If you believe everything that Google tells us, you would think that all you need to do to rank well is build a well optimised website with great content, and your market will come flocking to your virtual door. However, we see, time and time again, that this is simply not true.
Although building a great website is certainly the first step in building a strong online brand, there is so much that you need to do to help encourage more search traffic. Even a beautiful site with the highest quality content, with engaging copy and stunning imagery, and meta titles that appeal to both your readers and the search engines, you site will still struggle to climb up the search results without a helping hand. Let’s quickly explain what an optimised site is and why alone it is not enough.
WHAT DOES OPTIMISATION MEAN IN 2016 / 2017?
There was a time, almost 20 years ago now, that an optimised website was one that had had its meta keywords, titles and description updated to include all the important keywords that it wanted to rank for. Search engine optimisation is almost unrecognisable today. However, some factors are still important, so let’s run through them.
A well optimised website must have a logical navigation and site architecture that is both easy for visitors to use and useful for search bots. All content must be of a high quality, with a good use of page titles, headers, main copy, images, video and other rich media. Pages need to be unique to the site, and unique to the web – copying and pasting landing pages and product pages from other sites means instant failure. Basically, the website has to look great and have great information.
One major change is the platforms for which sites are built. In the early days of the web a website only needed to work on a standard desktop computer. Today, sites need to work on a wide range of mobile devices, computers and even smart TVs.
The biggest change that we have seen in 2016, which will continue to develop in 2017, is the rise of mobile. If a mobile is not fast and responsive, and able to operate quickly and efficiently on all mobile devices, it will not rank well. Google has announced plans to deliver a mobile-first search index, which simply means that if your website is not mobile friendly, it will no longer rank.
BRAND DEVELOPMENT AND LINK BUILDING
Link building has got itself a dirty name in the last few years. In 2012 Google launched its first Penguin update, which targeted websites that used spammy link building methods. This largely resulted in mass panic in SEO circles, with people often saying that all link building is bad.
Google’s various comments over the years regarding unnatural links has caused such fear and uncertainty that many webmasters have gone to great lengths to remove links to their websites, while some people have stopped all link building activities.
The result of all this is that many people now consider any form of link building as bad practice, and this is actually really bad for your digital marketing. Google still uses links to determine the quality and relevancy of web pages, so link building is key to a good SEO campaign.
BUILDING LINKS IN 2017
After launching your new, highly optimised website, you need to start your link building strategy. First, ignore everybody who says that you must not build directory links. There are many excellent business directories that are still active and used by many people. You want your business on these platforms. Sites such as 192.com, Free Index and Thomson Local are all well respected business directories – there are many others available too.
We also get good links for our clients with guest blogging. Google’s Matt Cutts may have famously said “stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done”, but what he really meant was that large scale, low quality, automated guest blogging is dead. Because it was found to be so effective, many people abused the process and published very poor quality posts on irrelevant websites, just to get a link. Matt Cutts actually went on to say: “In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.” Note, he said “in general” – if you can publish a blog on a great site, it will only help your campaign.
Business networking groups are a great place to start, as it will mean you are guest posting on an establish business website, which is owned by a personal acquaintance. Our clients have posts published on websites which have thousands of daily readers – these sites are high quality and highly respected, and only go to help an SEO campaign. Our content outreach service will put you in touch with respected bloggers in your business niche.
Of course, link building also includes building internal links (which is really part of your site navigation) and participating in social media. Although social media links do not provide that valuable “link juice”, they do deliver visitors and are therefore a vital way to boost traffic.
Finally, a website is never finished. Google loves fresh content, and fresh content can help draw in more visitors in many ways. Writing blog posts or launching new services allows you to share the new pages on social media, with email alerts, with push notifications and via guest posting. Google generally loves the same thing that your customers do – good quality content on an easy to use website that provides a fantastic service. Do all of that, and you will rank well, along with a few links.