As everyone clamors to get on the first page of Google, you need to hone your SEO skills and take things to the next level. Find out what is required to create a winning SEO strategy in 2020.
There are multiple facets to search engine optimization. This comprehensive guide will help you understand high-level SEO techniques in a simplistic manner that you can implement easily.
SEO Strategy Explained
The overall plan for optimizing your website using various techniques and tactics to make it rank higher in Google and other search engines is called a SEO strategy. Link building, On-Page SEO, and Technical SEO are a few components that form a good strategy.
The goal to any SEO strategy is to increase website rankings for certain keywords. You need to develop a comprehensive SEO plan if you want to optimize your site and rank higher than your competition.
The Only SEO Strategy Blueprint You Need in 2020
You can attain all your goals with this easy to implement, 3-step SEO blueprint.
Step 1: Understanding On-site Technical Aspects
You need to build all your SEO related strategies on a solid technical foundation. Technical SEO is often referred to as On-site SEO and includes hosting server, website, and DNS optimization. Search engine crawlers would be able to index your site easily with technical optimizations in place.
Page Load Speed
Site speed is now a ranking factor which makes it important to SEO. Slow loading sites are considered to offer poor user experience as per Google.
Tips on improving page load speeds:
- Use WPEngine, HubSpot, or another top hosting provider
- Invest in quality SSL certificates for HTTPS
- Consider using CloudFlare as your DNS server
- Optimize images on the page
- Optimize site files using CDNs
- Make use of server-side caching
- Run weekly technical audits
URL Structure for SEO
SEO URL is very important if you want your site to be found. For best results, use target keywords in URLs and try keeping them short.
Some helpful URL tips:
- Never use caps
- Separate words by using hyphens (dashes)
- Max limit is 512 characters if you don’t want Google to truncate
- Avoid stop words (a, to, the, etc.) as much as possible
Site Links and Menu – Navigation Best Practices
Search engine crawlers follow links while visiting pages and Google has an easier time reading text. Hence, you need to improve your site’s crawlability by using text-based links for site navigation.
Links are all-powerful. They can singularly help the crawler discover new pages and content. Strategic links are helpful to crawlers in determining relevance of a link. It also helps in establishing relationship between the current and destination page.
SEO tips for navigation links and anchor text:
- 1-2 links is enough every few paragraphs. You do not want to oversaturate your page.
- Instead of “click here” as anchor text, make use of primary keyword.
- Crawl budget can be maxed out by excess links on the page.
- Always prefer high authority sites when linking to an external source.
- Only link externally when it adds context and value to the reader. The same holds true for internal pages as well.
- Never use rel=”nofollow” when linking externally.
- Destination page should be topically related when linking internally.
- Linking page should be part of the content cluster in internal links.
- You can use the same page anchor links multiple times.
XML sitemap are simple yet powerful files when it comes to SEO. These live next to your website in the online world and serves as a roadmap. It helps in discovering the most important blog posts, web pages, and other site assets.
XML sitemaps speed up the process of crawling and ensures that Google identifies all important content pieces. It also allows the crawler to interpret site structure. The most important function of XML sitemaps is to act as a failsafe when site links remain undiscovered by the crawler.
Robots.txt File & SEO Strategy
These are simple text files that live next to your website. The purpose of robots.txt is to instruct search engine crawlers to index specific file paths.
Robots.txt file is essential to prevent the crawler from wasting time indexing directories, files, and web pages that can be best described as non-essential. You can improve the effectiveness and speed of each crawl with robots.txt file.
HTTP 404 (not found error)
HTTP 404 Not Found Errors are quite common and simply mean that a particular page cannot be found because of a broken redirect or link. These links send a valuable visitor to a non-existent resource.
This is you wasting your SEO efforts because the visitor would now just as soon go to the next ranking page.
Redirects refer to server instructions when a certain page is requested to load another one in its place. Broken redirects would again send the visitor to a non-existent resource.
This tends to occur when you move content or rename page URLs without updating your links. You are not alone. But, it does create a very poor user experience on your site. It is also bad in terms of SEO because crawlers cannot index content that is non-existent.
You can easily discover these issues through Google’s Search Console or conducting a simple site audit.
Duplicate Content in 2020
This refers to content that is very similar or an exact match to some other content published on other internet locations (unique URLs). The problem with duplicate content is that Google is flummoxed as to which content should be given preference. This means poor ranking for your page.
There are several myths surrounding duplicate content, with one stating that Google penalizes such content. While this has never been proved, it is important that you aim for unique, high quality content from a pure SEO point of view. Google will definitely reward you for the same.
It is possible that your content could exist in several locations, especially if you are a guest blogger. You may produce content for your site and then later republish it as a guest blog, or vice versa. The point is there is a fix to saving yourself from content duplication.
You just need to make use of HTML rel=“canonical” Tag whenever you republish content. It lets Google know where to look for the original version. Everyone stays happy this way.
SEO Meta Tags
Meta Tags are HTML code bits that exist on every site web page. They are paramount to SEO since they offer details about your web page to Google and other search engines.
Meta Tags which are important to SEO:
- Meta description tag
- Title tag
- Viewport tag
- Meta content-type tag
- Canonical tag
- Social meta tags
Structured Data Markup
Schema.org markup or special codes are added to HTML to allow search engines to interpret it better. Google generates rich snippets by making use of this structured data. Featured snippets are excellent for SEO since they outrank organic positions.
Mobile Optimization Best Practices
Mobile optimization is extremely important because you have to make your website adapt to mobiles and tablets. Mobile responsiveness is the next big step in SEO.
Earlier, users had to zoom in to read content on older style websites. This was obviously inconvenient. With the bulk of search traffic shifting to mobile devices, Google made it a priority to rank those websites that were mobile responsive for a better user experience.
Content and website respond to the size of the device, whether it is a tablet, smartphone or a desktop. This mobile optimized standard makes sure that user experience remains good across devices of all orientations.
Mobile-first Indexing is also a ranking signal and impacts SEO in a big way. In March 2018, Google rolled out its first Mobile-first index. This means that the search engine giant uses your site’s mobile version for indexing and ranking.
Step 2: Understanding On-Page Optimization
On-page SEO, as explained earlier, refers to a series of marketing tactics that are performed at the individual site level. This helps add to user experience and improves search positions. Content optimization, mobile optimization, keyword optimization, and snippet optimization are few tactics included in on-page SEO. You don’t need to be a blogger outreach agency to implement the tips below.
You need to focus on keyword research when drafting your on-page strategy. Try basing your keywords around the services you offer, product names, and the type of business you run. This is going to yield a broad-range of terms which may offer low search intent.
In order to find the right keywords, you first need to identify the kind of people you are targeting. You need to learn more about your audience and the kind of challenges and problems they face which can be solved by your product or service on offer. This is also called pain point. You need to create a buyer persona when you understand what your target audience needs. The data you collect shall help fuel your keyword research.
What does buyer persona mean?
Buyer persona refers to an honest (yet fictional) representation of your target audience or ideal customer. This should be based on actual market research and real customer data.
Every SEO guide requires a brief introduction to the targeted buyer persona.
You need a blueprint of the perfect or ideal customer. You should know their gender, age, demographic and economic makeup. You also need to understand the driving factors that would push them towards final sale.
You need to ensure that every piece of content on your site directly speaks to this consumer through targeted keywords that are in line with their challenges and needs.
Once you are done developing buyer persona, you need to focus on search intent.
What does search intent mean?
Search intent or keyword intent refers to the purpose behind someone searching online or making use of search engines.
There are several different types of keyword intent queries:
- Informational – user has a specific question or is searching for information about a certain topic
- Navigational – user is looking for a specific website and would typically use the brand name as query
- Commercial – these are people that are researching for a future buying decision. For instance, which HVAC system requires least maintenance? They are looking for more information to complete their transaction intent.
- Transactional – user is navigating various sites with the intention to purchase something.
Understanding search intent is an important part of any SEO strategy including a blogger outreach program.
Intent Keywords Targeted at Buyers
Intent is determined by the terms or keywords people use in their online search. They are generally looking to purchase something when they use terms, like sale, buy, or discount. Terms like DIY indicate that the user is looking for information. Likewise, people using terms like versus or best are fishing for information and comparing products to satisfy a future buying decision.
What is keyword search analysis?
Keyword research refers to tasks that best define the terms used by your target audience online when searching for the type of products or services you are offering.
You should use keyword research as the vehicle that helps you align your content and web pages to search queries.
You cannot simply dream up keywords or use whatever comes your way. This won’t help you rank. Instead, you need to identify targeted buyer persona and align pain points with search intent.
Keyword research when done the right way can take anywhere up to a week or two. You can find more about keyword research by using extensive guides and the best research tools.
The ultimate goal for SEO should be to optimize for primary keywords which solves search intent. However, it is very important that you identify the right pain points first.
Otherwise, you may end up creating content and optimizing it for questions that nobody is really asking. This would obviously result in little traffic.
Conversely, if you identify the right keywords, but base it on the wrong buyer persona or align it poorly, your site may receive high traffic, but you will end up with fewer conversions.
Once you have the list of keywords, you need to integrate them into your web pages. This should be done in a way that helps establish the purpose of your page to crawlers.
Several tricks can help you here. Firstly, make sure you use the primary keyword in the beginning of the title post (wherever possible). You also want to add it in the first paragraph.
Other placement opportunities are discussed below:
- URL – remember to add keywords to the URL
- H1 Title Tag – This refers to the primary heading that is on top of the content body and makes a great place to add primary keywords.
- H2-H6 Title Tags – These are the sub-heading titles. You should include LSI or synonyms to primary keywords here.
- First Paragraph – It is good practice to add a keyword in the beginning of the first sentence of the first paragraph. Make sure it sounds natural and adds value to your text. Google understands the importance of a keyword when you introduce it right away.
- Meta Title – This is the blue link that gets displayed in SERP. You need to make the keyword stand out here while keeping things relevant.
- Meta Description – The ad copy that gets displayed in SERPs is called Meta description. Again, the primary keyword should stand out while being relevant and in context.
- Image Filenames – Many people skip this step thinking it’s a trivial aspect. Search engines can read the filename even if they cannot interpret images.
It should look something like my-primary-keyword.jpg
- Image Alt Tags – This is the text used instead of images for visually impaired readers. It helps them understand the context of images. Remember to use your keywords wherever possible while describing your images in detail.
Purpose of Semantic Keywords
These are words or phrases that are similar to your primary keywords in meaning. Semantic keywords may also be related to your primary keywords if not directly similar. For instance, financial consultant and financial advisor are semantic keywords.
You can improve the relevancy of your content for the particular keyword to Google by adding context to the purpose of your page.
Ideal Content Structure
Content length, diversity, reading level, links and multimedia are other vital on-page SEO factors that can help you attain a higher ranking for your page.
These are explained in-depth below:
Typically, longer content is rewarded by Google with better ranking position. This is especially true when they are part of content marketing. The length is important because it allows the reader to get in-depth information about their query from one post. A rule of thumb is to follow what the top 3 search competitors are doing. You would not want to write a blog post that is 600 words or 3,000 words if the average word count is 1,200 words.
You need to keep your post interesting by using short sentences and lots of white spaces. Don’t forget to add relevant visual graphics, screenshots, images, infographics, and bulleted lists.
Flesch Reading Ease Score measures the difficulty level of reading for your copy. Remarkable web copy would have an easy score between 60 and 70, which is considered good plain English and understood by most 14 year old students.
These are important to enforce relationships between different pages on your site and make it easier to crawl your site. It also emphasizes the relevance to pillar pages or core topics.
You can increase Google’s understanding of the topic by linking out to relevant external pages.
Tip – Make sure you always choose an authoritative site to link out to which can add value to the context and visitor.
Content can instantly become interesting with multimedia. Consider using podcast, videos, and Slideshares to keep visitors engaged in your content longer. A person staying on your page for longer is an excellent search signal.
Step 3: Understanding Off-site SEO
Link building is a major way to improve your search ranking score. It is the biggest ranking signal used by Google to rank individual pages. SEO link building refers to the process of attaining or earning links to your content and site.
Sites that have more backlinks lets Google know that it is a quality resource and people are looking for that information. Google would then rank it higher.
Why Backlinks Are An Important Part Of Your Strategy
Backlinks are hyperlinks from third-party sites to your site. This is something like a citation or an up-vote in favor of the content.
Backlink quality is a major factor in off-site SEO. The confidence vote is more impactful when an authoritative site is doing the linking. Conversely, sites with low authority scores can impact you negatively.
Important Quality Factors in Backlinks
- Citation Flow as coined by Majestic tells link popularity
- Trust Flow as coined by Majestic determines the trust of a site by measuring quality
- URL Rating (UR)
- Domain Rating (DR)
- Qualitative Content Check
- Topical Trust Flow
- Sites that are HTTPS are considered credible
- Moz’s Spam Score determines the risk of penalization
- Referring Domains
- No organic traffic indicates low quality
Top Strategies for Link Building
Link-building is stressed in every SEO guide. You shouldn’t have to pay for links if your content is great. The right link building strategies would get you the backlinks you deserve.
Here are some ways to get backlinks:
This is still the best way to get backlinks from authoritative and credible sites. You can reach out site owners and show them that your content is relevant to their audience. Other reasons for linking to your content could be:
- Informational videos, resource guides, and infographics
- Your content is superior to the copy they are currently linking out to
- You offer the products or services discussed by them
- Your content directly offers solutions to pain points
- Your blog post offers a more expansive and unique perspective
Guest blogging allows you to share your knowledge with others and attain valuable backlinks in the process. Most site owners allow publishing relevant backlinks with appropriate anchor texts.
This is a listing in a local directory that comprises of your business name, number, and address. They can be a great place to acquire backlinks since the listing comprises of a short business profile, social media profiles, and website links.
Backlink Outreach Can Be Helpful
It can be real hard work to “earn” links and perform outreach that impacts your SEO positively. Gaining backlinks from authoritative sites is no joke and links from your friend’s websites just won’t cut it. You should consider investing in an extensive backlink outreach program to build links naturally from high authority websites.
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