For businesses - particularly those based on the web - organic search can play a large part in determining whether they thrive or barely survive.
However, Google algorithms are updated on a regular basis - often very unpredictably and without any forewarning.
The recent Penguin and Panda updates have seen previously successful Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics become ineffective or counter-productive. A number of companies engaging proactively in link-building strategies saw a decrease in web traffic due to devalued links or, worse, because of a penalty imposed by Google.
SEO is a tricky field to negotiate because revenues from paid-for Adwords constitute most of Google's profit. Paradoxically, this means achieving impressive results for your target keywords essentially means competing with the search giant itself.
Meanwhile, Google aims to position itself as a white knight that advocates quality user experience and leads the fight against lazy and vicious webmasters who churn out one spammy website after another.
So what can you do to keep Google happy and improve your rankings? Here are five simple tips that will also have a positive influence on your overall marketing and brand exposure.
Search engines view social sharing as an increasingly important indicator of website quality, with algorithms giving more and more weight to web pages that are shared, liked and tweeted
This means creating a customer journey with relevant landing pages for your product offerings, which should be in sync with the keywords you are targeting.
Look for relevant keywords on Google Adwords and target the ones that are relatively high search/low competition.
Of course, that's not enough. Make sure your content is keyword-rich without being spammy and use keywords in URLs, page titles, meta tags and meta descriptions. Meta tags should include a mixture of branded keywords (your company's name) as well as relevant product offerings and topics. A web page's meta description is visible in listings on search engines and is often displayed on social media sites when users share content.
Finally, don't forget to increase your site's stickiness by cross-linking to relevant product or content pages within body text.
Having a high quality and regularly-updated blog gives your business a voice and makes Google search engines re-index your website, which results in increased visibility. If you are pressed for resources, you can hire freelance writers to create content for you, which you can then market on in-bound and out-bound digital marketing channels. Another way to get free content is by hosting guest blog posts.
Make sure your website integrates social sharing and become active on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Not only is this a great way to get user-generated web traffic from your amazing blog content and products, it is also a great way to distribute relevant information to your fans on social platforms themselves.
What's more, Google and other search engines view social sharing as an increasingly important indicator of website quality, with algorithms giving more and more weight to web pages that are shared, liked, tweeted and so forth. If content with a link to your website goes viral on social media with high topic relevancy, not only do you benefit from the exposure that brings - your rankings will go up too.
While we're on the topic of social, don't forget to create a Google+ profile. This helps your search rankings, provides a new platform to engage your customers and, if you have a physical storefront, you can connect your profile to your Google Local listing.
This will give you a prominent place in search results, help your customers find your physical store easier (note that they can also review your business on your Google+ page) and can be a huge advantage if you have competitors with a similar business name to yours.
Reach out to high-traffic and high-quality blogs and online newspapers with free products for review or guest content. If your efforts are successful, you'll benefit from the positive publicity and the back links included in your external content will significantly boost your SEO efforts.
SEO is not easy but if it is done well, it can result in increased web traffic and consequently increased sales for your business. Do you have any other tips that you think result in easy SEO wins? Let us know in the comments section.
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