Now, perhaps more than ever, businesses should seek to improve their SEO game, according to Rebecca Todd, Consultant & Head of SEO at Ryman.
Speaking ahead of the inaugural MarTech Virtual Summit, Todd outlined five SEO tips to drive organic traffic for businesses and detailed ways in which firms can capitalise on the recent boom of online activity.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, online activity has skyrocketed, Todd explained. This increase is hardly surprising given that large swathes of the population have been working from home and buying more products online.
In fact, internet sales value in the UK alone has risen by 79% according to November 2020 figures, Todd added, while many retailers have also benefited from the pandemic – with some 70% claiming that Covid-19 has improved their marketing ROI.
“Now’s the time to tap into this increase in online demand, and the best thing about doing this with SEO is that, essentially, it’s free,” Todd said.
“You might have to pay up front for a specialist like myself to design and roll-out the right strategy for your business. But long term, it’s free.”
SEO Tips to Drive Organic Traffic
So how can businesses tap into this new-found demand and drive more organic traffic? In her own words, here are Rebecca Todd’s five SEO tips to help you to stay ahead of the curve in 2021.
Starting at the Beginning | What is SEO?
SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and it’s the job of SEO and SEO specialists to get your page to appear – either as a blue link, an image or an answer – as high up on a Google search result as possible.
But many of you may already know that actually getting your page up the rankings isn’t that simple, it can seem like a dark art. But don’t worry, I’m a strong believer in making SEO accessible.
It’s my job to make it completely the opposite, to make it simple – and in the beginning, it really was simple.
The internet was born in 1992 and the first search engine arrived in 1993, but SEO actually officially started in 1997. In those days, it was all about keyword stuffing. If you wanted to rank number one, you would use your keyword more times than the page that was currently number one and that was it.
But then Google came on the scene in 1998 with PageRank. You might be surprised to know that Google wasn’t actually the first search engine considering global domination these days. But when they did launch, they had something different.
Their PageRank algorithm judged pages to rank them by thinking ‘if people are talking about you, you must be important’.
So SEO became focused heavily on link building, and this meant backlinks which are links from another site to yours. This worked for a while, but then Google started to release algorithm updates such as the Florida, Jagger and Penguin which filtered out spammy backlinks.
If you had spam links to your site, they were no longer considered and your ranking profile dipped significantly.
Because it was easier and quicker to build spammy backlinks than it was natural ones, most sites during this period had a big spam backlink profile. But now spam links do nothing for your ranking – in fact, it is the exact opposite. So SEO removed them by disavowing and adding no-follow tags.
This is how backlink strategy as we know it today started.
No Stopping Google
Google’s updates and changes didn’t stop there, though. In 2005, Google added maps to the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). These maps took a significant amount of space and the results page and dominated local searches.
As a result, SEO also became closely linked to geographical intent. It started to include local information which was specific and distinct to the rest of the content on websites. This Map Plus feature paved the way for Google universal search two years later in 2007.
Until this point, the search results consisted of 10 blue links, but now have lots of features which took up valuable real estate in the SERPs.
So SEOs have to do something. We still have these features, which include news videos, images, rich content, shopping results, information boxes, and more.
That brings us to today. Now, you might be thinking “Google hasn’t changed much since 2007” so what’s the point of SEO now? SEO is dead, right?
No. Google is still changing all the time. SEO does still involve non-spammy backlinks and avoiding keyword stuffing and considering local search, and it still has a mixture of those SERP features.
But there are still algorithm updates happening, still tweaking factors that it takes for pages to rank. And since SERP features were introduced in 2007 there’s been plenty of updates to Google’s algorithm, including the Medic update, Eat update, and the introduction of Bert.
Moz has a great timeline of every confirmed Google update, however big or small, for anybody who’s interested.
Now, the bigger updates are what we call core updates and these can happen every six to 12 months. And when they do happen, you’ll know about it. They can affect your traffic overnight.
The latest core update was recorded in early December 2020. And I saw the impact that it had first-hand on the visibility of many sites around the world just as quickly as that.
So, if Google is changing, your SEO needs to keep up. Here are five SEO tips to drive organic traffic for your business in 2021.
Google It | Discover Search Intent
It’s something that often gets overlooked, but if you’re trying to rank for keyword search term you need to understand what’s already there. Googling it will give you important information, like search intent, if people are ready to buy, or if they simply want information.
It’ll tell you about page types – so is it blogs, home pages or product pages that are ranking? It’ll give you an indication of what SERP features you can target, such as images, videos and what people also ask. It’ll tell you about page titles and what are those blue links saying.
Similarly, it will also give you an indication of how likely you are to rank based on the competition. Google is literally telling you what it wants to see for your search term, so use it. Google it.
Content Clusters | Crawlable & Discoverable Content
My next tip is slightly more involved because it is a longer process, but it’s still pretty simple.
Roll-out content clusters. What I’m essentially asking you to do here is think about your content like you would with categorising your products. You don’t just list every single product on your website individually, do you?
You group them into categories and subcategories that can be filtered and searched and you put these categories and subcategories in a nice order.
Well, this is exactly what you should be doing with your blog. Group all of your distinct blogs into categories.
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Many of you might already do this, but chances are you don’t have a landing page for each of those categories which talks about the category itself, has the links to the blogs and links to the subcategories within it.
Again, you wouldn’t have a product category without a landing page that links to the products. So don’t have a blog category that doesn’t have a landing page either. It’s as simple as that.
Doing this will help you to make sure your content is discoverable, it will improve your site structure and help to build out an internal linking structure. This is important, because the way Google works is they send these bots to crawl your site, but they’re time-limited. They’ll start with your homepage and follow all the links and work down until they’ve run out of time.
So, if you have content hidden deep, how are they going to find it within the time? If they can’t find it, it won’t rank, so site structure and internal linking really does matter.
Be Local | Local Pages for Local Searches
Now onto the third of my SEO tips. We heard about Google adding maps to SERPs back in 2005, and 16 years later local search is still as important as ever.
46% of Google searches have local intent; that means they have locations in them, like restaurants in Paris, or they’re a ‘near me’ term, like ‘restaurants near me’.
The likelihood of that local search resulting in an in-store visit or in a local conversion if you’re offering a service is 35%. So local search is important.
And you aren’t going to rank easily for local search with more content. For example, if I’m looking for a restaurant in Paris, I don’t want information on French cuisine. I don’t want a generic London page about McDonald’s.
I might want a list of McDonald’s in Paris, or directions to my nearest McDonald’s. I don’t want general information about McDonald’s restaurants – it’s not going to help me when I’m hungry in the middle of Paris.
One of my key SEO tips here is to create local pages for local searches. But only create a separate local page if there’s a search volume. If no-one’s searching for a painter in Walsall, don’t create a page for one – it’s a waste of your resources, time, and money.
But if you do create a local page, make sure you link it to any main or generic category above it. For example, add ‘painters in Walsall’ to a painters and decorators page. Additionally, don’t just duplicate the content from that generic page and put it in a local page.
Duplicate content should be avoided at all costs. So if you are creating a local page, it needs to have unique and location-specific content.
Trust | Be Authoritative and Trustworthy
Earlier, I mentioned one of Google’s recent core updates, Eat. This update was all about favouring sites that showed expertise, authority and trust. A big part of this is having backlinks.
In 1998, Google said that if people are talking about you, you must be important. Well, that is still true. But they want to see that trustworthy people are talking about me, not just anybody.
Think of it this way; are you more likely to believe information from someone on Facebook or a detailed encyclopaedia entry?
It’s the same principle with Google and backlinks. You need to make sure you’re gaining links that are trustworthy, which will make you appear authoritative.
Your on-site content should mirror this too, so make sure your content is as trustworthy – if not more so – than the backlinks you have. Be somewhat of a subject matter expert by providing lots of useful and relevant content.
From my experience, it can also help if you make it obvious that your content was or is written by an actual expert. So for example, a nutritionist writing for a health site, or a gas safe engineer writing for a plumbing website.
LIS Keywords | Support Your Content
It goes without saying that keywords are central to any SEO strategy. But we’ve come a long way from the early days of keyword stuffing.
The final recommendation in my SEO tips list is to use LSI keywords. This may sound like wizardry – it stands for Latent Semantic Indexing – but it’s actually really simple.
LSI keywords are search terms related to your main keyword. So while your keyword might be pencil case, you also want to mention pens, pencils, rubbers, back to school, office and so on.
But don’t just list them like that; be genuine and natural and fit them into sentences that you might actually say to someone who doesn’t know what a pencil case is, for example, or doesn’t know all the different types and styles.
Doing this will help to support your content and make it easier for both users and search engines to know what your writing is about. It could also broaden your chances of ranking for those keywords as well as your main keyword. So it’s a win-win.
MarTech Summit 2021 | Join the Debate
Rebecca Todd will be discussing some of the SEO tips outlined in this article at DIGIT’s inaugural Marketing Technology Virtual Summit, held on 24th February 2021.
To find out more and secure your free* place at MarTech 2021, please visit: https://www.martech-summit.com/https://www.dataprotection-summit.com/register
The conference is free to attend for end users working in Marketing, Technology or Management roles.