Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved significantly over the past few years. Search engines like Google and Bing have been updating their algorithms and machine learning processes to focus on the experience. Mobile optimization, site speed, site structure, and content, along with dozens of other signals are prioritized. Gone are the days when simply focusing on keyword density will earn you a spot on the first page of the search results. Read on to learn three SEO basics you may be missing, including creating engaging content, building a sitemap, and writing great headlines.

1. Creating Engaging, SEO-Friendly Content

Engaging, comprehensive content is the most important part of SEO today. Unfortunately, fewer than one-third of companies describe their content marketing as mature, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2C Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends.

Additionally, only 40% of B2C companies know how to define success with content marketing. That means marketers are wasting a lot of effort on content that might not offer value to their business. So how do you create content that earns engagement and helps fuel your search engine optimization efforts? Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Get Specific. Great content is about providing insight, information, and value to your audience. To do this, you must first get to know your audience. Find out where they spend time online. Determine the keywords for which they’re searching. Learn how they interact on social media. Once you’ve learned more about your audience, it’s time to do research around your competitors and the content they’re creating. Because you are competing for views and clicks, you need to know how topics have already been covered and then build content that’s more comprehensive or takes a different spin on that topic. Additionally, evaluating the content gaps not covered by your competitors provides you with opportunities to create content with less competition. Finally, choose your specific content formats wisely. Which media will best convey your message, engage your audience, and reach people across multiple platforms? Repurpose your content into a format specific to the platform you’re posting on to yield the best results. This will allow you to appear in different types of search results and platforms (Google Images, SlideShare or YouTube search,etc.).

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  • Focus on SEO from the Start. Centering your content around a primary keyword/ idea from the start is best practice. Retro-fitting your content with keywords after it’s already been written can seem forced and awkward to your readers. Apply readability standards, and optimize title tags, subheadings, meta descriptions, images and text according to current SEO standards. Use internal linking to naturally direct users to related content, and link to outside experts’ content, as well.
  • Answer Your Buyers’ Questions. Think of these elements as a conversation between two people. Users pose questions to search engines and if your content provides the best answers to these questions, your content ranks high on the search results page.

2. Building a Comprehensive Sitemap

Web crawlers or spiders crawl the web to index content. The best way to get your site indexed and move further up the SERP results is to regularly produce fresh content and to build a sitemap. Websites with sitemaps are crawled five times faster than those without.

A sitemap is basically just an outline of the pages available to users and crawlers on your website. It’s a simple task that yields results.

It’s ideal to build your sitemap before your site ever goes live, though it can also be added any other time. A sitemap can be an effective planning tool for designers and marketers to clarify the content that needs to be available on their company’s site. It can also help you eliminate unnecessary pages.

How Do You Do This?

1. Create an index map in xml-sitemaps.com or Screaming Frog.

2. Embed an image and other maps.

3. Add the indexation date, priority and update frequency.

4. Add your map to Google Webmasters.

The Importance of Robot.txt:

Of course, every project can run into issues. According to Business 2 Community, 95 percent of site indexation problems will disappear with properly configured robots.txt.

What Should You Do?

1. Test your robots.txt using the on-page SEO audit.

2. Choose pages and sections of your site that should be indexed by search engines and those that shouldn’t.

3. Add the main mirror and sitemap.xml data.

A Note About Duplicate Content

Having duplicate content on your website is a waste of time and resources. It’s also harmful to SEO because it prevents search engines from identifying the right page to index. This can be detrimental if the search engine ignores a page that is designed to convert visitors into customers. Why rewrite or republish something when you can simply link to it? If you don’t have a sitemap, you may be duplicating content without knowing it. You’re simply creating pages as you need them and not keeping track. In addition, to duplicate content, you could also be posting conflicting information on your website.

Without a sitemap, you may spend a lot of time creating unnecessary pages, or designing sites that are more complicated than they need to be. Sit down with your content team and figure out what content is necessary and what isn’t, which pages are interrelated, and how you can clean up your site to offer the best SEO-optimized content on each topic for which you want to rank. The earlier you can do this in the life of your website, the better. It’s less time-consuming to add or eliminate content in the early stages than to have to do so when your site is already built; your content will continue to pile up.

3. Writing Amazing Headlines

The body of your content can be amazing, but if you have a terrible headline, odds are you won’t see your piece rank on the first page of Google. Algorithms don’t appreciate wit, irony, humor, or style, but they do see keywords and topics. At the same time, you can’t only write with search engines in mind; you must also write for humans.

Examples of Bad Headlines

  • Not Having a Headline: Not having a title at all is probably the worst thing you can do in terms of SEO. Without a title, your readers and the search engines won’t know what your content is about.
  • Titles That are Too Short or Too Long: Short page titles limit your ability to rank for several keywords. Google can display up to 70 characters in its search engine results, so why not use all of those characters? Remember that the more keywords you have in a title, the more diluted they become. SEO best practice dictates that you should focus on one topic per page, so keep that in mind.

Terms that appear early in the title will be attributed more importance. If a page talks about repairing a broken hard drive on an HP Stream laptop and your major keywords are “HP Stream” and “repair,” a title like: “DIY: How to Repair a Broken Hard Drive on an HP Stream Laptop” this can be revised to: ”Repair an HP Stream Laptop’s Broken Hard Drive,” to put the most important words first. Remember that both readers and search engines want to comprehend what your content is about quickly.

  • Using the Company/Site Name in All Web Pages: If Google is only showing 70 title characters, you want them to all be beneficial to you. Many website owners include their business name (your brand keyword) in each page title.

Here’s an example: “Black Rifle Coffee Company – Coffee Rounds (Single Serving)”

Examples of Great Headlines:

A compelling headline seamlessly blends creativity with SEO power. They are both catchy and self-explanatory. Here are some examples, using some of the most popular headline elements, including listicles, using “how,” “why” or “what, and using phrases such as “everything you need to know about ____”:

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Don’t forget to fill out the meta description of your site to enhance and accompany your title in the search engine results. This is where Google gets the two-line “snippet” it displays for each webpage.

Conclusion

SEO is an ever-evolving and much-debated field, but focusing on these three basics elements will give you the head start you need to outrank your competition. Learn more about SEO best practices and grow your expertise. Start earning your Professional Diploma in Search Marketing today.

Source: Digital Marketing Institute