So you’ve written a new blog post, well-researched and well-written but it’s not getting hits! Why not?
Unfortunately it’s not only quality that determines online popularity or visibility of your content but many other factors are taken into consideration by search engine algorithms. Google for example will trawl through the whole web page looking for H1 and H2 tags as well as keyword relevance and overall website score too (among many other factors that are taken into consideration).
In order to rank highly on the search results page it’s essential to tick the boxes. The boxes in this case are closely guarded secrets in the form of search bots and algorithms. While we don’t know the exact makeup of what the criteria is for these bots, we do have a solid idea of what are the best practices in order to rank highly.
In the 5 main points below I’m going to outline the areas that need the most attention in order for your content to be found and also to rank in the search results page (Google more specifically).
Creating descriptive title tags and meta descriptions are the first thing that gets seen by users in the search results page so this is absolutely essential to get right. You want the title and snippet that’s displayed to show relevance to a user’s search query. Of course there are now tricks which are used to get more clicks such as “emotional” titles or using attention-grabbers like “best” or “must read” and writing in all caps. Using these methods mostly depends on the nature of your content if you can employ these more clickbait-style tactics but otherwise the most important feature to get right is descriptive titles and snippets that provide relevance and show how your article can be of use to an enquirer.
A large part of online visibility is also identifying what’s relevant within your particular field. A very quick search of social media sites such as twitter or reddit will provide some insight into current discussion topics and themes. Alongside social media research is a simple browse of competitor’s websites that will also shed some light on what’s currently being talked about.
By revealing the current conversation around your particular field of expertise it’s then possible to cater your keywords to the correct target market and audience. You can avoid the highly competitive one or two word keywords and instead focus on longtail keywords for an increased chance of success.
This is another area that has been done to death but again there is a good reason for it. Simply put, people generally like order and structure; lists provide a quick and well-formatted way to consume content and to easily skip an area where the user may think it’s unnecessary. Long-form content certainly has its place where the quality is high enough to maintain attention but there’s a lot of online content that is information-heavy and perhaps even dull. Laying it out in a clearly defined way helps to break up the work into digestible sections.
Depending on the way you choose to create the list, it’s another method of creating click-through content that drives up the number of clicks through your website. This is a convenient way to engage the user whilst simultaneously increasing the stats and pages visited on your website.
Alongside presenting content in a list format, don’t forget to actually provide unique, insightful and most importantly relevant information to your audience. The search algorithms track many variables on websites but as Google has written, ‘Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.’ Google assumes that great content will be shared organically with other users thus increasing its web of links as more and more people share it with others online.
Nowadays it’s important to remember that most searches are done on mobile and as a result, your website should be catering to smartphone users. Having a mobile-ready site is pretty much a requirement anyway but by considering that the majority of searches are now mobile, it helps to think about your audience and how they’ll likely be consuming your content; on the move, on a break, on a smaller screen. All considerations that can ultimately help to focus your content to be easily consumed via mobile.
Alongside mobile queries taking the lion’s share of the search market, voice searches have also increased massively with the introduction of smart speakers and their affordable cost. Again this is also true with most smartphones as voice assistants come pre-installed. The increase in voice searches means that queries are more specific and detailed rather than typing out only the necessary words into Google to get the results you want. This new way of searching is another factor to consider when creating online content.
A tried and tested way to not only spread awareness of your content but that also boosts your site’s domain authority and ranking in Google’s eyes is to guest post your work on other websites in the same or similar field. Guest posting benefits the site your work is posted to as their content is seen to be frequently updated, it also benefits your own website as you can hopefully add a hyperlink to your homepage in the post. Google loves to see that work is shared and as a result rewards websites that have a healthy amount of links from other reputable domains.
The reason it’s beneficial to have this content share model is that Google’s PageRank algorithm works by analysing all sites that link back to your website, creating a hidden value of your site’s rank. Having links from well-known, established and trusted websites is a simple and clear metric that is understood not only by the Google bots but also by people. If a website you use frequently shares content from a source you don’t know, it’s likely to be trusted simply because it’s been recommended by a source you already know and trust. This is the most basic breakdown of a hugely complex algorithm but at its foundation, sharing links is the best way to spread awareness and share content.
Link sharing is also a great opportunity to build relationships with other businesses or brands in the same field. For instance it could open up the possibility of partnerships where the users of x website get a discount on y website. Thus encouraging more engagement with both sites, a mutually favorable exchange. And sharing content online is easier than ever with social media.
So not only can links increase your site’s rating, it can also help to build relationships: best of both!
If your content is catered to a relatively small market but you want larger exposure, consider a post with a general appeal. Of course you want to show-off your expertise in whatever your professional field is but it’s possible to deviate from the path and create something that may have a broader appeal. There’s always an opportunity to include your local area and how that fits in with your business for example. Google search results page will always include local results as it links their other service: Google Maps. So featuring local attractions for example will reach a larger audience who may be searching your area for things to do.
It’s not always possible to include posts such as the one mentioned above, however more often than not there’s a chance to attract a bigger audience with a bit of creative license. Again, by doing some online research you can find out what topics are in discussion around your field and from there, create “popular” posts that target as large an audience as possible.
Google likes quality content that proves valuable to an audience but it’s not always easy to get those first clicks from real people. By following these 5 steps it will not only attract users to find and consume your content but also help Google’s search algorithms that’ll then rank it highly in the search results page.
Jamie FitzHenry is the Director of Grizzly, a web design agency based in Bristol UK that specializes in creating and then enhancing clients’ online presence.