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Any business that’s serious about digital marketing has an SEO strategy. But the way they execute it isn’t always the same. For example, ecommerce SEO looks different from SEO for local brick-and-mortars, and both look different from SEO for B2B tech businesses.
Still, there are some SEO techniques that, no matter what you sell or what industry you’re in, are always a powerful addition to your strategy. Here, we’ve compiled 25 that you can’t afford to miss.
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1. Study the SERPs for search intent
If you study search engine results, you’ll find that the pages ranking at the top of SERPs aren’t always the ones with the most quality backlinks or domain authority. More and more, they’re the ones that best satisfy search intent.
Search intent refers to what the searcher wants to find when they search a term in Google. Do they want a blog post? Video? Product page? A top-10 list? Should it be long or short? Should it be informational or transactional?
These are questions you need to ask to determine what kind of content you should create for a particular search query. Punch the term into Google and study the top results on the first page. Do keyword research. Where do top pages put target keywords? Look at the featured snippet and the “people also ask module,” too. The SERP is where you’ll find all your answers about content creation for search intent.
Increasingly, newer brands with fewer resources have been able to outrank more established competitors with strategies that focus primarily on intent. That’s why I developed intent SEO — a framework for refocusing search engine optimization on the user. Learn more by grabbing the guide on our homepage.
2. Close the loop
Studying search results for intent is only the beginning. Once you know what people are looking for, you have to create it. And you have to make it better than the other top results.
But what does “better” mean?
When they arrive on a Google SERP, many searchers will click through to one page, consume it, then go back to the SERP and click through to another page, consume it, then go back again, and click through to another. This goes on and on until they get all the information they’re looking for. In SEO this is known as “the loop.”
By Google’s standards, the best results “close the loop,” meaning visitors consume them and don’t need to go back to the SERP to get more information from another page. They find everything they’re looking for on one.
To close the loop, your pages need high-quality content that’s comprehensive. Mind you, comprehensive doesn’t necessarily mean long.
For example: If someone searches “SEO definition,” it’s clear they’re looking for a definition, not necessarily a 4,000-word guide on search engine optimization. By understanding intent, you can develop a content strategy that offers visitors everything they want to know on the first click-through. This is how you close the loop and get Google to bump you up on their SERPs.
3. Say it, don’t display it
Yes, a picture can often communicate more efficiently than text. But that’s only if your image adds value. Stock images, for example, don’t often add value. Ask yourself: Is this image communicating anything to the visitor? Does it have a purpose? Or is it here as a placeholder?
If it’s a placeholder, consider eliminating it. If it does communicate something, ask yourself if it’s communicating more effectively than a few lines of text. The reason is that images can add much “weight” to a page, slowing its page load speeds and boosting its bounce rates. In one study, Google found that images were the biggest source of page speed slowdowns for landing pages. Speed being an official ranking factor, this can really hurt your chances of climbing the SERPs.
4. Be out with the old and in with the new
The problem is, there are lots of pages out there with JS they don’t need anymore. Whether it’s from old tools or another source, excess JS can significantly slow down page load speed.
5. Give Google a map to your content
There are millions of web pages on the internet and Googlebot has its job cut out for it trying to crawl them all. And Googlebot isn’t perfect. Sometimes it misses pages. When it can’t find your pages, your content gets left out of search engine results.
To keep this from happening, submit an XML sitemap to Google. This is a file that’s like a road map for search engines. It tells Google exactly where to find all your pages so they don’t get missed when Googlebot is scouring the internet trying to rank content.
6. Create a navigational page for visitors
Sometimes humans need help finding your pages, too. When your page structure might not be as straightforward as you think, users will look for another way to find the content they’re looking for. To make this as easy as possible, Google recommends creating a simple sitemap page for users.
A sitemap page is a basic outline of all your links. It allows your visitors to see all your site’s content laid out in the most basic and accessible fashion possible. Though this doesn’t seem like something that would help SEO, Google recommends creating one in its SEO guide. It’s a good reminder that SEO is ultimately for the user, not for the search engine.
7. Keep your URLs simple
When they look at your URLs, your visitors should have an idea of what they’re going to see when they click them. These URLs should be short but descriptive and not complicated with lots of numbers and characters. Short and descriptive URLs also help Googlebot understand your content, which allows for more efficient ranking. For example, take the URL of this post:
8. Internally link your content
An internal link is a link from one of your web pages to another one of your web pages. These help users explore your other related pages on your site. But they’re not just for users. Since Googlebot uses internal links to find pages on your site, internal linking effectively can also ensure your content isn’t left out of search engines.
What’s more, you can send a rankings boost from one of your higher-ranking pages to ones that need support in the SERPs by internally linking to them. When you’re creating hyperlinked anchor text, the rules are similar to writing URLs. Keep the text short, descriptive, and accurate.
9. Help search engines find your images
There are sitemaps to help Googlebot find pages, to help users find pages, and there are also ones to help search engines find your images. An image sitemap can help Google find, process, and categorize your images in image search engine results, which can become another source of search traffic to your pages.
10. Make sure your mobile sites can be indexed accurately
Since users prefer accessing the internet with their mobile device, Google prioritizes mobile search. They have committed to using mobile-first indexing, in which a site’s mobile version will be indexed before desktop.
To make sure your mobile site can be indexed, you should ensure your resources are crawlable, making sure your data is structured on mobile the way it is on desktop, telling the browser how to adjust content, along with a few other common methods recommended by Google.
11. Don’t rely solely on SEO in the beginning
It takes a while to get to the point where you’re generating a steady stream of organic traffic. To speed up the process of earning visitors, backlinks, and the other signals Google looks for when evaluating your site, it’s a good idea to promote your site with other tactics, like PPC, email marketing, guest blogging, influencer marketing, and social media. Tweet your content. Use LinkedIn to network with industry influencers and bloggers. Though Google has said that social media doesn’t boost rankings itself, research has shown a correlation between social media posts and backlinks.
12. Tell Google how to crawl your pages
If XML sitemaps tell Googlebot where to crawl your pages, robots.txt files tell it how to crawl them. If you have specific directives for Google about a particular page, they should be made in the robots.txt file. Google says that this should mainly be used to keep from overloading your site with requests, and not to keep your pages off of SERPs.
13. Write a compelling title tag and meta description
A title tag is the HTML element that describes the overall topic of your page’s content. You can see them in your open tabs, on social networks when your content is shared, and on search engine results pages. These should be short but descriptive and written with both users and search engines in mind. If you can fit relevant keywords in these, do it, but don’t force it. It can result in Google rewriting your content itself.
Meta descriptions show up on search engine results pages underneath page titles. They provide additional information about a page for searchers deciding whether to click through. Since you have a greater character limit, you can elaborate on your page title here and give visitors a more specific idea of what they’ll find on your page.
Though title tags and meta descriptions (known as meta tags) are not a significant ranking factor, they do have an effect on SERP click-through rate (CTR), which can affect search engine ranking.
14. Structure your data
Schema markup is code you can add to your content to make it easier to crawl and understand. It can also make your search results more versatile with rich snippets, which allow you to show reviews, ratings, contact info, deep links, and more, in a single search result. Not only does this give visitors more options, but it also makes your search result more attention-grabbing by making it bigger.
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15. Refresh your content
Google wants to serve its users the most relevant results. And recency is a big part of relevance. Audit your content. Is the information it contains up-to-date? Refreshing your pages can go a long way toward improving their relevance. And relevance translates to better rankings.
16. Organize your content with accurate HTML
Organizing your content helps crawlers understand it, and your visitors find what they’re looking for quickly. In your content, use the title tag only once and include your keyword.
Below that, use H2s to present broad ideas, and nest H3s and H4s underneath them to present more specific concepts within them. Even outside the page title, including keywords in headings will communicate to Google that your page is about a specific keyword topic.
Within these subheadings, use bullets, bold words, italics, and/or underlines to draw attention to important concepts that aren’t important enough to have their own heading. These elements make your content easy to skim.
17. Optimize your images
Once you’ve narrowed down your images to the most valuable ones, optimizing them can provide SEO value with very little work. To get the most SEO value from your images:
- Name your image alt tag something descriptive.
- Don’t embed important text inside images. Crawlers won’t be able to read it.
- Put your images near relevant text to make them easier to understand contextually.
- Consider placing the most important image at the top of the page.
- Name your image file something short and descriptive and put the keyword in it. Like alt text it can help SEO.
- Don’t use images for your navigation menu, use text since it is more crawlable.
Here’s an example of good image alt text for an image related to web design.
18. Link out with caution
When it comes to using links to determine authority and trustworthiness, Google doesn’t just look at inbound links. It looks at who you link out to, too.
When you send your visitors to other sites, they should be reputable ones. This signals to Google that you keep good company and care about the information you give your audience. And it can lead to a boost in search rankings.
19. Remove spammy inbound links
Generally, the more backlinks you have to your content, the better. But there are a few exceptions. One of those is when the backlinks to your content are deemed “spammy” or low-quality by Google. In the same way that linking out to reputable sites can help you, getting inbound links from less reputable sites can hurt you.
Google understands that ultimately you have less control over who links to you than who you link out to, so they won’t seriously penalize you for a few unsavory inbound links. If you get a link from someone you don’t want to be associated with, try reaching out and politely asking to have it taken down. If that doesn’t work, Google gives you a few ways to devalue links.
20. Revive dead links
Dead links on websites hurt the user experience. They direct users to a 404 page, forcing them to search for another page where they can get what they’re looking for.
At the intersection of improving the user experience and earning backlinks, there is dead link revival. By reaching out to website owners with dead links to pages that you have content for, you can potentially gain backlinks while also helping them improve the browsing experience for their visitors.
There are lots of ways to find dead links. There are apps, search functions in Google, and Wikipedia even keeps a running list of dead links that need review. All of these represent opportunities for you to earn backlinks by creating content to replace dead links on other pages.
21. Identify unlinked mentions of your brand
When people talk about your brand, content writing etiquette usually dictates they link back to your website. But that doen’t always happen.
Search for your brand name. If you’re seeing mentions of your brand in content that don’t link back to your site, reach out to the webmaster and see if they’ll add a link to your site. Most of the time they’ve just forgotten to hyperlink your brand, and they’ll have no problem doing it on request. This is a really easy method of link building that a lot of webmasters overlook.
22. Replace dead inbound links
Inbound links boost search ranking. But these links can die just like the ones you might try to replace on other pages. When you move a page that has links going to it, or someone linking to you moves their page to a different URL, it’s very easy for these links to disappear. And when they do, you lose search authority.
There are tools you can use to find broken links on your site. And once you find them, there are several methods to win those links back, including outreach, using 301 redirects, or creating new content.
23. Create content for what you know
Google bases its rankings heavily on whether you are a trustworthy and authoritative source of information. They want to know if you’re an expert in what you’re creating content on because they only want to send their users to the best sources of information.
One of the ways they determine if you’re an expert is by looking at the content you’re publishing to see if it’s all related. Is there a common thread? Is it clear that you’re creating content for a specific audience, or is your website a scatterbrained hub of random information?
For personal blogs, random topics are fine. But for your brand’s website, you should have a focused, documented content marketing strategy.
24. Make page load speed a priority
Google is so committed to making sure users get what they want quickly that they made page load speed an official ranking factor. The data is clear. Even a few seconds’ increase in page load speed can mean losing most of your traffic. So how do you make sure your pages are as fast as they can be?
Of course there are other ways to speed your page load times like using asynchronous loading, a content delivery network, browser caching, or getting rid of unused WordPress plugins. As a component of technical SEO, you may need help from an SEO specialist to help you improve loading speed. No matter how you do it, you can check your progress with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
25. Invest in SEO tools to improve your campaigns
Some marketing techniques, like copywriting, don’t require tools to do well. SEO isn’t one of those techniques. In order to manage your search presence, you’ll need Google Search Console at the very least. It allows you to collect and submit data to and from Google.
You should also be using Google’s free and powerful analytics tool, Google Analytics, to learn more about your visitors after they click through to your website. The data you collect will help you improve your pages, which will help you improve search ranking.
Some other popular SEO tools used by professionals are Ahrefs, Moz, Screaming Frog, Yoast, and SEMrush.
Use these SEO techniques to boost your search rankings in any industry
Some SEO tactics only apply to specific businesses and industries. These, however, can be used in any industry to beat your competitors in Google and Bing. And you don’t need to be an SEO expert to execute most of them.
Want to find out how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost traffic revenue by 700%.