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Tag Archive: onsite seo

  1. 101 Ways to Improve Your Website’s SEO

    15 Comments

    Table of Contents

    + Domain optimization
    + Global on-site optimization
    + Page-level on-site optimization
    + Link building
    + Social media
    + Correctional strategies

    When you’re looking for something—a good restaurant to eat at, the name of a good tax attorney, or just a random fact about the movie you’re watching—you usually turn to Google. Everybody does. And everybody clicks on one of the first entries in the search engine results pages (SERPs) they find.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if your site was at the top of that list?

    This is the goal of search engine optimization (SEO), but getting your site to rank that high—especially in a competitive environment—isn’t exactly straightforward. Google only reveals ambiguous descriptions of how its main algorithm works (to prevent spammers and manipulators), and over the years, we’ve discovered hundreds of potential ranking signals. Add in the fact that algorithms are always changing and improving, and it’s easy to see why SEO seems so confusing to so many.

    That’s why I’ve assembled this extensive list of 101 different ways you can improve your search rankings, boiling down our SEO knowledge into concrete, executable points that are easy to understand even for a novice.

    For organizational purposes, these are split into categories:

    • Domain optimization. These are strategies for how to choose, host, and maintain your domain.
    • Global on-site optimization. These are on-site tactics that apply to your entire site, either improving your authority and trustworthiness or ensuring your visibility to search crawlers.
    • Page-level on-site optimization. These are page-specific on-site updates, again either improving your authority and trustworthiness or ensuring your visibility to search crawlers.
    • Link building. These are strategies to build and earn backlinks, which are crucial for increasing your domain authority.
    • Social media. Social media marketing can’t increase your rankings directly, but it can have a massive bearing on secondary ranking factors.
    • Correctional strategies. These are tactics to fix issues or course-correct a slipping strategy.

    Without further ado, let’s dig into these 101 ways to improve your site’s search rankings!

    Domain Optimization

    1. Optimize your domain with target keywords.

    Your first job is to optimize your domain name with keywords you intend to target. The process of choosing keywords is a bit complicated—in fact, it’s worthy of its own monster post which I recently wrote, titled Keyword Research: The Ultimate Guide for SEO and Content Marketing—but for now, I’ll assume you’ve already gone through the process of picking target keywords relevant to your brand with high search volume and low levels of competition. Including one or more of these keywords in your domain name can be helpful in boosting your search rankings, as you’ll get added relevance for related queries. For example, if one of your keywords is “replacement windows,” a domain name like bobbysreplacementwindows.com could be advantageous. Obviously, this is much harder to do if you’ve already got an established domain—generally, it’s not worth changing your domain, but if you’re starting from scratch, it’s definitely worth considering.

    2. Shorten your domain length.

    While you’re in the process of choosing your domain name, it’s also a good idea to keep your domain length as short as possible. As you’ll see in some other URL-based optimization techniques, Google prefers to keep things as short, simple, and as straightforward as possible. The more characters you add to your domain, the more complicated it is for users to figure out what you do and the harder it is to remember or access a domain. When it comes to domain names, shorter is better.

    3. Keep subdomains clear and optimized.

    Not all brands or websites have subdomains; these are hierarchal distinctions within the coverage of a broader domain and can be used to distinguish a separate area of the site or a different brand entirely. For example, you might have example.com and blog.example.com domains to keep your eCommerce platform and blogging platform separate. Again, for the sake of pleasing Google with simplicity, you’ll want to keep your subdomains as concise and clear as possible; describe the nature of the subdomain in as few words as you can, and use target keywords when possible. For the record, I don’t recommend using a subdomain for your blog; instead, host your blog in a subfolder of your domain, so it looks like this: example.com/blog.

    4. Publicize your WHOIS information.

    WHOIS (pronounced “who is,” appropriately enough) is a protocol for registering and finding various resources attached to a given website. For example, you might be able to look up a website’s IP and contact information for the webmaster. As the creator of a site, you’ll have the option of publicizing this information or blocking it from public record. You might be tempted to choose the latter under ordinary circumstances, but it’s actually better to go public. If you hide your information, Google may think you’re attempting to do something sneaky.

    whois

    (Image Source: WhoIs)

    5. Choose the right hosting provider.

    On the surface, most hosting providers seem the same. They all offer the same service, and for close to the same price depending on what other services and features you get. However, your choice in hosting provider could play a crucial role in how your site appears in search engines in a number of different ways. For example, in a worst-case scenario, if your host is accused of engaging in suspicious activity, it could reflect poorly on the authority of your site. On a more common level, if your hosting is unreliable, site outages could disrupt your site’s appearance in SERPs. I’ve used a number of different hosts, and currently have AudienceBloom.com hosted at WPEngine, which I’ve been very happy with (note: that’s an affiliate link. If you use it, thank you, I really appreciate it!). It’s on the pricey side, but it offers really good customer support, security, speed, and so far, zero downtime.

    6. Migrate carefully.

    There will likely come a time when you need to migrate your site to a new domain, a new hosting provider, or build a new website entirely. When this happens, it’s absolutely imperative that you migrate with SEO best practices in mind. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of search bots getting confused; they may see two versions of your site and register them as duplicates, or they may search for nonexistent pages, or they may even rob you of your domain authority entirely—like what happened to Toys R Us in a major SEO blunder back in 2014.

    7. Wait.

    Though there is some debate on the subject, it’s generally accepted that the age of a given domain has a bearing on that domain’s authority. Conceptually, this makes sense; the longer a domain is around, the less likely it is to be a spam or gimmick site. The boost you get from this is fairly minimal, so you don’t need to sit on a domain for years before you start reaping the benefits of an SEO campaign, but at the same time, the older your domain gets, the higher your authority will rise.

    Global On-site Optimization

    8. Clean up your code.

    This is an ambiguous statement, and it might not make sense to someone who isn’t intimately familiar with web development. The basic idea here is this; just as there are an infinite number of paths from point A to point B but only one “optimal” path, there is an infinite number of ways to code any function, but some are more efficient than others. Unnecessarily complicated code has a number of disadvantages, including slower site loading times and more legwork for search engine crawlers, so take the time to “clean up” your code.

    9. Optimize your robots.txt file.

    This step may or may not apply to you, depending on what your intentions and goals are in the indexation of your site. Ordinarily, search crawlers will track down and index every page of your website, but you can change this based on instructions you give those crawlers in what’s known as the robots.txt file of your site. Here, you can block crawlers from indexing certain pages—which is ideal if you have intentionally duplicate pages or other content you don’t want search engines to see. Just don’t use this to try and cover up black hat tactics—Google will find out.

    robots.txt file

    (Image Source: Robotstxt.org)

    10. Note and correct server errors immediately.

    Your site isn’t going to be up 100 percent of the time. You’re going to have server crashes, and your pages will occasionally be prone to individual errors. This is a reality of modern web development. All you can do is keep a close eye on the status of your servers, and respond to errors as quickly as possible to keep your domain up and running.

    11. Keep your URLs static.

    If you’re not familiar with dynamic versus static URLs, this terminology may seem strange to you. It’s easier to describe dynamic URLs first; these are URLs that provide different content depending on the nature of the query to the site’s database. Static URLs, by contrast, only change if someone manually makes a change to the site’s backend code. With very few exceptions, your site’s URLs should all be static, only changing when you push manual changes to them. This is generally a more trustworthy practice, and will help keep the authority of your domain and individual pages high.

    12. Organize your URLs logically with a breadcrumbs trail.

    You should also keep your URLs logically organized by using a breadcrumbs trail. In the realm of website development, breadcrumbs trails are strings of sectioned-off extensions to the end of your URL. For example, you may list out the categories and subcategories where a page is located. For example, you might have example.com/maincategory/subcategory/page instead of just example.com/page. This gives you the opportunity to optimize for more keywords, provide a more convenient user experience for your customers, and give more information to Google about how your site is organized. There’s no reason not to do this (and it happens automatically for most template-based CMS’s like WordPress).

    13. Shorten your URLs.

    For the same reasons that you shortened your domain name, you should shorten your URLs. This is as much for your own benefit as it is your users’, as it’s going to make organizing your site much easier. For example, if you have a “products and services” subcategory page, consider shortening it to just “products” or “services.” If you have a long blog title like “how to recover from an embarrassing situation at work,” consider shortening it to “embarrassing-work-situation” as an extension of your URL. Remove any unnecessary additions or extensions whenever possible and focus on what really matters. I realize this seems to counter-act my advice from #12 (adding a breadcrumb trail increases the length of the URL), so to be clear, what I suggest is using breadcrumb trails and keeping them short and concise, while also making an effort to keep URLs short after the inclusion of the breadcrumbs.

    14. Create an HTML sitemap.

    An HTML sitemap is a way to organize your site easily for users—not to be confused with an XML sitemap, which I’ll cover in the next bulleted tactic. Here, your goal is to make a comprehensive list of all the pages of your site, organized logically so users can follow it—and follow its links to those specific named pages. Generally, webmasters include a link to the HTML sitemap in the footer, where users intuitively seek to access it.

    15. Create and upload an XML sitemap.

    An XML sitemap is a more technical version of the HTML sitemap, marked up with code so that search crawlers can make sense of your data. Creating one is easier than it seems, and some WordPress plugins do it automatically for you. When you have your XML sitemap complete, you can upload it to Google Search Console to instruct Google about the exact layout and structure of your website. Note that Google will crawl and interpret your website without this sitemap, but this can accelerate and increase the accuracy of the process.

    XML Sitemap

    (Image Source: Sitemaps.org)

    16. Keep your sitemaps updated.

    Your site is going to go through changes, whether you currently know what those changes are or not. You’re going to add pages, remove pages, and possibly restructure entire swaths of your site. When this happens, it’s easy to forget about updating your sitemaps—so establish a reminder to keep your sitemaps up-to-date. Forgetting this won’t crush your rankings—Google will eventually catch up with what you’ve done—but it’s a way to help your web strategy run smoother.

    17. Ensure your content loads correctly on all devices and browsers.

    This is a major step of the process; make sure that all of your content is loading, correctly and fully, on every possible device and browser. Most web developers go through a testing process to see how your site looks, but are they using older versions of their browsers? Different browsers? Different devices? An image that doesn’t load on Internet Explorer could make your page less authoritative due to “broken content.” You can use a service like BrowserStack to help you out here.

    18. Optimize for mobile devices.

    You also need to optimize for mobile devices. The majority of all web traffic now happens on mobile devices, so it makes sense from a pure user experience perspective, but it’s also important for Google’s consideration of your site (thanks to the Mobilegeddon update and several algorithm changes before it). Thankfully, Google offers a free test that will tell you not only if your site is mobile-friendly, but what’s wrong with it if it isn’t. Just keep in mind that mobile optimization is about more than just meeting the minimum requirements of Google—it’s about giving the best possible experience to your mobile users.

    19. Improve your navigation.

    You can also improve your navigation bar to improve your search rankings. Google takes user experience seriously; the search giant rose to dominance because of its commitment to connecting users to the best possible content for their queries. Google wants users to have a convenient, straightforward, interpretable experience, and part of that includes being able to navigate the site easily. Organize your site into categories and subcategories, and make your menus accessible and easy to click. This may seem like a simple feature, but it’s one that’s commonly neglected and much more important than most people realize, because of the way PageRank ‘flows’ throughout a site. Try to put only your most important pages in your navigation; they’ll be the ones that get a significant ranking boost.

    20. Feed search engines more information with structured markup.

    Google’s Knowledge Graph is continuously growing in size, able to answer more user queries with short, concise answers pulled from sites across the web. How can you get your information featured in these boxes, which automatically take visibility priority over organic search results? The key is to use structured markup, organizing your site’s content in a way that makes sense to search engines. org has plentiful tutorials to help you figure out exactly what to implement and how to implement it—you just have to take the step of committing it to the back end of your site.

    21. Use internal links with descriptive anchor text.

    The navigation of your site is partially dependent on how your internal pages link to one another. For example, it might be easy for a user on your homepage to jump to whatever page is most relevant for him/her, but can he/she quickly and easily jump between pages to explore your site further? Try to include at least one link to another page on your site within every page you develop; some of your blog posts might have several or even many links to other pages on your site. Internal linking won’t just increase your search rankings; it will keep your users engaged on your site for longer, which increases the likelihood of a conversion.

    22. Link out to high-authority external sources.

    Internal links are just the beginning—it’s also a good idea to link out to other external sources to back up the information you present. For example, if you’re referencing a statistic, fact, or other piece of specific data, it’s important to cite the source you got it from. Doing this also adds to the trustworthiness of your site; it shows that you’re not just making information up, and that you have verifiable primary and secondary sources to vouch for you. Just make sure you’re choosing high-authority sites, as linking out to low-authority sites could have the opposite effect.

    23. Keep your images formatted properly.

    It’s good to have images throughout your site, whether they’re entries in a photo gallery or supplementary material for one of your blog posts. However, not just any images will do; some images are better than others when it comes to suitability for the web. For example, some formats may not load properly on some devices, and others may drag down your loading speed. As a general rule, formats like JPG, PNG, and GIF are reliable choices. Beyond that, you’ll want to make sure your images are reduced to a smaller size to keep your site speed as fast as possible.

    24. Title your images appropriately, with proper alt tags.

    Going beyond the simple formatting of your images, you can also optimize them with text and descriptors to increase their chances of appearing in Google Image search. This won’t have a direct bearing on your domain authority or general SERP rankings, but can give you another outlet for search optimization. First, give your image an appropriate title; keep it short and simple, but relevant to what’s happening in the image. Then, include an alt tag (which isn’t a literal “tag”) that describes the image in more detail. Think about what a user would search for to find this image.

    Image Tag

    (Image Source: Yoast)

    25. Maximize your page loading speed.

    Next up, you’ll want to improve the performance of your site. The shorter your page loading time is, the better, and even a fraction of a second can bear a significant improvement. This isn’t as big of a ranking signal as some of the other factors on this list, but it is worth optimizing for—especially because of its peripheral benefits. When a user clicks through to your site, he/she will make a decision of whether to stay within seconds of arriving. According to KissMetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, while just a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Make sure your content loads within that timeframe, or your bounce and exit rates will suffer—even if you’re sitting on a top search position. You can conduct a speed test on your website using this tool from Pingdom.

    26. Secure your site with SSL encryption.

    This is a small ranking signal, but it’s worth optimizing for in part due to its surprising simplicity. Google introduced SSL encryption, a way of securing the information on your site, as a ranking signal back in 2014, and it may increase in significance as the years go on. Contact your hosting provider, and you can apply this encryption for a small additional fee, earning you the “HTTPS” designation and making your site more secure. Even if you don’t do this for the search rankings, it can keep your customers’ information safer. Note that I haven’t experimented with switching established domains/websites to https, as I’ve seen anecdotal reports of websites doing so and losing significant ground in the rankings. That’s why AudienceBloom.com hasn’t been switched over (our search traffic is great, and I don’t want to imperil it for a shot at marginal improvement). With that said, I would recommend any new website or domain to utilize SSL encryption. It may also be more important for websites that transmit data frequently, such as e-commerce sites where users must login and input personal or credit card information to complete a transaction.

    27. Hunt down and eliminate duplicate content.

    Google hates to see duplicate content, for somewhat obvious reasons. If a chunk of text already appears somewhere on the Internet, why does it need to exist again somewhere else? Plus, it’s sometimes an indication of plagiarism. However, it’s possible (and, in fact, quite common) to have duplicate content on your site even if you’ve never plagiarized a word; sometimes Google indexes two separate versions of a single webpage, such as the HTTP and HTTPS version, leading it to “see” duplicate content where there isn’t any. You can use Google Search Console or a third-party tool such as SiteLiner to quickly and easily check for these errors and correct them by eliminating one version of the page.

    28. Utilize rel=canonical tags.

    Sometimes, there’s actually a justification for having duplicate content on your site. For example, you might be running two distinctly designed versions of a page that has identical content between those versions. If this is the case and you don’t want to be brought down by any duplicate content issues, your best bet is to use rel=canonical tags to resolve the issue with Google. These tags instruct Google which page should be categorized as the “canonical” or official version of the page and which one should be ignored; note that this is distinct from using the robots.txt file to ignore one page completely.

    29. Categorize and organize your content.

    Next, you’ll want to make sure all of your content is well-organized in categories and subcategories. Create an ongoing list of your main blog topics, and assign at least one of those categories to each blog. Google is able to see this information and use it to figure out what your content is about; it’s also a valuable opportunity to showcase some of your target keywords and phrases.

    30. Offer ample contact information.

    This isn’t a huge ranking factor, but it’s something Google takes into consideration—plus, it’s a general best practice for optimizing a user experience. You should offer prominent contact information throughout your website, preferably with at least one obvious means of contacting you (such as a phone number in the header of your site). You’ll also want to create a designated contact page, with your company name, address, phone number, social media information, and a contact form at a minimum.

    31. Offer Terms of Service and Privacy pages.

    No matter what type of business you have, it’s a good idea to spell out your terms of service and your privacy policy on dedicated pages. Having these pages as part of your sitemap demonstrates that you care about your users and are transparent about how you conduct business and use your customers’ information. You won’t skyrocket to a number-one position just by adding these pages, but they’re a staple feature that every website needs to have.

    32. Find and correct issues with Google Search Console.

    Google Search Console is a goldmine of information about how your site is performing and how it looks in search engines. It’s a Swiss army knife of diagnostic tools you can use to proactively identify any issues with your site that could interfere with your other ranking efforts. For example, Search Console can send you an alert when your site goes down, or you can get a first-hand look at how Google is currently indexing your site, making note of any erroneously indexed pages. Check this information often to stay on top of your site’s development.

    33. Display user reviews on-site.

    This is especially important if you’re an e-Commerce platform selling products online. Give your users a voice by offering up customer reviews on various pages of your site. You can offer them the ability to give you a star or number rating, but the big draw here is giving them a platform to write their thoughts. This is a way of capitalizing on user-generated content (which will naturally be optimized for the types of products you sell), but you can also use microformatting to increase the chances that these reviews could be featured in SERPs directly.

    34. Decrease your bounce and exit rates.

    On the surface, bounce and exit rates may seem like the same metric, but as explained by Google below, they’re actually distinct. Neither is a good indication of user experience; both imply that a user has left the site after visiting this particular page. A high bounce or exit rate could imply that the content on the site is unsatisfactory, and could play into how Google measures the relevance or authority of that page. Try to improve these rates by offering more unique, valuable content, and by keeping users engaged for a longer period of time, such as by offering longer, more in-depth, valuable content.

    Decrease your bounce and exit rates

    (Image Source: Google)

    35. Maximize time spent on page.

    The good news is, by decreasing your exit and bounce rates, you’ll likely increase the time a user spends on that page of your site by proxy. You won’t have to do much else to increase the time spent on each page of your site. Google takes time duration as an indirect measure of the value of the content of a page; for example, if you have a blog post that averages 30 seconds of visit time versus one that averages 10 minutes of visit time, the latter is clearly a superior piece.

    36. Optimize for repeat visitors.

    For the most part, SEO is about attracting people to your site who have never heard of your brand before; optimizing for commonly searched queries is a way of getting in front of people who have otherwise never heard of you. However, it’s in your best interest to optimize for repeat visitors as well; publishing new updates frequently, encouraging users to come back for daily or weekly specials, and rewarding repeat customers with accumulating incentives can all help your strategy thrive.

    37. Optimize for local keywords.

    Not all companies will want or need to pursue a local SEO campaign; however, it’s crucial for businesses who have a brick-and-mortar presence and rely on customer foot traffic. Google’s local algorithm works differently and separately from its national algorithm, identifying the three most relevant and authoritative local businesses for a given query when it detects a local-specific indicator in what’s called its “Local 3-pack.” Chances are, Google will already know your location based on your business’s address and your presence in local citations (more on those later), but it could also be advantageous to optimize various pages and content entries of your site with local-specific keywords, such as the name of your city, state, or region. For help getting your business in the local 3-pack, see Local 3-Pack 101: Everything You Need to Know About Getting in the Top 3.

    Page-Level On-site Optimization

    38. Build personal brands.

    It should be obvious that you need a blog if you’re running an ongoing SEO campaign; as you’ll see in some of the coming strategies, the optimization work of your blog posts feeds into a number of SEO angles. However, before you start, it’s a good idea to set up author roles as personal brands in the context of your site. Personal brands will allow you to characterize various writers on your team, giving them each a unique voice and area of expertise. You can showcase these brands on an “author” or “team” page, but the real benefit is having these personal brands develop your articles. It will optimize your articles for author-specific searches and give you better options for guest posting and social media marketing (which I’ll dig into later).

    39. Optimize your title tags.

    Your title tags are the bits of information Google uses to fill in the headline for sites in its SERPs (like “AudienceBloom: Link Building & Content Marketing Agency” in the screenshot below). This tells Google much about the content of your page, so include at least one target keyword here. You’ll also need to make sure your titles are 70 characters or less, and try to make them catchy if you can. Remember, earning rankings in Google is only part of the equation—you also have to persuade your new viewers to actually click through. Most CMS platforms allow you to edit this easily for any page on your site.

    audiencebloom title tags

    40. Optimize your meta descriptions.

    Similarly, you should optimize the meta descriptions of your pages—these feed into the text beneath the green link to your website. Here, you have more wiggle room—160 characters—so make sure you include multiple target keywords that accurately describe the content you have on-site. Again, this is your chance to be persuasive, so show off your marketing skills and write copy that entices the user to actually click your result instead of the other 9 competing results on the page. While there’s debate about whether the meta description is actually a ranking factor anymore, there’s growing evidence that the CTR (click-through rate) of search results is a strong factor in the ranking algorithm, which means a good meta description could indirectly affect your rankings, depending on how well it compels users to click your result.

    41. Keep your title tags and meta descriptions unique.

    When you learn that every page of your site needs a title tag and a meta description, and that all of them should be optimized for target keywords, you might be tempted to create “templates,” which you can then copy and paste or modify only slightly to make quick work of optimizing each page. However, it’s actually in your best interest to develop unique titles and descriptions, from scratch, for every page. Having too many duplicates or near-duplicates can make you seem like you’re keyword stuffing. It will take some extra time, but it’s worth it. You can use a tool such as Screaming Frog to check the title tags and meta descriptions of each of your pages and identify duplicates or blanks.

    42. Include proper header tags on all your articles.

    In your website’s code, there are header tags, numbered sequentially (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to indicate where the main headlines and sub-headlinese of an article are. When evaluating the subject matter of content, Google looks at these tags to give it a better sense of the article’s structure. To optimize these, you’ll first need to outline your articles with headlines and sub-headlines, and then you’ll need to ensure they’re marked up with appropriate tags in the backend of your site. Finally, for each article, you’ll want to include keywords and/or highly descriptive phrases for these key opportunities.

    43. Optimize your URLs for your on-page content.

    I’ve already talked about general principles for URLs—they should be static, short, and featuring a breadcrumbs-style trail to help users with navigation. But on the page level, they should also be optimized to appropriately describe your on-site content. For example, if you have an article on how to make chocolate fudge, a URL ending in “how-to-make-chocolate-fudge” is more descriptive and therefore better optimized than “online-recipe-3331.” Generally, you’ll want to avoid any numbers or special characters, include keywords where you can, and strive for intuitiveness. If a user can figure out what a page is about just by looking at a URL (without even clicking it), that’s ideal.

    44. Include a few hundred words of unique content on every page.

    Every page of your site needs to have some content on it—otherwise, Google may see it as a placeholder page, something worthless, or something designed to manipulate users or search rankings. Obviously, the length of content you can write for a given page is dependent on its subject of focus, but you’ll want to include at least a few hundred words of content as a minimum. Of course, you’ll also have to make sure this content is unique—don’t copy and paste paragraphs between pages unless you have a darn good reason to. This advice applies to product and service pages; for blog posts or other content, aim for at least 1,000 words. For homepages, you don’t need to worry about this; focus instead on creating a high-converting design that drives users to the pages you want them to visit (such as product or service pages) along with a strong navigation architecture.

    45. Create specific pages to highlight your target keywords.

    Though some would argue this practice is somewhat antiquated, I still see positive results from it. For some of your most important target keywords and phrases, create dedicated pages with titles that correspond to those keywords. For example, you might create a page for “custom picture frames,” or one for “emergency vet clinics.” The only caveat here is that you’ll need to create pages that seem natural; in other words, if you have a strange-sounding page title (one that’s clearly just a play at ranking for a keyword), it could do your site more harm than good. Keep it natural.

    46. Utilize target keywords throughout your content.

    There isn’t a specific rule for how Google evaluates the keyword density of your content—in fact, thanks to the Hummingbird update, it pays greater attention to your semantics than the actual words and phrases you use. Still, it’s a good idea to include your desired keywords on every page of your site. This will increase the perceived relevance of your content to queries that match those keywords and phrases, and increase Google’s understanding of your brand and site. However, your keywords still need to be worked in naturally; if they appear unnatural, Google could flag you for keyword stuffing, which could cause your rankings for that page to drop thanks to the Penguin algorithm.

    47. Aim for high-length content posts.

    There’s no hard rule for how long your content has to be. I’ve seen incredibly short posts circulate virally and earn tons of links and long-winded detail-stuffed eBooks get practically no attention. The quality and appeal of your work is far more important than the length, but the data points toward longer posts as being more popular for link building and SEO—that is, at least several thousand words long. These posts tend to be more detailed, more practical, and more unique than shorter articles, and therefore attract more attention.

    48. Produce new content regularly.

    Google pays attention to how often you produce new blog posts. You might have a large archive of valuable posts from 2012 and before, but if you haven’t posted anything in 4 years, you’ll probably see a steady decline in your organic traffic as time passes on. Increasing the frequency of your updates won’t be a major boon here—though having more high-quality content is always a good thing—so strive to update your blog at least once a week.

    49. Make your content more useful.

    I’ve already casually mentioned that your content needs to be high-quality if it’s going to succeed; that’s because Google judges the quality of your piece when it considers how to rank your authority (both on a domain and page level). What does “high-quality” mean? A lot of things, actually—just take a look at the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines Google publishes. However, one of the most important qualities is usefulness. How beneficial is this content to an incoming audience? Do you answer their questions succinctly and accurately? Do you give them instructions or directions where appropriate?

    50. Make your content more unique.

    You’ll also need a degree of differentiation if you’re going to stand out in search engines. If you’re competing with several big-name companies with similar pieces of content, you’ll probably have a harder time getting that number-one position. But if your content features topics that no one else is doing, or if you explore those topics in new and innovative ways, nobody will be able to touch you. In many ways, SEO is just about being better than your main competitors. Take advantage of that.

    51. Update your content significantly.

    Google also pays attention to how often you update the content of your site and how significant those updates are. For example, if you rewrite the entirety of your homepage with information about your latest products, that registers as more significant than only changing a few words around every few years. It takes extra work to consistently keep your site updated, but it will help you not only earn more authority, but keep your users up to speed as well.

    52. Check your grammar and spelling on every page.

    Google has built-in quality detectors that can immediately evaluate the subjective quality of a written piece. For example, it can tell if the article was written by a native speaker of the language, and it can tell if the article is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. In the case of the latter, Google may degrade the quality of your work—even if it’s well-written—costing you serious ranking opportunities. You don’t need to freak out over every little detail, but do take a few extra minutes to proofread your pages before publishing them.

    53. Include multimedia in your content.

    Every content marketing strategy should have a place for multimedia content. Visual content, like images and videos, are naturally more engaging than written content because they require less focus for comprehension and indulge us in our strongest and most important physical sense. Make sure all of your posts have at least one visual element in them—even if it’s just a simple doodle or a photo of what you’re doing. It will increase the authority of your content and provide peripheral ranking benefits.

    54. Include supplementary content features.

    It’s also becoming more important to offer supplementary content features, such as interactive components. These could include calculators to help people estimate costs or project needs, checklists they can print out, infographics they can reference easily, or worksheets to help them put their new skills and knowledge to the test. Though there’s no direct evidence that there’s a specific ranking signal for these features, they will improve the engagement and quality of your content, which in turn will earn it more links, traffic, repeat visits, shares, and, as a result, higher search positions.

    55. Optimize for organic click-throughs.

    I referenced this briefly in bullet #40, but it’s worth revisiting in more detail here. This is a subject that’s been hotly debated over the years, but the most recent data seems to suggest that organic click-through rates (the percentage of people who see your entry in SERPs and click through to your site) does have a direct and significant bearing on the ranking of your site. For example, if you have higher-than-average CTRs, you’ll have a tendency to move higher in rankings; still, this is hard to measure because of the correlation between ranking and CTRs. Still, optimizing for higher CTRs is sure to be a benefit to you even if they didn’t have an impact on domain authority, so do what you can to encourage more people to click through to your pages with compelling, unique language. You can affect your CTR in search results by testing your title tags and meta description tags for each of your pages.

    56. Find and eliminate broken links.

    Google doesn’t like to find broken links on your site. If you have a link that points to an external source that source no longer exists (ie, it’s a 404 error page), it’s not a good user experience. It could also mean either your linked source wasn’t effective or worthwhile enough to stick around, or you don’t update your content frequently enough to keep it relevant. These aren’t good things. Take the time to occasionally comb through your old material and find any links that are broken; then, replace them with more modern, live equivalents. There are tools that can help with this, such as Screaming Frog.

    57. Include content tags.

    This is a way of categorizing your content, but on a smaller scale. With categories, you’ll select one or two big-picture themes in which your content topic fits. With tags, you’ll be selecting a number of different descriptors—sometimes into the double-digits—to assist in categorizing the blog post for searches. This is a key opportunity to tag relevant content with your target keywords—be sure to include multiple synonyms and variations if you have room.

    content tags

    (Image Source: WordPress)

    58. Use more bulleted and numbered lists.

    Providing your users with bulleted and numbered lists is a great way to make your content more engaging; not everyone has the time or patience to read every line of your deftly considered and worded content; the majority of them will probably just skim, taking away only high-level insights. Lists allow them to glean these insights and takeaways easier, helping them save time, which provides a better user experience. It also gives you an opportunity to include more sub-headlines, optimizing smaller entries of your content’s sub-sections for your target keywords. Use <h2> tags for your subheaders to maximize the SEO benefits here.

    59. Use 301 redirects appropriately.

    There are dozens of reasons to set up a 301 redirect, and almost all of them have benefits for SEO. For example, if you have inbound links pointing to a page of your site that no longer exists, you can use a 301 (permanent) redirect to re-route that passed authority to a new, equally relevant page of your site. It’s a way of telling search engine crawlers that you no longer wish to index the old page, but the new page should take its place. Best of all—they aren’t that difficult to set up.

    60. Fix 404 errors (for the most part).

    When someone attempts to access a page that no longer exists, it’s called a 404 error, and they can crop up for a number of reasons. You might have a server error or something wrong with your website, but it’s more likely that a page got deleted or removed. Some 404 errors are necessary to show that a page is gone, but others can interfere with your search efforts (if they appear as errors in search results or serve as dead-ends for older links). Correct these errors by restoring your old pages or setting up redirects.

    Link Building

    Note: We specialize in helping our clients with link building. If you’re interested in working with us, get in touch!

    61. Guest post on industry sites.

    A big part of success in SEO comes down to how many links are pointing to your site and where those links come from. Your domain authority is dependent on these metrics, but you can’t just go out and build links with abandon. Instead, your best bet is to use guest posts—custom-written content for external publications that contain a relevant, informative link pointing back to your domain. It’s hard to get featured as a guest contributor until you’ve built up some credibility, so one of the best places to start building links through guest posts is on sites relevant to your industry, such as industry news sites or forums.

    62. Guest post on higher-authority sites.

    As you gain more experience, respect, and followers in your specific niche, eventually you’ll want to move up to higher authority publications, where you’ll get more visibility and reach. Niche industry sites give you tons of opportunities to develop relevant content, but their authority scores tend to be on the low side. Instead, start making pitches to major national players that see hundreds of thousands of visitors a day. It’s hard to break into these sources, since they have high standards of quality to maintain, but even one link from a landmark source will justify your efforts. See The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging for help here.

    63. Diversify your inbound link profile.

    While it’s a great thing to become a guest contributor or columnist at a relevant publication, you’ll see diminishing returns from the value of each new link you acquire from that publication. You probably don’t need more than three links from any single publication, from an SEO perspective (though there are still benefits to having more links if they are driving referral traffic!). That’s why it’s a good idea to seek new publication sources in order to diversify your link profile.

    64. Build links on key pages.

    Some pages of off-site sources are able to pass more authority than others. For example, getting featured on the blog is a noteworthy achievement and you’ll earn substantial authority that way—but you could get even more SEO value or “link juice” if you’re featured on a “Partners” page, or if you have an entire page dedicated to your brand. Building links on more prominent, important pages can help you squeeze more PageRank flow out of every link you build.

    65. Focus your inbound links on key pages.

    “Authority” actually exists at both the domain and page level. A link pointing to a specific page of your site will pass authority to your domain overall, but also to that specific page. If you’re interested in getting higher rankings for one specific page of your site, you can use this to your advantage by funneling many of your links to that page. For example, if one of your products or services yields a significantly higher ROI or conversion rate, you can focus SEO efforts on that product or service by building more links to its corresponding page URL on your website. If you do this too excessively, though, it might appear unnatural to Google, so be sure to mix it up plenty.

    66. Use appropriate anchor text.

    Anchor text—the text that features the embedded hyperlink to your site—used to be a huge deal. Before Google’s Panda algorithm in 2011 (and then Google’s Penguin algorithm in 2012), anchor text manipulation was rampant because it worked so damn well. In those days, to get the most out of your link, you’d embed at least one keyword into your anchor text. Today, this could still theoretically be beneficial, but to a much lesser degree; aside from that, it’s actually the #1 way Google identifies link spam, so I recommend avoiding it altogether. Having too many links with unnatural anchor text (such as anchor text that includes a keyword within it) is the easiest way for Google to identify rank manipulation, and can quickly earn you a devastating penalty that can be extremely difficult to recover from. It’s far more important to ensure your anchor text flows naturally in the context of the article. Besides, assuming you’re building links through content marketing, like I recommend in SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide, then you’re not only dealing with Google catching your fishy anchor text; you’re dealing with real editors at the publications with whom you’re working. Many of them are trained to look out for manipulative anchor text, and if they see something suspicious, they could either refuse to publish your content, remove your link, or refuse to work with you at all.

    67. Utilize the nofollow tag strategically.

    If you’re guest posting regularly, you’ll find that guest posting has a ton of advantages unrelated to SEO, including passing referral traffic and building your brand awareness and reputation. If you’re interested in doing more guest posting but don’t want to spam links back to your site for fear of being accused of exchanging links, rely on the “nofollow” tag, which tells Google to not consider the link as a vessel for authority. You can also use the nofollow tag on your own site, to link to external sources without Google associating you with those sources.

    68. Consider link velocity.

    The rate at which a piece of content or a page earns links over time is referred to as “link velocity.” For example, the typical link velocity for a standout piece would be a high velocity in the beginning as links rush in, an average velocity after a few days, followed by a slow taper of links as the piece begins to age. If your content doesn’t have a link inbound link velocity, Google is less likely to consider it a “trending” or “timely popular” piece, and thus less likely to rank it highly in search results. What this means is you should focus on promoting your content extensively after publication so it can earn as many links – and as quickly – as possible. For help, see Content Unleashed: The Ultimate Guide to Promoting Your Published Content.\

    69. Cite yourself on Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia is a major authority, and earning a link there could be a major boon for your SEO. Wikipedia is also open to the public for editing, so you can link yourself wherever it seems appropriate. Keep in mind that the Wikipedia crowd takes their responsibilities seriously, so if your link isn’t 100 percent valuable, it’s probably going to be removed.

    Cite yourself on Wikipedia

    (Image Source: Wikipedia)

    70. Find and eliminate “bad links” in your profile.

    If you’ve ever built links or hired a company to build links for your website that could be considered spammy or questionable, then those links may be holding you back in the rankings. Unnatural links are algorithmically caught and monitored by Google – too many of them can cause a ranking penalty. That’s why it’s a good idea to routinely check your link profile and scan for any “bad” links. You can use Google Search Console (Search Traffic à Links to Your Site) to download a list of links pointing to your site, then analyze them using a tool like Screaming Frog or Scrapebox. When you find a spammy or suspicious link, first try to remove it yourself. If you can’t, contact the site’s webmaster and request its removal.

    71. Disavow links you can’t remove on your own.

    Sometimes, you’ll reach a wall—you won’t be able to remove a link at all, either manually or with the help of a webmaster. In these cases, use Google’s Disavow tool. It should only be used after you’ve already tried to get the links removed (which is optimal), but is a useful second-best option.

    72. Eliminate link exchanges.

    Google categorizes link exchanges as a link “scheme,” or a deliberate attempt to manipulate rankings. The “scheme” part of it comes into play when two sites agree to reciprocally link to each other to boost both parties’ search rankings. If you’ve engaged in a link exchange, either remove one or both links, or add the “nofollow” tag to one or both of them. If Google suspects you of engaging in link exchanges in such a way that it deems excessively manipulative, it will either nullify the value of the links, or, worse, hit your website with a ranking penalty.

    73. Capitalize on your competitors’ link wins.

    Using a tool like Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, SEMRush or SpyFu, you can take a closer look at your competitors’ link profiles to see what sites they’re getting content posted on, how much authority they’re getting, and what types of content they’re getting published. Odds are, if they can do it, you can do it too. It’s not a good idea to straight-up copy a competitor’s strategy, but you can use this as a research and learning tool to fuel your own strategic approach.

    74. Correct errors in local citations.

    Local citations aren’t “links” per se, but they are an important part of how Google measures your authority, especially in the context of local SEO. Broadly defined, these are instances of your business’s information listed in popular third-party resources, such as local directories and review sites. Google draws upon this information to gain insight on local businesses, and how you’re listed can have an impact on your visibility. For starters, you’ll want to hunt down and correct any errors you find in your existing local citations; make sure your company name, address, and phone number are correct at a minimum.

    75. Build new local citations.

    Like with links, local citations aren’t necessarily a game of quantity, but having more citations in more diverse places can help you achieve more authority—as well as earning you more visibility on other outlets. Take the time to build new local citations in directories and review sites where your business isn’t currently featured. As you might suspect, some directories have more weight than others, and are updated more frequently, so bear that in mind when searching for new places to establish references to your business. For most platforms, the submission process is free and simple—they’re incentivized to offer the most information.

    76. Encourage local reviews.

    On many of these local review sites, you’ll earn reviews from your customers; the more reviews you have and the more positive those reviews are, the higher you’re likely to rank in Google search results for local-specific queries, so take some steps to encouraging more positive reviews. You can’t pay for or modify reviews (if you do, you could be de-listed), but you can make your presence on Yelp and other review sites known by displaying their logos in your establishment. Furthermore, you can comment on good reviews to reinforce them and thank their respective authors, and reach out to negative reviewers to try and correct any regrettable situations.

    77. Create content that can go viral.

    Instead of building links manually or intentionally, you can go the route of attracting them naturally with the power of the content you produce. This method is far less predictable, but it also has great potential; if you can get a piece of your content to go viral, you could earn thousands of links in a single go. There are some factors that can increase the potential “virality” of your piece, such as making it long and detailed, adding elements of humor and surprise, and giving it an early push on social media, but it’s also a game of timing and pure luck.

    78. Ask for citations (subtly).

    If you have a piece of content that you’re using to earn more links (such as a research report), you can try to ask for links from people who use your research in their own pieces. Ideally, they’ll do this on their own, but the visibility of your request could be enough to make them pull the trigger. For example, at the end of your piece, you could say something like “like what you read? Feature our work in your own piece—just be sure to cite us.”

    79. Pace your efforts.

    This isn’t a strategy that can increase your search rankings all by itself, but it can increase the effectiveness of your link and local citation building campaigns. When you start to see early momentum, it’s easy to get excited and think that you’ll see even more impressive, faster results if you just build more links in a short period of time. However, building links too quickly can work against you, because doing so often decreases their quality; instead, it’s better to slowly escalate the authority and frequency of your link posting efforts. Draw up a plan and stick with it.

    80. Learn from your most popular content.

    Use Google Analytics or a similar platform to track the popularity of your best posts. What types of content seem to earn the most referral traffic? What external channels are passing the most authority to you? Which breakout features helped you earn the most inbound links? Learn which content qualities made these feats possible, and integrate them further into your ongoing efforts.

    Social Media

    81. Optimize your social profiles.

    Optimizing your social media profiles won’t help the domain authority of your existing site, but it will boost the visibility of those profiles in search engines. For example, if you fill out your Facebook profile with keywords related to your industry, there’s a higher chance that your Facebook profile will appear in those types of searches, not just in Google, but in Facebook, too. Furthermore, having robust social media profiles will increase the likelihood that they populate the search results for searches on your brand name. This is crucial for online reputation management. Fill out every field you can for as many platforms as you have for your brand, and be as descriptive and concise as possible.

    Optimize your social profiles

    82. Make it easy for people to connect with you.

    Having more followers won’t increase your rankings directly, but it will give you a bigger audience with whom you can share your content, which in turn will earn you more visibility on your content, which leads to more inbound links and social shares – factors that certainly do increase rankings. Make it easy for people to find and connect with your social profiles by including links to those profiles everywhere—on your site, in your emails, and in all your marketing and promotional material.

    83. Offer social share icons in all your content.

    In a similar vein, include social share icons for all your individual blog posts, making it easy for people to share it with the click of a button. Most people won’t share your article, even if they like it, unless it’s incredibly easy to do so. This is a simple step—it takes mere moments to set up—so there’s no excuse not to have it for your site. Here at AudienceBloom, we use Social Warfare, a plugin for WordPress that I really dig and highly recommend.

    84. Promote your latest content on as many outlets as possible.

    The biggest advantage social media gives you is a bigger platform to distribute your blog posts, which aids in visibility and increases your chances of earning authority-giving inbound links. Whenever you publish a new blog, make sure you promote it on every social platform you have. You can even go above and beyond social media and leverage social bookmarking sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon. For a full walkthrough on how to promote your content, as well as a nifty checklist you can print out and use each time, see Content Unleashed: The Ultimate Guide to Promoting Your Published Content.

    85. Ask for shares of your best content.

    It may seem like a breach of etiquette to ask your users to share your content, but as long as you do it sparingly, it can be a positive tool to increase the reach of your material. Save these requests for only the best content you produce, and help it reach bigger circles of followers faster and more reliably.

    86. Syndicate your older content on a recurring basis.

    Social publishing isn’t just about getting eyes on your latest and greatest pieces—it can also be a way to revitalize an older piece that has lost momentum, or make sure all your followers see all your content at some point in time. Keep a running list of all your “evergreen” pieces of content (which don’t have an expiration date or a temporary relevance), and work on syndicating them regularly, in a loop, over time.

    87. Engage with influencers.

    Social media influencers are people, preferably in your industry, who already have large followings and a reputation to match. They have the potential to reach thousands of people with a single mention, so you can use this to your advantage to get more eyes on your content (or more followers). Engage with influencers by asking them questions, replying to them in discussion, or sharing their material. You can even ask them to share some of your material (if there’s an incentive for them). Getting their attention could earn you a massive boost in visibility, along with inbound links and shares.

    88. Collaborate with influencers.

    Rather than asking influencers for favors or relying on their independent actions, consider collaborating with influencers on a shared piece of content. For example, you could conduct an interview or swap research to make a mutually beneficial piece. Regardless of where it’s hosted, you’ll earn at least one strong link to the piece immediately, and you’ll then earn the benefits of having two strong social media personalities sharing the piece in the future.

    89. Reach out to new potential followers.

    One of the best ways to build your following is also the simplest—simply reach out to new people who might be interested in your brand. Find companies similar to yours and access their list of followers, then follow those people to get their attention. Many of them will follow you back.

    90. Attract and retain audiences through engagement.

    You can both attract new followers and retain the ones you already have by increasing your engagement. “Engagement” here is a vague word that refers to any type of social interaction—it is “social” media, after all. This starts with basic social media courtesy, such as saying “thanks” to people who compliment your work and responding to questions or criticism about your content. It also extends to finding conversations relevant to your industry and partaking in them to show off your expertise. The more you engage with your users, the more likely they’ll want to keep following you.

    91. Optimize your YouTube videos.

    The majority of this guide has focused on Google as the main consideration in SEO, which is a good thing—Google still dominates the web with two-thirds of all search traffic—but there are other search engines to optimize for. For example, YouTube has its own ranking system. It’s somewhat similar to Google’s, drawing on keywords in the title and tags, as well as the quality and support for the content itself, but it’s worth considering as a secondary route of optimization. This is especially important because how you optimize your YouTube videos will affect how and whether they show up in straightforward Google searches. Post new videos on an occasional basis and optimize all of them for both modes of search.

    Optimize your YouTube videos

    (Image Source: SearchEngineWatch/TagSEO)

    92. Build up your personal brands.

    It’s also a good idea to build up your personal brands (such as your own, or your employees’) on social media. You’re already using them as ways to increase visibility of your content; optimizing their presence on social media is the next step. Work with the owner of each participating personal brand within your company and have them build individual social followings of their own. Ultimately, this will serve to make your blog content more personably syndicated (and therefore, more trustworthy), and also has the potential to multiply your overall social media audience a few times over.

    Correctional Strategies

    93. Reduce keyword volume in your content.

    Earlier in this article, I covered the importance of including keywords and keyword phrases in the body of your on-site content. This is a necessary tactic if you want to earn higher rankings. However, it’s also possible to over-optimize your content if you’re not careful. It’s easy to go overboard with keyword terms when you’re focused on making the most of your strategy, so take the time to reevaluate your content and eliminate any keywords that seem to stick out. Read your content aloud; if it sounds weird, revise it.

    94. Remove outbound links to spammy sites.

    Hopefully, you don’t have any links to spammy sites anywhere on your website. However, if you do, remove them as soon as you find them. The term “spammy sites” here is ambiguous; it can refer to any type of site that engages in unseemly behavior, such as spam (obviously), schemes, or generally deceitful tactics. It’s unlikely, but possible, that an external force would build these links on your site pointing outward, (such as if your site got hacked or someone gained unauthorized entry to it) so do what you can to keep your site clear of them. Otherwise, Google could start to associate your website with these black hat practitioners. I’ve actually had this happen on another website I own (not AudienceBloom.com) – a hacker gained access to my site, and placed links to spammy sites throughout my own site. Google started displaying warning messages to users that my site had been hacked, and its search traffic completely dropped down to zero. It was only then that I realized the site had been hacked. It was an expensive and time-consuming hassle to clean it all up, so instead of letting it happen to you, prevent the problem by securing your site.

    95. Disclose any sponsorships or affiliations.

    If you’re being sponsored, or if you’re linking to an affiliate, or even if you’re just reviewing a product that was given to you for free, make sure you disclose those relationships to your audience. Google has refined its rules for this over time, and it’s unlikely that you would face a harsh penalty for a violation here, but better safe than sorry. For example, let’s say you’re writing a review for a new tablet that was gifted to your company; in the body of your review, you can explicitly state how this was given to you and why, and make sure any links are nofollow links as an extra layer of security.

    96. Discontinue use of sneaky redirects.

    The more open you are, the better, and that rule applies to redirects as well. One formerly popular tactic was to set up “sneaky” redirects, which take a user headed for one page and lead them to something they didn’t originally want. As a scheme, this could serve to help you get more traffic to a sales page by poaching traffic from other, more organically valuable pages. Doing this, of course, is a violation of user trust, and is considered deceitful. If Google catches you doing this, they’ll make you regret it pretty quickly. Ensure you don’t have any sneaky redirects set up, and if you do, remove them.

    97. Keep your ads tastefully and appropriately placed.

    There’s nothing wrong with placing ads on your site—and you wouldn’t think so, considering Google makes the vast majority of its revenue from advertising. However, the types of ads and placement of those ads can have a massive impact on your overall user experience. For example, advertising products your customers might actually be interested in the footer and sidebars of your website, away from your main content is ideal. Overwhelming your users with popup ads (especially on mobile devices, where they occupy the entire tiny screen) is not only frustrating to users, but it’s now a negative ranking signal to Google. This is about more than just improving your search rankings; it’s about keeping your users satisfied.

    98. Stop auto-generating or “spinning” your content.

    Lately, there’s been a trend of automatically generated content encroaching on the content marketing world. Because most webmasters recognize the need for ongoing content but don’t want to spend the time or money to have real content developed by humans, they rely on cheap, automatic bots or tools that either generate nonsensical content from scratch, or take existing content and “spin” it into a slightly different variation (usually by automatically replacing certain words with synonyms). These shortcuts might seem like a cheap way to trick Google and get more content for less time and money, but Google’s Panda algorithm is specifically designed to detect this sort of manipulation and penalize websites that use it.

    99. Keep your meta tags to a minimum.

    Just like with keywords, this is actually a good strategy that only becomes burdensome when you abuse it. When you’re considering meta tags to describe your content, images, and video, you’ll likely run through the list of accurate descriptors and try to find as many target keywords as possible to include; after all, there’s rarely a technical limit imposed on how many meta tags you can assign to a piece of content. However, stuffing your meta tags with keywords can not only look unnatural to Google, but it can totally give away all your target keywords to any crafty competitor who wants to know exactly what keywords you’re targeting (since meta tags are publicly accessible in the HTML code of your site).

    100. Use a reconsideration request to lift a penalty.

    If you’ve followed all the strategies and best practices in this guide so far, and you’ve avoided any schemes, shortcuts, or other gimmicks in your strategy, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll ever face a penalty from Google. That being said, if you choose the wrong SEO agency, or deliberately manipulate your rankings, or are the victim of rare, random chance, you might eventually encounter a penalty that sends your rankings plummeting. In this scenario, you can contact Google to file a reconsideration request and work your way to restoring your rankings to normal. If you suspect you’ve got a manual or algorithmic penalty and need help recovering from it, including filing a reconsideration request, see The Definitive Guide To Google Manual Actions and Penalties.

    Use a reconsideration request to lift a penalty

    (Image Source: Google)

    The Golden Rule

    101. Measure, learn, adjust, repeat.

    There’s one strategy more important than all the others, and it applies to the majority of these tactics in some ways. It’s a “golden rule” to your SEO approach, and if you follow it, you’ll be more likely to see your results improving over time. The idea is to measure, learn, adjust, and repeat; collect as much data as you can about your strategy’s performance, learn why it improved or was weakened, make adjustments to your strategy, and repeat the process again. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to improve your approach—no matter what tactics you’re using. Believe it or not, this list is still not comprehensive. There are tiny ranking factors I haven’t mentioned, there are ranking factors we haven’t yet discovered (and ones Google hasn’t disclosed), and because of the nature of this post, I’ve deliberately kept some points brief that warrant a more thorough explanation in other formats.

    This post isn’t everything there is to know about SEO, but it is relatively thorough in its approach. With the strategies and tactics you’ve learned in this guide, you should have enough ammunition to launch and maintain a healthy SEO strategy.

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  2. How to Use Landing Pages to Earn More Revenue

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    Every business could use more revenue; it’s why online marketing exists and remains so popular across a number of strategies and platforms. But there’s a tactic that many marketers aren’t using, and it’s a relatively simple one, at least conceptually. It has to do with landing pages, which exist as somewhat separate pages of your website. Depending on how you create, integrate, and monitor and adjust these “landing pages” in the context of your overall marketing strategies, you could stand to earn far more sales—and revenue for your business.

    This guide will introduce you to the concept of landing pages, how to implement them effectively, and best practices for securing long-term gains for your investment.

    What is a “landing page”?

    First, let’s define exactly what a “landing page” is. There are a variety of forms here, but the basic concept is simple. A landing page is a specifically dedicated page of your website tied to some means of attracting customers. Visitors from various channels, such as social media or paid advertising, will “land” on these pages after clicking a link, and be presented with an opportunity to engage. Usually, these engagements are tied to some kind of value, making the focal point of the landing page a conversion opportunity. Usually, these pages are left off the main navigation, as they serve a niche function and may not be relevant for your standard audience.

    For example, you could create a landing page for your social media audience, advertising an eBook you’ve recently written. You could use this eBook as an incentive for new email newsletter subscribers, funneling your followers to the form contained in your landing page and securing a number of successful conversions.

    Landing pages offer a number of advantages, which I’ll get into in the next main section, but first, let’s take a look at exactly why landing pages are one of the best tools you have to increase your bottom-line revenue.

    Revenue and conversions

    The goal here is to gain more conversions, but the type of conversion you seek is up to you. Your conversion could be tied to a direct means of achieving revenue—such as selling a specific product—or an indirect means—such as acquiring more signups for your email newsletter. Either way, your goal is to get users to interact with your page on some level, which will ultimately drive more revenue to your business.

    How can landing pages do this?

    Key Advantages of Landing Pages

    Landing pages give your campaign a number of distinct advantages, most of which revolve around the customizability of the strategy. You can create a number of different landing pages, running simultaneously or one at a time, for any and all inbound marketing campaigns you have in operation, and keep them separate from the rest of your website at the same time. In this section, we’ll explore these individual advantages, and some key opportunities for development.

    Better audience targeting

    First off, landing pages give you an enhanced ability to target your audience. Let’s say you have two demographic segments: you appeal to single, young adults as well as parents of young children. These are two distinct demographics, and you’ll likely use two different marketing methods to target them (such as newer social media platforms for young adults and paid advertising for parents). If you funnel them both to the same website, you’ll have to speak in generic terms, which could lower your relevance and overall engagement, but landing pages give you the ability to segment your audience according to their demographic makeup.

    This is perfectly illustrated by the pizza-related landing pages below. Look how one variant targets families specifically, while the other targets single eaters.

    pizza landing pages design

    (Image Source: WishPond)

    Better analytics

    Using landing pages can also help you get better data from your audience, in a number of different ways. First, you’re isolating your customers’ behavior to only one page; rather than tracking the complicated paths your users take throughout your website to convert, the process is a simple yes/no opportunity. Second, when you have multiple landing pages running at the same time, it’s easy to compare your data apples-to-apples. Take a look at this chart as an example:

    landing page analytics hubspot

    (Image Source: Hubspot)

    Finally, you have a better ability to track your performance over time, which is vital as you make adjustments to your marketing page (and your landing page as well—more on that in the next section).

    Just keep in mind that in order to reap the analytics benefits of a landing page, you need to be actively tracking and measuring this data. The simple installation of a Google Analytics script is likely enough to get you the information you need here, but double check your tracking proactively to make sure everything’s in order before your campaign goes live.

    AB tests and experimentation

    Due to their flexible nature and similar structure, you can easily use landing pages as AB tests and as platforms for experimentation. On a surface level, this makes it easier to analyze and improve your landing pages over time. For example, if you aren’t sure what type of layout to offer, you can set up two almost-identical landing pages with differences in layout, run them simultaneously for the same audience, and objectively determine which one is better. And since landing pages are relatively easy to create, you don’t even have to limit yourself to AB tests—you can do ABC or ABCDE if you have the resources for it.

    AB tests

    (Image Source: Hubspot/ComScore)

    Experimentation here will maximize your landing pages’ potential profitability, so use it often as a means of self-improvement. It’s hard to say exactly what factors will encourage more conversions, so tweak everything to see what works and what doesn’t.

    Short-term campaigns

    You don’t have to use landing pages only for destinations in your long-term inbound marketing campaigns. In fact, they have a distinct advantage when used as measures for short-term stints, such as temporary promotions or seasonal items.

    For example, let’s say you’re featuring a sale on one of your top items, or that you have a new product you’re coming out with. You can use a landing page to build specific hype around your promotion without deviating from your standard website strategy.

    Search optimization

    One of the greatest advantages of landing pages is their ability to be optimized for search. Even though they main not appear in your main navigation, or be straightforwardly accessible to users on your site, they still have the URL structures, titles, descriptions, and on-page content that any page can use to rank for a Google search:

    ultimate guide to onsite seo

    What’s the advantage here, when you could just create a specific page of your website to do the job? The big opportunity is to target niche keywords you may not otherwise include throughout your site. It allows you to cater to specific topics and specific audiences without interfering with the rest of your strategy. Of course, you’ll still need backlinks and offsite optimization if you want your landing pages to rank, but I’ll touch on this in a future section.

    Best Practices for Landing Pages

    Now you know exactly how and why landing pages are valuable, so let’s turn our attention to making the most of each landing page. It’s not enough to simply create a page, tie it to an inbound campaign, and hope for the best. There are a series of best practices you’ll have to follow, in concept, design, content, and execution, if you want to earn the greatest amount of revenue from the tactic.

    Conversion opportunity

    The bottom line for any landing page is the number of conversions it can generate. Naturally, you’ll want yours to earn as many conversions as possible. For that, you’ll need to optimize your page to encourage more conversions, regardless of what “type” of conversion you’re offering.

    • Overall focus. Think of your landing page as a machine to generate conversions. That is your focus. If you keep everything on your landing page focused on achieving more conversions, you’ll maximize your conversion rate. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting distracted with things like promoting your company image or leading users to other sections of your site. Your design, layout, and copy should all “funnel” the user to fill out your form (or complete a purchase), with no opportunities for that focus to be lost. These are concise, singularly functional pages, so don’t let yourself get carried away with chasing secondary goals.
    • Prominent call-to-action. You’ll also need a prominent and final “call-to-action” on your landing page. Even though your headlines and copy should make it clear that you want your users to convert, your CTA (usually a button) will be the final threshold a user has to cross before passing revenue to your business. Make it prominent with contrasting coloration, a strong, compelling phrase, and a bit of explanatory text as well. CrazyEgg demonstrates this well:

    call to action crazy egg

    (Image Source: Wordstream/CrazyEgg)

    A valuable offer

    Conversion opportunities can be lumped into two main groups: product purchases and user signups. In both groups, you’ll have to prove the value of your offer before a user will be persuaded to convert. In the case of product purchases, this means you have to show off the value of your product with bullet points, advantages, and possibly reviews and case studies. Make your user see the true value of your product.For user signups, don’t take user personal information for granted—there’s a value to this, and you’ll have to provide a value in return if you want to receive it. There are several ways you can do this:

    • Free trials. You could offer a free trial of your service, especially if you’re a SaaS company. This will entice users to part with their personal information, and will give you an easy opportunity to sell them on your full services down the road.
    • Free content. This is an extremely popular way to earn new user signups. Here, you’ll create a landmark piece of content, such as an eBook, a template, a toolkit, or even a lesson series, and offer it as an exchange for users’ personal data. Hubspot uses this on a rotating basis:

    brilliant home page design

    (Image Source: Hubspot)

    • Newsletter subscription. You could use your email newsletter as the “value” in question—as long as you can succinctly prove that the content you’re distributing is actually valuable.
    • Discounts. Finally, you can give users discounts or promotions (on your products or an unaffiliated brand’s) in exchange for their information.

    Concise headlines and copy

    The content of your landing page is going to make a big difference in how users interact with it. First, make sure your headlines and body copy are concise—now isn’t the time for long paragraphs of highly detailed content. Provide a link to your main site for users who want to learn more about you, but keep your landing page material as short and sweet as possible. Remember, your goal is to get a conversion. Nothing more, nothing less.

    You’ll want your headlines to be compelling and exciting, so show off your brand personality and use strong, urgent language to motivate your users to take action. Use your body copy to sell your offer (bullet points work great here) and of course, be sure to craft a powerful few-words-long phrase to use as your final CTA. This is one of the hardest areas to nail, so don’t be afraid if you don’t have it perfect in round one—there are plenty of ways to experiment with your headlines and copy as you continue your strategy.

    Aesthetically appealing design

    “Aesthetically appealing” is one of the vaguest and subjective phrases I can think of to describe the layout and visual appeal of a landing page, but it’s appropriate because of how many directions you can take here.

    There’s a basic “formulaic” kind of layout you can use to get started. This usually has your form featured prominently, with your logo, headlines, body copy, and peripheral material (like images and/or video) stacked against each other. This is good to get started with, but you’ll also want to customize your approach—you don’t want your landing page to look like every other page out there.

    landing page design example

    (Image Source: Unbounce)

    The key features here are keeping all your content “above the fold” (a term that means less and less as mobile marketing becomes more significant), using colors and fonts to emphasize key areas and avoid missed material, and organizing your sections as logically as possible. Strive for an “at a glance” style of presentation; remember, your users will be making their decisions rather quickly, so you need to convince them as swiftly as possible.

    One other important note about your design; keep it as branded as possible. You’ll want to feature your logo at the top of your landing page, keep the coloration in line with your brand, and of course leverage the power of your brand voice throughout. Make your brand stand out—even if you don’t convert users, you’ll at least stick in their memory.

    Easy, approachable functionality

    The functionality of your landing page is also important—if users are forced to jump through hoops, or if they become frustrated in any way by your page, they’ll abandon it without converting. These are just a few of the simple ways you can improve your functionality:

    • Don’t force a scroll. All of your most important content, especially your form, should be featured above the fold. If you make users scroll before you start effectively convincing them, you’ll lose deals. Feel free to offer content below the fold, but keep it limited to supplementary material that not everyone’s going to need.
    • Reduce your required fields. This is a huge deal—users want to spend as little time on your tasks as possible, so keep your forms limited to only a handful of fields. If all you’re looking for is subscribers or additions to your database, consider asking only for names and email addresses. If you have a particularly valuable offer, you can ask for more.
    • Simplify your steps. Users should complete your conversion process in as few steps as possible. If you force them to go through many steps of a checkout, they may bounce before ever completing the process. A one-click checkout isn’t always possible, but it’s something to strive for.
    • Improve loading times. This is a basic step, but one that shouldn’t be ignored; keep your loading time snappy by reducing your image sizes, limiting your on-page content (images and videos), and eliminating any unnecessary code or meta data from your back end.

    Trust factors

    Before users will convert, they have to have some level of trust in your brand. Since most of these users will be unfamiliar with your brand when they sign up, this can be difficult to pull off—you need to call upon the value of trust factors to get the job done:

    • Customer reviews and testimonials. Include a handful of customer reviews and testimonials. For some brands, this will mean going all-out with personalized video reviews. For others, it will mean showing off an aggregated star rating. Either way, social proof can go a long way in securing the trust of your newest visitors.
    • Publisher and partner affiliations. If you have partnerships, publishers, or affiliations that will seem valuable to your users, show them off! They take up very little space, and make a big impression with your users. Take a look at how AudienceBloom uses them:

    affiliations

    (Image Source: AudienceBloom)

    • Trust badges. Trust badges are like publisher affiliations, but are usually associated with institutions like the BBB, PayPal, or other places that offer formal certifications for various business elements.
    • Guarantees and trials. You can also secure trust by making the transaction more secure; for example, you can offer a money-back guarantee, or promise a free trial before having to start. Even a simple statement of “it’s free!” can increase your conversion rate:

    free trials landing page design

    (Image Source: Unbounce)

    • Alternate contact information. Give people more options to reach you, such as with a phone number or a live chat window. Most people won’t take you up on this information, but they’ll feel like you’re more “real” if you offer it, and they’ll grow to trust you more.

    Search optimization

    Finally, you’ll want to optimize your landing page for search engines. I’m only going to touch on the basics here, since I’ve delved into topics of onsite and offsite optimization previously:

    • Onsite factors. Make sure your landing page has a title and description appropriate to its purpose, and relevant to potential searchers. You’ll also want to make sure your URL is concise, descriptive, and features as few numbers and non-alphanumeric characters as possible. You should have at least a few hundred words of content on your page, and all your images and videos should be optimize to be crawled by search engines. If your landing page is relevant to the rest of your onsite content, you can even work on interlinking it.
    • Offsite factors. Most of your offsite optimization will revolve around the quantity and quality of links pointing to your landing page. Strategically target publishers to maximize your relevance to your target audience, and diversify your portfolio by including a number of different backlink sources. This will increase your page authority, which in turn will increase your proclivity to rank for relevant queries—just make sure your links are valuable and relevant, which can be hard to pull off if your landing page is focused strictly on sales.

    Integrating Your Landing Pages

    Most of the best practices I’ve covered thus far have related to the layout and structure of a single landing page, existing in a vacuum. Once a user gets to your landing page, these tactics will help you tremendously. But what about the path they take to your landing page, and what about how they relate to the strategies driving customers to them in the first place?

    For these considerations, you’ll also have to learn to integrate your landing pages effectively.

    Match the medium

    When structuring your landing page and drawing up headline copy, keep your chosen medium in mind. For example, let’s say you’re tying one of your landing pages to a segment of your social media audience. In this case, you can assume that most of your users will be on mobile devices, they’ll be looking for fast transactions, and they’re probably plugged into current events. Contrast this with a traffic source like referral traffic from a major source of information—these users will likely be in the middle of a major decision, and will have more time to consider their next actions carefully.

    Of course, it’s possible to send multiple traffic streams to a single landing page, especially if your target demographics have multiple means of communication and interaction. This is a general consideration, and should be treated with a degree of flexibility.

    Match the message

    You’re also going to want to match the message of your lead-in closely. For paid advertising campaigns, your landing page content should closely match the headline and copy you used in your ad. For other campaigns, you likely used a headline or short sentence to draw people in. Whatever the case, you need to keep a degree of consistency, or else your users are going to feel alienated and jarred when they start navigating your page.

    VistaPrint has a great example of message-matching done right. Take a look at the process here—a search for “cheap business cards” leads to this prominent advertisement, which promises 500 cards for $9.99. Click on the link and you’ll be met with the basic headline “standard business cards,” which matches the query and the ad, along with a price and quantity offer that exactly meets the expectations the ad set up.

    cheap business cards

    vista print landing page

    (Image Source: VistaPrint)

    There are no surprises and no sudden changes here.

    Compare and contrast

    Finally, I highly encourage you to launch more than one landing page, even if it’s only two variations of the same idea. Just as conducting a survey with one person doesn’t give you nearly as much information as conducting the same survey with many people, the more landing pages you have to look at in similar live environments, the better. Compare and contrast your approaches, keeping objectively measurable data at the center of your interpretations.

    Ongoing Considerations

    As you continue to run your landing pages in the context of your marketing campaign, there are a few ongoing best practices to keep in mind:

    • Measure everything you can. This is crucial. If you want to glean the most powerful insights from your audience, you need to measure everything you can—that means the basic information like traffic volume and conversion rates, but also lesser information like heat maps of user interaction. You won’t have to look at every piece of data you gather, but you need to gather it in case you want it later; much of your conclusions will be based on historical and comparative findings, so it’s definitely better to have too much information and not use it than to lose data you wish you had.
    • Experiment and refine your approach. Landing pages are not a strategy meant for one-time creation and execution. They are an organic strategy, evolving over time, and only over several rounds of changes will they start to improve in meaningful ways. Furthermore, you can’t rely on your conceptual or hypothetical assumptions to hold true; challenge yourself by changing your landing pages in unique and speculative ways. You are an experimenter, and only through trial and error will you learn, for sure, which tactics are effective and which ones aren’t.
    • Don’t manage more than you can handle. In an earlier section, I mentioned that having more landing pages was better; this is true in terms of the amount of data you’re able to gather, but at the same time, don’t try to manage more than you can handle simultaneously. Each of your landing pages requires attention, maintenance, and adjustment to earn growth, so the more you add to your plate, the fewer time and resources you can spend on each one. Keep your list consolidated to a group you can actively manage, and during the beginning of your campaign, limit your focus to only a few.
    • Hedge your bets. Invest in a number of different areas if you want to see the biggest return for your money; this means using landing pages for a number of separate marketing channels as well as using strongly differentiated designs and content to appeal to your audiences. If you have a major traffic stream (i.e., thousands of monthly visitors), don’t risk them all on one untested landing page; segment your traffic to “hedge your bets” and balance out the winners and losers.
    • Drop what doesn’t work. When you spend hours of time concepting and creating a landing page, you don’t exactly like to admit that it isn’t getting the job done. But like it or not, some of your landing pages, in part or in full, simply aren’t going to work. When you realize this, drop the dead weight immediately. It isn’t going to bring any additional value to you.

    Getting Started

    Marketers everywhere are increasing their online marketing budgets, and you should be doing the same. Landing pages are a cost-efficient way to make almost any marketing strategy you currently follow more effective, and they don’t take much work or experience to get started. In fact, if you’re currently using a template-based site or a convenient CMS like WordPress or Drupal, you can start creating your own landing pages immediately. They don’t have to be fancy at first—so long as they follow the best practices I’ve outlined in detail above. Instead, the true power in landing pages comes with your ongoing adjustment and refinement.

    The sooner you get started with your landing page strategy, the more you’ll stand to earn in long-term revenue, so begin your strategy now—even if your pages aren’t perfect.

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  3. The Future of On-site SEO (in 2016 and Beyond)

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    SEO is always in a state of fluctuation, but most of the updates and changes we pay attention to are ones that affect some small component of our overall strategies. For example, the Panda update of 2011 affected how the algorithm evaluated the quality of content, and the Penguin update the very next year changed how Google evaluated links. What if there’s a change coming that fundamentally overhauls one of the biggest pillars of successful optimization?

    The Role of Onsite Optimization

    “Onsite optimization” covers a lot of ground, but essentially, it’s a system of constructs, rules, and tactics that you can use to modify your site and make it more visible to search engines, as well as more authoritative in those engines’ eyes. Historically, there have been some significant changes to how onsite optimization works—for example, a decade ago, it was neither imperative nor even appropriate to optimize your site for mobile devices. Today, having a non-optimized mobile site is archaic, and can significantly stifle your potential growth. However, by and large, most onsite optimization factors have remained consistent.

    onsite optimization

    (Image Source: SearchEngineWatch)

    The bottom line for onsite optimization is that it sets your site up for the search engine rankings you want. If you’re interested in a fairly exhaustive guide on the subject of onsite optimization, you can check out AudienceBloom’s (Nearly) Comprehensive Guide to Onsite Optimization.

    Why Onsite SEO Could Be in for Massive Changes

    So why are we on the verge of a potential disruption in the world of onsite optimization? There are three factors working together here:

    • Different forms of search. First, you have to recognize that there are different types of search engines entering the game. Personal digital assistants, which would have been considered impossibly futuristic just a few decades ago, are now commonplace, and users are searching in new ways—mobile devices alone have had a dramatic impact on how people use search in the modern world.
    • Advanced data interpretation. If you’ve been plugged into any tech news in the past few years, you know the power of big data and how much insight we’ll be able to gather on users and systems in the near future. More user data means more sophisticated ways of evaluating user experiences, which could lead to further refinement of onsite ranking factors.
    • New types of “sites.” Finally, we have to recognize that what’s considered a “site” may be undergoing a significant evolution. I’ll touch on this more in the next section, but suffice it to say, the traditional website may be on its last legs. How can you perform onsite optimization where there is no site? We’ll explore this idea later on.

    With that being said, let’s explore some of the potential game-changers in the onsite optimization world, some of which could start having a massive effect on how we optimize websites as early as this year.

    App-Based SEO

    The first and potentially most significant trend I want to explore is the development of app-based SEO. Obviously, apps have permeated our society thanks to the popularity of mobile devices and the convenience of app functionality. Since apps don’t require the intermediary step of firing up a web browser, they’re becoming a more popular means of discovering online content and using online-specific functionality.

    What does this have to do with onsite SEO? Everything.

    Existing App SEO

    First, it’s important to acknowledge the amount of app SEO already relevant to today’s users. Apps are starting to serve as an alternative to traditional websites, occasionally offering what websites can’t, but more often offering what websites do, but in a more convenient, device-specific package.

    The fundamental crux of app SEO is optimizing your app to be indexed by Google (and other search engines), much in the same way that onsite optimization ensures your website is indexed. For most apps, this involves setting up communication between your app listing and Google’s search bots, so Google can draw in information like your app name, a simple description, an icon associated with your app, and any reviews. Google can then provide your app (along with an “install” button) in SERPs whenever a user types in a relevant query.

    mobile app seo

    (Image Source: Google)

    There’s also an app SEO feature known as “app deep linking,” but I’m hoping there’s a catchier name for it in the near future. This functionality allows you to structure links that point to interior pages or screens of your app, giving Google the ability to link to those pages or screens directly in search results.

    http url in app

    (Image Source: Google)

    There’s one limitation to this process: users must have the app already installed to see these deep links in their search results. But there’s a solution in beta!

    App Streaming

    Google’s latest brainchild is a functionality called “app streaming,” which allows users to access deep linked content within apps, and sometimes entire app functions themselves, without ever downloading the app to their devices. The premise is somewhat simple; Google hosts these apps, and allows users to use only the relevant portions of them, much in the same way that Netflix streams movies and shows as you’re watching them.

    app streaming

    (Image Source: TechCrunch)

    The concept is even expanding to advertising, which is great for companies that revolve around the use of mobile apps. Companies may allow for an in-results “trial” offer of their apps, giving users a chance to stream the app before they buy it:

    trial offer word search

    (Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

    So what does all this mean? It means that apps are developing their own “kind” of onsite optimization, unique from what we’re used to in traditional websites. For now, it might seem like a gimmick, but there’s reason to believe this change could be coming to all of us, sooner than we might think.

    Directional Shift

    The most important factor to remember here is the way consumer trends are developing. Mobile traffic has rocketed past desktop traffic, and there’s no signs of its momentum stopping anytime soon.

    global mobile users

    (Image Source: SearchEngineWatch)

    App adoption is also on an upward trend, correlating strongly with mobile traffic data (as you might have predicted). Because of this, users will demand more app functionality in their search results (however those results might be generated), and search engines will do more to favor apps.

    Could Apps Replace Traditional Websites?

    The most important question for this section is whether all these fancy app SEO features and rising app use could eventually replace traditional websites altogether. Conceptually, apps are just “better” versions of website. They’re locally hosted, so they’re somewhat more reliable, they offer more unique, customizable experiences, they can be accessed directly from your device, sparing you the intermediary step of using a browser, and there’s nothing a website offers that an app can’t.

    But just because apps “can” replace traditional websites, it doesn’t mean they inevitably will, especially with older generations who might be reluctant to adopt apps over the traditional websites they’ve known throughout the entire digital age. Still, even if apps don’t replace traditional sites entirely, they’ll still be significant players in how SEO develops in the future.

    Does Your Business Need an App?

    As a related note to this discussion, you may be wondering if your business “needs” to adopt an app, since they’re becoming so popular and influential in the SEO realm. The answer, currently, is no. Traditional websites are still used by the vast majority of users, and the cost of developing an app is often only worth it if you have a specific need for one as part of your business model, or if there’s significant consumer demand.

    Rich Snippets and Instant Answers

    On another front of development are rich answers, sometimes referred to as instant answers, or Knowledge Graph entries. These are concise answers that Google provides users who search for a simple, answerable query, and they come in a variety of forms. They may be a few lines of explanatory text describing the solution to a problem, or a complex chart, calendar, or graphical depiction, depending on the nature of the query.

    Take a look at these examples:

    google instant answers

    instant answers google search

    Note how the answer in the bottom example contains a citation, with a link pointing to the source of the information. Google draws all its Knowledge Graph information from external sources, and if yours is one of the contributors, you’re going to earn this visibility. Since users are getting the answers they’re looking for, you may not get as much traffic as an ordinary top position, but you will be the most visible in the results.

    The Rise in Rich Answers

    The most important optimization influencer here is the sheer increase in how many rich answers are provided. Google is developing this functionality at a fast rate because it understands the sheer value to users—getting the answer you wanted, immediately, without ever having to click a link, is the next generation of search engines. Just in the past year, there’s been a massive surge in the number of queries that are answered with rich answers, corresponding with Google’s increasing ability to decipher and address complicated user queries.

    growth in rich answers

    (Image Source: StoneTemple)

    Personal digital assistants, too, are capable of providing more direct answers to users. So what does this increased ability to provide direct information mean for onsite optimization?

    Structured Data as a Ranking Signal

    The first possibility is that structured data might become a ranking signal. Google and other search engines depend on websites to use a specific architecture, a structured markup, to provide information that can be used for such answers. Schema.org is a great resource for this, and even amateur coders can implement this markup on a site in relatively little time. Accordingly, Google may start rewarding sites that offer more completely adherent pages, or ones that offer better information.

    John Mueller addressed this recently:

    structured data

    (Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

    Competition and Complicating Factors

    There are a handful of factors to consider here that complicate the relationship of onsite optimization to rich answers:

    • The competition factor. There’s only one spot for the top position in a rich answer situation, which means competition is fiercer than ever. You have to provide not only the most relevant answer for a user’s query, but also earn the highest authority out of anyone competing for the spot. This demands more offsite optimization and authority-focused SEO.
    • The decline of organic traffic and traditional SERP entries. The provision of instant answers makes it somewhat less likely that users will click through links. They will also be less likely to see organic search entries further down the list, decreasing the significance of the “traditional” SERP layout, and possibly affecting the relevance of existing onsite factors like title tags and meta descriptions (more on this later).
    • Alternative targets. In the short-term, it’s better to target and provide complex information that Google may not currently be able to provide answers to. However, as the Knowledge Graph becomes more advanced, this will be harder and harder for businesses to do.

    The bottom line here is that directly provided answers are morphing the traditional SERP, the average user experience, and are changing what it takes for your site to be perceived as an authority.

    User Experience Factors

    The bottom line for search engines is to make users happy, and they’re going to evolve as they learn more information about what workers want and need. Technologies are becoming advanced enough to draw in big data about huge swaths of users; this will soon make it possible for Google and other search engines to learn even more about how their users interact with sites. This, in turn, will force webmasters to adopt more onsite changes that favor beneficial user experiences.

    User Behavior and Engagement

    Currently, user behavior serves as a peripheral ranking factor; longer time spent on page is a general indicator of a high-authority or otherwise high-value site, while higher bounce rates is an indicator of much lower authority. In the near future, Google may be able to look at even more specific usability factors as ranking signals, such as how quickly they scrolled through the site, whether or not it appeared as though they were reading content, and in what order they clicked your links.

    User engagement factors may similarly come into play. For example, how quickly a user moves to leave a comment on your blog, or what other apps the user connects to may indicate how authoritative your site is.

    Qualitative Optimization

    These new features, combined with other applications of big data, will make onsite optimization more qualitative in nature. In addition to hitting the mark with the “fundamentals” (some of which are described in the next section), your site will be required to qualitatively please your user base, which will require significant testing and adjustment. For some webmasters, this is nothing new; it’s what’s required for conversion optimization, but soon, search engines may demand it.

    Existing Factors

    So far, I’ve mostly been exploring how new technologies and trends will influence the development of new additions to the onsite optimization world. But what about the onsite optimization strategies that already exist? How are they going to be affected over the next few years? Will they remain the same? Disappear? Evolve? I want to take a quick look at some of the most important factors, and how they might develop with the times:

    • Basic functionality. The “basic” functionality of your site refers to users’ ability to access your site, load all of its content (including videos and images), and consume that content without any significant barriers, across all devices and browsers. As a general concept, this is going to remain identical—you’ll always need your site (or app) to perform. However, those performance standards might change with consumer adoption of new technologies, similar to how mobile devices spurred the necessity of “mobile optimization.”
    • Mobile optimization. This is the perfect segue for mobile optimization, another major tenet of modern onsite optimization. What’s going to happen to mobile optimization? For starters, it’s probably going to stop being a term. We’re a few years away from mobile devices becoming so entrenched in our society that we stop seeing them as “new,” and start seeing mobile optimization as a standard by default. From there, there will probably be even stranger devices and user experiences to start worrying about.
    • URL structures and sitemapping. Currently, search engines demand some level of sitemapping to easily categorize and interpret your site, and a URL structure that’s easy for users to follow (with appropriate names to help search engines understand your page intent). For as long as traditional websites remain alive, URL structures will remain important, and it’s doubtful these standards will change. However, apps will likely demand a new kind of infrastructural mapping, and a replacement for URLs (as all content is hosted within the app).
    • Internal links. Internal links make it easier for users to navigate your site, and help search engines understand the unique relationships between all your pages. I imagine these will remain important to some degree, but with increased emphasis on user experience, this will have to evolve. Your anchor text and link placement will need to be further optimized to improve user experiences (not just stuffed in to make your site a tighter network).
    • Site speed. Site speed is always going to be important, even if traditional websites die and apps take their place. Users are impatient and demanding, and I can’t imagine them becoming less so over time. Regardless of whether they’re trying to access a traditional page of web content or they’re trying to use your app, they need their experience to be immediately gratifying, and it’s up to you to provide that to them.
    • Encryption. User security concerns are growing somewhat consistently, thanks to data breaches and similar scares. Combined with increasing sophistication of cyber-security and ever-evolving threats from hackers, it’s likely that encryption and user security will become greater ranking signals over time.
    • Title tags and meta descriptions. Title tags and meta descriptions are features I’m divided on. On one hand, search engines needs some kind of concise data to let them know what a page’s intention is, and what kind of content a user might expect on that page. On the other hand, traditional SERPs may start to evolve beyond the need for any title and description entries. This is thanks to the rising trend of voice-based search and the provision of direct answers. There will probably be some form of titling and describing, but it may decline in significance since it will influence click-through rates less.
    • Onsite content. Finally, there’s onsite content, which is the amount and quality of content you have on each of your internal pages. Users will grow accustomed to faster content consumption experiences in the near future, so onsite content may start coming into play less when it comes to evaluating the quality of a site. It will always be important, but apps may make content less structured by necessity, and users may prefer more concise experiences.

    These are mostly speculative, based on historical patterns and possible technology developments, so take these predictions with a grain of salt.

    Conclusions

    Over the course of this article, we’ve taken a look at some of the boldest new technologies and consumer trends shaping the future of search, and how those changes could impact what we currently identify as onsite optimization. These may be enlightening, interesting, or amusing to you, but remember the only way to earn the practical value from this piece is to leave with actionable takeaways. If we’re truly on the verge of a new search disruption, you need to be ready for it. SEO favors the competitors who can adapt to the latest trends quickly, and that means taking action with every new development or revelation.

    Key Changes to Watch For

    In an effort to stay ahead of the competition, you need to remain vigilant and keep watch for how these onsite trends develop. Overall, the changes in onsite optimization will reflect a change in the role of traditional websites in general. In the next few years, this change will manifest in three key areas:

    • The rise of app importance. Apps are starting to become more important to users and search visibility in general, and that importance is only going to increase in the next few years. Eventually, that may lead to the demise of the traditional website, leaving “onsite” optimization to the realm of “app” optimization.
    • Prioritization of information. Users are hungry for faster, more accurate, more immediate information, and tech companies want to provide that. Rich answers and personal digital assistants are two examples of technologies attempting to bring this information to users, and future onsite optimization techniques will likely require some provision of this fast, concise, accurate information—even more so than today.
    • Sophistication of user insights. Search engines will have more information on users, which will make the process of onsite evaluation far more complicated (and rewarding for users). That means more experience-based ranking signals, and possibly more ranking factors beyond our direct control, such as greater SERP personalization.

    How Quickly Do You Need to Adapt?

    It’s hard to say exactly when or how these changes will develop—app-based SEO is already alive and well, and companies are starting to take advantage of it for their businesses, but we’re not in any immediate danger of traditional websites going extinct yet. Technology tends to develop faster than most consumers and business owners anticipate, and you certainly don’t want to get left behind, so err on the side of caution by hedging your bets. Invest in select new strategies you feel are pertinent for your site’s visibility, but don’t be too quick to abandon your old techniques. If I had to guess, these changes will probably manifest gradually over the next five years, so you have plenty of time to make your evaluations.

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  4. Everything a Blog Post Needs for Ideal SEO

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    You’ve got your blogging strategy in place, but are you doing everything you need to do for SEO?

    SEO doesn’t just “happen.” Yes, it’s true that having a content marketing strategy in place already puts you in a better position to gain rank for keywords relevant to your industry, as long as you stay consistent with your posting strategy. However, you can’t just write “any” type of content and throw it onto the web haphazardly. There’s an important series of steps and considerations you’ll need to take if you want to ensure your blogging strategy is doing everything it can for your SEO campaign.

    The purpose of this guide is to look at all of these “optimization elements” on a per-post level, guiding you in crafting perfectly optimized web posts every time you’re ready to publish a new article.

    Elements of an SEO Strategy

    First, let me take a step back and explain that SEO is a complicated, multifaceted strategy that unfolds over a number of different channels and tactics. Search Engine Land recently tried to condense this broad spectrum of factors to a single infographic:

    SEO Strategy Elements

    (Image Source: Search Engine Land)

    Ultimately, your onsite optimization, your onsite content, your offsite content, and your peripheral strategies (like link building and local SEO) will all factor into how you rank for keyword phrases relevant to your brand. That means your content is only responsible for a fraction of your overall results—a significant fraction, but a fraction nonetheless.

    Similarly, there are overall strategic factors that will come into play in your content strategy that aren’t covered here, such as where you publish your content, how you set up your blog, how you syndicate your posts, and so on. This guide will tell you how to optimize your individual posts to maximize their success—but that alone is only one part of your overall SEO strategy.

    With that in mind, let’s start digging into what is it that makes any given blog post “optimized.”

    Basic Strategy

    Before I start looking at the individual content and technical factors that make an individual piece optimized, we need to know what we’re optimizing for, specifically. A handful of optimization factors are standard best practices you can apply to any post exactly the same way, but the majority of them are dependent on your specific targets. Accordingly, you’ll need to outline what it is you’re trying to achieve before you start trying to achieve it.

    • Choose the right keywords. Your first job is to target the right keywords. Now, keyword strategy has changed significantly in the past several years, so don’t jump into this with an old-school SEO approach. Your goal here isn’t to choose a specific keyword target, stuff that keyword into your articles with reckless abandon, and stop at nothing until you rank for that keyword. Instead, thanks to Hummingbird and semantic search, you’ll need to take your keyword targets with a grain of salt. Hummingbird interprets the intention behind a user query, rather than looking for an exact match keyword, so you can’t rely on one-to-one matches and repetition to earn you a keyword rank. Instead, you’ll use keyword research to identify areas of high search volume and low competition that present valuable ranking opportunities. Then, you’ll integrate those keywords (along with synonyms and related terms) into your articles—which I’ll cover in more detail later. Google’s Keyword Planner is great for this.

    Google Keyword Planner

    (Image Source: Shout Me Loud)

     

    • Choose the right topic. Because semantic search makes long-tail keyword phrases and user interests more important than individual keyword mapping, you’ll also have to take a step back and consider what topics you want to write. Take a look at your competitors, industry publications, and your newsfeeds overall. What are people talking about? What aren’t people talking about that they should be? Are there any topics that seem especially popular and ripe for coverage? Are there any alternative angles you can take or new data you can present? The main question in the back of your mind should be, “what would I want to search for if I was in their position?” The best topic ideas tend to be ones that are original (so there’s low competition), valuable/practical (so it appeals to a wide audience), and topical (so there’s lots of people searching for it, or something similar).
    • Write for your audience. Finally, remember that you shouldn’t write primarily for search engines. As much as it’s valuable to find keywords and topics with a high potential return and frame your posts in a way that maximizes their visibility in search engines, your users still need to be your first priority—or you’ll turn them off of your brand and all your efforts will be for naught. When you’re shaping your lists of keywords and topics to explore, keep this in mind, and be sure to make changes as appropriate. During the course of writing, editing, and publishing, you’ll also want to strike a balance here—don’t get too carried away by focusing exclusively on search optimization.

    At this point, you should have a good idea what keywords, topics, and demographics you want to target, and we can start looking at how to optimize for them.

    Content Features

    First, let’s look at the content features of your post. These are somewhat more approachable for novices, as they can be controlled during the writing and production process, and require virtually no technical expertise.

    Write a concise, powerful headline

    Your headline is going to serve a number of important functions, so you need to nail it. It’s one of the first things Google looks at when evaluating the topic of your piece, but even more importantly, it’s what most users will see when they encounter your article for the first time. In search engines, you’ll have more control over this “first impression” with title tags (which I’ll get into in the technical section), but don’t forget, users will be encountering your blog post on your actual blog, and on social media as well.

    Generally, you’ll want a headline that:

    • Is unlike any other headline out there. Otherwise, it won’t stand out.
    • Accurately describes your content. Otherwise, Google won’t index it properly and users will be disappointed.
    • Features one or more of your target keywords. This helps you rank for your targets.
    • Imply some value. Users only click on content that appears valuable in some way.
    • Conveys a sense of urgency. Get users to click immediately, or you’ll lose them forever.

    Powerful Headline

    (Image Source: AudienceBloom)

    Take a look at the headline I’ve cited above; it’s unique, offers a concise description (with a target keyword phrase), a value (for agencies), and urgency due to its importance.

    Include headers and sub-sections

    Your content should be broken down into sub-sections, no matter what your primary focus is. Even a short-form post should have at least a few paragraphs, and those paragraphs should be marked by headers. These headers and subsections help users visually identify how your article is organized, and help them skim your content; skimming isn’t ideal, but they’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well help them out. Your headers will also come in handy for helping Google to understand what your content is and how it’s organized—more on this when I touch on H1 header tags in the technical section.

    Prioritize introductory sentences                      

    The first sentences of your paragraphs and sub-sections get extra priority when Google crawls your content, so make them count. Take the one in this sub-section as an example; it clearly describes the main point without giving everything away up front. Include a keyword or two if you can, but focus most of your attention on setting up the sentences that follow. This is also important for users who are trying to speed read your article to get the gist of what you’re saying.

    Include images and videos

    Visual content is a major trend in the content marketing world, and for good reason. Posts with images and videos get far more shares and click-throughs than posts without them, users are increasingly spending time seeking images and videos rather than written content, and since visual content is harder to produce, there’s still a competitive advantage in being one of the few companies in your niche to pursue them. Having visuals in your content will make your piece bigger, better, more visible, and with a higher potential for going viral. Try to include at least one visual element in every piece you publish, preferably something original.

    Include your keyword phrase and conversational variations throughout your text

    This is a bit tricky, since there’s no “golden rule” for keyword inclusion. Generally, you’ll want to include your target keyword phrases at least a handful of times throughout the course of your document, but you also don’t want to run the risk of keyword stuffing. To avoid this risk, please your users, and make the most of the Hummingbird algorithm all at the same time, rely on conversational variations of your keyword phrases instead. Try to incorporate general terms for your target keywords, and talk about them in natural ways. Think of it like a date. Don’t try so hard to impress Google that you end up seeming awkward; just be yourself.

    Aim for long-form content when you can

    There’s no single rule that dictates the “ideal” length of a blog post, though we’ve taken a stab at trying to figure this out before. The truth is, both long-form and short-form content have advantages in SEO. On average, standout short-form pieces are more likely to earn links and shares. However, standout long-form pieces are more likely to, when they earn links and shares, earn far more links and shares. That’s a mouthful, but the takeaway is this—each has unique advantages and disadvantages, but if you do the work necessary to make a long-form piece successful, long-form has higher payoffs. Strive for length, as long as you can make that length valuable (no fluff).

    Proofread

    This is such a basic step I shouldn’t have to mention it. But the sad fact is, I do have to mention it. Though Google doesn’t penalize things like grammatical inconsistencies and poor spelling, these errors can have an indirect effect on your rank. Plus, if you’re suspected of using unnatural language, you could earn a direct penalty, and that’s not even mentioning the poor user experience effects it can have.

    Meta Data and Technical Factors

    Now, let’s look at some of the more technical factors of post optimization. These aren’t as technical as, say, creating a new navigation, or trying to optimize your site for mobile devices, but they have more to do with how the post is structured and interpreted by search crawlers than they do with your actual content.

    Write a catchy title tag

    Your title tag is what appears in Google search results as the blue hyperlinked text in every entry. Here’s a perfect example:

    Title Tag

    (Image Source: Google)

    As a general rule, as long as you have a good headline, you can use your headline as a double for the title tag. You might also want to include some text at the end, the way the example uses “REI expert advice” to optimize for a brand term and some peripheral keywords after the relatively short title. Feel free to include an addition keyword here, but be mindful that you aren’t over-optimizing.

    Generally, your title tag should be 50-60 characters. Any more than that, and Google will cut you off. Remember, you’ll also want to optimize your title tag for inbound users, making your title as appealing as possible to maximize click throughs.

    Write an accurate, descriptive meta tag

    Your meta description is a tag-team partner for your title tag. Here, you’ll have 150-160 characters to work with, so you get more breathing room and more opportunities to naturally include some of your target keyword phrases. This is the written text that appears under the title and link (see the example in the preceding section), so it’s another opportunity to capitalize on user interests on SERPs. It’s not as important as a title tag, for search engines or for users, but don’t neglect it.

    Include H1, H2, H3, etc. tags

    In my section on content considerations, I outlined the importance of including sub-sections with clearly marked headers. There’s also a technical component to this—you’ll need to include these bits of information with header tags for search engines to index and understand your content properly. Include an H1 tag for your first header, an H2 tag for your second, and so on, and remember to be as descriptive as possible.

    Header Tags

    (Image Source: Hobo)

    Ensure your URL is appropriate

    Most modern platforms will take the title of your article and make that the URL; this is good enough for most SEO strategies. There are just a handful of bad practices you’ll want to avoid to ensure your URLs are optimized for search engines and for users. For example, you’ll want to avoid excessive numbers and characters at the end of your URL string; these are incoherent and make it hard for users to share or remember links. You’ll need to include a breadcrumbs trail (though this is usually not an issue), and you’ll want to include at least one strong keyword in a useful description at the end of your URL.

    URL Rewrite

    (Image Source: Moz)

    Optimize your visual elements

    You know you need to include images and videos for SEO, but you also have to optimize them so search engines can understand them. These optimization tactics won’t increase the rank of your page directly, but will help your images and videos achieve higher visibility, which will indirectly drive more traffic to your page (and site).

    For images, this means giving the image an accurate title, resizing it so it can load quickly and properly, using alt tags to describe the image, and including a caption so your users know why you’ve chosen the image in the first place. It also helps to align your images with the edges of your piece.

    For video, this can be more complicated or less complicated depending on your goals. For example, if you’re merely embedding another person’s YouTube video, you don’t really have to do anything other than embedding it. However, if you’re running your own video content marketing strategy, you should engage in separate best practices for optimizing video so they can be found through search.

    Interlink your piece with other content you’ve written

    This is a seemingly minor step, but it’s an important one. Reference other posts you’ve written and other pages of your site in the body of each blog post you publish (within reason; usually three to five is plenty). Google favors sites whose pages are easy to get to; as a general rule, no page should ever be further than three clicks away from any other page. Interlinking helps strengthen the navigational “tightness” of your site, and furthermore, encourages users to spend more time on your site by leading them to different areas.

    Ensure your content is compatible and loads quickly on all devices and browsers

    This is another basic step, but you’d be surprised how many people miss it. Especially with embedded images and videos, you’ll want to do a “dry run” of your content and make sure it loads correctly on all types of devices and browsers. There are many tools for this, such as BrowserStack, so there’s no excuse not to investigate before finalizing your publication.

    Encourage subscriptions and comments

    The more your users engage with your piece, the more they’ll be willing to share it, the longer they’ll spend reading it, and the more authority you’ll earn for your efforts. Encourage your users to engage with your material by making it easy for people to leave comments (and by writing material that facilitates discussion in the first place).

    comment box

    (Image Source: AudienceBloom)

    You’ll also want to encourage your users to subscribe, to build your recurring readership and give a visibility boost to any pieces you write in the future. These can be RSS feeds or email newsletter subscriptions—anything that keeps your users coming back for more.

    Include share buttons

    Contrary to popular belief, social shares don’t pass authority the way that backlinks do. There’s some evidence to suggest that social signals are correlated with higher ranks, but it’s more likely that social shares are an indirect ranking signal. The more users share your piece, the more visible it becomes, and the more links it’s liable to earn. Those links are what are actually passing the authority. Because of this, social shares are important for SEO, just not in a direct way. It’s still in your best interest to capitalize on this correlational phenomenon, so make it easier for your users to share your content by including social share prompts at the bottom of every post.

    social media share buttons

    (Image Source: AudienceBloom)

    Offsite Content Considerations

    Up to this point, we’ve been examining considerations for onsite posts, but don’t forget that onsite content should only be one part of your SEO and content strategy. You also need to focus on optimizing your offsite content if you want to be successful.

    Fortunately, the same rules I’ve extensively outlined above are going to apply here (for the most part). For example, you’ll still need a good topic, a catchy headline, proper formatting, etc., but many of the technical factors are going to be out of your control. If you’re working with a high authority publisher, you can pretty much rest assured that these technical fixtures will be taken care of for you. However, there are a handful of special considerations you’ll need to bear in mind when producing and submitting offsite content:

    • Choose topics relevant for your publisher. When you choose topics, you’ll have to bear your audience, your goals, and your brand in mind, but when publishing offsite, there’s another variable you’ll have to consider—the publisher. During the early stages, this isn’t much of an issue; you’ll be primarily focusing on lower-authority publishers who won’t be picky about the types of content you submit and publishers well-aligned with your industry. But as you gain more experience and start working with publishers who have audiences in the hundreds of thousands or more, be prepared for some pushback and a delicate balancing act in optimizing a post that will still be accepted.
    • Include one strong link back to your domain. For the most part, one link is plenty. Google judges backlinks from any given domain on kind of a sliding scale; the first link from one source passes a ton of new authority, but any subsequent links on that same source will pass lower amounts of authority. Even worse, if you try to deliberately stuff your article with backlinks, you’ll either be rejected by the publisher outright or you’ll be penalized by Google for spamming links—not a pretty picture. Instead, make sure your link is valuable and relevant for your audience.
    • Optimize your link’s anchor text. You’ll also need to optimize the anchor text for your link—the text in which your link is embedded. Old-school SEO practices dictate that you should include your keyword phrase here, but this practice is somewhat obsolete. Instead, your text should be optimized to describe what it is your link is pointing to. For example, I could introduce another blog by saying, “I discuss more about content marketing in my recent blog post on finding competitive advantages with content.” Notice how the hyperlinked text is overtly and sensibly descriptive, and naturally contains a couple of keywords that could be associated with the piece.
    • Be aware of special meta data considerations. Your source of choice may have certain preferences or certain systems that prevent you from creating your own meta data or otherwise have strict standards on what data can be created. For example, they may mandate you create a tagline, but take charge of providing all titles and descriptions themselves. This isn’t as important as you might think, since this is an article on their site, not yours, and they have a vested interest in getting as much traffic as possible. Don’t be afraid to relinquish some control here.

    You’ll also need to be aware that different publishers will have different systems, processes, and standards. You’ll have to adapt if you want to make the most of all of them.

    Consistency and Adaptation

    Now that you know the ins and outs of how to optimize a blog post for SEO, there are just two more general rules you’ll need to follow to be successful. The first is a rule of consistency. You can’t pick and choose when you follow these best practices, or only follow some of them, if you want to succeed in the long run. You need to apply these optimization tactics to every piece you publish, no matter what. Overall, these tactics will help you write better, more valuable user-focused content, and the few technical tweaks you need to make should only take you a few minutes each to complete. It’s well worth the extra investment, but only if you do so consistently.

    The other rule is one of adaptation. People don’t produce perfect content on the first try, ever. You won’t write perfect titles or meta descriptions, and you won’t target the “perfect” set of keywords in your first run. Give your strategy some time to marinate and prove its worth, but if something’s not working, you can’t be afraid to change it. Pick a variable, make an adjustment, and see if things approve. Repeat as necessary until you start seeing the results you want.

    With all these practices in place, you should have complete control over your blog optimization strategy. Though it’s only one piece of the SEO puzzle, it’s a powerful one, and you should start to reap the rewards in mere weeks.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  5. 6 On-Page Optimization Best Practices For the Post-Penguin SEO World

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    It’s still all about Penguin, isn’t it?

    Yes, but that’s because I’d like to arm you with as much information as possible, so instead of battling Pandas and Penguins, you can cuddle with these cute animals; after all, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make love than war.

    As you may already know, Google Penguin is just getting started. Additionally, we’re in the midst of a new era of SEO where traditional SEO is becoming more seamlessly intertwined with social media.

    And who knows how much more of Google Penguin we’ll see in coming days, weeks, or months.

    We’ve covered the basics as far as recovering from Google Penguin is concerned. We know that these days, more than ever, the only legitimate way to attain rankings is to provide quality and relevant content to users, in order to obtain links naturally.

    No more tricks, says the Penguin.

    In this post, I’ll share with you six on-page optimization best practices that conform to Google Penguin’s guidelines. I’ll focus on key optimization considerations that will help you create a more reputable image for your site both in the eyes of your audience and of the search engines. Let’s get started.

    Keyword density (keyword what?)

    Not long ago, SEOs were concerned about keyword density, or the number of keyword occurrences as a ratio of the overall number of words on the page. The acceptable keyword density used to be somewhere between 2% and 4%, which meant that for every 100 words, a specific keyword (note that I use “keyword” interchangeably with “keyphrase”) should occur two to four times.

    Today, however, keyword density is no longer a ranking factor (was it ever?). Search technology has tremendously evolved over the years to recognize the relevance of certain content to a topic.

    SEOs now advocate the use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). Simply put, LSI refers to the use of relevant terms to the content’s target keywords. So if you’re gunning for the keyword “consumer electronics”, you can use that exact keyword within the first few sentences of the content and then use related terms such as “gadgets”, “electronics”, etc. throughout the rest of the content.

    Tip: You can find LSI terms for any given keyword by using Google’s Keyword Tool. Alternatively, you can perform a search for your keyword in Google and then scroll to the bottom of the first page, where you’ll see some other suggested search terms. These suggested search terms are LSI terms for the keyword you queried.

    While I still recommend using your target keywords exactly within the post title, meta description tags, and in the first and last paragraph of your text body copy, I highly recommend using as many varying LSI terms within the content’s body as you can muster.

    However, if your target keyword is tricky to use in a grammatically-correct way, such as “Roofing L.A.”, then don’t force the issue; just settle on using each word within the keyphrase as closely together as possible.

    Don’t forget internal linking

    Internal linking is still an important aspect of on-page optimization. There are several key benefits to internal linking:

    • Reduces bounce rate, as it promotes relevant internal content to your audience
    • Helps search engines determine the importance and relevance of your pages within your domain
    • Helps Google and other search engine spiders crawl and index your pages more easily and effectively
    • Helps users easily find their way around your site, lending to a more positive overall user experience, and time-on-site metrics
    • Allows you to control anchor text to each individual page, helping search engines understand what keywords you believe the destination page is relevant for

    Generally, websites with good internal linking strategies rank better in search results.

    Link to relevant information outside your site

    Whenever possible, link to sites that offer relevant information to your content. You may have already noticed that I’ve done so in this very post.

    This makes your link structure more natural and it provides value to your audience. Don’t worry about linking to your competitors occasionally, either. Linking to related websites helps Google understand what circle of relevance your website falls under. Plus, giving props to a competitor with a link shows a lot of confidence in your product, and can speak volumes about your business.

    Keep it fresh and useful

    Google Panda and Penguin take into account the freshness of content. That’s why setting up a blog for your site is so crucial these days. With a blog, you can post new and useful information as often as you want. This helps in many ways:

    • Supplies new content to your existing audience, keeping your brand top-of-mind (and thus, makes your audience more likely to convert)
    • Helps grow your audience by drawing in new readers
    • Establishes niche authority/credibility
    • Increases traffic via social channels (due to shares, mentions, tweets, etc.)
    • Increases organic search traffic because it adds more content that can be turned up in the search results
    • Gets you more opportunities to receive natural inbound links when other authors reference your existing content

    Ideally, you should update your blog at least once per business day.

    You also want to post information that is extremely useful and relevant to your audience. How-to posts and posts on trending topics are preferred by most readers. If you constantly post useful information you will give your audience plenty of reasons to visit your site regularly. Lame content that nobody cares about won’t help you at all; if it doesn’t provide some sort of value to your readers, don’t even bother posting it.

    Be original

    Remember how sites with duplicate content were killed early in 2011? Google’s stern stance against duplicate content still stands.

    Sites with internal duplicate content are also at risk. If you’re not sure if your site has internal duplicate content, you can use Google’s Sitemaps (Google Webmaster Tool) to check for duplicate content.

    Keep ads to a minimum

    For many users, ads are simply annoying. But from a search engine perspective, peppering a site with ads can actually hurt your rankings.

    But how much is too much?

    Avoid setting up more than two ads, especially above the fold. Ideally, keep ads to a maximum of two per page. And if you are going to serve ads within your pages, serve only those that are extremely relevant and valuable to your users.

    Conclusion

    There you have it, quick and easy tips for proper on-page optimization. If you have questions or if you need help with your on-page optimization initiative, contact us and we’ll be happy to offer a free consultation.

     

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