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  • Writer's pictureErin Ratliff

How to Rank in the Search Engines (And Stay That Way)




There is no way around it - SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be complex and confusing, especially for soloprenuers who are swamped with building their biz. Nonetheless it is a super valuable skill to have in this digital age when search engines dominate our lives.


In this post I will break down the basics. But first...


Why is Search Optimization so overwhelming for solo -entreprenuers?


  1. It is highly misunderstood.

  • Google regularly updates their algorithms to improve search results and provide a better user experience. These updates often introduce new ranking factors and change the way websites are evaluated. Staying up-to-date with the latest algorithm changes can be challenging, as what worked in the past may not work in the present.

  • Search engines lack transparency in their offering. They don't disclose their complete algorithmic formulas, which can make it difficult to understand exactly how they determine search rankings. SEO professionals and marketers must rely on experimentation, industry best practices, and insights from the search engine community to make educated guesses about what works and what doesn't.

  • The internet is flooded with SEO information, tutorials, and guides, but not all of them are accurate or up-to-date. Sorting through misinformation, conflicting advice and identifying reliable sources can be challenging, leading to confusion and frustration.


2. It requires dedication and consistency

  • SEO is a multifaceted endeaver that encompasses a wide range of factors, including on-page optimization, technical SEO, backlink building, content creation, user experience, mobile optimization, and more. Understanding and managing all these elements can be overwhelming, especially for beginners.

  • SEO is crucial for online visibility and attracting organic traffic. As a result, the competition among websites vying for top search rankings is intense. With countless websites competing for the same keywords, achieving and maintaining a high-ranking position requires continuous effort, strategy, and adaptation.

  • SEO involves analyzing large amounts of data, conducting keyword research, monitoring website performance, and making data-driven decisions. For those who are less comfortable with numbers and analytics, this aspect of SEO can be particularly confusing and daunting.


Myths & Misconceptions about SEO


  1. SEO is about cheating or manipulating Google. False! Instead, think of it as you persuasively convincing search engines to rank your page by demonstrating the value you provide for users. And sure, AI can help but you also need the human touch.

  2. SEO is simple, fast and easy. False! Using SEO tools does not mean your website is suddenly “SEO-friendly.” No matter what systems you have in place, you’re never truly “done” with SEO. It is a long-term game, requiring continuous processes and on-going updates. Real results can take months, so it's important to take a longterm view and not stress or give up in the short run.

  3. SEO is all about the latest Hacks. False! You simply need to know the SEO basics and do those really well, really consistently. In reality, SEO is about answering your ideal customer's Questions so it's important to have a focused content strategy of at least 3 months.

  4. SEO is all you need to succeed. False! SEO is just one small part of the success puzzle. No amount of optimization will help you if you neglect to work on the core of your business – your brand, product or service, and of course- knowing your audience. And remember, traffic is cool but LEADS, sales and profits are cooler.


What are the different types and strategies of SEO?

Technical SEO, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO are three crucial aspects of search engine optimization that can help my clients rank higher in the search engines. And each of them are equally important in the equation for ranking in the search results.


Here's an overview of what goes into each. Think of this as your go-to checklist for all things SEO.


Technical/Back-end SEO


1. User Experience (UX): Enhancing the overall user experience by improving website navigation, readability, and accessibility. This includes optimizing site structure, formatting content, and ensuring responsive design.

  • Website Speed: Ensuring fast loading times by optimizing code, compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and minimizing server response time.

  • Mobile Responsive Design: Optimizing the website's design and functionality to provide a seamless user experience across mobile devices, including responsive design and mobile-friendly navigation.

  • Site Architecture: Designing a logical and organized website structure with clear and intuitive navigation and internal linking to help search engines crawl and understand the content effectively.

2. General Crawling and Indexing Site Infrastructure: Ensuring that search engine crawlers can access and index the website's pages by resolving issues and crawl errors.

  • Text file: Optimizing the robots.txt file to control and guide search engine crawlers' access to different sections of the website.

  • Structured Data Markup: Incorporating schema markup to provide additional context to search engines about the content on the website, improving visibility in search results and enabling rich snippets.

  • Canonicalization: Implementing canonical tags to avoid duplicate content issues and consolidate the ranking signals for similar or identical pages.

  • URL Structure: Creating clean, descriptive, and SEO-friendly URLs that include relevant keywords and provide a clear hierarchy of content.

  • Sitemap: Generating an XML sitemap that lists all the pages on the website, helping search engines discover and index the content more efficiently.

  • SSL Certificate: Securing the website with an SSL certificate to establish a secure and encrypted connection, which is now considered a ranking factor by search engines. This allows your site to begin with "https://" instead of simply "HTTP:"


3. Other technical considerations

  • Check for duplicates of your site

  • Check for broken internal and outbound links

  • Check for page redirects, chains and loops

  • Add a Google map embed, driving directions, and area attractions to increase geo-indicators for ranking locally


On-Site SEO


1. Keyword Optimization: Strategically incorporating keywords throughout the content, including in headings, paragraphs, image alt tags, and internal links, while maintaining natural and reader-friendly language.

  • Header Tags: Using title tags (H1, H2, etc.) to structure content and provide hierarchy, incorporating target keywords where appropriate.

  • Footer copy: Using geo-indicators and other keywords in your footer across all pages on your site

  • Meta Tags: Optimizing meta titles and meta descriptions with relevant keywords and compelling messaging to attract clicks from search engine users.

  • Main Copy/Content: Focus on use in the first paragraph, and throughout

  • URL: for Bot Crawlability


2. Content Optimization: Creating and publishing consistent high-quality, informative, and engaging content that satisfies user intent and provides value, incorporating relevant keywords and addressing user queries.

  • Regular Content Updates: Publishing fresh, relevant, and up-to-date content to signal to search engines that the website is active and authoritative in its niche.

  • Image Optimization: Optimizing images by compressing file sizes, using descriptive filenames, and adding relevant alt tags to help search engines understand the content and improve image search visibility.

  • Internal Linking: Implementing strategic internal linking to establish site architecture, distribute link equity, and guide users and search engines to important pages.


3. Performance Optimization: Monitoring and improving user-engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, and click-through rates to demonstrate user interest and satisfaction, which can indirectly impact search engine rankings.


Off-Site SEO


Backlinks from reputable and relevant sources to improve your page's authority and local search rankings. Optimizing your Google Business page and other key listings in directory or review sites is important for improving its visibility and increasing the chances of attracting potential customers. Ensure your business is listed accurately and consistently across the web and note that if a previous link is missing, you should take steps to get it active again.


  • Verified Status Claiming a listing typically involves requesting a verification code by mail or phone.

  • Consistent & Accurate Business Information: Ensure that your business name, address, phone number (NAP), and website URL are accurate and consistent across all online platforms. Select the most relevant and specific business categories to accurately represent your products or services.

  • A Compelling Positioning Statement: Craft a concise and engaging business description in 750 characters or less that highlights your unique value proposition, key offerings, and any specialties. Incorporate relevant keywords and geo-indicators to improve your page's visibility in local search results.

  • High-Quality Photos and Videos: Upload high-resolution photos that showcase your business, such as exterior and interior shots, products, team members, and customer testimonials. Add videos that provide a virtual 360 tour or demonstrate your products or services.

  • Positive Reviews & Responses: Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on your Google Business page. Positive reviews can enhance your credibility and attract more customers. Respond promptly and professionally to customer reviews, both positive and negative, to show that you value feedback and customer satisfaction.

  • Relevant Attributes and Features: Add attributes that are relevant to your business, such as accessibility features, accepted payment methods, and unique selling points. Enable specific features like online appointments, bookings, or menu links, depending on the nature of your business.

  • Audience Engagement. You should routinely monitor and respond to Messages and Questions. Regularly check the messages and questions section of your Google Business page and respond promptly to inquiries. Address customer queries, provide helpful information, and engage with potential customers to build trust and foster relationships.

  • Regular Updates. Keep your business information up to date by including holidays hours of operation/closures. Utilize Google Posts to share new website content, announcements and promotions.


Don't Forget...


1) To Monitor & Track!

SEO is complex, to say the least. With so many factors that go into it, it requires continuous monitoring and analysis. Tackle quantitative aspects first, then qualitative. Make use of the insights and metrics provided by your website host and business pages to gain insights into customer interactions, popular times, and search queries. Use this data to optimize and update your business strategies and make informed decisions and maintain effectiveness.


The following tools can help you do this effectively

  • Google Search Console

  • Google Analytics

  • Bing Webmaster Tools


You'll also want to monitor your competitors closely, especially their ranking performance as it relates to their backlink profile.


Lastly, you'll also want to do an annual content audit and capitalize on your existing work or past success. Review which content once ranked well but eventually began declining. Then simply update those posts:

  • Adding new sections

  • Tweaking titles

  • Trimming introductions

  • Adding FAQs

  • Updating links

Begin with cornerstone pages and high-traffic entries.


2) To Continuously Improve!


Search Engine Optimization is not a one-time effort but a continuously moving target that requires on-going adaptation to keep up with the constant changes in


  • Search engine algorithms

  • User behavior

  • Industry trends

  • Technological advancements.


A holistic, integrated approach to SEO considers these factors and incorporates the latest best practices and trends to stay ahead of the changes. Multichannel, synchronous strategies aim to achieve sustainable and long-term rankings, traffic, and conversions, understanding that optimizing a single aspect in isolation may not yield the desired results, and instead emphasizes a coordinated and integrated approach to achieve success.


Through both on-site and off-site optimization tactics, you can provide a better customer experience through increased credibility and visibility and improve your chances of ranking higher in search engine results, over time and across seasons.


Where to Start

Many soloprenuers don't realize that they can jumpstart the process of SEO all on their own.


Keywords are the number one most important component of search-optimized copy and content. As such, conducting thorough keyword research and mapping can help identify relevant and high-value ("market defining") keywords and phrases (also called "long-tail keywords") that align with the target audience's search intent.


Sprinkle the variations of these words and phrases strategically across your website's titles, headings, and online business listings, and you're well on your way to ranking in the SERPs.


Wrapping It Up: A Master SEO Checklist


Implementation and Prioritization:

  • On-Page SEO:

  • Start with core pages and cornerstone blog posts.

  • Traffic Diagnosis:

  • Focus on pages with significant search impressions drop.

  • Technical SEO:

  • Address site speed after on-page factors and traffic diagnosis.


Targeting Keywords & Keyword Optimization:

  • Page Alignment:

  • Verify if the page aligns with the dominant ranking result.

  • Search Intent Analysis:

  • Identify the search intent Google is displaying.

  • Competitor Analysis:

  • Check top 10 ranking results for content type alignment and angle.

  • Content Quality:

  • Ensure the content provides the best answer for the target keyword.

  • Thorough manual analysis for relevance.

  • Title, Meta Description, URL, H1-H6:

  • Ensure target keywords are used appropriately in these elements.

  • Body Content:

  • Assess keyword usage in the body content, ensuring it aligns with search intent.

  • Relevance:

  • Identify keywords without relevant content and plan for new pages or blog posts.

I. On-Page SEO:

  1. Title Tag:

  • Accurately summarize page content.

  • Unique title for each page.

  • Keep within 70 characters.

  • Include a core keyword, preferably near the beginning.

  1. Meta Description:

  • Summarize page content descriptively.

  • Include relevant information for users.

  • Encourage click-through with a call-to-action.

  • Keep within 155 characters.

  1. Heading Tags:

  • Use headings (h1, h2 - h6) appropriately.

  • One h1 tag per page.

  • Optimize subheadings (h2 - h6) with keywords.

  • Consider a table of contents for long-form content.

  1. Main Content:

  • Provide complete, insightful, and original content.

  • Ensure expertise in the subject matter.

  • Compare content to top 10 ranking results.

  • Check for readability, scannability, and mobile responsiveness.

  1. Images:

  • Add value and relevance.

  • Optimize placement near relevant text.

  • Prioritize important images at the top.

  • Include meaningful alt text.

  • Optimize image file sizes.

  • Consider next-gen image formats (WebP, AVIF).

6. Internal Linking:

Ensure important pages in header/footer.

Set up breadcrumbs.

Pages accessible through links without internal search.

At least 2 incoming internal links for every page.

Check for broken internal pages.

  1. Outbound Links:

  • Use normal external links for useful resources.

  • Use rel="sponsored" or rel="nofollow" for paid links.

  • Use rel="ugc" or rel="nofollow" for user-generated content links.

  1. Page Behavior Metrics:

  • Analyze Google Analytics for traffic, engagement, and conversions.

  • Prioritize pages with high entrances that contribute to conversions.

  • Assess engagement metrics (time on page, bounce rate).


Assessing Low Traffic Pages:

  • Keywords:

  • Review keyword targeting effectiveness.

  • Analyze content quality and relevance to top-ranking results.

  • Search Intent and Content:

  • Understand and align with search intent.

  • Analyze content quality and relevance to top-ranking results.

  • Update Content with Google Search Console Queries:

  • Use search queries to improve and update content.

  • Monitor impressions, update content accordingly.


II. Technical SEO:

11. Indexation - Robots.txt and Google Search Console:

  • Check robots.txt for disallow commands.

  • Review Google Search Console for indexing errors.

  1. Indexation - Request Indexing:

  • Manually request indexing for new or updated content.

  1. Site Speed:

  • Check average page load time in Google Analytics.

  • Prioritize pages with slower load times.

  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights for comprehensive speed analysis.

  1. Page Experience:

  • Check Google Search Console for HTTPS, mobile usability, and core web vitals issues.

  • Address issues related to core web vitals (LCP, TBT, CLS).

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Need help and support? I'd love to connect! I've invested years of my time and energy into mastering and staying informed about SEO best practices, so I can navigate the complexities of the digital landscape. I'd love to help you improve your online visibility today so that you can experience success in your business for years to come.


 

Erin Ratliff is holistic business coach and organic growth marketer for earth-loving, energy-sensitive soul-preneurs on a mission of personal and planetary healing.


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