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Wedding MBA 2014: Actionable Tips for Ranking Your Website Higher on Google

Recently, I presented at the Wedding MBA conference in Las Vegas. In my talk, I gave a sneak peek of my book entitled My SEO Blueprint, a workbook jam-packed with 50 straight-talking tips that will reliably, effectively improve your ranking on Google—and demystify how SEO works.

I gave away 10 of those tips in my talk, but you can get the goods even if you weren’t there. Sick of wondering why your SEO efforts aren’t paying off? Then read on, because these 10 insider tips will help turn your rankings around.

Here is the full deck:

1. Improve Your Page Speed

Google takes page speed very seriously. When asked about page speed, Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s core ranking team, said, “When we slow our own users down [on], we see less engagement. Users love fast sites. A faster web is a good thing all around.” Therefore, as you can imagine, most of the pages that rank on the first page of Google for competitive terms are usually fast to respond.

So how does Google measure page speed? Singhal says there are two primary ways:

  1. How a page responds to Googlebot
  2. Load time measured by the Google Toolbar

To measure your own page speed the same way, use Google’s free tool. Just enter your URL, push the Analyze button, and you’ll see your score along with recommendations to improve.

Action Items:

  • Take the recommendations that Google provides you with and give them to your webmaster
  • Continue to rerun your site through this tool until you have a score of 95+
  • Do the same for mobile page speed and user experience

2. Invest in a Dedicated Server

All too often, people ask us why their site is having trouble ranking on Google for their keywords, and one of the first things that we discover is that they have multiple websites on a $10-per-month shared server all using the same IP address. This is a critical SEO mistake and needs to get corrected immediately by getting what’s known as a dedicated server.

A dedicated server means your hosting company stores your site information on its own server with its own IP address, dedicating all of that server’s resources just to you. This costs more than a shared hosting plan, but it boosts both your site’s performance and your ranking with Google.

Action Items:

  • Call your hosting company and see how your sites are currently being hosted (shared, dedicated, cloud).
  • Inquire about dedicated solutions with unique IP addresses for each of your sites. Be prepared to spend between $100 and $250 per month.
  • Have your webmaster migrate the sites to the new server.

If it helps, EverSpark can recommend several hosting companies we’ve had positive experiences with, including pair Networks, Rackspace, InMotion Hosting, and Lunarpages.

3. Let Google Know How Long You Plan on Being in Business

The “age” of a domain plays a significant role in how Google determines both the trust and longevity of a business when ranking web pages. For instance, if you first registered your domain in 1997 and your competitor registered their domain in 2012, all else being equal, your site will outrank their site in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

What most people don’t realize is that the date in which your domain expires is just as critical.

If you don’t know where you first registered your domain, you can always run a Who-Is search to solve the mystery.

Action Items:

  • Log in to your registrar (e.g. GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.)
  • Renew your domain name for at least 5+ years into the future

4. Monitor and Measure

How would you know if Google is having a hard time crawling your site? Does your site have any critical errors? Has your site received a manual penalty due to suspicious activity?

The only way Google can communicate any of these types of problems to you is with a verified Webmaster Tools account. If you do not already have Google and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts, we suggest you sign up immediately; it’s free, easy and makes that big of a difference.

You’ll also want to get Google Analytics installed on your site. This is another free service that will provide you with detailed statistics about your traffic and traffic sources and help you measure conversions and sales.

Action Items:

5. You Must Have a Blog!

Did you know that when Google sends spiders to your site, they don’t just index it—they also count how many pages you have? In addition, they monitor how often you add new content while verifying that your content is original and not plagiarized or duplicated.

Google is hungry for content. There’s a reason why Google crawls and indexes sites like every few minutes—because they continue to feed Google with fresh and unique content all day long. How can you become the CNN of your industry? You can start by having a blog, and using it—a lot.

There are specific strategies that make blogging easy (covered below!), but for now make sure that you at least have a blog. We recommend WordPress.

Whether you already have a blog or not, you may want to check how many pages your site already has. Simply type site:(yourdomain).com into the search bar and Google will display how many pages they have indexed.

Check this every few months. If your page count remains the same each time, it will appear to Google that you are not producing content. And then Google will award stronger rankings to those of your competitors who are.

Action Items:

  • Make sure that you have a blog.
  • Start (or continue) blogging at least once a week.

6. Review Your Content

When was the last time you read your own web content? Who wrote it and when?

Five years ago, one of the easiest SEO strategies was to load your web copy with keywords, and companies paid SEO writers to do just that. Today, keywords are still important but Google no longer rewards clunky keyword-heavy copy. Instead, it rewards copy that’s actually valuable to the people who read it—which incidentally is also the kind of copy most likely to convert a site visitor into a customer.

So here’s a fun challenge: Take a few hours out of your day and read your content from your customer’s point of view. Would you call your company while reading the page you just landed on? If the answer is no, you’ve got some writing to do.

Action Items:

  • Read your own content—every page—from your customer’s perspective.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable buying from your site, start rewriting your content. You can do this yourself, but professional copywriters will often create better copy that converts customers and keeps Google happy at the same time.
  • Create a small PPC budget ($100-$200), targeting some of the keywords that your customers are searching for. Track and measure conversions, and continue to split-test the content on the page until you are satisfied with the result, and more importantly, the ROI.

7. Link out to Trustworthy Sites

SEO talk often focuses on the links coming into your website (inbound links) because they help to increase domain value and Google rankings. However, the links coming off your site (outgoing links) are also important for obtaining higher rankings. In order for Google to consider you an authority on your subject matter, you need to link out to both relevant and trusted websites.

So who should you link out to? You should have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube accounts set up for your business, and linked from either the top of your website or in your footer. In staff or leadership biographies, you should link out to the colleges, professional associations and awards that are mentioned. And when blogging, link out to any people or articles you reference in your post (including individuals’ personal Twitter or LinkedIn pages). A press page (linking to any media coverage) and resource page (with links that are useful to your customers) are also great ideas.

Action Items:

  • Make sure your business has a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube account and link out to all of them from every page on your site.
  • Go through your site and look for other opportunities to link out to credible and trustworthy web pages.
  • Set a goal to link out at least once in every blog post. More is better.

8. Strategic Blogging

Now that you have a blog, what should you start blogging about? This one question stops so many business owners in their tracks. Here are five strategies for easy, useful blog posts you can use over and over:

  1. Industry news: Set Google alerts for keywords associated to your industry. When you see something of interest, rewrite the story in your own words, while including your personal thoughts and insights. Be sure to cite the source with a link out to the original article.
  2. Interview others: Interview a prominent figure or expert and then create a blog post. When published, provide the link to the individual you interviewed and let them share it with their friends and colleagues via social media. You will be amazed how well this strategy works for getting more traffic, fans and followers to your business.
  3. Have someone interview you: Who knows your industry or business better than you? Each week come up with a list of questions or topics that your customers would find helpful, then do a short interview. You can do these via email, and edit the answers into a blog post; or you can do them out loud and record them, then transcribe the results. (An easy way to do this is to get a free conference line that offers call recording and have the recording transcribed by Verbal Ink or SpeechPad. Just make sure it’s edited before going live.) If you’re able to sit down in front of a camera with an interview, a video makes great content both for your YouTube channel and embedded in a blog post.
  4. Live blogging: When you attend industry tradeshows and conferences, instead of taking notes on a notepad, create a blog post detailing the highlights. Once published, promote your post via social media using the conference hashtag to gain maximum exposure. It helps to take lots of photos and include them in your post; people often share a post when they see themselves in it!
  5. Meetups: Create a local industry-specific meetup using Promote the meetup to both your competitors (yes, it helps!) and your prospects. If your space can accommodate it, try to have the meetup at your office so more people become aware of your company and services. Have a staff member with good writing skills take copious notes on the discussion, then ask them to create a recap post. This post can also be used to help promote the next meetup.

You don’t have to do all of these post types, but consider them your easy “swipe file” if you’re stumped for what to write.

Action Items:

  • Create a blogging schedule, put it on your calendar and stick to it.
  • Publish content to your blog and make each post aesthetically pleasing.
  • Promote your content via social media and email marketing.

9. Be on the Lookout for Copycats

When was the last time you searched the web for people plagiarizing your content? Google heavily frowns upon duplicate content because it can be seen as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. You might have duplicate content problems and not even realize it.

You might have issues if:

  • You hired a blogger who plagiarized other articles on the web
  • You have multiple websites that have similar content
  • Someone stole your content and published it as their own

Checking for duplicate content is easy. Head to Copyscape, add your URL to the search bar and press go. This is free if they find little or no duplicates, and you can breathe easy. If there are more than 10 results found, you may want to pay for a premium account to see all 10. Use Siteliner to analyze up to 250 pages monthly for free.

Action Items:

  • Run a Copyscape or Siteliner scan on your site
  • Correct any duplicate content problems that you control
  • Report any suspicious duplicate content that you do not control by submitting a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request. You may submit your request here.

10. Hire an Expert for the Technical Stuff

SEO can be very intimidating, especially when you start getting into the more advanced technical issues that can emerge. All the tips above reflect actions you can take on your own, without learning any technical jargon or coding. However, the Internet—and Google’s algorithm—has a lot of highly technical moving parts. Technical challenges will always exist, and if not properly corrected, they can tarnish your rankings, and in some cases even block you from getting indexed on Google at all.

The first step to address these problems is to know about them. That means hiring an SEO firm to conduct an in-depth technical audit of your site. These audits can reveal many potential problems:

  • If Google is being prevented from accessing your site
  • Hosting issues
  • Your internal linking structure with recommendations to better optimize
  • The quality and length of your content
  • If you suffer from over-optimization and/or keyword stuffing
  • Your mobile user experience score with recommendations to increase
  • That you are Google Panda- and Penguin-safe and compliant
  • Your domain value and other important popularity benchmarks
  • Whether Google is penalizing or downgrading you and how you can remove the penalty

There are dozens of others. At EverSpark, our complete technical audit looks at over 50 problems reflecting more than 200 variables across your web presence, with recommendations on how to resolve each and every problem we encounter. This kind of technical audit is the bedrock of effective SEO tactics.

Have You Had a Full Technical Audit of Your Site?

If you’ve had trouble finding an SEO partner you can count on, EverSpark Interactive conducts comprehensive SEO technical audits and makes robust recommendations with solutions you can understand. We offer a free initial consultation and charge affordable hourly rates. Most SEO audits are completed in just six hours—but will have a positive impact on your web presence for years. Learn more about our SEO technical audits today.