• Marissa Morton

5 Ethical SEO Tips to Improve Search Engine Rankings

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Search engine rankings are a powerful brand awareness tool that you can utilize in your ethical marketing strategy. SEO can be a real pain in the ass to understand at first, but once you learn the basics, you’ll realize how powerful this technique is for driving organic traffic. Some businesses have taken advantage of SEO by keyword stuffing, link buying, and cloaking their content to rank higher on SERPs. Google has caught onto these Black Hat SEO tactics and has become much more intuitive at recognizing content that violates their terms of service.

Practicing ethical SEO will not only improve search engine rankings, but it will drive organic traffic to your site that you earned by means of integrity. Google receives over 5.9 billion search inquiries on a daily basis. If your content appears on the first search results page of one of those queries, users are more likely to visit your page and engage with your content. Organic search accounts for over 75% of all traffic to business sites, while social media only account for 5%. Making your content search engine friendly is a tried and true ethical marketing technique that drives the best kind of traffic: organic traffic.

Search engines have specific guidelines that determine which web pages are displayed at the very top of a search results page. Leveraging Google SEO for your digital content is the most practical way to drive website traffic, organic engagement, leads, sales, and ultimately, profit.

Use these 5 ethical SEO tips to improve search engine rankings and get your content in front of the right audience:

1. Appropriate Keyword Usage

Choosing the appropriate keyword for your digital content is one of the easiest ways to improve your search engine rankings and increase brand awareness among your target audience. Keywords and phrases help search engines rank your content so people can find it when they input search queries. In order to find the best primary keyword for your content, you’re going to have to do some research.

You need to get inside the head of your target audience. Start by brainstorming some topics your audience is interested in and questions they have that you can answer with your content.

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From there, use a keyword tool (there are tons of free ones, I personally use Google Keyword Planner and the Keyword Surfer plugin) to find out the search volume and competition of your potential keywords. High-performing keywords should have a reasonable search volume somewhere between 1K-100K and moderate competition. Keywords with high competition and search volume are extremely hard to rank for because the highest ranked pages are often very high-authority sources like Forbes, Business Insider and Entrepreneur.

Once you’ve found your primary keyword, it’s time to optimize your on-page SEO. Your keyword should appear in the following places on the frontend and backend of your page:

  • Title

  • Headings (at least one in H1)

  • Body content (at least 2-3 times)

  • URL (slug)

  • Tags (meta tags, title tag, header tags)

  • Alt text (the description of images)

  • Meta description (the excerpt displayed under the page title on SERPs)

Including your primary keyword in these locations will make it easier for search engines to understand what your content is about and rank it accordingly. Keyword density isn’t nearly as important as it was in the early days of SEO, so putting your keywords in the correct places is crucial. Google has gotten much more intuitive over time, so aligning your keywords with audience search intent will benefit you much more than keyword stuffing.

Bonus Tips: Be mindful of keyword cannibalization. This phenomenon occurs when you have multiple pages on your site that are targeting the same keyword. While it may seem smart to create a lot of content that targets a specific keyword, doing this can actually harm your search engine ranking. You know how finance people are always telling you to diversify your portfolio to minimize risk? Well the same goes for SEO keywords. Choosing a unique keyword for each piece of content you release will help you diversify your keyword portfolio and avoid competing with your own content.

2. Clear Title & Effective Tags

Tags are an extremely neglected, yet important aspect of SEO. Tags are HTML codes denoted as <tag> that tell search engines and users what your content is about. Google prioritizes content that is helpful to their users, so optimizing your tags puts your content into a language that search engines can easily understand to determine if it aligns with user search intent.

Your tags should be as descriptive, specific and accurate as possible to improve your chances of getting ranked. Most website hosting tools like WordPress and Wix have really user-friendly interfaces that make it easy to optimize your tags. So, even if you’re not a coding wiz (believe me, I know literally nothing about HTML and I can easily tag my content), you should be taking advantage of the following tags:

  • <Title> tag: located at the top of your <head>, this is the title that will be displayed in search engine results so it should be engaging, descriptive and include your keyword.

Screenshot of a SERP with "Title Tag" and an arrow pointing to a red box with the a page title

  • <Meta description>: the snippet located under your title in search results pages is your chance to give users and search engines a 1-2 sentence description of your content. This tag should include your keyword, summarize your content and be compelling enough to make your audience want to click the page.

Screenshot of a SERP with "Meta Description" and an arrow pointing to a red box with the page meta description

  • <Header> tags: these tags are simply the H1, H2, H3, and H4 headings you use throughout your content. Headings create a clear hierarchy in your content that helps both users and web crawlers scan and understand the structure and topics. No backend coding is required for headings, as long as you use the correct formatting in visual editors.

  • Image <alt text>: Alt text is the written description used for any photos you use in your content. Alt text tags are not only important for accessibility, but they can help you rank in Google Images as well. Search engines can’t read images, so using alternative text helps them understand the visual aspects of your content.

Screenshot of a win editor with "Alt Text" and an arrow pointing to a red box with the alt text description

  • <Anchor> tags: Anchor text is the word or phrase that your links are attached to in your content. So in this sentence, “how to optimize your link tags” is my anchor text that helps SEPS understand what I’m linking to. Linking to external and internal sources helps improve your SEO ranking, but you need to have the appropriate anchor text to tell Google what each link is about if you really want to up your SEO game.

HTML tags separate the novices from the pros when it comes to SEO, so if you want to please Google with your seamlessly organized content, make sure you're taking advantage of all these tags.

3. Link Building

Links are a crucial factor that Google uses to index and rank pages. You’ve probably already been practicing link building and just didn’t know the fancy technical term. Link building is the process of using hyperlinks to other pages to supplement your own content. Any time you link to a study, article or website to support your claims or give further information you are link building.

Think of links as a massive spider web that connect the entire internet. Search engines crawl the internet through links, so if you’re not practicing linking in your content, search engines won’t be able to find you through the spider web.

Your links should:

  • Refer to another findable page with relevant information: All links should be functional and refer to an indexed page with information that is relevant to your content. Broken links put a halt on a search engine's crawling process, so ensuring that all your links are functional helps Google crawl your content more easily.

  • Open in a new window to avoid people leaving your content: If your link leads to a new page and takes users away from your page it defeats the whole purpose of linking. Linking is meant to give your content authority, but if you drive users away from your site, you’re basically giving away free views. Make sure all of your links open in a new window to avoid this.

  • Link to an external high-authority site with solid rankings: Linking to well-known sources gives your site more authority and makes your content more trustworthy to search engines. Linking also helps you build relationships with other sites in your industry and can get you noticed by big brand names.

  • Link to internal pages within your own site: Don’t just link to external sources, include some links to other pages within your site. Linking all of your content together will help Google index all of your pages and will drive user traffic to other areas of your website.

  • Have optimized tags: Optimizing your link tags will help search engines understand what you're linking to and why. A hyperlink is coded in the following structure:

<a href=”https://www.forbes.com/entrepreneurs”>Entrepreneur tips</a>

The <a> tag on the beginning and end of the code are the tags that tell web crawlers where your link starts and where it ends. The href= code precedes the actual URL you are linking to which is in quotations. The text following the URL is your anchor text which is the word or phrase your link is attached to in your content. Most visual editors will create this code for you, but ensuring that your link is built correctly will help search engines efficiently crawl your site.

Links will help you rank higher in search engines by immersing yourself into the giant spider web that is the internet. If you continue to produce high-quality content, other pages will begin linking to your site which will increase website traffic and improve your chances of being found in organic search results.

4. Valuable Content

In order to improve your search engine rankings you need to marry your SEO strategy with your content marketing. Sometimes people get so caught up in the details of SEO that they completely lose sight of what search engines are for: finding quality information that offers a solution to a problem. Quality content increases the time users spend on your page, creates quality backlinks for other pages and increases your chances of being found in an organic search.

Google has become very good at understanding user search intent, so perfecting your SEO, but producing subpar content will no longer land you a spot on Page 1. Actionable marketer, Heidi Cohen gave one of my favorite definitions of valuable content:

“High quality, useful information that conveys a story presented in a contextually relevant manner with the goal of soliciting an emotion or engagement. Delivered live or asynchronously, content can be expressed using a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio, and/or presentations.”

Because the internet is so oversaturated with content, users are looking for content that is useful, engaging and easy to understand.

Your content should have the following attributes:

  • Information-rich

  • High readability score

  • Table of contents

  • Compelling visuals

  • Clear CTA

The small details of SEO like link building and meta tags are important, don’t get me wrong. But, producing valuable content that puts the needs of your audience at the forefront will make a world of difference in your digital marketing results.

5. Fully Optimized Site

Using all the right SEO tags, keywords and headings won’t be worth a thing if your website isn’t optimized for search engines. Google uses a web crawler software called Googlebot to collect information across the internet and create the searchable index you know as search results pages. Think of Googlebot as the spider that connects the web together. Fully optimized sites are high-functioning, user-friendly sites that are easy for Googlebot to crawl.

Googlebot takes hundreds of factors into account when indexing pages, but there’s a few big things it puts extra emphasis on:

  • Mobile-friendliness: In 2019, 52.2% of website traffic came from mobile devices. That means that over half of your audience will be viewing your page from their phones. Google uses both a desktop and mobile crawler to rank content so your site needs to be optimized for both mobile and desktop viewing.

  • Page-loading speed: When a site takes forever to load what do you usually do? Exit out of it and find a faster page, right? Users have an incredibly short attention span and correlate slow loading speeds with poor-quality sites. Improving your loading speed will help search engines crawl your page more efficiently and will help you retain more users.

  • Optimized images: Pages with visual elements are more likely to rank higher on search engines, but images tend to take up a significant amount of space in the backend of your page. Adjusting your images for SEO by choosing the correct formatting, compressing your files and using alt text will improve your loading time, crawlability and organic image search rankings.

  • Crawlability and Indexability: Web crawlers use specific technology to read your page from a coding standpoint. Googlebot needs to be able to access your CSS, Javascript and HTML files. Providing a site map, resolving server errors, quality link building and using robot.txt files will allow crawlers to easily navigate your page.

Even if you’ve written the most helpful, mind-blowing piece of content in the world, if your site isn’t optimized for search engines then it can’t get ranked on SERPs and no one will ever see it. An SEO website audit can help you find errors in your site that are damaging your crawlability and indexability.

Digital Marketing Services Can Help Improving Your Search Engine Ranking

Getting your content in front of the right people is the first step towards exploding your brand potential. Search engine optimization can improve your SERP rankings, drive organic traffic to your website and generate sustainable leads. Content marketing is a huge aspect of SEO, so hiring a digital marketing specialist that has experience with creating optimized content can save you the extra cost of hiring an additional SEO expert.

Conscious Growth Communications offers customized digital marketing services that are ethical, socially conscious and effective. Contact me today to find out how we can grow your online audience and improve your search engine ranking with conscious marketing.

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