4 steps to building a website that ranks high(er) in search engine results

I doubt Eileen Caddy was talking about search engine optimization (SEO) when she said, “Set your sights high, the higher the better.” Still, the same concept applies when you’re trying to make sure you’re found online. Considering there are roughly 2 billion websites online right now, it’s safe to say you and your firm probably have a website. But whether you do, here are four steps to help you rank higher in search results.

Step 1: Clarify your goals and expectations

Being clear on what you want helps you determine whether you’re successful. When I was working with marketing agencies, I saw hundreds of new clients make the same mistake of not clarifying their goals for their website. Having specific goals in mind , even if it’s just SEO, helps developers and designers build a site that meets your needs and preferences.

Consider the following questions:

  • How many leads do you expect from your website?
  • What keywords are you expecting to rank for?
  • What prior experiences have you had with SEO, if any?
  • What pages do you need?
  • What actions do you want people to take on your website?

Answering questions like these upfront lets you establish mutual clarity and proper expectations with those you’re hiring to help you. It also helps you identify any SEO myths you may believe that could hurt your chances of success.

Step 2: Research SEO keywords that support your goals

Imagine people are searching for your firm online, then write down the words they’d use to find you. This is a part of keyword research, one of the foundational aspects of SEO. Some outdated SEO professionals try to rank for any and all keywords they can dream up. But Google moved from away from rewarding such spammy keyword stuffing many years ago, and now looks for topics and content written by subject matter experts. Here is how to do modern keyword research that will get better results than keyword spam:

  • List all of the words people might use to find your firm.
  • Group similar terms together to form topical clusters or categories.
  • Use an SEO tool such as KWFinder to find the monthly search volume (MSV) and cost-per-click (CPC) value for your keywords. MSV helps you learn which terms are popular, while CPC values indicate how competitive the SEO landscape is for that particular keyword.

Step 3: Optimize your website to be blazing fast

According to research done by Google, the likelihood that people will leave your website—known as “bounce rate”—increases by 32% as the page load time goes from one to three seconds. People don’t have time to wait for your website to load, which is why it’s vital that you put effort into ensuring that your website loads quickly. There are several ways to do this:

  • Choose great hosting: Many cheap hosting services put websites on shared servers, which can overload servers and make your website sluggish.
  • Minify HTML, CSS, and Javascript: For this one, you may need a web developer. Unnecessary or sloppy coding practices can lead to bloated files that slow down your website.
  • Eliminate unused plugins: Using plugins is an excellent way to extend the function and capabilities of your website. But if you’re not using them, inactive plugins will cause your website to become bogged down and load slowly for people.

Step 4: Build backlinks the right way

Backlinks are links that point back to your website from other websites, blogs, and social media posts. Search engines such as Google consider the number of backlinks to your website when determining your website’s popularity and authority in your field. A backlink growth study showed that top-ranking websites achieve a 5% and 14% increase in backlinks each month.

There are many ways to get backlinks, especially if you’re willing to engage in shady SEO. But doing spammy SEO tactics always lead to drastic dips when Google decides to update its algorithm to reward websites that grow using the right kind of SEO. Rather than relying on cheap tricks, use these proven best practices to get lasting, upward-trending backlink growth:

  • Create great content that makes people laugh or learn (ideally, both).
  • Post or share links on social media about trends, myths, or other topics in your profession.
  • Write guest posts for blogs within your profession (like I’m doing right now).
  • Appear on podcasts and include links to your website in the show notes (try using Podcast Guests).

There are no shortcuts to the top

Despite the flashy promises of SEO professionals more interested in your dollars than your results, SEO takes time and effort to see significant results. In 2019, MBS Accountancy began prioritizing SEO and engaging in intentional efforts to operate on proven principles, not trending “quick hacks.” Years later, we’ve not only achieved top positions for many targeted keywords, but have also built a foundation for promoting our brand. If you’re patient and consistent in your SEO efforts, they will pay off in ways that go beyond ranking higher online.

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