1. Design for mobile
Those in the know are all saying that Google’s robots are focussing on mobile-friendly pages this year. If your site isn’t mobile-ready, it’s going to slip down the rankings pretty fast. Make sure you’re using responsive design that looks great on smartphones and tablets.
2. Prioritise shareable content
Called “social signals” by SEO geeks, when links back to pages on your site are shared on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, search engines assume they’re authoritative and relevant. This not only gets more eyeballs on your site, it actually helps your rankings. List-based advice/best-of blog posts (“listicles”), infographics and video all lend themselves to social sharing – just make sure you’re creating genuinely interesting or helpful content. If it looks too salesy, no one will post it on their personal feeds.
3. Make sure your site loads fast
Slow-loading sites don’t just put off visitors, they also make you look bad in front of Google. The internet is not a patient place, and this applies to mobile and desktop versions of your site. To ensure your site is super-speedy your links should be easy to tap, you should include “click-to-call” buttons, and you’ll need to get rid of any friction points that stop pages from loading fast.
4. Do traditional keyword analysis
Google still focusses, primarily, on featuring sites that look like they’re giving customers what they want. That means that you need to use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to figure out which words and terms your customers actually type in to the search box when they want to find out about whatever it is you provide. Then use these words and phrases, in as natural and flowing a way as you can, throughout your site copy. Also, make sure that people see quickly and easily how to get to the information that they need (including contact details) from wherever they land on the site. If you try to suck people in with popular search terms that inaccurately describe what you do, or they can’t immediately see what they need when they get there, they will leave very quickly – and that makes Google think that your site has low value.
5. Never, ever spam
Do. Not. Buy. Links. Yes, high-quality links to your page from an already-trusted site will give your site a rankings boost, but spammy ones will actually push it down the ladder. So, if you’re savvy enough to get the New York Times to link back to you in an article, Google will presume your site must be worthwhile. If, on the other hand, you are carpet-bombing the comments section of the New York Times (or, indeed, this website… we’re looking at you, payday loan spammers) with badly concealed plugs and links back to your site, Google will rightly conclude that you are a terrible nuisance and will rank you as such. In fact, there have even been cases of companies deliberately posting spammy links to their competitors, just to sabotage their search engine reputation. When it comes to backlinks, there are no shortcuts – you just have to make great stuff and form relationships with people who may want to promote it for you, and that takes time, effort and patience. You have been warned!