- Even if you aren’t an SEO expert, there are plenty of strategies you can use to improve your search engine rankings.
- Fresh content, updated metadata, and structured data can make a huge difference in your search engine rankings.
- Google will penalize slow websites, so check your site speed once a month.
- Take your time with keyword research; it’s the foundation of a solid SEO strategy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and turn to the experts when things get tricky–there’s only so much someone can do without asking for help.
We get it. Search engine optimization is a world unto itself, and if it isn’t your full-time job, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the challenge of improving your performance in the face of constantly-changing search engine algorithms and standards. But someone has to do it, and maybe that’s you.
The good news is that even if you’re not an SEO expert, there are plenty of strategies you can use to improve your search engine rankings without making a career change first. Here’s a look at seven proven SEO tricks that will give you the biggest payoff for your time and effort.
Use an SEO checklist
Digital marketing isn’t elementary school, and you don’t get extra points for doing anything the hard way. Cheat sheets aren’t just allowed in SEO – they’re encouraged. Why rely on memory when you can turn to your trusty SEO checklist to keep you accountable any time you publish a blog or update a page?
One of the best ways to button up your SEO in a lasting way is to implement an SEO checklist and disseminate it to anyone who will be in charge of creating, editing, or publishing on your blog or website. The checklist should include basic standards for URLs, meta tags, images, keywords, linking, and more. You can find a full list of what to include in your own SEO checklist in our blog on the subject.
Refresh your content
This is one of the oldest SEO tricks in the book, but it’ll never go out of style, because it’s rooted in the fundamental truth that people always want something new. Whether your web visitors are making purchases, doing research, or simply looking for a distraction, they want to see what’s happening now. Google knows that too, which is why it awards higher ranking to websites that consistently add new content.
This isn’t to say that you need to rewrite every page on your site every month, but it’s a good idea to add new content (blog posts, photos, videos, etc.) at least once a week. It’s also important to update your most important pages on a regular basis so that they don’t seem stale to Google or your visitors. Plus, refreshing content doesn’t take nearly as much time or resources as creating new content, so it’s a great way to capitalize on past efforts.
As with publishing new content, you should approach the task of refreshing existing content systematically and strategically. How exactly? Here are our recommendations:
- Perform a content pruning analysis once or twice a year. Such an analysis will show you which of your blogs have few to no backlinks or rankings, which you then may want to consider eliminating so that your website isn’t carrying around dead weight.
- Perform a content decay analysis once or twice a year. Similar to a content pruning analysis, this allows you to reevaluate existing content, but with a focus on declining traffic. Content decay is a natural process, so finding blogs that have declined in traffic and updating them should be a regular part of your content plan. These blogs are typically good candidates for refreshes.
- Check your ratio of evergreen to trending content. When performing content decay analyses and content pruning analyses, make sure you’re getting rid of out-of-date trending content – think blogs that list decades-old statistics or focus on a one-time event that happened several years ago. If what you’re left with is a paltry number of evergreen blogs, make sure you’re sticking to a publishing ratio of 75% evergreen to 25% trending content.
Review your keywords
While you’re reviewing your content, take the time to do a bit of keyword research to see if you’re missing any important search terms, or if you have opportunities to incorporate important keywords into your content in new ways.
Don’t try to stuff keywords into your content where they don’t belong—that strategy stopped working around the year 2000—but be sure to use the important ones in your page titles, meta descriptions, and once or twice in the first few paragraphs of page content. It’s a good idea to target a primary keyword and one or two secondary keywords.
Again, strategy and a systematic approach are key. One strategy we swear by is the striking distance method. This content refresh method focuses on finding content that is ranking on pages 2-5 of the SERPs, then re-optimizing that content to try to move it to page 1 for those terms.
Don’t be afraid to include long-tail keywords – sometimes they have a lower search volume, but because of their specificity, they can be less competitive and lead to more qualified leads in the long run. They can also lend themselves to Quick Answer or Featured Snippet rankings, which leads us to…
Optimize for Featured Snippets
The SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) have evolved a lot over the past few years, with Google structuring certain types of information in specific ways in order to better match users’ search intent. One of the most important of these newer features for SEO is the Featured Snippet, sometimes referred to as a Quick Answer result.
When a user enters a search query that could be answered with a concise sentence, brief paragraph, or list – e.g., “How to know if an egg is bad” – Google tries to find content formatted accordingly and will display at the top of the SERP above the other results. If you have content that targets this type of keyword (often long-tail keywords), optimize it for a Featured Snippet by including the search term prominently in a header and the first one or two paragraphs of the text.
Learn more about SERP features (and whether you should try to optimize for them) in our blog.
Update your metadata
Once you’ve refreshed your page content, added new keywords, and re-optimized it for any relevant SERP features, make sure those updates are reflected in your page metadata, especially your title tags and meta descriptions (the headlines and page descriptions for your site that are displayed in search engine result pages). It can be easy to overlook those, especially if you tend to create new pages by duplicating existing pages, but they’re among your site’s most important elements.
Try to include a few high-quality keywords in each title tag and description, and make sure the metadata accurately reflect the page content.
Check your page speed
When a user visits one of your web pages, the browser may have to pull dozens (or even hundreds) of resources from different locations. That can lead to longer page loading times, especially if your pages are poorly structured or your content isn’t optimized for speed. Google will penalize you for slow pages, so it’s a good idea to check your speed at least once a month using tools like www.webpagetest.org or tools.pingdom.com.
If your pages are slow, look for oversized files or unneeded elements that may be weighing down your site.
Structure your data
We’re getting further into the technical weeds now, but adding structured data to your web pages can make a huge difference in your search engine rankings and, as mentioned above, can even earn you enhanced results at the top of the Google results page.
Put simply, structured data is extra markup that human visitors won’t see, but that helps Google understand what the page is about. If you’re putting a recipe on a web page, for example, you can use specific coding to be sure that Google will know that it’s a recipe. The extra info allows the search engine to provide detailed information about the recipe when people search for things like specific ingredients or calorie counts. You can use the same approach to enhance information about geographic locations, people, and just about anything else.
Most websites use one of the standard data formats defined by Schema.org (an organization formed by Google, Yahoo, and Bing) to add structured data. You don’t need to be an expert coder to do it, but like many other SEO tactics, it can be tricky to get it right. Which brings us to our bonus tip…
Talk to the experts!
Sooner or later, most companies start looking for outside help in their SEO efforts, even if they have a full-time search engine marketer on staff. A good digital marketing agency can help you develop strategies you may not have considered, and can provide guidance on best practices to ensure that you get the most for your SEO investment.
Here at Redefine Marketing Group, we have a team of experts ready to help you plan and execute your next SEO initiative. Get in touch with us today to find out what we can do for you!