You work hard on your blog. You post often. You always try to write evergreen content. Your posts are actionable yet informative. You never close a post without a CTA. In short, this is strong content, the kind you’d want on any blog.
There’s just one issue, and it’s a pretty big one: you’re nowhere to be found on Google search engines. Unless someone searches for your blog specifically, it can take pages before you show up in the results.
As you know, customers don’t have that kind of patience or time. They’re not going to dig through pages of results to find something. They’re going to look at the first page, and the first few results on that page, and pick from there.
Your first inclination may be to keyword-stuff like there’s no tomorrow, but this can harm you. Not only will your content read like a robot wrote it, but Google algorithms change all the time. An SEO tactic that works today may not be effective tomorrow.
Outside of keyword-stuffing, how can you improve your Google rank? Here are 12 proven tactics, some of them content-driven, some of them SEO-driven.
1. Go Back to Grammar School
The sites that have the highest Google rankings are the most authoritative. In marketing, think Neil Patel, HubSpot, or us at Income School. When you read a post on these blogs, they’re perfect in every way. There are pictures to draw in the audience. The subheadings are formatted correctly and the paragraphs are kept brief.
It makes sense that Google will not give a high ranking to a non-authoritative site. That hurts Google’s credibility. It agitates customers, who will go use another search engine to find better results.
So how can you change your authority right off the bat? Fix your grammar and spelling.
If you grew up obsessed with perfect spelling and syntax, this is your lucky day. Go back through all your blog posts. Run them through a few grammar checkers. See what comes up.
It’s possible you may have made grammar and spelling mistakes without even realizing it. Cleaning these up brings you one step closer to increasing your Google rank.
2. Dig Through Old Posts and Update Them (Especially the URL)
People love a good update post. Revisiting a topic benefits both your audience and you, the blog writer. Your audience gets to see an update on a post they may have read months or years ago. That will guarantee traffic.
These posts benefit you because you’re not writing from scratch. You already have an idea and you already have content you can possibly recycle. You can now produce a post in far less time.
Don’t just focus on the content, though. Go back and look at the URL. For example, let’s say you wrote a post about best practices for 2016. Now that it’s 2017, you want to add some more best practices. You write about five more items and your post is ready to go.
The URL for your old post may have been something like yoursitehere.com/blog/these-are-the-best-practices-i-used-last/. What you were trying to say was “These Are the Best Practices I Used Last Year.” However, your URL cut off because you were too wordy.
Your URL doesn’t have to contain the entire headline. Instead, to be most effective, it should include keywords (more on this later). That alone can improve your ranking.
Let’s say your revised post is “Five More Best Practices for 2017 You Don’t Want to Miss [Update Post].” Continuing the example, some of your keywords are “social proof” and “guest posts.” Your updated URL might look something like yoursitehere.com/blog/2017-best-practices-social-proof-guest-posting.
That gets the keywords in and informs the reader about what they can expect in your post.
3. Secure Your Site with HTTPS
On the note of URLs, how secure is your site? Although you want to say “very secure” or “unbreakable,” you know that’s not true. Every so often, there’s a big news story that reminds us how hackers can break into even the biggest companies.
So what does that have to do with Google rankings? A lot, actually.
Just like Google won’t rank non-authoritative sites highly, it also won’t rank sites with questionable security. Google users want to feel like if they click on a website, especially for the first time, they’re not opening up their computer to get infected with malware.
Google has a reputation to maintain. It also still has its “I’m feeling lucky” button, so it can only rank secure, authoritative sites highly.
How can you make sure your site is one of those? Stop using HTTP.
As of 2014, Google may rank sites that use HTTPS more highly than HTTP sites. These sites are extra secure with a layer of encryption. Even if Google changes its algorithms and stops favoring HTTPS sites over HTTP sites, you’re still helping yourself by securing your site.
4. Don’t Abandon Keywords, Just Use Them Correctly (and the Right Ones!)
Above, we mentioned how keyword-stuffing is a no-no. That doesn’t mean you should never put another keyword in your blog posts again, though. Quite the contrary. These keywords just shouldn’t be random. In fact, there’s a very smart way to go about generating them.
Go to the competition.
Seriously. See which keywords have received the most views and made the competition the most money. Then take those same keywords (assuming they’re relevant, of course; if not, update them!) and write better content.
It’s that simple.
So how do you find the keywords the competition is using? Do you spend hours combing through their blog, noting the keywords in each post?
No. That’s tiresome and way too time-consuming. Instead, there are several tools you can rely on that do the job for you. SpyFu, OpenSiteExplorer, and SEMRush are just three of them. They’re not all free, but they’re worth it.
For many of these tools, once you’re registered, all you have to do is copy the competition’s URL and the tool does the rest. You can then see which keywords the competition uses and which ones are performing the best. Now it’s time to write some killer content.
5. Get Mobile
Our smartphones are like an extra appendage with how often we use them. Some people can’t go anywhere without them.
That means you can practically guarantee that a good number of your customers are going to check out your site on their phone, tablet, or other mobile device. Are you ready for that?
Yes, every site that you can see on a laptop or computer will load up on a smartphone, but it doesn’t always look the same. If a site isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, the user experience is going to be a nightmare.
Imagine trying to cram an elephant into a two-door vehicle. You might only get the elephant’s back legs in there.
Your site is the same thing. The elephant is your website, not optimized for mobile. The two-door vehicle is the user’s smartphone. What they’re seeing is just a chunk of your site (the elephant’s back legs) because the rest consists of oversized pictures, wonky menus, and squished text.
When your site is optimized for mobile, it’s much, much friendlier to the user. It’ll also rank more highly on Google.
So please, if you haven’t already optimized your site, get on that. Otherwise you’re missing out on lots of potential customers who will see your site, realize it’s not mobile-friendly, and move on.
6. Double-Check Your Site Speed
On the note of making website changes, how fast is your site, anyway? This isn’t solely dependent on a user’s Internet speed. Your site has its own speed.
If your site loads as quick as The Flash can run, you can bet your customers (and would-be customers) will be impressed. If your site loads like molasses though? Well, just like before, your customers will go elsewhere to find a site that loads faster.
Google will only feature speedy sites on its front page. Again, it’s a reputation issue. If Google ranked sketchy, slow-loading sites highly, who would trust Google as a search engine? No one.
First, before you assume there’s an issue with your site speed, run a speed test. There are countless websites out there that will test your site speed for free. Some of these sites are even catered to marketers!
Now that you know your speed is lacking, bring it up to par. Here are a couple of things you can try right now.
- Shrink your pictures. However, keep these optimized so you don’t reduce quality. The more pictures you have on your blog, the more these can slow down site loading time.
- Delete plug-ins. These aren’t useful forever. If you haven’t used a plug-in in months, or if it’s already out-of-date, get rid of it.
- Change hosts. If all else fails, you can always switch to a faster website host.
7. Create Social Proof
Testimonials. Stock images of smiling people. Reviews. Endorsements.
What do these have in common? They’re all forms of social proof.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that’s caught on with marketers. They’ve realized they can trigger a person’s basic psychological response to act a specific way.
It may sound like a lot of mind-trick mumbo-jumbo, but it isn’t.
Let’s take one of the easiest forms of social proof, reviews. You probably already have reviews on your site. If you do, you have social proof without even knowing it.
When you’re going to buy a product for the first time, do you just blindly do it? Probably not. Instead, you read reviews, you look at pictures, and you compare prices.
If you see a lot of positive reviews, you feel influenced to buy. If you see a lot of negative reviews, you don’t feel influenced to buy. That’s social proof in a nutshell. It’s the gentle encouragement from other users and customers to act a certain way (i.e., buy).
8. Learn Linking
You’re probably aware of the concept of link building. This is where you create social media or other types of posts outside of your site that link back to your site. You may already be a pro at this or you maybe could use a little work.
That’s okay. Link building can be a bit tricky, but once you’re good at it, your Google site rank should increase.
First, go through all your site and blog links. Not manually, of course, but with a free broken link checker site or tool. If you have any links that are dead or broken, either fix or remove these.
Next, it’s time to return back to your keywords. Hopefully, by now you’re checking on the keywords the competition is using and finding bigger and better ways to add those or similar keywords to your own content.
Those keywords don’t have to stay solely on your blog, though. You can also use them on social media. Twitter especially is a great place to show off those great new keywords you’re writing about.
If you’re not hyperlinking these keywords though, you’re missing out bigtime on customers and a chance to improve your Google site rank. Although you shouldn’t create hyperlinks every time the keyword appears in your post, at least once, hyperlink it back to your website or blog.
9. Guest Posts
Do you want to practice link building right away? Write a guest post.
Guest posts are beneficial in many ways when it comes to your Google rank. First, you get to flex your link building muscle. You also prove you’re an authority by showing up on another site that Google ranks highly.
Guest posts help you, too. After all, this is a whole new set of eyes on your content. They’ll undoubtedly be curious about your company and will click your link to learn more.
If you get the chance to guest post, remember to practice good etiquette. Don’t write a salesy post trying to convert their customers to your site. You want to share good, meaty, evergreen tips and advice that readers will genuinely learn from.
Also, encourage the other site to write a guest post for you. Fair is fair, after all. Doing so makes your site look like an authority anyway, so it pays off for both parties.
10. Share, Share, and Share Some More
We’ve talked a lot about social media already. How often are you really using it, though? And no, not personally, but for the benefit of your company?
In a perfect world, you’d share every blog post, every bit of news, and every other interesting tidbit to your social media audience. However, you get busy and distracted. Then you forget all about it.
Besides link building, social media also matters to Google in two very big ways: it proves your company’s relevancy and reputation.
Have you ever clicked a business page on Facebook? If so, you might have noticed the area where it says “XX are talking about this.” These are the people who are posting about your company. The more people who have something to say, the more relevant your company according to Google.
Above, we mentioned the importance of social proof. That includes reviews and testimonials. On sites like Facebook, customers can leave a review of your product and even rate it between one and five stars. Customers may comment on your posts or on your general page.
If you’re not paying attention to this stuff, you should be. You want your customers to have good things to say about you. In the figurative eyes of Google, that makes you a better authority. Of course, there will be negative comments no matter what, but these shouldn’t be overwhelming. They also shouldn’t outnumber the positive comments.
11. Redesign Your Website
What does your website look like?
Does it have a free theme? Did you design it yourself? Did you pay someone to design it for you?
If you want to be a reputable authority, it all starts with your website. Your site is like that pretty house for sale on the corner. If it looks great on the outside, it will attract attention. If it’s in terrible shape inside though, no one’s going to stick around.
If you have a free theme, the coding may reflect that. That puts you at risk of hacks and goes directly against Google’s stance on secure sites ranking highest. It’s okay if you used a free theme when you first started your company, but now that you’ve grown, your site should grow with you.
If you made your own site, or if you paid for a design, when was the last time this was updated? Code isn’t good forever. Outdated code not only bogs down the speed of your website, but it’s sketchy.
Whether you do it yourself or hire another professional, giving your website a makeover could land you on the front page of a customer’s Google search results.
12. Keep Doing What You’re Doing
The above suggestions are all great ways to improve your Google ranking. However, chances are, you may be doing some of these already. It may just be that you need to refocus your efforts to see your rank improve.
If you’re always writing rich content, keep it up. Content is always important. If website design is your thing, stick with it. If you’re a social media guru, you’re in really good shape.
No matter how badly you want to influence your Google ranking, don’t lose focus of what matters: your customers. If you treat them right, the rest will follow.
Your Google ranking determines whether your website shows up on the first page of search results or the fifth page. While everyone wants to be number one, it’s not always easy to get there. Even if you do, it can be tough to stay there with changing Google algorithms.
Google currently values a few important traits in companies: authority, security, reputation, and relevance. If you can nail all four of those, you can possibly get a spot on the first page.
With strong content, great social media presence, link building skills, and a secure, redesigned website, you’re well on your way to changing your Google rank. Remember though above all else to prioritize your customers. As mentioned, the rest will follow.