When it comes to SEO, let’s just say that a vast majority of brands are failing at it. Miserably!

What a lot of people don’t know as well is that I’ve spent a vast majority of my 25+ year digital marketing tenure primarily within the SEO arena. I don’t talk about it as much these days because I’ve morphed into a full blown digital marketer and entrepreneur. Not to mention that a lot of the SEO stuff on the internet these days is recycled or the SEO gurus are bidding for your attention. Even the ones who found out about SEO yesterday.

Regardless, I’ve not forgotten about SEO or stopped caring about it either. 

In fact, quite the opposite. My company Razor Sharp Digital is the #1 human marketing agency in the world (NO, REALLY. Google it!)

So, I wanted to dedicate an entire post to share some essentials of SEO that every brand in 2019 must have in order to have optimal organic visibility. 

SEO 101: SOME BASIC EDUCATION.

A lot of companies are still stuck in the traditional, old school perception of SEO. Keywords! Yes, believe it or not. Most companies still think that SEO is all about keyword rankings.

I hate to break it to you but you might be in for a huge newsflash.

Keyword rankings are only good if you know the value behind a specific keyword or phrase. Due to technology limitations and the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world it’s impossible to capture such information. However, fortunately I have some great news for you regarding SEO performance.

A huge part of SEO success relies upon attribution. Attribution as in the ability to pinpoint the amount of organic traffic that you generate from engines like Google and its monetary correlation to your business. These days I tell my clients that anywhere from 60% to upwards of 90% of all their organic traffic will be coming from Google. Therefore, establishing likability with the world’s top search engine would be a wise investment. 

It’s important to also have goals behind your SEO initiatives. This is something that I used to teach my students at UMSL (University of Missouri-St. Louis). Some common SEO goals include the following:

  • Traffic.
  • Reputation management.
  • Visibility/awareness.
  • Leads.
  • Authority.

Before you pursue any SEO endeavors, it’s imperative to iron out your goals beforehand. That way you’ll know what you’re after and have a target that you’ll be aiming at. 

OK, so let’s about the  15 Essentials Your Website Must Have In Order To Perform Within SEO Arena.

The items listed below are in no particular order of importance. They are merely ranking factors that you should consider, implement within your website if you’re looking to ramp up your SEO game.

01. Website speed.

People have NO PATIENCE whatsoever these days. The average time spent on a web page is less than 10 seconds. Don’t believe me? Check your Google Analytics (hopefully you’re using it as well.)

This is precisely why Google announced that website speed will be a ranking factor a few years ago.

In July 2018, Google announced that website speed will be a ranking factor on mobile devices as well. If you haven’t put forth a serious consideration into speeding up your website chances are you will miss out on potential traffic, leads, and obviously revenue opportunities. 

What are some things that you should consider or do to improve your current website speed?

  • Ensure the home page (very important) and other pages of your website load in 3 seconds or less to the frontend user.
  • Check RAM allocation with your website host and/or modify your php.ini file accordingly.
  • Run continuous tests through sites like Pingdom to keep tabs on your current website speeds. 

There is a lot of fine tuning, mainly technical related that goes into ensuring that the home page of your website and internal pages load in 3 seconds or less. It can also be very resource dependent as well.

02. Conversion Architecture.

What is Conversion Architecture?

Conversion Architecture is an alignment with your business goals and objectives where they entice users to take certain actions on your website.

Most brands have no fucking idea what conversion architecture is or the importance of it. 

Think of conversion architecture this way. If you were a customer to walk into a store, you would most likely have a specific interest in a certain product or service. The modern digital consumer does will either seek information on your website for a service or be interested in buying a specific product.

Finding a happy medium in creating conversion architecture on your website can be a tedious task. Fortunately there are certain fundamentals that you should take into consideration to help you create the best conversion architecture possible.

  • Are your headlines on each page clear enough to the user? Does it inform them about the information, service, or product they are after?
  • Does each page of your website have a clear CTA? If not, people won’t know the type of action you’re asking them to take. 
  • What do you offer? Is it appealing enough to your target audience? Does it solve a problem/create a solution for them?
  • Are there visuals on each landing page to break out the monotony of text? Are they engaging enough? Is it stock photography or realistic imagery/video to support the remaining context?
  • Is the typography legible enough for desktop, tablet, and specifically the mobile user?

These are some basic fundamentals you should consider when optimizing each page of your website. There are many others that you should consider but the ones mentioned above a great start.

Google Page Speed Insights is an excellent free tool that can assist with identifying performance issues with your website. 

03. Mobile Presence.

Look! Just because you have a mobile-friendly website it does not mean that is adequately optimized with mobile conversion architecture in mind.

If you don’t even have a mobile-friendly site to begin with, check it with the free Mobile-Friendly Test tool by Google. 

In most industries I’ve seen mobile traffic account for 60-90% of all website traffic to a website domain. This is a huge number of visitors, people who are accessing your website domain on a mobile device.

Why is Mobile Presence so essential?

The smart phone primarily has forever changed the way a digital consumer engages with a brand not to mention the way we consume information. With a smart phone in the palm of their hands, the digital consumers choose to interact with your brand due to Accessibility reasons (this is the next item on the list).

Who needs a laptop or desktop computer when you have a smart device in the palm of your hands? 

Believe it or not, many brands still don’t quite recognize how the modern digital consumer is utilizing a smart phone for the sake of convenience, access, and efficiency. 

  • Is your website responsive/mobile-friendly?
  • Do you have clear mobile conversion architecture?
  • Can the mobile user interact, absorb, and engage with your brand in a fast, efficient, and engaging manner?

There is a whole lot more that goes into mobile presence but the above hopefully gets you thinking about some things that you need to change with your website. Quickly!

04. Accessibility.

When it comes to websites these days, accessibility plays a huge role in terms of engagement, interest, and ability to communicate with your website visitors.

Accessibility is a multi-faceted area but generally pertains to Desktop, Tablet, Laptop, and of course Mobile platforms. The ability to provide succinct accessibility to your website via these four platforms can be very challenging mainly due to the conformity to each.

From an SEO perspective, I would personally focus primarily on Mobile platforms. This is where a vast majority of your website visitors are coming from and creating better attraction here would be a better use of your time.

Accessibility is a blanket really for the 14 other suggestions listed in this article. Use those as a guide to help you construct the best access for your website. 

05. Simplicity Is KEY!

Less is MORE! You have certainly heard this saying multiple times. If you haven’t, well now you have. 

Simplicity really is an essential to modern SEO. Especially when so many brands are purposely striving to overcomplicate their websites with the hope of attracting more visitors. 

Keep it simple!

  • A white background on your internal pages of your website and even home page help create more transparency and readibility. 
  • Don’t stuff each page with visuals with the purpose of creating a heavy visual piece that is clearly forced.
  • Make the typography easy on the eyes. Especially for mobile visitors.
  • Get straight to the point. What are you offering? How does it help others? 
  • Make sure to let your visitors know how they can find you. (i.e. phone, contact form, chat/messenger, etc.)

Again, keep it simple. Don’t overthink it. Less is MORE!

06. Content + Context wins.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Content is KING.” which I too used to believe but it’ a bunch of bullshit. 

Let me explain!

Many brands these days are attempting to game the system by pushing out massive amounts of content. Content! As in, ANY CONTENT. Not necessarily content that has substance.

You see, from an SEO perspective, context/substance has bigger merit than quantity of it. 

Here is a more simplistic breakdown of what your content should look like in order to captivate people and ultimately drive your SEO.

  • Is your content a combination of text, images, and video?
  • Does the substance of your content entice people? It’s both entertaining and educational.
  • Do people feel like you’re offering solutions to them?

There’s a fine balance in being able to provide entertaining and educational content simultaneously. Frequency of content publishing isn’t as important as quality of your content.

07. Visuals (Audio & Video).

Over 80% of web traffic is now driven through video. Simply because video is far more engaging and informative than any other piece of media content. 

Audio is a close second and this is precisely where we’ve seen a huge increase in podcasting. Don’t know what podcasting is? Stay tuned for my new course that I’m launching very soon on how you can build your own podcast.

From an SEO perspective, there’s a huge rise for audio and video. Voice search as you may know is on the uprise and a trend that is yet to be fully monetized. As a brand, you need to consider podcasting and video (YouTube, Facebook Live, IGTV, etc.) as additional mean of driving organic traffic. 

09. URL Structure.

Concise URLs have always play a huge role in SEO. They’re rememberable for the end user (first) and easy to read for search engine crawlers (second). Every internal page of your website should be comprised of a concise url that end users can remember.

This is really more of a convenience thing really to help people remember points of reference. You can find an extremely thorough guide to SEO friendly URLs for 2019  on MOZ. One of my all-time favorite websites. 

10. User Experience.

We live in a modern day and age of experience. The digital consumer has certain expectations from brands and many of them are simply not rising up to the occasion. When it comes to user experience as a whole thought, I could literally write an entire new blog post around it. (Sorry, not doing that currently.)

What is User Experience?

User Experience or also known as UX is intended to focus on the process in which design of products interacts with end users.

That is actually a very broad statement though because if you ask a designer or UX specialist about it they will most likely write you an entire thesis around it.

From an SEO perspective, there needs to be enough UX involved to create a pleasant yet engaging experience with your end users. In doing so it will entice them to engage with your brand’s products or services over the competition.

Curious about UX in greater detail? Learn more about UX and how it plays into your SEO endeavors for your brand.

11. SSL or also known as https.

SSL/HTTPs protocol or simply put the pad lock you see next to your website address in the url bar of your browser is indeed a ranking factor

Maybe you already knew that though. If not, you’ve been living under a fucking rock because it was announced 5 years ago.

Why is SSL/HTTPs so important to SEO?

SEO in part is about experience as I’ve already talked about multiple times in this blog post. SEO is also about the ability to browse a brand’s website with security in mind. That is in essence what the pad lock, SSL, or HTTPs protocol provides.

It’s actually quite simple to get that pad lock next to your website’s address. Simply contact your current website host and request that they install an SSL certificate appended to your website domain.

Now you’ve got the SSL/HTTPs protocol covered and getting a slight boost as ranking signal over your competition. 

12. Meta Data still matters!

Meta Data still plays a very important part within your SEO endeavors.

What is Meta Data?

In Layman’s Terms, meta data is the markup or Title and Description (for the most part) that you see on a SERP (Search Engine Result Page). It informs your users about the purpose of each page on your website while also giving them a reason to click thru.

There is science behind Meta Data and writing engaging and informative Title and Description Tags to captivate the attention of your visitors.

Here are a few things to consider.

  • Ensure that every Title of each page on your website is keyword-rich and informs/entices people.
  • Every Description of each page on your website should be comprised of informative text that educates or entertains the end user in some form or fashion.

There’s an entire guide on Meta Data that I simply won’t get into further detail because it dives in deeper into the entire science of Meta Data and writing good tags.

13. Structured Data (Rich Snippets & Schema)

Most brands don’t even know about Rich Snippets and Schema. For the non-technical folks, Structured Data pertains to the use of Rich Snippets and Schema markup in your website code in order to enhance the visibility of content on each page within the SERPs.

Yeah, that was a whole lot of technical mumbo jumbo I threw at you.

What are Rich Snippets?

Rich Snippets in essence is the ability to markup your content, to make it richer so that search engine crawlers can gain a firmer understanding of the substance behind your content. There is a whole entire guide on Rich Snippets that you can checkout in order to get started. 

Rich Snippets is not only beneficial for marking up your content but it provides with the ability to enhance it. For instance, if you are in the event space, using Rich Snippets and Schema markup can help enhance each individual event and ultimately drive more targeted traffic to each from the SERPs.

14. Google Analytics (Duh...that's a no brainer)

Google Analytics is a free analytical tracking tool that allows you to track, measure, benchmark, and optimize your website visitors behavior. It’s extremely useful from an SEO perspective and if you’re not on board with it, install it today. ASAP!

What can I say about Google Analytics? It helps you simply make better business decisions based on trends and activity of your users that you can study, analyze, and carve unique business response against them. 

I can literally write an entire separate blog post around Google Analytics but that really isn’t the point here. 

Here are a couple of things though (I couldn’t help myself) that you should have at the very least. Given that you’re using Google Analytics.

  • Ensure you have goal funnels setup.
  • Setup internal traffic filtration. 
  • Segment activity that’s important to you and your business.
  • Connect Google Analytics with Google Search Console for more in-depth data insight.
  • Monitor mobile device activity and benchmark month-over-month.

15. Backlinks. Forge those relationships.

Yes, they still do serve an important role. Backlinks are relationships. You know, like in real life. Building relationships with other like-minded entities/brands helps increase clout, popularity, relevance, and authority.

I’ll tell you this though. Getting quality, authoritative, and relevant backlinks is harder than ever. Mainly because there is so much fucking spam on the internet these days and the quality sites have made it harder to establish association with them. Why wouldn’t they? Especially if they’re a high authority site such as Facebook.

What is a Backlink?

Ok, so I maybe forgot to throw in the boilerplate spiel for those who don’t know what a backlink is. A backlink is simply a hyperlinked text that lives on another website and when clicked it points back to a page on your website.

You really need to checkout the 2019 SEO backlinks tutorial for a more in-depth explanation, tips, and tricks on acquiring quality backlinks. 

In the grand scheme of things, there’s really three things you need to keep in mind about backlinks. Always!

  1. Relevance.
  2. Authority.
  3. Quality.

The conclusion!

Regardless of what anyone has told you, SEO still plays an important role in the digital marketing mix. Now and onwards! There’s a shit ton more to SEO than what I’ve mentioned in this article but at least it gets you thinking about the nuances of SEO as a whole.

As I used to teach my SEO/SEM students at UMSL Digital, when it comes to SEO specifically you MUST account for the following three things in order to be successful with SEO.

  1. Time.
  2. Money.
  3. Patience.

Time – great SEO, simply takes time. Anyone who makes you promises that seem too good to be true (like ranking on page 1 of Google overnight) is most likely blowing smoke up your ass. Run for the hills!

Money – SEO costs money to develop a strategy for it, implement, execute, and nurture. As result it helps you acquire free organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing that generates leads for your business.

Patience – anything that is worthwhile, takes patience. You should already know this though hopefully as a successful business owner.

I truly hope that this piece of content has enlightened you about SEO and hopefully you’ve considered making improvements in respective areas.

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