A lot has changed in the world of search engine optimization.
However, certain fundamental principles remain unchanged.
For example, targeting keywords with the sole intent of improving organic rankings no longer works with search engines, but keywords are still essential.
Beyond getting SEO juice, keywords reveal a lot more about users and what they’re struggling with.
With so many SEO techniques, it’s become almost impossible to determine which ones to stick to and which you can safely ignore.
Is link building a thing of the past? Should you devote your time and energy to on-page SEO? How can you write a title tag to drive your rankings with search engines? Where do SEO and social media intersect?
And, seriously, what are the truly best SEO tips that’ll lead to results?
Both B2B and B2C marketers want more search leads, because they carry a 8.5X higher chance of conversion than an outbound lead.
Brian Dean did a fabulous job when he created a post showcasing 200 Google ranking factors. The post went on to become extremely popular, generating thousands of new leads, from organic search, for Brian.
This article may not be as in-depth as Brian’s. Nor will I be answering all of the questions raised above. Instead, I want to show you the 10 most important SEO tips that you need to know right now.
Let’s get started:
1. Remove anything that slows down your site.
Page speed is a critical factor in SEO.
In the past, you could get away with a slow-loading site. I can recall a time when I had to wait for about 5 minutes before a popular news site fully loaded.
I’m sure you can relate to that.
That’s never a good experience, but it’s the kiss of death in today’s marketplace. A slow page can frustrate the user experience and ultimately discourage people from buying your product.
Data from Strange Loop shows that a 1-second delay in page load time can yield a 7% loss in conversions.
In the mind of potential buyers, a slow site is an untrustworthy site. Period.
Page speed is vital, both to users and to search engines. According to eConsultancy, “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”
As businesses become more aware of the opportunities to generate targeted leads and increase revenue through search engine optimization, there is a huge demand for speed.
On April 9, 2010, Google included site speed as one of the all-important ranking factors.
This means that if your pages are slow, you’re fighting a losing battle for top organic listings, regardless of the quality of your content or your professional website design.
According to the search engine giant’s internal studies, when a page loads slowly, visitors spend less time there. On the other hand, faster loading pages reduce operating costs and improve user experience, among other benefits.
Get rid of non-essential elements that slow down your site. If you’re a WordPress user, consider deactivating plugins you may have installed and activated but don’t actually need.
Also, declutter your sidebar and put only essential widgets there.
To learn how to get more out of search engines by improving your page speed, see the resource pages below:
2. Link to other websites with relevant content.
Linking out to other blogs is critical to growth,
says Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger Media.
To most people, linking out to relevant and authoritative content pages is bad because it takes people off your page.
But, I don’t think so. Link building remains a fundamental part of smart search engine optimization strategy.
According to Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz,
Linking out sends trackable traffic, it makes your site a more valuable and scalable resource.
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll notice that linking out to other sites is my custom. Whenever I write a new post, I reference other trustworthy sites, where appropriate.
You can’t expect to get from others if you’re unwilling to give first. For example, if you’re looking to get inbound links from authoritative blogs, one of the easiest ways to do that is to show your willingness to link out to those blogs from your own content.
Of course, you should only link out to content pages that offer tremendous value. It’s a good SEO practice.
More important, you can notify an influencer when you link out to them, and, if your post is valuable, they can link back to you, share the post or even email it to their huge email subscriber list.
Link building is also all about quality, not quantity. You’ll build more trust in your niche if you have a few authoritative links rather than a dozen poor quality links.
3. Write for humans first, search engines second.
Lately, I’ve noticed that more and more bloggers and content creators are going back to the old method of SEO, wherein keywords meant to drive search results surpassed the real qualities of engaging, valuable content. If that’s you, it’s absolutely time to change your mindset.
Many people still aren’t capitalizing on long-tail keywords, preferring instead to attempt to manipulate search engines.
That’s the wrong approach.
Don’t prioritize search engines over the actual humans reading your work. Instead, write content for the user, people who have eyes to read and credit cards to purchase your product. Search spiders are just scripts — they don’t buy products, they don’t engage with you on social media, and they won’t become a loyal customer.
Copyblogger is my #1 go-to site, when it comes to putting readers first. No wonder Brian Clark is so successful at content marketing. He’s even turned Copyblogger into a multi-million dollar digital marketing company.
It all happened because a marketer like you was passionate about helping people. That’s what drives me, too — and maybe you, as well.
So, what does it mean to write for users first, before search engines?
Well, it’s simple.
Funny enough, when you put users first, you’ll actually write helpful content that search engines will reward, because search engines follow users. It’s not the other way round. At the same time, you’ll be enhancing the user experience and building trust with your audience.
4. Encourage other trustworthy sites to link to you.
To a large extent, inbound links are still the lifeblood of search engine rankings.
When you combine dofollow and nofollow links, you get a natural link profile that even Google will reward.
Content marketing is all about creating high-quality, engaging content and creating in people the need and urgency to link to you and share your content on social media.
Do you know why so many bloggers link to my posts on QuickSprout.com and NeilPatel.com?
The major determining factor in my success is that I invest a lot of time, money and resources into creating a single post or other piece of content.
How much effort do you suppose when into creating, “The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand”?
When you’re at the forefront of your industry, creating useful content and linking to authoritative blogs, you’ll find that more people will link to you naturally. This is the essence of effective link building.
5. Have web analytics in place at the start.
After defining your search engine optimization goals clearly, you need software to track what’s working and what’s not.
Tools like CrazyEgg also show you where your site visitors are clicking, and how they navigate away from your site.
You should have these web analytics in place, even before you send the first visitor to your site or landing page.
6. Write unique and relevant meta descriptions for every page.
One of the most important SEO tips that most people neglect is the well-crafted meta description.
The meta description is the first section that people see when Google serves up your page to search users.
Generally, the search engine giant doesn’t like duplicate content. Yes, there are times when there is a need to cite a paragraph or sentence from another site (and link back to the source), but if publishing duplicate content becomes your way of life, you might get penalized by Google.
In the same vein, duplicate meta descriptions could get you into trouble. But, even if you don’t get penalized straight away, you’re still not providing a great user experience.
You can’t have the same meta description for a page that talks about email marketing and a page on making sales. There’s a big difference in those topics and your meta descriptions should communicate that fact.
Then, in your WordPress editor, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and add a unique title tag and meta description.
7. Use readable and meaningful URLs only.
If users can’t read or understand your URL, then search engines may be confused as well.
Here’s how my page URLs look:
Granted, the URL above is long, but it’s easy to understand, for both users and search engines. There are no numbers or characters, other than the words and dashes.
Stay away from page URLs like this:
Remember, search engines follow search users.
Brian Clark once said that Google bots are like infants, who need to be spoon-fed regularly. And, he’s right.
Even in this age of search evolution, including the RankBrain, search spiders are still programs, not humans. You need to guide them accordingly.
If I were to adopt a new URL structure, I might pattern it after Brian Dean’s structure. He ensures that only 2-4 words are included in any URL.
This makes the URL memorable to the user, search engine-friendly and easy to type. Copyblogger does the same thing:
You can learn more about optimizing your page URLs from this infographic:
8. Build momentum with social signals.
Social media is an integral part of SEO strategy, and search signals are important. You’ve got to focus on increasing yours.
Don’t believe me?
Well, several case studies have proven the impact of social shares, likes, tweets and pins on search engine rankings.
As an example, Moz started to rank on Google for “Beginner’s Guide” after Smashing Magazine tweeted out the guide. Shrushti’s search rankings improved from page 400 to page 1 of Google, due to social media.
If you want to get more social signals, the rules haven’t changed. Here’s the summary:
- Create useful content that’s share-worthy across your social media platforms.
- Add share buttons to your post and make them visible.
- Encourage people to share, by asking them to.
- Host a social media contest to get more shares.
- Mention and link to social media influencers/power users in your post and notify them.
… And so much more. Social media is at your disposal. Use it, and use it well.
9. Use the right keywords in your images.
Images are important in search engine optimization.
Google dedicated an entire section of its search results to images. This should tell you how concerned the search engine giant is with pictures.
When users are looking for a particular image, what do they search with?
For this reason, you should use the right keywords in your image names and accompanying text (like the caption). Of course, this is not permission to engage in keyword stuffing.
However, if your image is of a “blue women’s hat,” don’t name your image “click here to buy hat.”
Always remember that in search engine optimization, relevance is more important than creativity or cleverness.
10. Create & publish unique content consistently to improve your rankings.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, producing unique and engaging content is a challenge for most marketers.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, you need to be disciplined, when it comes to content creation.
It’s even more important than you might think, due to something called the “fresh factor.” Unique content is one of the factors that affect this freshness score, and, consequently, the search engine rankings for that specific page.
If you’re not Brian Dean, who’s mastered the art of content promotion and can regularly get tens of thousands of users to read a new post and share it with others on social media, the easiest way to optimize your freshness score is by creating content consistently.
If you’ve chosen to market your business online, then creating unique and helpful blog posts isn’t an option — it’s a must.
The age of a domain or web page is also one of the top SEO tips you should keep in mind. Indeed, it’s crucial for your success. For this reason, don’t constantly change your domain name. Pick one and stick with it, unless there’s a very good reason to change.
That does happen, by the way — just don’t make it a regular practice. I’ve used QuickSprout for over 10 years and I intend to keep the domain name.
If you’ve published a post in the past that’s no longer relevant to users, especially due to the recent Google changes, then instead of writing a new piece of content from scratch, work to update that page.
That way, you can retain the backlinks, social media shares and other on-site engagement metrics it’s already earned.
Finally, learn to focus on and create content around long-tail search phrases (e.g., social media marketing techniques), and not head keywords (e.g., social media).
When link building, think quality, not quantity. And, don’t forget to make your web pages mobile-friendly.
Which other search engine optimization tips or techniques do you think are most crucial for improving search rankings? Are there any SEO tips that have worked against you?