Your website is one of your business’s most important marketing assets.
You need your website to serve your existing customers well, but you also want it to be found by all the potential customers who could benefit from what you have to offer. To find those new users, you need to optimize your website with them in mind.
Optimizing a website to attract new customers generally means making search engine optimization (SEO) improvements. But it’s more than just making a blog and targeting keywords. Google’s ranking algorithm has gotten a lot more sophisticated in the last few years, and your website needs to keep up with those standards.
Don’t approach site optimization as if you’re trying to trick a machine. The algorithm is smarter than that, and a cynical approach to optimization will only harm your site in the long run. Instead, make your content easy to find (for the machine), easy to use (for the visitor), and relevant and useful (for your potential customers).
1. Write better content
To attract new visitors — via search and through linking — create better, more useful content. Write content that will not only help your site rank in search engine results pages (SERPs) but will also educate and entertain visitors enough that they come back to your site for information and share it with their circles.
Luckily for readers and businesses that care about useful content, Google is getting smart enough to weed out the low-effort content. Google prioritizes content that has three features:
- Relevance - Is the content relevant to the keyword?
- Authority - Is your domain a reliable source? Domain Authority is calculated by looking at links, engagement, and popularity.
- Stickiness - Are visitors actually reading your content and staying on your site?
To make better content that meets these standards, here’s what you need to do.
Match your target audience’s search intent
Select which keywords to target based on their relevance to your target audience and product, and write content that meets the search intent for those keywords. Search intent is the reason a person has typed a particular word or phrase into their search engine.
If you rank for a keyword that is mismatched with the searcher’s intent, they will likely immediately leave your page, increasing your bounce rate, which will hurt your search rankings. For example, say you were searching for the definition of bounce rate for search engines. If the results led you to an essay about physics or an online store for rubber balls, you probably wouldn’t stick around very long.
With keywords that are accurately targeted, you are more likely to reach the people who need what you are offering. When your content answers their questions, they are more likely to stay, read further, and convert. Plus, the time they spend on your site raises your ranking in the search results.
Make your content useful
Content that is generally useful as well as relevant to your target audience will rank better in search. It will also more likely be shared by your audience and result in new users coming to your site for information. Write about the pain points that are relevant to your product. Bring in subject matter experts when you need deeper information about a topic. Include relevant links for further reading, examples, and visual illustrations to help your reader understand the information.
You also want to make sure your content is organized, easy to access, and thorough enough to be useful. You can use tools like Clearscope to write more effectively. Opt for longer, more in-depth articles where possible. Make sure the structure is clear and helpful, and don’t add fluff for length. Longer articles also tend to rank higher — Backlinko and Ahrefs found that the average front-page result is 1,447 words long.
2. Audit and refresh your current content
Refresh old content for a relatively low-lift way to boost search results and bring in new readers. You want to start by auditing your content using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to look at your traffic and keyword rankings over time. Use that data to identify what content might benefit most from a little extra attention.
- Revise - If articles have high traffic but also a low session duration and high bounce rate, it could mean that visitors aren’t having their needs met by your page. Take another look at the search intent of the keyword you are targeting, rewrite or reorganize the article to read better, or improve your call-to-action.
- Refresh - For content that previously saw high traffic but has dropped, revive it with a refresh. There are a lot of little tweaks you can make that will revive your page in search. Update broken or out-of-date links. Add more current quotes, examples, or statistics. Improve your headers or add images. Link to some of your newer articles or landing pages that might be relevant.
- Delete - Some content may just not be needed anymore. Delete old campaigns or outdated content and short or low-quality articles that haven’t seen traffic in a while. Just make sure to put 301 redirects for those pages so you don’t lose any backlinks.
3. Improve on-page search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is also about making sure that the search engine as a machine can read, understand, and categorize what your web pages are about. You could have the most relevant, useful article in the world on your site, but if the search engine can’t tell what it is, no one will ever find it.
Some of this will need to be done by your content marketers within the text, and some may be the responsibility of engineers and UX designers. You can look at the Google ranking factors for a full list, but here are some of the most important things to look at:
Your keyword should be in your page URL, your title tag (ideally as the first word), the meta-description tag, and your backlink anchor text. It should also be featured throughout your text. Put your keyword in your H1, H2s, and H3s when appropriate and in the first 100 words of your article. Use the keyword and related words frequently throughout — Google uses TF-IDF (e.g., how often does a word appear?) to figure out what your page is about.
Include a linked table of contents. Don’t hide content behind tabs. Though it might seem like a good way to make the page look cleaner or feel more interactive, it will actually hide your content from search engines. Make sure you have a 404 page in case of broken links.
Outbound links to relevant and authoritative sources will help your page rank. They will also help Google understand the topic of your page if they are relevant to the content. Internal links that point to your page signal that your content is relevant, and useful internal links within your content can keep readers on your site longer.
When used correctly, images and illustrations indicate to Google that your page is a good resource. Make your image file names descriptive and use alt text for all images on your page to make the visual resources more visible to Google and more accessible for users with screen readers. Images will also help your site show up in search engine results pages, which drives considerable traffic to your site.
An incredibly simple but effective optimization that will help your site get better traffic is to build and submit an XML sitemap to Google. Your XML sitemap tells Google what the structure of your website is, so it can find and crawl the appropriate pages. It will make your content much more visible, even if it is new or has relatively few internal links. Creating a sitemap and submitting it through your Google Search Console account is a straightforward process.
4. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Since 2019, Google has been moving toward mobile-first indexing, making responsive design and effective mobile sites more important than ever. More than half of web browsing is now being done on mobile, so you need mobile-friendly and responsive design in order to serve the majority of your potential audience. Additionally, responsive design is accessible design, which you need in order to reach those in your audience with accessibility needs.
Measure the impact of your site optimization strategies
You need regular measurements to see the impact of your site optimizations and to make informed decisions in order to continue to build traffic. Evaluate your site traffic, keywords, and backlinks with Google Analytics to establish a baseline. Evaluate past performance to see what the needs of your audience are, and monitor traffic as you develop your SEO strategy.
There are a wealth of tools out there to help you understand your site traffic and how well you are meeting the needs of your audience. Clearscope will help your writing. Ahrefs will give you information about backlinks and keywords. PageSpeed Insights will help you make sure your site is running at optimal performance. And Google Search Console will keep you on top of your search rankings.
Armed with these strategies and the data to give your team feedback on them, you can build meaningful traffic to your site and an engaged customer base that will help your website grow.