integral part of your off-page SEO strategy. A natural backlink portfolio should include a mix of do-follow and no-follow links.
Backlinks vs. Internal Links
Backlinks are off-site, while internal links are on-site. The proper use of links within the content connects relevant pages. Your on-page links help the SEO bots establish the site’s hierarchy. An XML sitemap can also be helpful. Sitemaps host internal links for all relevant pages, making it easier for bots to find, crawl and index your web content.
So, an effective internal link strategy is another way to help improve your SEO score. It makes your site easier for bots to crawl and enhances the user experience.
Website SEO Scores?
An SEO Score measures usability and technical search engine optimization on a scale of 1–100. The four significant areas affecting this score are technical SEO, high-quality content, user experience, and mobile-friendliness.
#8 Track Your Website SEO Efforts
Tracking your efforts is an important part of any successful SEO strategy. It lets you see what’s working, what’s not doing so well, and what needs to change. So, the only way to measure your SEO success is to have smart goals and SEO tools to track metrics.
SEO metrics to measure include:
- Keyword rankings
- Website traffic
- Time users spend on a page/site
- Bounce rate (leaving without viewing other pages)
- Average session duration
|Organic Traffic and ROI|
Close to 49% of businesses that monitor search traffic say that organic search traffic yields the best ROI of all marketing channels. Around 19% favored paid search, 18% social media, and 14% email .
The metrics for SMB sites that sells or promotes products or service include:
- Contact forms
- Lead forms
- Quote requests
- Phone calls or emails to your business
What metrics you track and measure depends on your business goals. But in all cases, they must be specific, measurable, realistic, relevant, and timely. In addition, you have a wide choice of tools at your disposal to track SEO metrics.
Google Analytics & Google Search Console
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are easily the best free tools for tracking website SEO metrics. The analytics tool gives specific data points on the site’s performance and how visitors use the site, to help improve your search engine ranking factors. And the search console enables you to analyze, adjust, and further optimize your site and its pages based on how your website is ranked by Google Search.
|State of Marketing Report, 2021|
Three-quarters (75%) of 1,500 marketers report favorable results from their SEO tactics. They found them extremely effective or very effective in helping SMB marketers achieve SEO goals .
Glossary of Basic SEO Terms
This glossary of basic SEO terminology is in alphabetic order for quick reference.
- Algorithms: Complex systems used to retrieve, analyze, and rank web data.
- Backlinks (Inbound Links): Links from other websites pointing to your site.
- Black Hat: Spam SEO tactics used by bad actors to trick their way into the SERPs.
- Bots (Crawlers & Spiders): Automated software that scours the web to find content and index it for search engines.
- Bounce Rate: Percentage of single page visits.
- Caching: Temporary web page data saved to increase load speed on revisit.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR):Ad clicks divided by the number of views.
- Crawl; Crawling: The process used by search engines to find and index web content.
- Engage; Engagement: How visitors interact with a website.
- Follow (Do-follow): Default link status. Search engines rank page authority and relevance through do-follow links.
- Google Analytics: Free tool to help site owners gain insight into visitor engagement.
- Google My Business: Free listing tool for local businesses.
- Google Quality Guidelines: Details of forbidden SEO tactics used to manipulate results.
- Google Search Console: Free program to monitor page performance in Google searches.
- HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): Computer language used to create web pages.
- Index: Massive database of crawled content used to generate SERPs for search queries.
- Internal links: Links that point to your other content on the same site.
- Link Building: Earning or acquiring inbound links to your site from other websites.
- Link Profile: All the inbound links pointing to a website from other sites.
- Meta Robots Tag: Code giving crawlers instructions on how to crawl/index content.
- Minification: Removes redundant characters from code to improve page speed.
- Mobile-First Indexing: Google bots crawl and index the mobile version of a site first for ranking.
- Navigation: Systematic linking to help visitors navigate to other pages on a website.
- No-Follow: A link attribute asking search engine spiders to ignore links.
- Organic Search: Earned (free) placement in SERPs.
- Page Speed: How fast a page loads on a first visit (without caching).
- Query: Information requests typed by web searchers into a search engine.
- Ranking: The order search results display relevant web content to a search query.
- Relevance: How well the content matches a searcher’s intent.
- Responsive Design: Mobile-friendly websites.
- Robots.txt: File with code that asks bots to crawl or ignore certain website pages for indexing.
- Search Engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo. etc.): Internet information retrieval programs.
- Search Traffic: Number of visitors that arrive at a site from the SERPs.
- SERP: Search Engine Results Page.
- Sitemap: A list of URLs that point to all relevant pages on a website.
- Time on Page: Amount of time a visitor spends on a webpage before leaving.
- Traffic: Counted visitors to a website.URL: Uniform Resource Locator, a site’s web address.
Need Unique Quality Content?
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