What impacts your website’s SEO rankings? It’s more than just keyword strategy

Written by
Ally Willis

SEO can seem like a mythical marketing tool, a firefly that you just can’t quite catch, a formula that — once you learn it — immediately changes. Granted, no one really knows exactly how the Google algorithm operates (well… except the Google developers themselves). 

But I present two thoughts today:
  1. SEO doesn’t have to be a mysterious marketing tool.
  2. SEO is more than just keyword strategy.

Let’s dive in, shall we? I’m covering a few foundational SEO basics in what I hope to be non-jargony language.

(Keep in mind: I won’t be covering all aspects of SEO strategy here… that could be a full book or course in itself. 😊)

Schema Markup and Semantic HTML

Schema what? I’m a copywriter, not a developer, but the good news is we’ve got a team of developers and SEO strategists at Starling to educate me. Semantic HTML and Schema markup are different from one another, but accomplish similar end results: helping a search engine understand the contents of a page.

Translated into non-devy terms: semantic HTML consists of writing a website’s HTML code in a way that makes it easier for search engines to understand the content. It uses explicit tags (like <header>, <footer>, <article>, and <nav>) to notate what each section of code is for.

Schema markup, on the other hand, is a set of microdata added as inline annotations within a page’s HTML code. It helps search engines understand the context of the page’s information, improving the way an engine like Google reads and represents your page in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Website Accessibility Compliance

Think of website accessibility and SEO as a Venn diagram with overlapping practices that benefit both. For example: alt tags. This is text, inserted into the HTML code, that describes the content of an image. From an accessibility standpoint, this enables a screen reader to read aloud the image description to a visually-impaired user. From an SEO perspective, this allows the search engine to understand more deeply the content on your webpage. And if an image fails to load on a page, the alt tag would appear in its place.


So when you work to make your website compliant with ADA accessibility standards, you’ll also see SEO benefits as an added bonus.


Crosslinking simply means incorporating links to other pages on your site directly within your own content. Not only does this build page authority, but it also creates a good user experience — provided that the links you’re including are relevant to your user, and not just stuffed into the content in order to meet a crosslinking quota.

Keyword Strategy

As my title explicitly states: on-page SEO is more than just keyword strategy. But, but, but! It is not at the exclusion of it. Keyword research and strategy is a big ‘ole slice of the SEO pie. (For some reason, when I picture an SEO pie, I picture it as a key lime pie. Let’s run with that image.)

But without the backend foundations described above, even the best content strategy can underperform. In fact, we’ve worked with a client whose website — due to the platform the website was built on — was practically a ghost to Google even with an intentional SEO content strategy. (Spooky!)

A final thought: don’t sacrifice usability at the altar of SEO

Let me go into a minor tangent. *pulls out soapbox* Run, run, RUN away from any SEO tactics that harm your user’s experience. If a blog post attracts thousands of users but then can’t even be properly read because of confusing language and links sprinkled in every two sentences, those users are going to be looking for that exit button pronto.

A good SEO strategy is one that understands that the end goal is not high traffic numbers, but attracting — and then converting — the right website users.

Many moons ago, I had a client who worked with an SEO agency that churned out blog posts filled to the brim with keywords — and completely devoid of substance. They were garbled messes of meaningless words. Beware of anyone who sells you a service like that!

Fortunately, when you work with us, you get SEO and conversion strategy working in harmony. Victory! Wanna chit chat about your website? Book an intro call.

Ally Willis is Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Starling

With a background in conversion copywriting since 2017, she helps clients ask questions, analyze research, test theories, and dig through the results to create custom website optimization strategies.

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