25th March 2020

SEO for organic traffic is a marathon, not a sprint

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Author

Lauren Irwin

SEO Marathon Banner

Our top tips for ranking in SERPs with content marketing and technical SEO

SEO processes are used by businesses worldwide to improve their position and ranking for the likes of Google and Bing, so that customers can find them easily alongside relevant search queries for their business. However, more often than not, businesses have unrealistic expectations and goals when it comes to ranking in the SERPs.

Every business wants their website to be positioned on the coveted first page, especially on Google’s Search results, and they often expect it to happen in a matter of days: despite factors such as competition, poor technical SEO, poor website optimisation, keyword stuffing and slow website load speeds. There are many more factors that equate to good SEO practice and all of them need to be aligned to improve searching ranking.

That’s why SEO is a marathon and not a sprint, in achieving more organic traffic. Significant time has to be invested into SEO and it’s not as simple as taking a few choice keywords and adding them to bulk paragraphs of copy on your website. That’ll only achieve unnecessarily bloated web pages, slow loading speeds and a bad user experience.

We’ve highlighted our top areas (though there are many more) that we look at for ourselves as an agency and our clients too (both B2B and B2C). By understanding that there are different factors at work for SEO and search ranking, it helps to break down unrealistic expectations and how it takes time to not only rank but stay in position, too.

However, before we get into our top areas, it’s worth considering looking at areas in isolation and allowing for some time between each change - so that it’s possible to understand the effectiveness of one. It might be that some changes work better than others and when it comes to areas like H1s and meta titles, tweaks are often needed over 1-2 week periods before rank starts to fluctuate.

So it's important to remember, by making the following changes, it doesn't mean that you'll be on page one of the SERPs tomorrow.

Technical SEO

Website load time and optimisation

Google has indicated that a website's speed is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. It's also suggest by researched that search engines measure time between first byte and so, a slow website speed, means crawlers search fewer web pages per website. That means that your website could be negatively affected when it comes to website indexing.

A few key areas to look at for site load time an optimisation:

  • Minifying and removing unused CSS and JS
  • Use properly sized images
  • Ensure the TTFB (Time till first byte) is as low as possible
  • Avoids an excessive DOM size
  • Minimise JavaScript execution time

Sitemaps and indexing

To ensure Google and other search tools know how to crawl your website, you'll need to make sure that there is a sitemap.xml in place. This acts as a website's map and tells crawlers what pages are available on your website and when they are edited, too. If you have verified your domain/website in Google's Webmasters Tool, you'll be able to force Google to crawl your new sitemap as and when you please. This is super useful when you're doing a migration and you need to tell Google that you've updated your site.

Image optimisation

Make sure images are no larger than they need to be - kbs not mbs - and use PNGs for graphics and JPEGs for photographs (consider naming images relevant terms for Google Image Search).

Header tags, meta titles and descriptions

Header tags (known as your H1s, H2s, H3s, etc) not only give readers a top level overview of what the content is about, but are shorter, more digestible titles for readers to scan over, too. A H1 is a specific line of code and is usually (but not always) displayed as the larger text on a web page and for search engines like Google, header tags are key indicators as to what a page is about (alongside meta titles) - crawlers will read header tags to understand the content and therefore will deliver the most relevant pages (and websites) in SERPs.

It’s important to ensure that your header tags are applicable, related and use essential keywords (without stuffing) to explain each page. It is possible to have a “title” and “hidden header tags” as well, so you can still have more flowing, natural copy whilst your website works hard in terms of header tags for SEO, too.

When it comes to meta titles and descriptions - this is the information a reader sees displayed in the search results page, such as the below.

Abstraktgoogle 2

Every single page on your website should have a meta title, description and a share card (even if it's a generic image across the website pages). Meta titles are most important for SEO and can affect your SERP ranking. They should be short (more so for pages, less relevant for articles) and include keywords and your business brand name.

Meta titles provide users with a short summary but also a lot of information for Google to understand about your website and the web page - they’re a great way optimising your website for SEO and driving your ranking in search results.

Meta descriptions are a longer summary and whilst search engines like Google highlight keywords that may have been used in a query, they don’t have any weight in terms of ranking - meta descriptions are there to persuade and engage readers to click.

Redirects

Getting into the habit of ensuring your website has redirects is essential practice to future proof your website and aid user experience. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link and arriving at a 404 error page - a lot of users will promptly bounce from a website there and then.

Add 301 redirects to pages that are no longer in use to direct a user to another relevant page on your website. For example, if a product is at the end of line, redirect the old page URL to a new page URL, with a product that supersedes it - this will help protect the pages authority, rank and transfer link juice, too.

If you’re looking at doing a full website migration with a whole bunch of web pages to match and redirect, take a look at Redirectly - a tool for managing 301 & 302 redirects efficiently and without human error.

SEO Content

Keyword research

We personally use a few different tools for keyword research, as well as spending time understanding our customers and analysing terms and competitors on SERPs pages, too. We’d recommend Google Search Console and SERanking, we’ve tried a few other SEO tools, such as SEMrush, but didn’t get on with it as well.

Understanding what your customers search for is key and what terms, as a business, you want to be found for. For instance, your services or your products. You can see below that we wanted to rank for “Craft CMS Agency” which we are on the first page of Google for.

Craftcmsgoogle 1

It’s a keyword in our meta title, as well as our description, our H1 and the body copy of our website - all key indicators to search engines as to what the web page is about. We’d recommend spending time identifying keyword words and long tail keywords for your website (and individual services) before starting to write web content.

We’ve got a helpful guide on writing content for your website.

Keyword usage

Keyword usage is definitely worth a mention as you’ll find many ‘black hat’ seo techniques still about the web and ingrained in the more ‘old school’ SEO professionals. Keyword stuffing is a term you’ll find, too. It simply means over using keywords which makes content less flowing and more robotic, and hard for users to read. Search engines such as Google are well aware of keyword stuffing these days and are intelligent enough to avoid, and choose more relevant web pages with less keywords.

It’s important to seamlessly flow keywords into content without making it seem “obvious” that a word is used for SEO specifically.

Writing for SEO and the user

Leading on from that point - it’s especially important to write for your user and not just content that picks out keywords, feels and reads repetitively, and is used in bulk paragraphs around the website, both visible and hidden beneath “read more” options. As long as websites have relevant content with well chosen keywords, then there isn’t a need for excessive amounts of content when it’s been written concisely, for both SEO and the reader.

As an agency, we focus on earned over paid digital marketing and organic traffic walks hand-in-hand with that strategy. We have a lot of experience in writing for both the user and web with SEO in mind, so if you don't have the resource internally for well considered content - whether for an entire website or content article specific - our team can advise how best we can help support with content for organic traffic growth.

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