We know what you may be thinking: “SEO? But I’m an email marketer!” While SEO (Search Engine Optimization) may seem totally different from your day-to-day tasks of content strategy or graphic design, learning SEO can actually maximize success in almost any area of marketing.
And regardless of whether or not your brand’s goals for 2019 explicitly include our favorite three letters—S, E, and O—they will definitely help you meet your email marketing goals. Don’t worry, we’re here to walk you through the basics and tell you the most important SEO strategies for your site in 2019.
The ABCs of SEO: Getting started
SEO falls under the category of organic online search results, as opposed to paid search, like advertising or sponsored results.
When you search for something using a search engine like Google, it crawls all of the available content online and organizes the results in order of relevancy. The goal is to show you the results that are most likely to answer your question or point you in the direction of what you’re looking for.
But it’s not all just up to chance or paying for your results to show up first. SEO is what marketers can do internally to improve their search engine ranking. By measuring key analytics and targeting specific search terms and keywords, marketers can use SEO to help people organically discover their business and gain an edge over competitors in their industry.
As algorithms and best practices are always evolving, SEO strategies shift, too. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most current and important SEO strategies to implement in 2019. Let’s get started.
1. Optimize for search engines and humans.
SEO wouldn’t be what it is without the goal of optimizing your websites for search engines to easily find, but you don’t want to get too bogged down in data and change so much of your copy that it sounds more like a bot than a person.
Think of it this way: SEO is a tool that helps deliver your content to readers. You want to ensure delivery, but you also want to make sure subscribers, customers and leads still find your content engaging.
As you dive into the data, find keywords to target, and update your old content, do so while still keeping the end recipient in mind. If an SEO strategy compromises the readability or effectiveness of your messaging, you may want to reconsider.
2. Relevancy is key.
At the beginning of a new year, one of the things that should move to the top of your priority list is to update all of your old content.
Even though you may have barely begun the new year and 2018 doesn’t feel that far away, search engines are automatically going to prioritize content produced in 2019.
While we’re still in January, it’s a great time to add additional content to older posts, including recent research and statistics, and start the year producing a lot of really well-optimized articles.
See how The Hustle used the New Year as an opportunity to revisit how much their CEO made in previous years:
3. Optimize for speed.
While we’ve mostly talked about optimizing within the content on your site, it’s also important to take note of the entire user experience, and speed is a major factor that contributes to that.
You’ve probably had the experience of giving up on a website that’s taking too long to load and moving on to the next option Google suggests, so when you’re on the other end, you want to make sure speed isn’t a barrier to search engines or humans accessing your content.
Using Google’s Page Insights Tool, you can measure loading times and improve web performance.
4. A picture is worth 1,000 (key) words, or something like that.
Once you’ve made sure your content is as clear and complete as possible, the next best way to enhance an article or webpage is to provide visuals.
This can be anything from videos to photographs to infographics and everything in-between, and again, it should provide value to your reader. Maybe creating a more in-depth article about a complex topic means you’re covering a lot of information at once.
Creating a visual flowchart, a video walking you through each step, or an interesting gif can increase the SEO value and simplify the reading experience for the reader. It’s a win-win.
Here’s an example of an infographic we created for a post that teaches users how to use emojis in email:
5. Don’t let meta descriptions become an afterthought.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve used meta descriptions to their full potential, you’ve probably noticed the field for it before publishing your final draft.
It’s easy for marketers to finally get their copy and images where they want them, finalize edits, and immediately press publish, assuming that completing the SEO fields won’t really make that big of a difference.
While we’ve definitely emphasized the importance of content, the top-ranking articles are those that are writing at full capacity and using intentional SEO data. Leaving a meta description blank or writing it quickly without thinking strategically.
But meta descriptions are like a first impression for both Google and your reader. If you don’t fill them with keywords and an accurate reflection of your article, you may be preventing your article from being found. Some popular techniques for writing meta descriptions that stand out include creating urgency, appealing to emotion, and showcasing value.
6. Make sure your content is accessible.
Creating accessibility for people of all abilities has always been something to strive for in any type of online content, but the recent rise of audio tech devices has made this an even more important issue.
More people are listening to your emails, websites, and search results more than ever before, and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, our Design Services Lead Logan Bard made this his prediction for marketers in 2019:
“With technology like Google Home, Alexa, and Siri becoming more prevalent, that will ultimately end up changing how people interact with their email. There are a lot more things being read to you and you’re responding via voice, rather than interacting with text.
We need to make sure our emails are able to be read by voice-assistive devices, using strong and compelling copywriting, as well as solid effective accessibility practices in email development.”
7. HTTPS is the new HTTP.
Google has been encouraging web domain owners to switch their sites over to HTTPS since 2007, but pretty soon any forms or search boxes on your site that run using HTTP could cause an error message in Google Chrome—if it hasn’t already. This is an automatic barrier for readers to get to your site, which could dramatically impact your web traffic and engagement.
The easiest way to switch from HTTP to HTTPS is to contact your web host. They should be familiar with the changes and help you make the change.
8. Focus on titles and header tags.
When we talk about keywords, the best place to put them is in your title and header tags (H1s, H2s, H3s). From a content perspective, this means organizing your copy early on in the creation process according to search terms, which will keep your content on track for a positive SEO ranking. Experiment with different title formats and try using a headline analyzer to determine which titles and headings you should go with.
9. Use an XML sitemap.
This isn’t as scary as it sounds—XML sitemaps are essentially just an index of all of your website’s pages to help search engines find and navigate them. There are a variety of ways to do this, including a few plugins that will do it for you and make sure all of your new content is crawlable. This will help ensure that your content is front-and-center in the SEO rankings and appearing at the top of the search results list when a user searches a relevant term.
10. Content > Keywords
Yes, keywords are pretty much the name of the game when it comes to SEO, but sacrificing content depth for fitting one more keyword in isn’t your best move. In fact, an article with great research, links to its sources, and a length of 1500 to 2000 words is the sweet spot for both content and SEO.
At the end of the day, you want to use relevant keywords, but if the content within the article doesn’t back them up or provide the answers a reader is looking for, the keywords will not succeed on their own.
Evaluate your content on its depth—Does the author sound like an expert? Does it provide a clear and complete overview of the topic? Is the research referenced relevant and up-to-date? Does it leave any questions surrounding the topic unanswered?
Whether or not your New Year’s resolutions are SEO-specific, these strategies can definitely help you reach your goals and maximize your brand’s online presence. Keeping in mind the best practices for keyword targeting, user experience, readability, and speed optimization, you’re more likely to remain in the top SEO rankings and improve customer engagement.