Organic search results matter more than ever. With more than 90% of online experiences beginning with a search, stepping up organic SEO tactics is a must for every digital player.
Images and words lay at the core of every web page and information architecture. They are weaved together with code, shaped through UX design, made accessible to end-users thanks to strategically planned content. These are the all-encompassing elements that contribute to successful organic search engine rankings.
Organic Search Optimization Snapshot
- 93% of online experiences start with a search, according to a study done by Forrester
- 75% of internet users don’t go past the first page of results
- 50% of search queries are four words or longer; these are known as long-tail keyword opportunities
- Conversions deriving from organic search rankings are quality driven and bring higher overall conversion rates compared to other traffic funnels
- 61% of marketers agree that improving their SEO and boosting their organic presence need to become top inbound marketing priorities for 2018
15 Steps To Developing A Successful Organic SEO Strategy
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or unpaid ‘organic’ search results. In general, the earlier and more frequently a client’s website appears in the search results lists, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.
1. Understand How Organic Search Engine Rankings Work
Google is constantly updating their algorithm and uses 3 stages in their ranking process:
- Crawling – Looking for content for each URL available
- Indexing – Analyzing the URLs and site map to store and organize the content
- Ranking – Is the content relevant or useful to a search
To rank on Google, a page must be crawled and indexed. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines, and ranges upon sophistication levels.
2. Review Your Current Rankings
When creating a strategy on how to improve organic search results on your site, reviewing your current rankings is vital. By using tools like Moz or Semrush, review your current rankings and SERPs, such as featured snippets. Knowing where your site currently stands can inform where you need to improve. Knowing your current ranking keywords can also help you to define your brand strategy. Are you ranking for keywords that represent and are relevant to your product or service? For example, if your brand is focused on pet products then you would want to increase your current rankings for those keywords that are most relevant, so that potential customers can find you more easily in search.
3. Optimize Your Site Map
Another important step in a successful organic SEO strategy is to analyze your site map. An organized, flat structure makes it easier to crawl and can improve your rankings. Ensure your site map is in Google Search Console. Avoid orphan pages, or pages that are indexed but have no inbound links on your site. An orphaned page is rarely indexed by search engine crawlers, so you may be missing out on an SEO ranking opportunity.
4. Design Mobile Friendly, Responsive Pages
With mobile searches accounting for 63% of organic search, it is important that your site is mobile friendly. In addition to this, in 2015 Google updated its algorithm to factor in mobile friendliness into its ranking process and has increased the importance of that factor ever since. Mobile friendly and responsive design should be kept in mind during any UX design process so that any page elements such as pop-ups, images, and CTAs all scale down properly and are touch friendly.
5. Create a Keyword Library
Choosing the right keywords for your website will help you rank higher and lead to more conversions. After reviewing your ranking keywords and your site map, we recommend creating a keyword library to track your keywords by page. Doing so will help you hone your keyword strategy to target your audience and drive more traffic.
- What keywords would someone use to find your product or services?
- Would customers use long-tail keywords or phrases to find your brand?
- Do your current ranking keywords fit your brand voice?
- What keywords could you use to generate new content?
While you may not be able to rank for all of the keywords in your industry, a keyword library will point your content in the right direction. Look for keywords with higher volume but lower competition to drive more traffic.
6. Unique and Engaging Website Content
Your keyword strategy is integral to your content creation strategy and will improve your overall organic search engine rankings and conversions. Google rewards fresh content and creating unique and engaging content is integral to a successful organic SEO strategy. Your keyword strategy aligns with your audience’s searches, while the content your audience sees defines and shapes your brand voice. By pairing your keyword strategy and your content creation strategy you can boost your organic search results while maintaining a unified brand voice. Learn more about creating an effective content strategy.
7. Create Cornerstone Pages
Cornerstone content pages can act as a master resource for other content to link to and is something that Google rewards. While building out your website content and adding blog posts, you may find that you have several shorter pieces of content that all relate to the same topic. Merging that content into a longer cornerstone page that acts as the authority on the topic essentially helps site crawlers identify that the piece is the most important in regards to that particular that subject, and will help you to rank higher.
8. Optimize your URLs
Generally speaking, shorter more readable URLs perform better in organic search engine rankings than lengthier ones do. This makes it easier for users to read and understand what page they are visiting. Keeping your URL short can be as simple as making your URL your focus keyword – so long as it is not a long tail keyword. We recommend keeping your URLs below 60 characters so that your do not run into any crawl errors.
Outside of the length, you should also be sure to use the correct tags to define your URLs. If you have duplicate or very similar content, you would want to use a canonical tag to let search engines know which is the ‘master’ version of the page. If there is a page that exists on your site that you want to exclude from being crawled and indexed, you would want to use a Noindex Nofollow meta tag. These pages exist on your site for customers to land on after a particular action, however you don’t want them to appear in a search.
9. Write Meta That Drives Traffic
While meta data doesn’t factor into rankings as much as content does, it is still important to your SEO strategy and driving traffic to your page. Your meta data is what is displayed in the organic search results, and it acts as a preview of your page. Be sure that it is concise and engaging to encourage users to click on your link. Pay attention to the character limits for your meta, as exceeding the limits will cut off your title or description and you may lose vital messaging. We suggest following these meta parameters:
- Meta Title – up to 60 characters
- Meta Description – up to 151 characters
Your meta title should include your focus keyword and your brand name without being too lengthy. Your meta description should be brief and include your focus keyword, as well as an ancillary keyword that speaks directly to what the user is searching for.
10. Alt Tags/Text
The purpose of alt text is accessibility first. It serves to describe an image or graphic for those who are visually impaired and using a screen reader. It also serves to describe the image in the case that the image does not render. While not visible, it is worth it using key terms when relevant to the image but avoid keyword stuffing and lengthy alt text.
11. Linking Strategy
Link building is one of the most important ranking factors for Google, they want you to create great content that your audience will want to share, therefore building back links and growing your domain authority. Links to and from 3rd party sites help search engines discover new web pages and determine which pages should rank higher in SERPs, as well as opening your content up to a wider audience. It’s important to focus on a long-term back link strategy that involves building links naturally through content promotion, relationship building, website directories and business listings, and guest posting. ‘Black hat’ SEO methods are unethical practices that build links quickly but are subject to Google penalties if caught.
Always consider the anchor text you use when building your linking profile. Anchor text provides context to both users and search engines on what they will see if they click on the linked text. It’s also used by search engines to index and rank webpages.
12. Link to your own content
Internal links help search engines understand and rank your website better. By giving them links to follow through strategic anchor text, you indicate to search engines which pages of your site are important and what they are about. Internal links are also valuable to lead your users through the content funnel and guide them towards a conversion.
13. Content and Keyword Performance Reporting
Performance tracking and analytics are key to understanding how to improve organic search results and ensuring that your content and keyword strategies are successful.
- Content performance – using tools like Google Analytics you can track pageviews, traffic, bounce rate, exit rate, average session duration and conversions by page
- Keyword performance – using tools like Moz or SEMrush you can track the number of keywords, ranking position and volume to help you refine your strategy by isolating your top ranking keywords and the pages associated with them
- Combining performance reporting – tracking content and keywords as a combined strategic report is the most effective way to see top ranking keywords, what pages they are ranking for and how many conversions those pages are receiving, therefore isolating your most valuable keywords and further refining your strategy
14. Technical SEO Reporting
To keep your website technically optimized for performance, it’s important to run regular analysis and reporting. For a site with active content publishing or an ecommerce site we recommend running technical audits once per month, which also helps you keep on top of Google’s Core updates that can negatively impact performance if you don’t react to changes made to Google’s algorithm and ranking factors. The main technical SEO reports to focus on are:
- Crawl Errors – run through tools like Moz, crawl errors will highlight pages with missing or unoptimized meta data, 404s, redirect chains, duplicate content issues and much more
- Page Speed – using tools like Lighthouse you can run a page speed report for both the desktop and mobile versions of your website, this report will give you a score out of 100 and will suggest optimizations to increase page speed and load times.
- Broken Links – while a crawl error report will highlight critical broken link issues, it’s also good practice to run regular reporting on your full site to make sure internal and external links have not been broken or lost
15. SEO Audit
An SEO audit is an in-depth analysis of a website’s SEO performance, issues and opportunities. While an audit is most valuable before a site rebrand or redesign to prioritize optimizations, it’s also important to regularly audit your website to ensure that SEO practices are being retained and evolved. This audit should be more in-depth than monthly reporting and can be run less frequently, we recommend every 6 months for a high traffic website. This audit should then be used to create an implementation plan with measurable goals.
How A Digital Creative Agency Can Help You Create A Successful Organic SEO Strategy
Organic SEO is like a puzzle, you often may be missing a piece that you are not aware of. As Google is constantly changing its algorithm it can also be difficult to keep up with the latest updates. Working with a digital creative agency can help you to better understand how to improve organic search rankings. It isn’t an easy game to play, as organic optimization can be achieved only through the most diligent keyword analysis reporting and strategic content generation; but when the highest converting consumer traffic channel is matched with an effective strategy the result is guaranteed success.
At neta, we work closely with our clients to ensure that they use the most effective and current organic search tactics to help their brands grow. Our collaboration-based approach allows us to consolidate conversion-worthy SEO content and UX design into award-winning digital platforms.