Top 20 SEO Tips Digital Marketing Trends SEO by Sara - August 19, 20200 A lot has changed in the world of search engine optimization. However, certain fundamental principles remain unchanged. For example, targeting keywords with the sole intent of improving organic rankings no longer works with search engines but choosing the right keywords is still an important piece to the puzzle. However, here are the Top 20 SEO Tips that you need to know. 1. Backlinks are vital Regardless of their size, companies can always benefit from more links. They’re the lifeblood of domain and page authority, which continue to be a significant ranking factor. 2. Quality content is essential but relative Exceptional content doesn’t guarantee a top ranking. Links from other websites, implementation of SEO best practices, and great content work together to help your pages land top spots on Google and other search engines. Let’s look at John Deere. Moz credits the domain with a 70 score (on a 1-to-100 scale). It’s not surprising that this straightforward plowing article ranks No. 5 for “garden plow” with an average of 880 monthly searches on Google. The header even matches some of the search words. But then there is John Deere’s brand magazine, The Furrow. It has a 39 domain authority score and has trouble ranking for some of its quality content. For example, the Micro View, Macro Plans feature ranks poorly, at No. 49, for “microscopic arthropods” with 50 monthly searches on Google. Based on the header, it’s clear that SEO isn’t a priority and quality content doesn’t yield a great harvest even with good writing 3. Don’t worry about every ranking factor A giant gap exists between the ranking impact of keywords in page titles and content headers vs. page load speed, mobile appearance, and the use of HTTPS. Though we don’t know the actual importance of any factor, I constantly grab top rankings by adjusting page titles and headers even while minor ranking variables get poor marks. Search engine rankings vary for many reasons, including personal search history and geography (i.e., Google Local Pack). Google keeps refining its algorithm. Given ranking factor volatility, it’s no wonder that Searchmetrics now releases ranking factor data by industry instead of overall reports. In a 2019 SparkToro survey, more than 1,500 SEO marketers weighed in on key ranking factors. Most of them (66.3%) believe the weight of Google ranking factors varies by the query. Respondents prioritized content relevance and quality backlinks among the top ranking factors: 4. Expect search engines to become even more sophisticated As they strive to provide the most relevant results, search engines strive to understand the intent behind each query. Last year, Google rolled out BERT, a natural-language-processing algorithm update technically known as Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. So far, BERT focuses on searcher intent for one of every 10 English searches in the United States. “BERT models can, therefore, consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it – particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries,” writes Google’s Pandu Nayak, vice president of search. “Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like ‘for’ and ‘to’ matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.” It’s easy to confuse BERT with RankBrain, the update in 2015 as the core part of Google’s algorithm. RankBrain leverages machine learning to generate search results, drawing from a broad set of variables (including the history of related searches). Because of RankBrain, you might rank for a keyword phrase that’s not even in your content. In its 2017 Ranking Factors 2.0 study, SEMrush found that 18% of websites that ranked well didn’t have the keyword in their content. How could that be? Google is getting better at sizing up searches with relevant content – not necessarily keywords. Google focuses more on ideas that content conveys than the keyword phrases. Among the trillions of searches it handles each year, Google has said that 15% of queries are first-time searches. RankBrain does its best to make sense of them. Google doesn’t offer specifics about RankBrain, but Search Engine Watch has a good piece that goes into more detail: Google RankBrain: Clearing Up the Myths and Misconceptions. 5. Don’t expect relief from buried organic pages on search engine result pages (SERPs) A No. 1 organic page ranking is not necessarily a cause for celebration or a traffic increase. In the past few years, I’ve seen website pages with high rankings lose traffic. You know the painful scenario. A set of four paid ads appears first. Then a featured snippet follows with some shopping results, a pack of images, videos, and a People Also Ask box. Then, after scrolling way down, your “No. 1” ranking appears. Google often provides so many basic facts on the results page that searchers don’t need to click. That happens nearly 49% of the time, according to a 2019 SparkToro report based on Jumpshot clickstream data. The study referenced more than 1 billion web searches on 10 million U.S. domestic desktop and Android devices. 3M is just one of countless SERP victims. You think 3M would rank well for “anti-glare film,” which has about 900 monthly searches on Google. But the 3M result appears far down the page. 6. Refine those keyword phrases Don’t stick with the same set of keywords. Use keyword research and ranking tools to explore new possibilities. I routinely reference SEMrush, Moz, and other sources to discover key phrases that I never considered. 7. Showcase trust and authority Google may increasingly give an edge to website content that seems trustworthy. You can gain that advantage by having experts offer useful insights in articles and listing their credentials in short bios. The focus on trust stems from the Google 168-page document, Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that cites the value of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Google elaborates on those values in the search algorithms section of another report, How Search algorithms work: “Beyond matching the words in your query with relevant documents on the web, Search algorithms also aim to prioritize the most reliable sources available. To do this, our systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.” 8. Pay attention to page URLs Sure, ranking factors vary. But you shouldn’t neglect URLs. Keep them short – three to six words that reflect the content. Too often, websites dilute URLs with so many words that they lose their effectiveness. Not good: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidphelan/2019/12/12/how-to-use-apple-pay-express-transit-11-tips-as-the-brilliant-feature-hits-more-mta-stations-updated/#21cde18f6644 Good: https://fortune.com/2019/12/08/australian-wine-yellowtail-shiraz-burgundy-bordeaux/ 9. Optimize for featured snippets and answer boxes Fortunately, Google doesn’t award the featured snippets to the largest websites. It seems any relevant website can earn the top spot. Check out Stephan Spencer’s CMI article: OK, Google: How Do I Optimize My Content for Featured Snippets? Like featured snippets and other coveted elements, your page often won’t show in the Google answer box. But you can increase your chances with some good tips from Dennis Shiao in How to Be the Content in the Enviable Google Answer Box. 10. Optimize your website images When processing images, your team should make sure to focus on the file size, name, alt text, and more for SEO success. 11. Use schema markup to better define website content Website developers and marketers don’t always take the time to add schema markup (semantic vocabulary of tags). The code helps search engines identify what content means. Including it can affect how information is displayed in search results – everything from reviews and events to products and recipes. 12. Make videos for your visitors (and SEO) Videos can be a new avenue for SEO opportunities. On YouTube, link to your website in the descriptions (an often overlooked option). Also, since Google shows videos in the SERPs – above regular website pages – you could get the additional exposure. Don’t forget to create website page transcripts to rank for more keywords, including long-tail keyword phrases. Speechpad is one resource. 13. Create sneak peeks at your educational content If you gate your content, such as a white paper or an educational guide, release an excerpt or two. Search engines can crawl that text and the search rankings can drive traffic to the gated content landing page where you can use a call to action to download the full version. 14. Make sure your site doesn’t have crawl issues Search engines may not crawl every page you want them to see. They might be impeded by your overall website structure or too many redirects. Reference Google Search Console to size up your website performance. Additionally, it never hurts to spot check some of your deep content. Simply grab unique text from a page and search for it within quotes on Google. In an instant, you’ll kno0w whether it’s been captured. For detailed SEO analysis, use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider. 15. Remove or block thin content Not all of your content may help your SEO efforts. Pagination issues, content with only one paragraph, and pages based on a single tag in WordPress have little or no value (i.e., thin content). If you have a low-quality page that’s not ranking well, you might discourage search engines from indexing it. Use your robots.txt file to tell search engines what pages they should ignore. That way, Google and other search engines will give more weight to the remaining content. 16. Listen to voice search trends It’s hard to ignore the impact of voice search, especially since more than 1.6 billion voice assistants are expected to be in use through smartphones and smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri by 2022. And a PwC study found that 71% of U.S. adults would rather use a voice assistant than type something online. Based on your technology and content, your website already may be among some voice-related search results that the assistants announce. A Backlinko study of 10,000 results from Google Home identified several factors, including: 70.4% of results secured with HTTPS The average word count was 2,312 words 75% of voice search results were among the top three positions for the search query 40.7% come from a featured snippet These results indicate you should ensure that your site is secure, develop long-form content, and strive to provide answers that are included in featured snippets. 17. Remember that websites with SEO flaws still perform well Large businesses sometimes seem to ignore SEO basics and still rank well even when they have limited text on pages, don’t name their images correctly, and earn failing grades with page load speed. Sure, they could probably address those items. But it’s always a judgment call on where to devote resources. You don’t have to perfect every SEO best practice. Pick the improvements that will best serve your SEO. If you know internal links could be better, work on that over time. If you want more effective meta descriptions to draw visitors in, use best practices moving forward. You can always refine old pages as time allows. If you’re going to update those image file names and write alt text, identify pages that are close to ranking well. But remember, image optimization is small stuff compared to getting quality links or building relevant content, which can raise your domain and page authority. 18. Pay attention to some of the small stuff It’s been 13 years since Google suggested it tracks more than 200 ranking signals. Whether the total is 200 or 10,000 today, every indicator can’t matter as much as all the rest. Here are some examples of minor ranking variables worth your attention as you build content and measure metrics: Outbound links Bullets and numbered lists that provide a good user experience Regular website updates Grammar Internal link titles Dwell time (how long a visitor stays on a page after conducting a search) 19. Avoid one-and-done syndrome Have you ever gone all in and optimized a page of content and moved on without ever looking back? Regretfully, I have. It’s foolish – to an extent. You can’t review everything, but you should have a mindset that values data like rankings and natural search engine traffic and conversions. When you review the data, look for opportunities to take another stab at existing content by making a few changes. Add a compelling graphic with some key facts to hold the visitor’s attention. I’m convinced that engagement is a ranking factor worth some of your time. Revisit a page content header and tweak it to land some more top 10 keyword rankings. 20. Pay attention to your industry Some of Google’s algorithm changes, including the Medic Update of 2018, seem to affect some industries more than others. That’s why it’s helpful to track your site’s rankings as well as your direct competitors and other leading websites in your business sector. Though you won’t know precisely what Google changes, you can monitor when your rankings improve or drop significantly and see if it could be an industry trend. If you pay attention to these important SEO tips, you’ll create better content, drive more organic traffic, acquire more leads, and grow your revenue.