Now that more consumers than ever are going online to get information about products and services, search engines have become the new gatekeeper, your website the new storefront and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) something akin to a next generation salesman. To reach online audiences, you not only need to sell what you do, but make it easy for people to find you. The good news: there are many proven techniques and online tools that you can capitalize on now, and we’re going to go through 7 key SEO strategies in this blog post:
- Why Relevance Matters
- Anticipating Customer Needs
- Social Media’s Impact On SEO
- The 7-Second Rule
- Optimizing Your Drupal Site For Google
- Landing Pages
- Preventing SEO Problems
Drupal websites already give the organizations that use them an edge over the competition because of their built-in SEO tools, such as faster pages, an advanced taxonomy and tagging system, superior naming conventions and many accessibility features. These tools help increase your page ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP): the page you see after entering text into a browser when conducting an organic search. Most organic searches today use Google’s search engine and, as we discuss below, Drupal makes available several modules to simplify integration with Google services, such as Google Translate and Google Analytics.
In this blog post, we’re going to go over some foundational and more advanced SEO approaches to help your organization stay ahead of the curve and become an online authority in your field.
1. Why Relevance Matters
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo rank content based on an evolving set of criteria. So webmasters and marketers need to be nimble in order to keep pace with the ever-changing SEO landscape. That said, one of the most important things to bear in mind when thinking about strategies to optimize your website content is: relevance. This cannot be understated. The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google’s web crawlers have grown wise to many black hat practice and spammy pages are getting pushed way down the SERP list.
Find a key phrase or a selection of keywords that accurately represent your brand and that aren’t used by so many other sites that yours gets lost in the noise. Long-tail keywords can be especially useful here when you’re working on distinguishing your brand and capturing a niche market.
Google’s indexing robots look for keywords used frequently in blocks of content that contain full sentences and proper grammar for the given language. So repeat your key phrase and keywords throughout your site, but do so using quality, focused content on landing pages, blog posts, customer reviews, etc. And don’t overuse keywords, as that can hurt your ranking.
Relevant keywords and long-tail keywords can only go so far if your content isn’t up to snuff. Spend time filling your site with quality content – whether in the form of information about your product or service, blog posts, feature stories, press material and landing pages that link to your main site. Readers may find your page because of your exceptional SEO strategies, but they won’t stay long if they don’t find what they’re looking for. And because Google favors websites with fewer bounce rates – more on this in the next section – having quality content can have a significant impact on your page ranking.
2. Anticipating Customer Needs
Quality content is essential for SEO and converting customers. You increase your chances of both when you remove hurdles that could prevent customers from making the next click along their path to a purchasing decision. But, what’s the best way to strategize the flow of content on your site?
Here’s where having a firm grasp of your audience is particularly useful. Ask yourself:
- What kind of content does your audience need at each stage of their decision-making process?
- How can you walk you customer down the path to conversion?
- Are there other mediums you can use to diversify your content, such as blogs, videos, audio, social media, etc.?
Let’s say, for example, that you sell ice cream and you know the vast majority of your customers just want to buy ice cream when they visit your site. You might try:
- Having information about how to buy your product front-and-center on your homepage,
- Featuring testimonials from happy customers below your main body content and
- Including videos about making toppings for ice cream in a sidebar.
Once a visitor moves onto purchasing your ice cream, you could then include information about the ice cream accessories your company also sells.
Google looks at bounce rates when determining its SERP ranking. So if someone goes to your site, then almost immediately clicks the back button on his or her web browser and clicks on a another result on the search results page, Google might assume that your website doesn’t contain quality content and could lower your SERP ranking. The simple solution? Fill your site with quality, relevant content that meets your audience’s needs throughout their decision-making process.
3. Social Media’s Impact on SEO
Organizations wanting to boost your SEO should consider incorporating social media networks into your portfolio. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. can help you reach your targeted audience and increase the likelihood of organic search hits.
To give you a sense of just how big social networking sites have become, in early 2017 Facebook had upwards of 1.86 billion monthly active users. Similarly, WhatsApp had 1 billion, Instagram had 600 million and Twitter had 317 million. According to Statista, social media users worldwide almost doubled from 1.22 billion in 2011 to over 2.3 billion in 2016. And that number, they predict, will increase to over 2.9 billion by 2020.
But what does this have to do with SEO? Simply put, getting your content on Facebook can increase your search page ranking. That’s because, as of 2010, Google crawlers started indexing Facebook posts and adding them to their SERPs. They did the same for Twitter posts in 2011. So diversify your content!
Think of it this way, if your organization has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat account, you’ve just increased the number of pages that can be used to engage your audience. Make these into authoritative pages and link them to your website and you’ve just increased your site’s SEO. It’s that simple.
4. The 7-Second Rule
A good test to see if you’re content is going to succeed is the 7-second rule. When you visit your site, if you can’t see the most important information about your company in 7 seconds, you’re going to lose customers. The reality is that the human attention span dropped to 8 seconds in 2015 (from 12 seconds in 2000). Because of that, your website needs to give your audience the information it needs before they click away to the next shiny object.
Although it’s not clear if visitor time, or the time people spend on your website, improves your SERP ranking on Google, what we do know is that anything you can do to edge your site above the competition, while staying true to your brand and company goals, is probably not a bad idea. Optimizing your website for increased visitor time could do a lot to increase your bottom line when visitors become invested in your brand and start sharing information about your amazing organization and opening their checkbooks to support what you do.
Some important questions to ask when assessing your website’s readability:
- Is your biggest selling feature front-and-center?
- Does the information provided clearly explain what your organization does and the benefit to customers?
- Is important information easy to read off mobile and desktop screens?
- Does your messaging use clear and engaging language?
- Does your sidebar, header and footer content entice your visitors to get more information?
Try this out…
Ask someone who doesn’t know your brand to look at your homepage for a maximum of 7 seconds and then describe your organization and your value proposition in a few sentences. If they get it wrong, you know you have some more work to do. If they get it right, give them a high five.
5. Optimizing You Drupal Site For Google
Google is currently the top-ranked search engine globally. This means that being at the top of your SEO game will, for the most part, require playing by Google’s rules.
Here’s what you should know…
Each year, Google changes its search algorithm: the criteria Google’s web crawlers use to index and rank pages, somewhere between 500 to 600 times. Most of these changes will be minor tweaks that shouldn’t affect how your website’s pages are indexed and where you land on Google’s results page. However, sometimes Google rolls out major changes that can have a big impact on how it ranks websites and the order it lists them on the results page, which can greatly impact the visibility of your site and your click-through rate. For example, Google’s AdWords update of 2016 saw right-column ads replaced with four top block ads for many commercial searches, which pushed down organic search results lower on the results page. Also in 2016, Google updated its mobile-friendly ranking to further reward websites with mobile first or responsive design, and further penalize sites that lacked a mobile-friendly platform.
Why does Drupal excel?
Drupal 8’s built-in mobile- and tablet-friendly responsive design makes it a leader in the CMS field. Here are a few other ways Drupal sites are optimally positioned to meet Google’s search algorithm:
- Fully responsive design in core (Drupal 8 only)
- Built-in page translation with Content Translation to reach broader audiences (Drupal 8 only)
- Drupal SEO Checklist creates a to-do list of modules and tasks to amp up your website’s SEO capabilities
- Drupal SEO Tools gives you a dashboard filled with SEO information and tips tailored to meet your SEO needs
- Fix any URL/link problems with Global Redirect, Link Checker, Pathauto and Path Redirect
- Drupal knows the importance of optimizing for Google and is compatible with Google Analytics, integrate that with Google Search Console for even more SEO power
- Send a sitemap of your website directly to search engines with XML Sitemap
- The H1 and H2 tags on your taxonomy term page are extremely important for SEO; Taxonomy Title lets you control your titles
[Choosing the right CMS is vital in terms of how your website will perform. For a more in-depth analysis of how to go about making this decision, please visit our post Choosing the Best CMS for Your Website]
Word to the wise…
In early 2017, Google started cracking down on sites that have aggressive pop-ups and interstitials, such as advertisements or information request pages that appear before a website’s homepage, because they believe this could negatively impact a mobile user’s experience. Google penalizes pages with aggressive pop-ups by pushing them down the SERP ranking. Don’t get caught with aggressive interstitial-itis! For the sake of your page ranking, get familiar with Google’s guidelines for interstitials.
6. Landing Pages
Landing pages, or pages with information that has a targeted focus, give you the ability to make maximum use of long-tail keywords and individual keywords that Google’s indexing robots look for when ranking pages. By tailoring your landing page keywords towards a specific audience, you increase the likelihood that your site will be placed near the top of the list for organic searches using these terms. In addition, pages that optimize the experience of your visitors get fewer bounces and, as mentioned in Section 2 of this blog, that’s a good thing for your SERP ranking.
Landing pages should have a clear, focused message and call to action. While sometimes used as a jumping point to another webpage, such as your organization’s main page, you’ll improve your SEO if you give your audience a complete experience on the landing page. There’s a chance that the person visiting your landing page hasn’t made their purchasing decision already, so providing information about other products or services they might be interested in can also increase your conversion rate.
7. Preventing SEO Problems
Lastly, it’s important to get a customized solution to meet your SEO goals. You could be faced with a world of problems and endless headaches if your Drupal website isn’t designed to fit the requirements of the platform. Drupal is a powerful, versatile CMS with endless opportunities to connect you with effective SEO tools and functionality. Working with a development team that does it right the first time can dramatically increase your chance of success.