Plenty of articles have you believe a top Google ranking is as simple as a “#1 Trick.” The truth is, building the authority that drives organic traffic takes time, but these are a few things to keep in mind along the way.
If you’re just getting started, you won’t be the first result on Google next week, but that blank slate is perfect for laying the groundwork for your ongoing SEO strategy. Putting savvy SEO tactics into practice now will build your path for driving organic traffic. Start by internalizing these six core principles of SEO success.
1. SEO Before Content
Content marketing and SEO used to be the responsibilities of two separate people—the writer and the SEO specialist. The problem with this split-duty arrangement is that you wind up with content and SEO that are out of step with one another.
The writer produces content, and then the SEO specialist tries to shoehorn keywords into the site. The result is awkward content that will be passed over by both readers and search engines for failing to provide any real value.
Instead, SEO research should inform content creation. Starting with a list of target keywords allows writers to form content around SEO, incorporating these search-friendly phrases in a way that feels natural and adds value.
2. Don't Forget the Title Tag
A title tag is the headline that displays in search results. It’s not always the same thing as your headline—and in fact, it’s often a mistake to make your title tag the same as your headline.
Headlines are designed to earn clicks, whereas title tags should be designed to earn search credibility through the inclusion of keywords that match common user queries. The savvy content marketer understands and takes advantage of this difference.
As an example, while your headline might read “5 Secrets to Becoming a Search Engine Superstar!” an effective title tag might look more like, “Simple SEO Strategies for Higher Search Engine Rankings.”
3. Scope Out the Competition
When doing your research, look at your competition to see what keywords they appear for. This will be your starting point, but if the space is crowded, the trick is to find search terms others haven’t leveraged yet.
Don't limit your research to direct competitors either. Look at other websites or blogs that provide the kind of content you hope to create on your own site. They may not be competing for the same keywords, but they will be competing for readership.
Look at what your competitors are doing and what content is getting engagement, and think of how you can merge the two to carve out your own online niche.
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4. Build Evergreen Links
This is an example of when being a blank slate online works strongly in your favor. As you build your site and create URLs for your pages, opt for URLs that are “evergreen.” That is, URLs that are general enough to be reused—and refreshed—indefinitely.
Sure, a highly specific URL might attract more traffic right now. But a more general URL allows you to make updates to the page’s H1, meta title, and content that keeps the page relevant to your audience while enabling it to build authority over time.
5. Get Social with Your SEO
Search engines get smarter every day, and now they’ve given greater influence to social media traffic and are indexing social content along with traditional web content. You’ve probably noticed Twitter handles popping up alongside traditional websites in search results. That’s because the search engine is crawling for keywords in tweets and Twitter handles just as they do in web content.
What does this mean for your social and SEO strategies? Include your keywords in social posts and use them to drive traffic to your site. It will give your social media efforts an extra lift, and the added visits for social media will help increase your pagerank for the associated keywords.
6. Don't Sacrifice Quality
At the end of the day, SEO tactics alone are not going to attract traffic to your site or make your content perform well in search engines. No matter how expertly implemented, SEO doesn’t compensate for weak content.
It’s not enough to crank out blog post after blog post on relevant topics. Every piece of content you create must be the product of your best work. That may mean sacrificing quantity for quality. So be it. It’s a necessary—and worthy—sacrifice to make.
Your content should always be optimized for SEO, but it should also provide real value to your readers. Create content that rewards your readers (with tips, information, or pure entertainment) and search engines will reward you. It’s that simple.