SEO Marketing Guide to Website Rankings in 2021

Search Engine Optimization

Dominate 2021 With A Comprehensive SEO Marketing Strategy

A recent study showed that the top listing in the Google search results had a click-through rate (CTR) of more than 34 percent.

The next couple of positions still get a reasonable CTR but it quickly drops off as you move down the list. And if you’re not on the first page of Google, you’ll get next to no traffic.

If you want your website to rank in the top results for your market in 2021, you need to have an effective SEO strategy. We’re going to cover the most important things to focus on in this SEO marketing guide.

Search Engine Optimization vs. Visitor Optimization

The term search engine optimization sounds like it could be at odds with the user experience of visitors arriving on your site. If you’re more focused on creating a site that Google and other search engines “like” you may not meet the needs of your visitors.

In the early days of SEO, that was often the case. Websites would have low-quality content with keywords “stuffed” into the page to improve search rankings. While this may have helped pages rank better, it made for a poor user experience.

The search engine algorithms have come a long way over the last 10 to 15 years though. In 2021, user experience is one of the most important components of SEO for small business.

Why Good User Experience and Good SEO Go Hand-in-Hand

If you think about it from Google’s perspective, the experience visitors have when they land on your site is critical. If someone clicks on a result in Google and ends up on a low-quality page that doesn’t help with what they’re looking for, they’re going to lose faith in the Google results.

If it happens enough times, they’ll go elsewhere. Google’s business is based on selling advertising and other services to people who use their search tools so this is bad for their bottom line.

Keep in mind that Google can see a lot of what happens when someone clicks on a link in its results. If that person clicks back to Google to try a different page immediately, that’s a signal that the first page didn’t meet their needs.

Google’s algorithm uses that as one of the factors in choosing what pages to rank higher in the results. If your website offers a stellar user experience, it’s going to help with SEO.

Start With an SEO Audit

The first step in a good search engine optimization strategy is to do a thorough SEO audit of your website. Having a good picture of where your SEO is now will help you identify the most important factors to start working on.

The following are some of the most important things to look for.

SEO Marketing Guide 2021

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content means having the same content on different pages of your website. If two pages have the same content, it’s harder for the search engines to determine which one they should rank.

And rather than guess, they may not rank either one.

Look for pages that may have been duplicated inadvertently (or on purpose) as well as things like having multiple pages for the same product.

There could be valid reasons for having more than one page with the same content but if that’s the case, use your site’s Robots.txt file and other means to tell the search engines which page is the one they should index.

Internal Linking

Internal linking means linking between pages within your website. This can be from an overall structural perspective, such as category pages linking to sub-category pages, and those linking to product pages, or it can be cross-linking related content.

This helps the search engines crawl your entire website more effectively. But it also helps your visitors navigate through your site, which helps with that user experience factor we already discussed.

Current Rankings

If your website has been online for any length of time, chances are you already have some pages ranking. When you’re going through the SEO audit, identify any pages that are already driving traffic from Google and other search engines.

The pages that are already driving traffic may not need a lot of effort to bump them higher in the results. You can often generate more traffic pretty quickly by focusing on this “low hanging fruit”.

Keyword Opportunities

At the same time as you’re identifying the pages that already rank in the search results, you’ll be able to find keyword opportunities. This could mean keywords with high search volume in your market that don’t have a lot of competition or it could mean keywords that you’re already ranking for but could do better.

We’ll discuss some tools that will help you identify your current rankings and new keyword opportunities shortly.

You Need Effective On-Page Navigation

On-page navigation includes things like your website’s menus, breadcrumb navigation, and any other links on the page that help your visitors find the most relevant information for them.

Your site needs to be easy to navigate for two reasons. First, it makes the user experience that much better. (You may be sensing a theme here!)

People who land on your site after a Google search need to be able to find what they’re looking for without having to work too hard. If they don’t find it within a few seconds, they’ll click back and try a different result.

This is called a “bounce” and a high bounce rate (the percentage of people who click your link then quickly click back) will hurt your search rankings.

The second reason effective navigation is important is that it makes it easier for the search engines to index all the pages on your website. Search crawlers have millions of pages to evaluate so they’ll only take a cursory scan of your page.

If they can’t identify links to other pages quickly, those pages won’t get indexed.

How Important is Your URL Structure?

The URL structure of your pages is another important factor in your site’s navigation. This is how the addresses of the pages on your site are assembled.

For example, if your site is built on a content management system like Drupal or WordPress, the default URL structure will look something like this:

www.yourdomain.com/?p=1234

The “1234” identifies the page in your site’s content database but it means nothing to your visitors — human or machine.

Using readable URLs that include keywords related to the content of the page works much better. For example, if the content of that page is about how to improve your SEO, this would be a better URL:

www.yourdomain.com/how-to-improve-your-seo

That tells the search engines what the page is about and if someone sees that page in the search results, they know what to expect when they click on it.

Important Components of On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to factors on the pages of your site that are optimized for better search engine rankings. We’ve already discussed navigation but there are several other important components to optimize.

Title Tags

Title tags are part of the HTML code that tells web browsers like Chrome and Edge how to display each page on your site. The title tag is exactly what it sounds like — the “title” of the page.

The title tag should include keywords related to the content on that page but it should also create interest and curiosity for searchers. The title that search engines show in their results is typically the title tag for the page so it acts as a “headline” for your page.

If your title tags are well-written, you could get a higher CTR than pages that outrank you in some cases. And if more people click on your link than other results, it tells the search engines your page is more useful and can help improve your rankings.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are another part of the HTML code that makes up every web page on your site. These tags define various things about each page on your site, including:

  • Keywords
  • Author name
  • Window (viewport) size
  • Description

The two most important tags for SEO are keywords and description. The meta keywords tag should include the primary keyword for your page first, followed by other related keywords.

Meta Description

The meta description tag is important for two reasons. First, it helps the search engines figure out what your page is about.

Like the keywords tag, your description should include the primary keyword for the page as well as some related keywords that people might search for.

The second reason this tag is so important is that it’s what Google and other search engines use as the description in the search results. Like the title tag, the description needs to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to click through to read more.

Think of it as the “elevator pitch” for your page.

Image Optimization

Image optimization is another one of the fundamentals of SEO. Your images should be optimized to load quickly and include accessibility features for visitors who can’t see the images for one reason or another.

Resizing and compressing your images with an image optimization tool helps your pages load faster. This will improve your SEO as well as reducing the bounce rate from visitors who don’t want to wait.

Accessibility includes factors like image “alt” tags that describe what the image is about for visually-impaired visitors using screen reader tools.

Like much of the SEO advice in this article, accessibility is important from both a user experience and an SEO perspective. The search engines consider accessibility in their algorithms and it improves the experience of people with accessibility challenges with no impact on everyone else.

Off-Page SEO Factors to Consider

Off-page SEO refers to things you can optimize outside of your website that will help it rank higher in the search engines.

The biggest off-page ranking factor is backlinks. This means links on other websites that point to yours.

In the early days of the internet, search engines were mostly just directories of websites. Sites could either pay for higher placement or the rankings were completely arbitrary.

Google changed that with its PageRank algorithm. The fundamental idea behind PageRank is that if one site links to another, it’s a signal of value for the page being linked to.

The more links there are pointing to a given page, the more important that page must be.

If search results were purely based on the number of links pointing to a page, it would be easy to game the system by generating a large number of low-quality links. In fact, this is what happened in the first few years of Google’s growth.

While its algorithm has evolved to recognize many other factors and discount (and possibly even penalize) low-quality links, high-quality backlinks are still an important part of SEO.

Link Building Strategies

There are quite a few ways to build backlinks to the pages on your site. Some are more effective than others but you should avoid anything that creates an “artificial” link. This includes things like paid link placements, automated blog commenting tools, and other spammy methods.

Those methods tend to be short-lived, if they work at all, and they can lead to penalties that drop your pages from the results entirely.

Instead, focus on high-quality backlinking strategies.

Press Releases

Press releases are a great way to build backlinks naturally while getting news out about your business, your products or services, and anything else that could be newsworthy.

When you issue a press release, it normally contains one or more links back to your site. Every website that republishes it will include the link to your site as well.

Guest Posts

Guest posts are posts that you write for other websites. It might seem counter-intuitive to post your content on another site rather than your own but when you write a guest post, you’ll typically get to include a “bio” about yourself.

That bio can include a link back to your website. If you write a guest post for a website with high authority in your market, the backlink can give your site a nice SEO boost.

Create Content Worth Linking To

This might be the most basic, but often overlooked, backlinking strategy — create content that other websites will want to link to.

People will link to high-quality information. They’ll share it on their social media feeds, mention it on their blog, and include links in their newsletters. All those links become part of your site’s backlink profile.

How Social Media Impacts Your SEO

Social media affects SEO in a few ways. We’ve already mentioned how it can add more backlinks to the pages on your site. It also creates more “buzz” about your website.

The search engines also crawl social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If they see your website getting mentioned more often, that tells them it must be important or valuable. This factors into your overall SEO strategy and can help bump your rankings up.

Content Marketing Is One of the Most Effective SEO Strategies

Content marketing is the strategy of using content to reach your audience by providing high-quality, useful, interesting content on your website. According to the Content Marketing Institute, it costs 62 percent less than outbound marketing while producing three times the leads.

A big part of the reason it’s so effective is how well it works for SEO. By design, it hits a lot of the points we’ve already covered in this article.

Blogging

Blogging is one of the most popular ways to approach a content marketing strategy. Adding a blog to your website lets you post in-depth content that answers questions or provides information your audience is looking for.

If you have good communication with your customers and stay on top of the latest news and advances in your industry, you’ll never run out of things to blog about. Answer common questions, write about new technologies, offer tips for using your products — there’s virtually unlimited potential for content.

Other Content Channels

You should look beyond your own website for places to post your content. There are lots of other options available, such as:

  • Facebook Pages or Groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Trade organization websites
  • Local business websites

If it’s relevant to your market, you can even go beyond written content and look at YouTube, Instagram, and other forms of media. Everything you post on other sites will create backlinks and more “buzz” that can help with your site’s SEO.

Monitoring, Tracking, and Tweaking Your SEO Strategy

Optimizing all the various factors we’ve covered so far will help your website rank higher in the search results but unless you’re monitoring and tracking your results, you won’t know what’s working best.

If you change several things on your site and your traffic doubles, how do you know which of those changes had the biggest impact? And what if one of them actually had a negative impact? You wouldn’t know unless you’re tracking the results.

Monitoring and tracking let you see the results of each change you make so you have a better understanding of their effect. That helps you make better decisions going forward, by focusing on the changes with the highest ROI.

Tools to Consider

Several tools will help you with this process.

Google Analytics or a Similar Analytics Tool

The first thing you need is a way to track the visitors coming to your website, the path they take through your site, and which pages have the highest bounce rates. Google Analytics is one of the most popular analytics packages, in no small part because it’s free to use.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console, formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, lets you analyze some of the more technical components of your site’s SEO. It will help you find broken links, duplicate content, and many other things that you can tweak to improve your rankings.

SEO Analysis Tools

Several SEO tools will help you track your rankings, find new keyword opportunities, and analyze your competition. Some of the best options include:

  • Ahrefs
  • Moz
  • SEMrush
  • SpyFu

These tools can track your rankings over time so you can see exactly how your SEO basics are working. They’ll also let you track your competitors so you can see what’s working for them — and duplicate it yourself.

Why Should You Focus on SEO?

SEO isn’t the only way to get traffic to your website so why should you focus on it as one of your main strategies?

Most importantly, SEO works. It can consistently drive high-quality, targeted traffic to your website. And most visitors consider the search results as being more “reliable” than advertising because nobody is paying the search engine to rank the site.

Anyone willing to pay Google can place ads at the top of the search results. But when a site is listed in the SERPs themselves, people see that as a vote of confidence. Obviously, something about that site makes Google recommend it.

SEO is also a good long-term strategy. Once you’ve done the work to get your website ranked at the top of the results, you can get ongoing traffic.

You’ll need to do some work to maintain your rankings, especially as your competition improves their SEO to try to outrank you, but you won’t have to do the work all over again.

With paid traffic, it stops as soon as you stop paying. Paid traffic is a good way to get visitors quickly so you can test things but SEO should be a big part of your long-term plan.

Start Implementing This SEO Marketing Guide Today

If you focus on a couple of the factors in this SEO marketing guide at a time, it won’t take long to see results. But even one or two of these tasks takes time to implement.

If you’d rather focus on running your business, Concrete Internet Marketing can take care of your SEO. Our SEO service will deliver targeted traffic to your website, giving you a steady stream of new leads.

Get in touch with us today to get a free SEO audit of your website and see how we can help you grow your business.