Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, is the process of making changes to your website’s content and/or design, to help the site appear in the search engines on higher ranks. Here is the harsh truth. If you are not ranking in Google’s top 10 results for your target keywords, your website might as well be invisible on Google.
According to the reports, 80% of searchers never go past the first page of search results, which is why it’s so important to rank on the first page of Google.
Google has several strategies and techniques that you can follow to rank higher, but if you don’t get the basics right, your chances of ranking on Google’s page 1 are very minimal. In this article, we will be sharing some of the best practices that you can follow to rank higher in Google search results.
Search Intent Optimization
Search intent refers to the purpose behind every search query or the reason why a user searches for anything on the internet. When a user searches for something, Google returns relevant results to match the search intent. It is their ultimate priority to understand and satisfy every user’s search intent.
For example, if you search for “how to make cakes”, the top search results on Google will be blog posts, videos or articles on how you can make cakes, not e-commerce sites that sell cakes. Google understands that the user who requested this search is trying to learn something, and not buy.
Similarly, if you search for “buy cakes”, the top search results will all include e-commerce sites/pages that sell cakes online. It won’t display the recipes, because in this case, the user is looking to buy something.
In short, if you want to rank your pages on Google’s first page, you need to understand what search intent is and create your content accordingly.
Also, based on the keywords used, the search engine might interpret their query as having different intents behind it, which are also known as common search intent:
- Informational – if a user searches for simple information like COVID-19 reports
- Navigational – if a user searches for a specific website or pages like IMDb, Facebook login, etc.
- Commercial – if a user searches for a category of product, but hasn’t reached a final decision yet like best smartphones 2020
- Transactional – if the user searches for a specific product with the intention to buy something like buy 15’’ MacBook pro
Proper Title Tag and Meta Description
A page’s title tag and meta description are two of the most important meta tags on the page. Google actively looks for the keyword inside your title tags to figure out if the content is relevant or not for certain search queries.
Search engines typically display the first 50-60 characters of a title. In the case of Google, it displays the full title of your page as long as it’s under 60 characters. Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.
The best practices to implement while creating title tags are to include the target keywords on the title tag itself, write a title matching the search intent, avoiding title tags duplication and keeping it descriptive but short.
Similarly, the meta description is a brief summary of a page and is displayed below the title tag in search results. It doesn’t directly impact search ranking but can influence CTR(click-through rates).
The practices to keep in mind when creating meta descriptions are to write unique meta descriptions for each page, using action-oriented copy, including target keywords, matching search intent and providing an accurate summary.
One of the biggest problems with images on any site is related to their size and the disk space they consume. Images often take up a long time to load, making the site slow, which then impacts the user experience. So, it’s best to always compress the images used on the site for faster page load.
Besides image compression, another very important thing to do with the images on the site for better SEO is to add the alt text for every image. The alt text is the text used to replace the image when the image itself is not available. Besides, it also improves web accessibility and helps browsers better understand the images on the site.
Page Speed Optimization
Just like images, if your site takes a long time to load, the users won’t be waiting long to see the content. This eventually leads to the drop in your Google rankings.
For improving page speed, most common things that you can implement are minifying CSS and JS files, enabling browser caching, deleting unnecessary plugins, reducing server response time, reducing the number of redirects and compressing images.
Short and Readable URLs
Often overlooked when it comes to SEO, URL structure is also an important factor for better SEO. Using tidier URLs that are short and human-readable can improve your rank on Google search results. The URL should properly describe what the content is about, this way, there will be more chances of people clicking them and visiting the site.
The keywords used inside the URL also help Google and other search engines figure out what the content is about. The URL structure should always be as simple as possible and you should always try to use short keyword-rich URLs.
Responsiveness defines the behaviour of any site and its ability to adapt to any screen size. If your website isn’t properly optimized for almost all screen sizes, you might lose a lot of traffic. So, you should always make sure that the site looks good on both the web and the phone.
Google also uses mobile-first indexing, meaning, it always first looks at the mobile version of your website and ranks it accordingly.
Secure HTTPS Protocol
The site’s connection should always be secure as Google favours websites with secure connections over insecure ones, especially when any sensitive data is sent through them.
If your site contains a contact form, a payment system or a login page, then it should always run through HTTPS.
Internal links are another important factor for better SEO because they establish an information hierarchy for the website. Besides, they also help Google get a deeper understanding of the content on the page.
We know Google penalizes backlinks with exact match anchor texts if done too much, but it doesn’t penalize any site for internal links. The best SEO practice is to add internal links from top-ranking pages on your site to pages that need a boost. The key is to make these links relevant to the users as well. The focus should always be to highlight those pages that you consider to be most important.
In addition to all these points, you should also keep in mind that SEO depends on the quality and the length of your site’s content. So, you should always make sure that there’s enough content on every page of your site so Google can crawl through each one of them and index them properly.
The practices outlined above are a great starting point for achieving higher search rankings on Google. That being said, the competition for the top position on Google’s first page is huge and highly depends on the market your business operates in. You should stay up to date with the latest SEO trends to stay ahead of the game.