It seems as though search engines change their algorithm every month, so knowing what works and what doesn’t is a challenge even for experienced SEO specialists.
According to Net Market Share, Google still eclipses the market with around 69.8% of all searches. The nearest competitor is Bing, with 13.31%, followed by Baidu at 12.53%.
Although the way people use the internet changes frequently, you must pay careful attention to how you rank in Google while keeping an eye on Bing. One way to improve your ranking is to make your site more usable. Google looks at how well your website delivers on what it promises. Here are the things you should focus on.
1. Study competitors
Your competitors aren’t just the companies selling the same thing you do. You’re vying against anyone else who ranks for the same keyword, so pay attention to similar phrasing. How much traffic do related keyword phrases receive? Would it be easier to outrank in those areas?
If you want better SEO, you must research the pages ranking high. Take notes on their content. How long is it? Do they use images? Are there holes in the information? Your goal is to surpass their efforts on every level and rank higher.
2. Improve voice search compatibility
Experts estimate at least 50% of all searches are via voice, but many companies aren’t yet paying attention to the growing trend. With the right effort, you can outrank them and get the No. 1 spot in the voice SERPs.
Consider the way people speak when asking a question. Use natural language patterns (NLP) and the words most common to your target audience. Don’t be afraid to pose the query on your website in your heading or subheading. Putting the question at the top of the page shows visitors they’ve found what they’re seeking.
3. Use variety
Don’t choose a single keyword and use it repeatedly throughout a 1,000-word plus article. Instead, find related phrases and vary your usage. Google’s algorithms are smart and set to detect keyword stuffing.
Make your user experience (UX) stellar by writing engagingly. You may find you already use most of the words related to your topic in the natural course of sharing knowledge. You can easily tweak the language to be more specific to the keywords and related phrases without making your writing sound stilted.
4. Get mobile-friendly
Great UX includes a website adapting to different screen sizes. Facebook gets around 92% of its revenue from mobile traffic. Mobile-responsiveness is a category search engines consider when ranking your site, especially for their smartphone users.
Think about which scripts might not load, what the menu looks like on a smaller screen and how accessible any clickable areas are on a touch screen.
5. Know user intent
Take the time to think through the intent behind why people search for the keyword you’d like to rank. There is a big difference between searching for puppy photos for entertainment and because you’re looking for a new dog.
What pain point drives the user to your site? What solution might they be seeking, and can you provide it? Don’t try to rank for keywords completely off-topic from what you provide as a business. You might rank for them, but the traffic you receive isn’t going to be highly qualified leads.
6. Be aware of algorithms
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the most far-reaching algorithm updates in recent years. Look at the reasons Google made those changes. It’s always focused on improving results for users.
Don’t try to game the system. People using black hat tactics is why the changes occurred in the first place. Instead, focus on giving your users the absolute best experience imaginable. Write the best articles, create excellent videos and share useful tips. The better your UX is, the less likely a future update destroys your rankings.
7. Lose the filler words
The URL addresses to pages on your site should be clear of helper words. Get rid of “and,” “the” and “of” if at all possible. If you’re using WordPress as your content management system (CMS), you can easily change the permalink before publishing.
Search engines tend to overlook those words anyway. The shorter your URL, the easier it will be for someone to remember where an article they’d like to share is.
8. Format for position zero
Do you want your site to appear in the featured snippets near the top of SERPs? Think about the format of the articles you find there. They tend to be skimmable, and you’ll find many listicle pieces.
Add bulleted lists, subheadings and numbers. Use a format well-suited to grabbing that featured spot at the very top of the page. Position one isn’t good enough any longer. You want to be above the first option.
Try new tactics
Once you identify keywords you’d like to rank for, try different tactics and see which methods get you to the top of searches. You may find you rank for a phrase you hadn’t planned on, but it still brings you the right audience. Be open to new things, such as adding videos or taking your own photographs. Pay attention to what changes over time, and do your best to create an amazing UX to drive your SERPs rank.
**About the Author: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.