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January 20, 2024

How to Improve Your Website's SEO and Rank in Search Results

Everything you need to know about SEO

SEO and search rankings are ever-changing, and for many people, the landscape is complex and challenging. We've received a large number of questions recently about SEO. There are many opinions here, but we'll try to keep it factual and practical to what we know for certain.

Regardless of your business type, size, or goals, as a website owner, improving your website's SEO is crucial to your online success. In other words, from potential new health insurance clients to people in need of urgent healthcare or dental services, search engine optimization can help you self-promote anywhere online..

On a personal level, many website owners can't even stay a day without refreshing their website analytical stats (though it does little good)-seeing the number of clicks, amount of traffic, or paying too much attention to their website's bounce rate. Well, these are good but not as important as are the searches you are missing out on. Now, imagine going up in the ranks a little bit more.

Even if your website ranks at the top of Google's search results, there are still plenty of ways to get more business. For instance, you can diversify your lead sources with insurance leads, get more clients through your website forms, or even increase your dental patients or direct care practice clients without frustrating yourself with the complexity and evolvement of SEO. Regardless, a great SEO strategy delivers results.

The role of SEO in improving search rankings

SEO or search engine optimization is the process of making sure your website plays by (some set of) search engines' rules so that your site ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). It not only helps attract more organic (non-paid) traffic to your website but also enhances your site's overall visibility. The three mains areas of focus include:

  • On-page SEO: This is all about the content or copy you see on the website, which includes your headers, keywords, and meta tags.

  • Off-page SEO: This is associated with essentially everything else, especially link-building. It includes activities like guest blogging, social media marketing, and everything else you do off-site to raise your site's rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).

  • Technical SEO:  This has to do with the settings and technical configurations of the website. Things like page speed, mobile friendliness, security, and site structure all play a role in technical SEO.

By focusing on your website's technical, on-page, and off-page elements, you can create a more effective SEO strategy and enhance your chances of ranking higher in search results.

Setting realistic SEO goals

It's important to set achievable SEO goals that align with your business objectives. Setting a goal to rank number one for a high-volume keyword with a new website won't work, and it'll take too long to see results. Keywords are the specific phrases your clients are typing into search engines to find exactly what you offer. Like everyone else, all dental practices need to identify and target specific keywords tailored to their service offerings.

For example, let's say Kathryn Smith has a general dentistry clinic in Woodbridge and is looking to optimize her website. Here's what a few of her potential keywords and keyword types might look like:

  • Root keyword: "dentist"

  • Short-tail keyword: "Woodbridge dentist"

  • Long-tail keyword: "Best dentist for braces in Woodbridge"

  • Geo-targeted keyword: "Teeth whitening service in Woodbridge"

Why link-building matters

Link-building is one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of SEO. It refers to the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. These links act as 'votes of confidence' in the eyes of search engines, and the more quality backlinks you have, the higher your site might rank.

Google and other search engines consider a variety of factors when determining the value of a backlink, including the authority of the linking domain, the relevance of the linking page, the anchor text used in the link, and whether the link is a dofollow or nofollow link (some of the technical stuff). Dofollow links allow search engines to follow them and reach your website, while nofollow links include a command to search engines, telling them not to pass any SEO value on to the linked site. Receiving dofollow backlinks can have a significant positive impact on your rankings. 

How can I improve my website's SEO?

Start with an SEO audit

Conducting an audit of your website is the first step towards improving your site's SEO. An audit helps you identify areas that need to be fixed or optimized and provides you with insights into your current SEO strategy's strengths and weaknesses. So, now that we've (supposedly) done an audit, my next step towards improving your SEO is subsequently to create an action plan that addresses and fixes any issues we've found.

During an SEO audit, you should look into factors such as:

  • Keyword analysis

  • Backlink profile

  • Site structure and metadata

  • Mobile responsiveness

  • Page load speed

  • Content quality and duplicate content

  • Security issues

  • Indexing and crawl errors

An in-depth audit will give you a clear picture of the current state of your website's SEO and where you need to focus your efforts to see the most significant improvements.

Perform keyword research and analysis

Keyword research lays the foundation for a successful SEO strategy. It helps you understand what your target audience is searching for, the specific terms or phrases they're using, and the kind of content they're looking to find.

When conducting keyword research, look for relevant keywords with a good search volume and manageable competition. Focus on long-tail keywords, which are more specific and usually easier to rank for than short, generic keywords. Identifying high-intent keywords can also help you attract more qualified traffic, as searchers using these keywords are likely further along in the purchase funnel and closer to conversion. 

Equipped with your keyword research, you can optimize your content strategy, including your website copy, blog posts, and meta descriptions. Incorporate your target keywords naturally into your content, but be mindful of keyword stuffing, which can negatively impact user experience and lead to a penalty from search engines.

Create high-quality, valuable content

Quality content is at the heart of any successful SEO strategy. When you create content that is relevant, informative, and engaging for your audience, you increase the likelihood of earning backlinks and social shares, which can boost your site's authority and visibility. Use your keyword research to inform your content creation, but always focus on providing value for your readers. 

In the endless quest to rank higher, website owners often fall into the trap of churning out subpar content stuffed with keywords. This approach not only fails to resonate with human readers but also runs the risk of being penalized by search engines for manipulative practices. Instead, aim to create content that answers your audience's questions, solves their problems, or entertains them.

One effective way to stand out with your content is to offer a unique perspective or original insights. This can be achieved through in-depth research, case studies, interviews, or by incorporating multimedia elements like videos, infographics, or interactive tools. 

You should also strive to keep your content fresh and up to date. Regularly review and refresh existing content and stay on top of industry trends to produce timely, relevant pieces. When developing a content schedule, prioritize quality over quantity, as a few well-crafted articles will have more impact than numerous shallow posts. 

Optimize website structure and navigation

A well-structured website not only enhances the user experience but also helps search engines crawl and index your pages more effectively. Here are some tips to optimize your site structure:

  • Focus on a clear hierarchy: Use a clear hierarchy of pages and a sensible, easy-to-follow structure for your website. This can aid both search engines and users in understanding how your site is organized.

  • Optimize your URL structures: Keep your URLs clean and readable, incorporating relevant keywords if possible. Avoid long strings of numbers or letters and use hyphens to separate words.

  • Use breadcrumb navigation: Breadcrumbs not only help users navigate your site more easily, but they also provide search engines with additional context about the relationship between pages.

  • Take advantage of HTML and XML sitemaps

  • Leverage social sharing features

  • Implement responsive design

  • Reduce page load times

You must also pay attention to your website's mobile-friendliness. With the majority of internet searches now taking place on mobile devices, Google and other search engines prioritize mobile-responsive websites in their rankings. Ensure that your site is fully accessible and functional on all screen sizes, and consider the user experience for mobile users when designing your site. 

Optimize meta titles and descriptions

Meta titles and descriptions play a crucial role in both on-page SEO and click-through rates. When your website appears in search engine results, the meta title is the headline that indicates the page's title, and the meta description is the brief summary underneath it.

It's essential to write compelling meta titles and descriptions that not only include relevant keywords but also encourage users to click and visit your site. Think of them as small ads for your pages. Keeping to search engine character limits can also enhance the appearance of your listings and prevent them from being cut off.

You can use plugins like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack for WordPress sites to easily optimize your meta titles and descriptions. These tools provide insights into how your pages might appear in search results and allow you to customize the information that is displayed. 

Focus on local SEO

If your business operates at a local level, optimizing for local search is essential. Local SEO strategies can help your business show up in search engine results when people in your area are looking for the services or products you offer.

To improve your website's local SEO, consider the following:

  • Optimize your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This is one of the most crucial steps. Fill out your profile completely, verify your location, and include accurate information about your business, such as your address, phone number, business hours, and customer reviews. Regularly posting updates and managing customer reviews can also improve your visibility.

  • Include local keywords in your content. Incorporate keywords that specify your location, such as the name of your city or neighborhood. Using location-based keywords can help you rank higher for local searches.

  • Get listed in online directories. Ensure that your business is listed accurately in popular online directories and review sites. Consistency is key, so make sure your business information is uniform across all listings.

  • Optimize for voice search. Many local searches are performed via voice assistants, with users often phrasing their queries conversationally. Incorporating long-tail keywords and answering common questions on your website can help you optimize for voice search.

  • Focus on getting local backlinks. Partner with other local businesses, sponsor community events, or participate in local gatherings. These activities can lead to backlinks from local sites, which can boost your local SEO.

Ensure your site is secure and loads fast

Two technical aspects that can significantly impact your site's SEO and user experience are security and speed. 

  • If possible, move from HTTP to HTTPS. Websites that still use HTTP should consider making the switch to HTTPS, as it offers an extra layer of security through SSL/TLS encryption. In turn, search engines may prefer the secure version of your site and give it a slight ranking boost. 

  • Focus on improving your site speed. Slow-loading websites can lead to higher bounce rates and lower dwell times, both of which are negative signals for search engines. Use tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to analyze your site's performance and identify areas for improvement. Common ways to speed up your site include optimizing images, enabling browser caching, minimizing CSS and JavaScript, and investing in reliable hosting. 

Engage in an ongoing content and promotion strategy

SEO is not a one-time fix or a one-size-fits-all solution. To maintain and improve your search engine rankings, you need to

  • Regularly audit, review, and update your SEO strategy.

  • Stay up to date with any changes or new algorithms from Google and other search engines

  • Keep an eye on your competitors and adjust your strategy if needed

Good ways to keep your site fresh include running a blog, as well as a social media page, and offering up helpful advice, insights, or news updates from within your industry that your audience may find interesting.

How long does it take to rank on Google?

Ranking on Google depends on various factors, and there's no definitive timeline. Some pages can rank within days or weeks, especially if they target less competitive keywords or if the website has a strong authority and backlink profile. In contrast, ranking for highly competitive keywords with a new page and a new website can take several months or even a year or more. 

It's important to approach SEO with a long-term mindset and be patient with the process. Focus on creating valuable content, building a strong backlink profile, and consistently optimizing your site for better user experience. Over time, your efforts will be rewarded with improved rankings and increased visibility. 

Remember, the ultimate goal of SEO is not to rank higher in search results but to provide value and relevance to your audience. When you create a website that resonates with users and meets their needs, search rankings become a natural byproduct.

Over to you

SEO can be complicated, and optimizing your website for search engines might feel like you're navigating a minefield. However, as you implement your strategy and track your results, things will get less murky. Remember, SEO is not just about driving traffic-it's about gaining the right kind of traffic that can turn into customers, subscribers, leads, and more.  

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