Which SEO techniques and strategies will dominate the SERPs in 2021 and beyond? In this article you’ll learn 7 search engine optimization tactics that will help you reach the front page of Google and stay there.
2Marketing has experience in search engine optimization going back over 20 years. In that time, a lot has changed… but some things have stayed the same. This article will be the ultimate guide to how you can fuel your marketing campaigns and where you should aim the laser focus of your backlink building. You’ll learn on and off page SEO techniques, what creates viral social shares, and how to improve your site rank in any niche.
We’ll go over the basics as well as some advanced ideas, showing you everything you need to create a website that’s optimised for humans and robots. We’ll even show you some quick wins you can use to improve your organic results fast!
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What is SEO?
Many marketers receive an overly complicated introduction to the basics of SEO, and as a result they never make it to the first page of Google. Search Engine Optimization is simply the science and art of guiding organic search traffic to your website. This is accomplished through on page optimization and link building, as well as other key strategies we’ll cover in this article.
SEO is one of the highest ROI strategies available to marketers, and it can take your authority to the next level. The amazing thing is that all you really need is a domain name, some hosting, and a simple WordPress template. Combine that with the right SEO tactics and you can potentially make a lot of money.
What is White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO?
The exact definitions of these terms vary depending on who you ask. Generally speaking though, white hat SEO encompasses all actions that Google / other search engines approve of. Black hat SEO is essentially gaming the system, trying to find loopholes and exploits that will improve your rankings. A good example of a black hat practice which no longer works is keyword stuffing.
At one time, keyword stuffing worked incredibly well. Many SEOs have reported that there was a time when filling whitespace with invisible white text that repeated the target keyword over and over could improve your pagerank. Obviously Google is smart enough to see through this now, but there are other tricks which still fly under the radar. Be aware, if you stray toward the black hat side of things (or even grey hat) you may wind up with a Google penalty.
What is Local SEO and What Makes it Different?
Local SEO involves many of the same elements, but it has some key differences. For example, the most important signals for getting a high search ranking for a global keyword are high authority backlinks. When targeting a local long-tail keyword, accurate citations are often more important than links from authority sites. Local SEO also relies much more on tools such as Google Maps and Google My Business. While an authority blogger would have some of the skills to do local search optimization, they might lack some key insight into how to get the best rankings.
Citations are online listings that feature the business’ name, address, and phone number, as well as (hopefully) their email address and a link. Yelp and YellowPages are both examples of sites where citations can be obtained.
Optimizing for a local business is often considered “easier” than for a global one, perhaps because there’s less competition or because citations can be easier to come by than high authority backlinks. In any case, if you’re working with local businesses it’s important to focus on the right metrics and tactics that will reward your SEO efforts.
Topic and Keyword Research
Topics are the seeds from which strong root keywords grow. Targeting the right keywords at the right time can 2x or more your website’s organic traffic. Even if your blog is new and has few backlinks and social media signals, if you choose a good niche there will be accessible keywords.
What is Topic Research and How Does it Affect Keywords?
You know what topic research is; you’ve been doing it since your teacher assigned your first essay in the 4th grade. Once you’ve chosen some trending topics, you can generate lists of keywords from them. But how do you find trending topics? It’s easy.
Quora, Reddit, Facebook and Linkedin groups, and the Amazon bestseller list all make a good starting point where you can discover and validate topic ideas. By reading popular posts and listings in your niche, you’ll get a good idea of what topics are in high demand. Make a list of any you may write about in a spreadsheet.
Once you have a decent topic cluster or three for content ideas, the next step is running them through a tool such as BuzzSumo or Social Animal. These tools will show you which articles covering those topics are getting the most social shares. Use these for inspiration for more specific topics, headlines, and content strategy and structure.
The last step of this section is running your subjects through keyword tools like Answer the Public, Keyword Sheeter, Ubersuggest, SEMrush, and even your favorite search engine (we recommend Google). Google will auto-suggest popular queries when you type a topic into the search bar, and completing searches will bring up the top ranking pages and blog posts as well as lists of relevant search terms and questions people ask.
Answer the Public and Keyword Sheeter will give you lists of relevant keywords and questions commonly used in search engines. When you plug those terms into Ubersuggest or SEMrush, you’ll get search volume data as well as lists of relevant keywords, difficulty ratings, and more.
Keyword Research Tools and How We Use Them
If you’re in the market for the best keyword research tool, we recommend SEMrush. Ahrefs is a close second, and UberSuggest will do in a pinch if you’re on a budget. With these tools we determine the search volume of potential keywords for blog posts and articles. Another useful purpose is finding similar keywords which may have equivalent or greater volume.
Longer keywords – known as “long tail keywords” – that contain 2-3 or more words are typically easier targets, and ranking for them can be a strong first step toward more competitive keywords. You can export data directly from any of the recommended tools, and create a new spreadsheet for comparing search volumes.
When you have all of your long tails in one place, deciding which you will target first is usually pretty easy. Don’t base your decisions entirely on the “search difficulty” rating given by the tool, though. You’ll need your own competitive analysis if you want a chance at ranking for any competitive keywords.
Stealing Keyword Ideas
One of the easiest ways to get a bunch of proven keyword ideas is to steal (or “borrow”) them from competitors. All you need to do is run the domain name through a tool like Ahrefs, UberSuggest, or SEMrush. Any of these tools can tell you which of your competitor’s pages are getting the most search traffic. From that you can gain many website content ideas that you already know are going to have decent search volume (and be attainable, if you have similar domain authority to your competitors).
Competitive Analysis of Top Search Results
Analysis of the first page of results for your keyword of choice is one of the best ways to gain a competitive advantage in SEO. Pay attention to the title tags the query brings up, as well as how many headings, internal links and external links, and images the ranking articles use. Since Google’s rankbrain algorithm shows the most helpful articles based on user intent, you can assume that your target audience is finding the top posts useful.
Once you’ve established the types of content your competitors are using and the concentration of various on-page elements, your goal will be creating a “similar” piece of content that is actually 2x (or even 10x) better.
When doing competitive analysis you want to focus on articles that will be similar to your own. For example, just because wikipedia ranks first or second for a keyword phrase, doesn’t mean you should emulate the wikipedia page with your content. Instead base your analysis on the same type of content on the same type of site – so if you have a blog, look at other blog posts.
Leapfrogging the SEO Competition with Great Content
There are a number of ways to get real results from your link building campaigns, and knowing what makes up actual “great content” is among them. Two top SEO strategies for creating content that gets more shares and natural links are using impressive media and unique data. Well designed infographics that compile data in a compelling way are particularly memorable, and if the data is unique it makes the article a “source” where many backlinks may eventually lead.
Being a content marketer in addition to a Search Engine Optimizer is necessary if you want the best possible results. Creating content that other white hat webmasters will link to requires more than a few hours pounding a keyboard. When looking to leapfrog posts with high pagerank, ask yourself how you can make your content better and more unique than what already exists.
The contents of a web page is one of the most important search ranking factors, so having great on page SEO is a necessity in 2020 and beyond. You probably already know to use your keyword in the URL, title, meta tag and meta description, headings and content, and other basic SEO concepts. In this article we’re going to take a deeper dive into how to create relevant content for specific keywords.
One thing you should bear in mind (which can be easily forgotten) is that shorter sentences with simpler words work best. These are better for the searcher, and will be more likely to show up in a featured snippet. While it is important to include the main key phrase in the title, it’s at least equally important that the title compels visitors to click. A blogger who consistently writes poor titles will struggle to maintain qualified traffic, because you’ll constantly lose position to articles with more clickable titles.
Writing search optimized content is a balancing act; you want to hit the important keywords, but avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. The headline, sub-headings, body, categories, and tags are all important places to use relevant keywords, however this no longer means that you MUST use an exact match keyword in every location. Because Google can now understand that similar phrases mean the same thing, you can afford to be a bit less robotic with on-page SEO.
Using power words and emotional words in the headline and throughout the content will help improve your visibility and make your writing more memorable. If you really understand your target market, you should be able to use the type of language that a lot of people will respond to.
Optimizing For Voice Search and Intent
Voice search optimization is all about answering common questions, and is more like “question engine optimization” than standard SEO. Many people use voice search when browsing on mobile devices. A great way to optimize for this is to explicitly answer questions which contain your target keyword within the content. If you use FAQ Schema markup you can increase your chances of having your answers displayed in the SERP (search engine results page) under “people also ask”.
Page Speed and User Experience
Optimizing for site speed and user experience are two of the most important parts of technical SEO. Visitors will leave a site that is too slow or too awkward to navigate. Having solid site structure is necessary, as is avoiding unneeded redirects, but page speed and a clean loading experience are the two biggest factors.
Simple best practices if you’re using a CMS like WordPress include using high quality themes and plugins, keeping your images correctly sized and losslessly compressed, and ensuring every page/post on the site is accessible within 3-4 clicks from the homepage. This is referred to as “crawl depth”, and ensures that search engines (and people) will be able to navigate the site efficiently.
Google Search Console now includes assessments of your site’s load speed and the cleanliness of its contentful paint. This means that if elements on your website jump around a lot as it loads, you might have trouble ranking for more competitive search queries.
While search console and Google Analytics are a good place to start, you’ll need to do a full SEO audit in order to make sure you catch everything. If a site has a number of problems, you can build a case study as you improve it to show to future clients. Each technical improvement you make will make it a little easier for Google to index your content, improving your page rank.
You can use services like GTmetrix and Page Speed Insights to get a quick idea of how fast your site is loading. Tools like WebPageTest.org give a more robust analysis, even taking screenshots or recording video of the site’s loading sequence.
Going Beyond Google Search
Because “Big G” is such a dominant force in the world of online search, it’s possible you might forget there are other major players. Bing in particular is worth paying attention to, as Microsoft now controls it and Yahoo / Yandex. At the very least you should set up your Bing webmaster account, submit your sitemap, and check on it from time to time to ensure posts are indexing.
Having a Bing Webmaster account also gives you access to Microsoft advertising, which can be a much cheaper PPC alternative to Google ads. While running ads is not a part of search engine optimization, it can be a complementary strategy, especially when you’re first building organic search rankings.
Microsoft ads also has its own keyword planner, which can be used to discover high value search queries to target with ads or organic search.
Top 6 Link Building Strategies
If you want to succeed as a content marketer, at some point you may have to settle down and build backlinks. There’s a lot more to SEO strategies than just avoiding spammy links, in fact quality linking is one of the most significant ranking factors. Whether you’re building internal links or backlinks, having anchor text that matches your target keyword as closely as possible can boost your page rank. Here are some of the most commonly used link building techniques that are still working today.
Epic Content Creation
Content creation is about more than just getting words on the important pages. If you create truly epic works that are both longer and much more helpful than existing content, it gives others a good reason to link to your site. Original videos, infographics, and case studies are a great way to differentiate your content and make it unique and better than all others. If you’re not a great designer yourself, you can easily outsource the design work for anywhere from $20 to $2000. There are many agencies that offer monthly “unlimited” design packs, leaving you free to focus on writing and optimization.
This is essentially a variation on “the skyscraper technique”, which was coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko. The skyscraper technique revolves around creating content that outpaces all competitors and that has many different “levels” from which you can build internal links with great anchor text, spreading the incoming link juice around your website effectively.
Broken Link Building
Broken links or dead links occur more often than you might think! Any time a website moves, disappears, or changes its domain name, links pointing to it may end up going nowhere (or worse, to a GoDaddy landing page). Finding a broken link / dead link and pointing it out to the website owner is a great opportunity to ask for a backlink to a relevant and helpful piece of content. Just shoot them a polite and at least semi-personalized email so they know you aren’t sending mass outreach emails. While success rates are not incredibly high with this method, it can potentially result in an easy win.
Although it is now commonly believed that guest post links create less “link juice”, guest posting remains one of the successful strategies for building high value backlinks. Since many webmasters now automatically ask for payment when you ask for a link, offering to guest post on their blog is a good counter-offer if you want to avoid buying links. Havin a multi-tiered approach to link building can get you better results than just sending out single emails, which is why we recommend developing a proven process or SOP and following it.
This SEO technique is sure to increase your organic traffic when implemented correctly. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is an organization that connects experts with reporters in need of quotations. Helping a reporter in this way often results in a backlink with high domain authority. This can be one of the best link building opportunities, so we recommend signing up for HARO if you have expertise in a relevant field.
Many forums will allow you to include a backlink in your signature or profile. While these usually aren’t incredibly powerful, it’s better than nothing especially for beginner websites. If you share great quality content you may even be able to include other links back to your site in your posts, just make sure you read and understand the forum rules first!
An aged domain is a domain that is not brand new – usually they can be purchased through auction sites such as Flippa and GoDaddy auctions. While not all aged domains have value, many still have excellent backlink profiles which you can take advantage of. If you have a relevant website (especially a newer one) you can use a 301 redirect to add some of the old domain’s link juice to your site. Alternatively you can just build a new site on the old domain, copying any URLs that have quality links.
Staying On the Cutting Edge
SEO Tools We Recommend
The two heaviest hitters on the market right now are Ahrefs and SEMrush. If you’re doing serious search engine optimization, you’ll want to have access to one of these SEO tools or the other. If you’re on a budget and don’t need as much power, UberSuggest is an alternative with a free tier.
Another SEO tool we mentioned is Answer the Public. It has a free tier, and when combined with Google Keyword Planner or anything else that can give you search volume, it’s incredibly powerful.
As a search engine optimizer you should also have both a computer or laptop AND a smartphone you can work from. Since search engine rankings can be different on smartphones and other mobile devices than on computers, it can be ideal to have the ability to do a manual real-world check. Having a mobile device or three is also great for testing you websites.
Schema is structured data that helps search engines pull and display information from your site in rich search results. The relevance of this is clear; if you can get new content to display directly in the SERPs as snippets, you have a better chance of getting the click than your competitors. There are a number of WordPress plugins that can implement Schema for you, or you can generate it yourself at Schema.org.
The Power of Being an SEO Expert
As a player of the SEO game you have the power to help business owners, online retailers, and anyone whose website can benefit from more search engine traffic. However, that doesn’t mean you need to take them all on as clients. If you’d rather not deal with potential customers every day, you can use your skills and experience to focus on building affiliate marketing blogs or lead generation websites.
These are great ways of generating a mostly passive income on autopilot that are inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t understand the sweet science of search. If you have an affiliate partnership or a lead generation partnership with multiple business owners, it’s quite possible to set up a tidy side hustle with a few well optimized websites.
The Evolution of Search Engine Optimization Strategy
What do you see coming next in the world of SEO technique? We want to hear from you in the comments section! Are you a site owner, or intending to build your first website soon? We’d be happy to help you establish a solid SEO plan. Whether you have a small business or a well established company, our SEO tactics can help improve your bottom line.
Contact us today!