posted by Ryan Lindsay on November 19, 2015 in Converge Blog
Rob Ousbey Shares 4 Steps to Improve Your Search Ranking
Aside from being an all-around cool dude, Rob Ousbey, COO at Distilled, is an industry leader in all things SEO. He was kind enough to join us in New Orleans for Converge 2015 and share what’s currently trending in SEO. While SEO may sound like wizardry in some circles (I’m looking at you, art history faculty), Rob demonstrated that it’s something you and your team can start working on today.
Here are 4 of Rob’s SEO tactics:
1. Avoid Serious Issues and Be Discoverable by Google
The cardinal rule of SEO is making sure you can be searched. If you are using robot.txt or making your site unreadable to search engines, it’s no wonder you aren’t showing up in the results. The first big step you can take to make sure your site is optimized for search is ensuring your site is structured for search engines to access and navigate.
How can you check if your site is structured well? There are numerous tools out there, but Rob suggests Screaming Frog, MOZ, and Google Webmaster Tools. You can always check pages manually as you navigate through your site, but given the size of most institutional websites, I only recommend this method if you have several months of free time (or an intern you don’t like).
2. Keyword Selection
Rob’s second tactic of keyword selection is what comes to mind for many marketers as the primary SEO tactic in use today. Rob, however, suggests taking this strategy to the next level by applying thorough research for all keywords, regardless of the intent of the keyword, its role in the buyer’s journey, or whether they’re long-tail or head keywords.
After compiling a list of potential keywords and reviewing the search volume, as well as the intent of the keyword, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Do you have the numbers to rank for that keyword?
- Do you deserve to rank for that keyword?
- Do you have the content to support that keyword?
Many people assume keyword research is so narrow that you have to focus on one keyword or concept per page. But keywords are not magic beans you place on your page to instantly rank. This is a holistic approach to determine the most effective manner to address your content.
3. Keyword Targeting
To supplement the basic fundamentals of a well-structured page that’s easy for search engines to access, you must also make it easy for search engines to understand what you’re talking about. For highly competitive keywords, this means making sure you are taking the time to understand how your keyword fits in the page URL, the page’s meta description, the page title, etc.
Overlooking these basic factors makes it more difficult for search engines to understand your page, and it also impacts how users see your page in the SERP. Users are more likely to click a page titled with a term related to their search than click on a generic brand name.
4. Internal Competition
The last easily avoidable misstep is losing ranking power due to internal competition – whether that competition is intentional or not. The first source of internal competition, duplicate content, is easily found using tools like MOZ and can be resolved somewhat painlessly. However, if you have cannibal content, you must seriously assess whether you need to adjust your site structure or messaging.
Internal competition is easier to avoid with a solid content strategy and site structure, but it will happen over time. Do yourself a favor and make sure someone is in charge of watching Webmaster Tools so when internal competition pops up, you can resolve the issue quickly.
Trends to Watch
These 4 tactics will help you make sure your site is optimized for the search engine results page. But what’s next? What’s the next level of SEO?
During his discussion, Rob demonstrated how semantic SEO is providing users with the most advanced search experience we’ve ever seen. For example, when you search for notable alumni from your institution and a list pops up directly in the search page, that isn’t Google being too smart for its own good – it’s SEO working to contribute to the larger search experience.
How will this apply to higher education? It’s too early to tell, but items including events have been on the forefront of this trend. I’m personally excited to see where it will go next.
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