In the world of SEO, new sites have it rough. Generating organic traffic for these sites is a tedious, uphill battle against competitors who are oftentimes firmly dug into their positions within the search engine results pages (SERPs). As a newcomer, you have a big task: convince Google why your site will provide a better experience for their users. With so much spam being generated every day, this is no easy task. Google purposely makes it difficult to rank well unless your website truly deserves it – and even then it may not be completely possible to steal the top spots from behemoths who have historically dominated these positions. However, with a solid strategy, focused optimization and a lot of persistence, you too can begin reaping the benefits of organic search.
Focus on Strategy
One great thing about having a brand-new website is that you can focus on strategy right from the start. While it is tempting to jump in and get right to work, a strategy will help you stay focused during the long run. At a bare minimum, a strategy should help define:
- Goals – What is the purpose of gaining organic traffic to the site
- KPIs – Which metrics should we care about and why
- Tasks & organization – What big-picture items need to be completed and how should they be organized. These include items such as content creation, on-page optimization, etc.
- Reporting – How exactly will we track and report our metrics
- Timeline – When should items be completed. Should certain goals be met by certain dates?
Content is the reason the vast majority of websites with no SEO optimization rank well on search engines. Search engines want to provide their users with the most high-quality, relevant answers to their questions. Good content will not only provide the right on-page signals to search engines but will also garner external popularity in the form of backlinks, social shares, and more – all of which search engines take into consideration when ranking a website.
When creating content, always focus on quality over quantity. While it’s great to publish 200 blog posts a year, unless those posts truly provide value to potential readers, chances are they will do little for your overall rankings.
Content production can be supplemented with SEO. Through keyword search, SERP analysis, and competitive research, you can produce content that is in demand on search engines.
Optimize for On-Page Ranking Factors
- Page titles – Include keyword rich titles that describe what your page is about.
- Meta descriptions – (Not a ranking factor, but very important for visibility on SERPs) – Include keywords and write meta descriptions that give a searcher a reason to click on your result.
- URLs – Include keywords within the URL. Keep URLs short and clean.
- Body copy – Include keywords throughout body copy, especially towards the top of the page.
- Images and other media– Image alt text, titles for images are very important.
- HTML organization (headings, tables, divs, etc.) – Content that is organized well in HTML is more likely to be included in featured snippets.
- Schema markup – Additional meta data provided to Google.
- Social sharing options – Like buttons, Twitter share buttons, etc.
Have a Mobile-Friendly Site
This is an important ranking factor, and for good reason. The majority of search engine users (and internet users) now use mobile phones. Having a website that is not optimized for mobile devices of all types, without responsiveness built into your site, will have negative impacts on not only your search engine rankings, but your overall website usability.
A good tool to test whether your website is mobile friendly is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Similarly, you should link up your website to Google Search Console. This free tool will provide you with any errors your website may have that Google is concerned about.
Implement Site-Wide Security
Security is a big issue on the web, and search engines like Google recognize this. At Google I/O 2014, the search giant announced that it wanted “HTTPS Everywhere”. Google wants the web to be secure, which is why having a secured website is now an important ranking factor in their algorithm.
Implementing side-wide HTTPS will check off an important item on your SEO list.
There are a lot of factors that go into a website’s success on search engines like Google. While this checklist isn’t exhaustive by any means, it will help you establish and (hopefully) keep some best practices from day one. Ranking well on search engines is as much an art as it is a science. If you make a genuine effort to provide value on the internet, then your organic traffic will eventually reflect your hard work.