SEO is a complicated practice, to say the least.
With articles popping up left and right on various trends, it’s more important than ever to remind yourself of some of the best practices that will consistently lead to gains in traffic.
Rather than chasing low quality, “churn and burn” tactics that may show quick gains in the short term but eventually lead to penalties or de-indexing, it’s important to remember that SEO is all about the long haul. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
These strategies will outpace any quick fix while avoiding potential penalties from Google and other search engines.
1. Focus on PR
SEO and PR go hand in hand because they ultimately share the same goal: forming connections. SEO looks to form connections amongst websites through the pursuit of backlinks.
PR looks to form connections through the establishment of working relationships with authoritative publications and media outlets.
Building relationships with reputable online publications is one way to ensure that your website traffic will increase.
A single backlink to your site from an article published in an authoritative publication, like Forbes or Entrepreneur, will do wonders for your SEO campaigns.
High authority backlinks boost your site’s overall domain authority, which allows your site to rank higher for all your keywords.
However, sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur will not mention an unknown company or accept content from just anyone, so, in order to acquire these high authority backlinks, it is essential to start small and build your own personal brand.
Guest posting is a positive step toward establishing oneself as an authority in a particular niche. Here is a list of blogs from different niches that accept guest posts.
Look for blogs that are relevant to your product or service and somewhere in the 20-45 range in domain authority.
Domain authority can be found at MOZ’s open site explorer. Pitch your guest posts, establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, and then promote your content to more authoritative publications. Watch your traffic increase.
2. Go after Long-Tail Keywords
The importance of long-tail keywords cannot be overstated. According to MOZ, Over 70% of all search queries are for long-tail terms.
Long-tail keywords are defined as keywords consisting of three or more words. They are more descriptive so they tend to deliver more targeted traffic.
A person searching for “chocolate chip ice cream” already has an idea of what they’re looking for and is much more likely to make a purchase compared with someone searching for a more general keyword like “ice cream.”
Long-tail keywords also tend to be less competitive, so they represent the low hanging fruit, ripe for picking.
So how does one go about finding these long-tail keywords?
One method is to use Google Keyword Planner. Sign in to Google Keyword Planner and enter in your seed terms – that is, your terms for which you are looking to find long-tail keywords – and then click on “Get Ideas.”
Next, click the “Keyword Ideas” tab and then click the “Download” button. This will produce an Excel sheet with all of the keyword suggestions based on your seed keywords.
Finally, sort your list of keywords by character count to find your long-tail keywords.
Another neat trick for finding long-tail keywords is to take a look at the ‘Searches Related To” section at the bottom of Google Search Engine Results’ pages.
The reason this section is so valuable is because it is a list of searches that have been produced by real people that are actually looking for items related to what you have searched. It’s also advantageous because it often produces several long-tail keywords.
A search for the head term, “summer dresses,” produces several long-tail keywords including: “casual summer dresses,” “summer dresses for weddings,” “summer dresses for juniors,” and “summer semi formal dresses.”
If you were a small e-commerce site selling summer dresses, these long-tail keywords would be excellent terms to use in the Page Titles and Headings of your category pages.
3. Make Mobile Friendliness a Must
While ‘mobilegeddon’ passed without websites seeing much of an effect on keyword ranking, optimizing your site for mobile friendliness is still one of the most important strategies you could implement for SEO.
Mobile usage continues to rise with mobile digital media time in the US significantly higher (51%) compared to desktop (42%).
This trend will only continue with time. Ensuring your site’s navigation, readability, and scrolling are compatible with mobile devices is integral to improved user experience and continued SEO success.
Users spend more time on and are more engaged with sites that are mobile friendly and these are ranking factors in Google and other search engines’ algorithms. '
Google also makes it easy to check your site for mobile friendliness with their Mobile-Friendly Test. Additionally, Bing has announced its own mobile friendly algorithm that will be rolling out in the coming months.
4. Leverage Internal Linking
An often-overlooked SEO strategy is internal linking. An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website.
Internal links improve user experience by enhancing website navigation. They also define the architecture of a site and distribute page authority.
The key to placing internal links on your pages is to think from a user-first perspective. Would web visitors find this link useful?
Does it add value by leading the user to a page that expounds on or is related to the topic at hand? Linking to related content enhances the user’s experience and creates links in an organic way.
Another important aspect of internal linking is anchor text. Rather than employing keyword-optimized anchor text for your internal links, use sentence fragments instead. The more natural the anchor text looks, the better.
While websites that feature blogs and other text-rich pages are able to add internal links into their content quite easily, e-commerce sites that primarily feature products may struggle to implement a natural internal linking structure.
One way e-commerce sites can address this issue and utilize internal links effectively is through ‘related product’ widgets. A ‘related product’ widget usually appears on a product page and links that product page to other similar products on the site.
In this example, ModCloth links their ‘Miracle Maxi Dress’ to six other related dresses. These internal links created by the widget strengthen the ranking potential for these pages while offering navigational support to the user.
Modcloth’s Miracle Maxi Dress’ internal links to related products.
If a user doesn’t see what he or she is looking for on a particular product page, they are able to view several other items that may satisfy their needs.
These helpful internal links have the power to increase time on site, pages per visit, and conversion rate. BloomReach is one company that offers support for related product widget implementation.
These strategies continue to produce consistent increases in search engine visibility for good reason.
They follow the guidelines of search engines while providing for an excellent user experience. Forget about the SEO sprint and win the marathon.
About the Author – Jim Milan is an SEO Analyst for Collections Etc., a home décor catalog and e-commerce site. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in New Media Studies at DePaul University.