Marketing in the modern world of the Internet is a whole different playing field than it was ten, or even five years ago. Even just in the last couple of years, SEO has graduated from coloring a paint by numbers picture to crafting a complex and nuanced 3D vector design. When Google first started ranking pages, you could simply slip in a few words related to your brand here and there on various pages of your site, and you would perform great in searches. Before Google got smarter, it was easy for SEOs and spammers to game the system and for low-quality content to perform well; today, however, a smarter Google encourages good, long, unique, and relevant content.

Download this checklist of 4 crucial seo tips that increase qualified traffic.

That means that developing an SEO strategy requires really thinking about the searcher’s intent and about who would find your content most useful.  Here are 4 crucial SEO tips that will help keep your company relevant and make sure your content gets seen.

1. Choose a topic based on a keyword

The content on your site or blog determines your SEO ranking. So to boost your ranking you can consider crafting your content around the keywords that are already performing well for your brand. There are four things to consider within this approach:

  • Relevance: Why are people searching for a particular keyword? What result would make them happy? If you want to rank for “iPhone Apps” you might create content around some of the best available apps or information on new app releases, for example.

Put yourself in the searchers seat and ask, “what is the best possible result this search could yelid?” That’s what Google is trying to figure out too.

  • Avoid specific events, products, names, brands, etc.: Searchers looking for these types of  particulars likely have a very narrow intent, and unless you ARE the host of the event or the maker of the product, you probably won’t be able to give them the best result.

For example, if someone is searching for “internet of things conference” they want information about the conference, and anything else is just going to be annoying noise. Google is trying to weed out any content that isn’t being provided by the event hosts themselves so you would just be burying your content by focusing on keywords like this.

However, if you wanted to rank for something like “best speakers at internet of things conference” then you could whip up some awesome content that compiled some valuable info about the speakers and begin to rank that way. The art behind this is to think about how you could create a relevant subcategory within these very specific searches.

  • Owning category vs. niche post (aka head vs. long-tail): It’s more challenging to rank for keywords that are broad and competitive. These are called category or ‘head’ keywords. They are related to what your brand as a whole represents and are very general.

For Similac, their head keyword would be ‘baby formula’ because that’s what they sell. Similac ranks for ‘baby formula’ because they pretty much corner the market on it. But if you don’t own the category on a certain search term, you’re going to have a hard time ranking for it. Niche or long-tail keywords are much easier to rank for because they have less competition. If your baby food company wants to boosts its rankings, you could try for long-tail keywords like ‘preparing baby formula tips,’ ‘best ways to get your baby to enjoy baby formula,’ etc.

  • Keyword Similarity: Many times a single post will rank for dozens or even hundreds of keywords. You might not need to make an individual article for every keyword because many of them are so similar. You can bundle a bunch of keywords into one single blog post as long as it doesn’t feel too “stuffed.” You don’t want to create a whole bunch of articles on a similar topic that don’t provide their own individual value to the reader. Be careful of having too much overlap and always use relevance and the intent of your users as your guiding light in content creation.

2. Optimize content

If you have some killer content that you’re ready to share but want to make sure you boost the SEO value before blasting it out to the world, you can do a content optimization audit. It should look something like this:

  • Are your keywords natural? Don’t ever force them, that’ll scare off Google (and your readers). You should have one primary keyword per article — that is at the core of your content. Then, try to fit in as many secondary keywords as you can while still staying human and keeping the information relevant. There are no rules with respect to keyword density, but we like to have the primary keyword at 0.05% or greater and secondary keywords at 0.02% or greater.

You don’t always have to hit an exact phrase, but it is helpful to do so, especially for the primary keyword. But stay away from forcing in awkward phrasing such as “customer loyalty program examples” – you can rework that to “10 Examples of Customer Loyalty” and Google will stick pick up what you’re putting down. Just be sure not to change the meaning of the keywords if you do a switcheroo with the included words.

  • Do you have tags in place? In order to check for tags on a webpage, right click -> view source -> ctrl/cmd F (find) -> search for tag “<title>” or “<h1>” etc.

Title: Each webpage has an HTML title tag which is, or should be, the title or the article. (WordPress and most other platforms usually transfer this information directly.) Make sure that your primary keyword is included in the title.

H1: H1 should also be the title of the article – it’s the bolded headline that appears at the top of the page. Try not to have more than one H1 tag in an article and make sure that the primary keyword is included here too, which it should be if your H1 is the same as your title.

H2: H2s are your subheadings. If you can find a way to squeeze your secondary keywords in here, it’s a great place to do so. But don’t force it.

Meta: Meta tags are for usability. You can write a short 1-2 sentence description of what the article is about and include the primary keyword and, if you can, secondary keywords that help the reader figure out what the article is about. When you search for an article and results pop up in Google this is the little blurb of text underneath each listing – so make it pop!

Alt Tags on Images: This is a neat trick that not everyone remembers to do. If you have images in your post, every image will have an alternative text tag. Use the primary keyword as part of the description for the image. Try to keep this as tight as possible. If your keyword is ‘customer loyalty programs’ and you have an image of a Costco logo, the alt tag could be “customer-loyalty-programs-costco.”

URL: The URL should be the same as the title with dashes separating the words.

Other bits: Google pays extra attention to the words at the beginning and end of each article so pay attention to that when you’re putting the finishing touches on your post. And word count matters, too. Aim for at least 1,000 words unless you find yourself adding fluff to make it longer.

  • Is your writing high quality? Remember when we said Google has gotten really smart? Well they can actually read and judge your writing. Legit, their algorithms can tell when something flows and is well-written or not. Not only that, but readers are more likely to engage with and share your post, which also bumps up your rankings. If folks like what you’re writing, they will linger on your site for a while – and Google is watching. In order to boost the readability of your content:

Keep it short: Stick with short paragraphs and concise sentences

Examples: Use examples when possible, visual or written

Avoid big text blocks: Break up text with headings and subheadings

       Looks matter: Use great design – no one’s going to hang out on an ugly site

Speed: Make sure your site loads quickly and is mobile-friendly

Visuals: Use a lot of pictures, especially in your posts

Internal Links: Link back to other posts on your own site – Google likes this and it also gets people to spend more time on your site

 Quality links: Link to sites that have a high domain authority (DA). Google likes this because it makes you look like a credible source.

3. Build Links

Links are still super important for search engines, there’s no way around it. The more links to an article that are out there on the web, the more important Google thinks it is and the higher it will rank. However, you also want to make sure that the links are high quality – a link from Forbes will help your rankings quite a bit more than a link from Jill’s Friendly Pet Food! store in Iowa. Just saying. And links from spammy sites will flat out kill your rankings.

4. Get Social

The 4th and final surefire tip we have to help you make your SEO soar is to use your own social platforms to spread the word about your content. In fact, Neil Patel even thinks that social is the new SEO.

  • Share Away

Share the link on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and wherever else it might apply. Have your employees and friends like and share it too, if they are willing.

  • Social Pages Rank

Not only does sharing give you more exposure but social media profiles now rank above company websites in search engines. If a local company shares your blog post and someone googles that company – your post stands to get more traffic.

  • Social Platforms are their own search engines

People use social media channels to look stuff up and find information these days, too. According to Kissmetrics, Facebook got around one billion search queries per day and Twitter around 19 billion per month – numbers which have surely risen since this data was compiled.

Ultimately, the internet is all about forging relationships with your audience. SEO exists to make quality content more accessible to the people who are looking for it. It’s up to you to go forth and create this amazing content and then use these tricks to fill it up with SEO rocket fuel. Remember, as long as relevance and user intent are at the heart of your content creation, you can do no wrong.