Stuck in a cycle of optimizations that don’t move the needle?
This article reveals white hat techniques that can potentially double, triple, or even increase your traffic from organic search.
Google’s website ranking system incorporates a series of algorithms designed to deliver the “best” results.
These algorithms consider many factors, including a query’s words, relevance, page usability, source expertise, geolocation, and parameters.
Moreover, the weighting of these factors depends on the nature of a request.
For topical subjects, freshness carries a lot of weight.
For a dictionary-like definition, the trust and authority of the page play a bigger role.
To make sure the algorithms work as expected, Google employs an army of quality raters.
They follow strict guidelines developed by Google to ensure that the output of the algorithm meets established standards for page quality and met needs. These guidelines are must-read for anyone serious about building a high-performing website.
According to Google, their search algorithm looks at five key factors to determine which results appear at the top of their search results:
- Meaning of your request.
- Relevance of web pages.
- Content quality.
- Usability of web pages.
- Context and settings.
By addressing these five factors, you will put yourself in a position to outperform the competition. Here are some specific tips on how to do this:
1. Mobile first
I started promoting a “mobile-first” approach to SEO in March 2015, after dubbing Google’s pending mobile update “mobilegeddon”.
The name caught on, but the April 21, 2015 update didn’t create as big of a shake-up as expected at the time.
He warned everyone, however, that mobile was here and not “the future” anymore. Those who ignored the warning to go mobile paid the price later.
Today, Google is all-in on mobile.
If you’re not sure if your website meets the mobile-friendliness criteria, log in to your Search Console account and view the mobile usability report.
Google will report mobile issues there, so you can take appropriate action to get compliant.
2. Claim your business listing
Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, is a free business listing.
Business profiles appear in Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Shopping. If your business has a physical location or visits customers, you can create a business profile on Google.
Top 5 Benefits of Google Business Profile
- It’s FREE advertising – cheaper than paid search and faster than SEO.
- Google Maps/3-Pack favors geographically relevant businesses.
- An optimized profile makes a good first impression.
- A good number of stars builds trust and provides social proof.
- The ability to check profile performance and get insights.
As Google continues to improve its ability to deliver hyper-local results, it is extremely important to have complete and accurate data in its Google Business Profile.
It continues to be an easy win, as many businesses haven’t even claimed registration yet.
3. Improve your page experience
Google’s page experience is defined by a set of signals designed to measure user reaction to a web page. This measure goes beyond basic information value.
It uses Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure page load performance, interactivity, and visual stability, as well as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial directives.
How Does Page Experience Affect Rankings?
In cases where multiple pages can meet the relevance search criteria, the page experience carries more weight.
A page that provides sought-after information always wins over a page with less relevance, but a better page experience.
In short, the page experience can be the SERP tiebreaker.
4. Focus on User Experience (UX)
Google has always encouraged webmasters to focus primarily on the quality of user experience.
As the algorithm gets “smarter”, websites that do so are positioned to benefit the most. A good user experience goes far beyond writing clean code.
According to this Oxford Journal study, “The goal of corporate UX design is to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the usefulness, ease of use and enjoyment of interacting with a product.”
For our purposes, your website is the product. The goal is to first determine a user’s intent and then develop a methodology for smooth navigation – a methodology that evokes positive emotion and leads to an overall good experience.
Integrating UX best practices is easy. The web is full of templates and tips.
What separates pros from amateurs is A/B testing.
Each of us has our own biases that will influence how a web page is constructed.
By running a series of experiments, you’ll be able to quantify what works and what doesn’t, and keep testing until you get the right answer.
5. Do your keyword research
It’s true – keyword research is still important.
With Google providing less keyword data, third parties like Ahrefs and Semrush have developed their own keyword tools to fill the void.
However, the way one performs and uses keyword research results has changed, thanks to RankBrain and BERT.
At its core, RankBrain is machine learning. This allows Google to put things in context rather than relying solely on strings of metadata. Google now understands linguistic nuances such as radicals, synonyms and answers.
BERT is an acronym for Bi-Directional Encoder Representations of Transformers.
The primary goal is to provide better search results for longer, more conversational searches where prepositions such as “for” and “to” affect the context of a query.
At the time of launch in October 2019, Google predicted that BERT would impact 10% of all searches in the United States.
The new generation of keyword tools take this into consideration by generating relevant data such as parent topics, keyword groups, and search intent.
Armed with this information, users can develop contextually relevant content.
6. Have a well-rounded content marketing plan
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 51% of all respondents say it’s harder to capture audiences’ attention today than it was a year ago.
Since content is one of Google’s biggest ranking factors, it’s important to get it right. Again, this represents a huge opportunity for those willing to invest the time to make it happen.
Everyone talks about creating “great content,” but what does that mean?
It’s really about having useful content, finding the right audience, and then reaching that audience.
It doesn’t have to be a difficult exercise. It comes down to having empathy with your prospects and customers. Ann Handley created the following formula to sum it up:
Useful x Enjoyable x Inspired = Innovative Content
Great content comes in many different forms. A well-rounded content marketing plan will include a combination of the following elements:
- Data-driven visuals (original research).
- SlideShare presentations.
7. Pay attention to on-page optimization
Did you know that Google publishes its own Getting Started Guide to Search Engine Optimization? Do it now.
Despite its name, this guide is a great resource for anyone looking to maximize their chances of appearing in Google search results.
The guide covers key on-page basics, including best practices for optimizing:
- Page titles.
- Meta descriptions.
- Image alt text.
- Structured markup.
- Page URLs.
- Internal link.
Additional resources to improve on-page optimization:
8. Link Building Supercharges All Other Efforts
The day may come when links are less important for rankings, but that day has not yet arrived. The key is to get the right kinds of links.
Links relevant to your site. Links that require human editorial review. The types of links that are earned.
My favorite approach to earning relevant links is to create a resource hub. A resource center can work on just about any type of website. In addition to attracting links, a good resource center helps build trust and authority.
Learn about this approach and more by downloading Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide.
Organic search is a game of thumbs. There is no better way to dominate the SERPs. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
If you focus only on the eight areas shown above, you can double, triple, or even increase your traffic tenfold.
Featured image: goodbishop/Shutterstock