If you’re researching SEO best practices, it’s probably because you want your website at the top of Google’s search results. The problem is, search engine optimization is always changing.
Google updates search algorithms with exhausting regularity, it feels impossible to keep up. There are more than 200 ranking factors, and they’re constantly being tweaked and amended. It’s worse than a hamster wheel, because at least then you would only have two directions to run.
The thing is, if you’re not on the first page of Google, you’re losing sales. Really you need to be in the top three, since after that click-through rates drop drastically. But when the standards are constantly changing, how can businesses stay ahead?
At Spade Design, we stay on top of the changes, but they don’t make us panic because we plan for the long haul. There are SEO best practices we’ve been using for years to bring our clients steady improvement and lasting success. We’re about to share some of those with you.
Understand Google Ranking in 2019
In October of 2015, Google confirmed the use of a machine learning-based search engine algorithm to help process search results. In the beginning, Google used RankBrain for less than 15 percent of queries, but over time, that amount began to grow. Rankbrain teaches itself, making tweaks as necessary based on user satisfaction.
That’s part of the reason for all the mystery. Google’s algorithm is always changing and adapting based on more input than any marketing team on the planet has access to all at once. It constantly processes ranking signals and search terms, offers results, evaluates, refines and adjusts. As humans we can’t do all that, but we can understand what Google’s mobile search index is looking for. It breaks user queries down into four categories:
- I want to know queries – The user wants to understand why their dog always chases the neighbor’s cat. He or she might be looking for information, but isn’t necessarily about to make a purchase.
- I want to go queries – The user is looking to take local action. They search for things like “bike trails in Tyler Texas” or “dance lessons near me.”
- I want to do queries – Searchers are looking for advice on completing a task or trying a new activity. Examples include, “how to remove hard water spots from shower door,” or “teaching dog not to jump.”
- I want to buy queries – Consumers are ready to make a purchase either online or in person.
When people search, that’s what Google’s mobile search index works to determine their intent.
The process is slightly different for desktop. When users type in a specific business name, Google often considers it a website query, because they want to visit a particular page. Visit-in-person queries occur when the user wants to visit a physical address.
The principle behind Google Ranking in 2019 is simple. Google wants to understand the searcher’s intent and provide the most relevant results. Provide the best overall results for your topic, and you’ll be number one.
Make Your Site Secure
Look at the URL for your business website. Does it start in http or https? If it says http, your site isn’t secure and it’s hurting your ranking.
Fix things by having an SSL certificate installed. If your web designer hasn’t suggested this already, you might look into finding someone new, because this has been important for a while.
Encryption through your secure connection keeps hackers from tracking or stealing users’ activity when they visit your site. It also protects data corruption during file transfer. Google has been using https as a signal in their ranking algorithm since 2014. Plus, users are leery of entering information on sites that aren’t secure.
In the first quarter of 2019, Statista says more than 62 percent of searches originated from a mobile device. That number is just going to continue to rise. That’s a big part of the reason Google is focusing so much on mobile-friendly content with the mobile first index. Currently Google says mobile indexing “is rolling out more broadly,” and will continue to do so.
SEO best practices for 2019 say your pages should load in two seconds or less on a mobile device. They should also offer the same type and quality of content as users find on your desktop site.
Speed Things Up
Page speed has a massive impact on the user’s experience. In 2019, Google confirms it’s a ranking signal. SEO best practices involve doing all you can to shave off every possible millisecond.
Create Quality Content
How do you let Google and users know what queries your site is relevant for? With great content. SEO best practices involve optimizing your content for users and bots so both can find you.
Let’s say two realtors, Bob and Mary both live in the town of Happyville. They both want to sell Happyville lakefront homes. Bob gets online and copies a page he sees somewhere else about lakefront property to his site. It doesn’t have much information, but the pictures are nice and he also plans to put his face on a billboard soon.
Mary researches Happyville lakefront homes and gets to work on her page. She provides all the information there is on the following:
- Lakefront homes available near Happyville
- What Happyville lakefront homes cost
- The process of building a new home on Happyville lakefront property
- Pros and cons of buying a Happyville lakefront home
- Best subdivisions to live in around Lake Happyville
And so on. Her page has headings for each section that include keywords and make reading easy. She has images actually from Lake Happyville, and they have reduced file sizes for fast loading time. They also have descriptive filenames, the keyword in the alt tag if appropriate and accurate titles.
Her page has links to local experts on waterfront homes and resources she provides on her website. It works great on desktop and mobile.
All other things being the same, which page do you think Google will rank higher? When buyers search for “Happyville lakefront homes,” who do you think they will contact?
Make your content the best it can be. Optimize for keywords. Also see our article about On Site SEO Factors.
Know SEO Best Practices for Content Length
Content length often correlates with page position. Pages with more than 2,000 words are more likely to be in the top ten results than pages with significantly fewer words. That isn’t because Google wants you to ramble on. It’s because the longer your page or post, the more thorough you have the chance to be.
Think of Mary the realtor. If she covered all that information in detail, her page was at least a few thousand words in length. It was the best resource for Happyville lakefront homes because it gave the most relevant, comprehensive information.
You don’t have to make every piece of content that long. SEO best practices involve always thinking about your audience and topic.
Prepare for Voice Search
Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Home are becoming more popular, so people aren’t just using a keyboard to search. When you optimize your content, think how people actually talk. Align pages with the types of queries you’d hear in voice searches.
How can you optimize for voice search? It helps to put a question and answer in your content. Most voice searches are question based. When they are, Google usually chooses a page that has both the question and an answer.
Build on Pillars
When you create posts, pages and other content, analyze the keywords for which your website already ranks highest. Then build out from there.
Think of each of your main keywords as a pillar, with cluster topics connected. Use your linking structure to connect topic clusters and boost your search signal.
Hire an SEO Expert
If you’re running a business, you don’t have time to do keyword research, write and optimize thousands of words for pages and posts, carefully select and optimize images and all the other tasks it takes to stay ahead. At Spade Design, we can do that for you.
Your pages move to the top. You get more traffic and more money. You find out like all our other clients, that our services more than pay for themselves. That’s what success in spades means.
When you’re ready to trade your worry about your online presence for astounding success, get in touch. Your only regret will be not doing it sooner.