The 10 essentials for making sure Google will find your website in 2021 and beyond
The changes planned for 2021 to the Google search algorithm will place more emphasis on user experience (UX) and quality content than ever before. Normally when Google announces algorithm changes in advance it sends the cats scurrying among the proverbial SEO pigeons with feathers and pigeon poop scattered as far as the eye can see. But If your website already focuses on answering the questions your customers are asking, as well as making it easy for them to engage with you, then this can only be good news. Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t take your eye off the ball.
It’s also a great opportunity for small business owners who have never previously been able to invest the time or resource in a full-time SEO strategy with all the incumbent technical bells and whistles. Because if you’re already posting new online content on a regular basis, then you’re also going to benefit from Google’s improved focus.
But it takes great content to rank well, and a consistent effort to keep your website optimised to outrank the big players in your industry. We’ve posted before about the need to keep your content fresh and that message has not changed. But fresh content must have a purpose and not just be produced because you’ve been told that it’s a good idea to write one blog a week. We’ve seen too many cases where “new” content is little more than repurposed old content with a new title. This won’t fool Google – or your customers – for a moment.
This is our best practice SEO guide to creating content that your readers will love, and Google can find.
How to make sure your content is optimised for SEO
First, think about the subject matter for the content. Do your keyword research and find out what your target audience wants to know. What questions are they typing into Google right now that you can answer? What information can you share that will help them? What do you know that your competitors don’t? Use a tool like answerthepublic.com to find out.
Then think about the purpose for the content, which can be any or all of the following:
- Generate website traffic
- Update your existing customers with new information
- Educate a new target audience
- Generate sales enquiries, leads or make direct sales
- Drive engagement on social media
- Launch a new product or service
- Promote existing products or sales discounts
- Raise awareness of an event or cause
We’re sure you can think of a few more. As we said, don’t just write for the sake of it, and definitely do not copy what someone else has done. The idea is not to fill up empty space, but to position yourself and your organisation as the experts in your field.
The 10 things your content must have to count as being “optimised”
These are the very minimum optimisation elements your content must have to tick the most basic of SEO boxes for Google. This is the essential data that search engines need to determine if your content meets the search criteria. It tells them what the page – and by extension what your business – is all about.
1. It must be unique and informative
Google will rarely show duplicate content in search results. So if all you do is copy or tweak existing content, either from your own or someone else’s website, then nobody wins. Look to others for inspiration by all means, but create something that is unique to you and gives your own perspective on the subject. This is how your customers will come to know and trust you.
2. Place your keywords where they’ll be noticed
Once you’ve established what your keywords are then you need to make sure they are in all the most relevant places on the web page. This includes the headlines and sub-heads, the URLs and the first paragraph – or at least in the text that is seen “above the fold” (i.e. where the screen cuts off) which will look different on desktops vs mobile phones, so think about who to prioritise. This reassures your page visitors that they’ve clicked through to the right website without them having to scroll down. BUT remember to write naturally for your human target readers, and not for search engine bots. So don’t stuff your keywords into every sentence just because you can.
3. Use semantic keywords
Have you noticed that as you type into Google’s search bar it tries to complete the search for you? This is what Google calls “auto-completion” and they have become very clever at analysing the intent behind a search. Part of this analysis includes looking for synonyms related to keywords, which is good news for anyone writing fresh content as it means you don’t need to be a slave to your precise target keywords. Use your keyword research to find the related alternative expressions and add them to your content.
4. Make sure your main (H1) headline packs a punch
Apart from including your main keyword in your text, construct a headline (tagged as “H1” in WordPress and most other CMS systems) that gets your primary message across powerfully and persuasively. This could be a question, a statement, a teaser, etc. Again your research into your target audience via tools such as answerthepublic.com should give you a good idea. We’ve more advice for you here on what makes a great headline.
5. Don’t forget sub-headings (H2, H3, etc)
You can improve readability by breaking up the content logically with sub-headings (tagged as “H2”, “H3” all the way to “H6” in CMS systems). Eye-tracking studies show that we read information on screen in a non-linear fashion – we’re scanning for clues and “hooks” that keep us interested. Use your H2 and subsequent sub-headings to provide those clues, including your main or alternative keywords.
6. Metas: Page titles and descriptions
We’ve provided the complete guide to metas here but briefly these are coded into your website HTML and are what’s seen in search results, e.g.:
They are in essence a mini advert for your web page and should therefore provide the reasons why we should click on your website and no-one else’s. So they are another ideal place to use your keywords and provide additional information to whet your potential visitor’s appetites. They need to be composed within strict character limits and our guide provides more details. Even if Google chooses not to display your metas in search results (which will happen with annoying regularity) it will still use them to assess the relevance of the page content.
7. Use images and videos
Adding images, videos, infographics and charts in your webpage content makes it more engaging, helps to tell your story, and encourages your visitors to stay longer on the page – a great signal to search engines that you have content worth sticking around for. However, your image file sizes must be optimised too, as they can slow down your page load speed – a negative ranking signal. They must be tagged with Alt text and/or Alt Descriptions (depending on what’s possible with your CMS). We have a useful image tagging guide that gives you plenty of information and again, image tags are a great place to make full use of your keywords!
8. Optimise for mobiles
Mobile optimisation is where a web page resizes and reorganises itself automatically according to the size of the screen being used to view it. Most (if not all) modern website platforms provide this as part of their templates so it’s not something you normally need to build or code separately. However, just because the page content is mobile optimised that doesn’t mean that the user experience is likewise taken care of. Most CMS systems allow you to preview a page on different devices and edit the content, so always take advantage of this option to double-check that the UX hasn’t been impacted.
9. Include links – internal and external (outbound)
Links are a must for SEO. It’s important to show your site visitors that you have other content that relates to the page they’re looking at and that will be just as useful and informative. Embedding internal links into the page helps to highlight the point you are making and helps your readers navigate their way around your website. Similarly try to include at least one or two links to external, related sources. This will help your readers find other useful information on the subject and will add value to their experience. Plus it will allow search engines to better understand the context for your page and therefore its relevance as well as showing that you’ve done the research that adds substance to your content.
10. Actively promote your content
Now that you’ve published your new, original, keyword-rich, tagged and optimised content, tell people about it! Doing all the basics we’ve listed here will go a long way towards helping Google and other search engines find it, but doing your bit to market it will help push it in the right direction. Share it out on social media, add a direct link in your email signature, include it in your next newsletter, talk about it at networking events – basically do everything in your power to promote it. Google will take note that you are taking steps to support your brand and drive website traffic and this will give you precious additional SEO “Brownie points” as a result.
These are basic “must have” techniques for making sure your content is optimised so that it reaches the widest possible target audience. The objective is to make your website more useful and relevant to your ideal customer. There’s a lot to consider but practice makes perfect, so why not bookmark this guide so that you can easily refer to it when you’re next planning new content?
About the author: Helen Say is one half of CBL Copywriting & SEO, an award-winning marketing consultancy based in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. As a professional SEO copywriter, she spends many hours perfecting her words and making sure people can find them.