We’ve all seen it. Google and other major search engines have made many changes to their algorithms over the last few years.
Gone are the days of building backlinks through profile creation software, forums, and comment spamming.
Search engines are trying to help people get the best search results by eliminating the sites that use blackhat methods and rewarding the ones who do things the right way.
To make sure you never get your website penalized while still ranking in top search results, here are 16 search engine optimization tips that are future proof:
1. Low competition, long-tail keywords
Keywords and keyword topics are always going to have some sort of impact on search results. Until Google finds a way to read our minds, they will have to rely on the words you type in to figure out what we’re looking for.
This means you can still use the tried and true tactic of targeting keyword phrases. But, the trick is, you need to target the ones with low competition, while consisting of 3-4 words or more.
For examples, if you try to rank for the keyword “SEO”, you will find out the hard way that there are millions of others trying to rank for that and the odds of you getting on page one are not great.
But, if you instead try to rank for “SEO tips and tricks for local businesses”, you will find the competition to be a fraction of what it was for “SEO”. This means you’re much more likely to get on page one and therefore receive some traffic.
Credit to Neil Patel for this great chart.
The impact on sales
Of course, that’s not the only reason to target low competition, long-tail keywords. There are other important benefits as well, like the clear intention of the visitor.
When someone searches one word like “SEO”, you don’t know exactly what they want. Here are just a few things they could be searching for:
- The definition
- A job in this field
- A course or book on the subject
They could really be looking for just about anything when they just type in one word. Whereas, if they type in “SEO tips and tricks for local businesses”, you know a lot more about them now.
You now know:
- They probably have a local business
- There’s a good chance they want to do SEO themselves
- They most likely want how-to tips for improving SEO for their own website
You don’t have to guess as much about what they want. So, if you target long, detailed phrases like these, you could make it easier to rank and give yourself a better chance of converting visitors into customers.
If you try to go for short, high-competition keywords, you probably won’t ever get to page one unless you have a big authority site already.
Therefore you won’t get traffic. Even if you did, you wouldn’t get many customers because you wouldn’t know what their intent is. Always go for low-competition, long-tail keywords.
2. Have keywords at the first of the title
Of course, keywords in the title play a big role in getting your blog post ranked, but does it actually matter where in the title they are located?
Brian Dean of Backlinko seems to think that having keywords at the beginning of your title for not only blog posts, but videos as well can give you a slight boost in search rankings.
If you just take a look at the search results for a keyword phrase yourself, you will notice that in many cases, they back up what he has said.
To be on the safe side and get every last drop of ranking juice out of every post, I recommend you put your keywords at the very beginning of your title. Just make sure it still sounds good.
Credit to Pro SEO Guides for this great example.
Here’s an example of how you could change this using the keyword phrase “SEO tips and tricks”:
- Before: The Ultimate List of Effective SEO Tips and Tricks
- After: SEO Tips and Tricks – The Ultimate List
This strategy by itself won’t shoot your articles up to #1 in search rankings, but every little bit counts.
3. Make titles extremely compelling
Have you ever noticed how the biggest websites and YouTube channels don’t even seem to mess with keywords on some of their content?
Some of it even seems completely random, leaving marketers like me wondering how anyone even finds their content if it has no chance to rank for particular keywords.
The conclusion I came to after looking into this is that all great content just needs to be compelling. Sometimes people get too caught up in keywords or SEO and don’t even realize that their titles look like they were written by a robot.
Humans don’t typically make logical decisions. They make emotional ones. You’ll notice that news media and entertainment brands really know how to create an emotional response with their headlines because they know that’s what creates traffic.
Just go to Yahoo.com and look at all the top stories. Look specifically at the headlines. I bet you’ll even click on a few of them without even realizing it.
Trust me, it happens to me all the time, even when I’m there to just observe how the titles are written. They just know how to make titles use emotional words, cliffhangers, and more to grab your attention.
If you want a free tool that helps you craft the best headlines by combining compelling words with keywords, use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.
4. Write lengthy content
Blog post length is critical to rankings. By making it a goal to write as much as possible on the given subject of the post, you tend to go much more in-depth, therefore creating a much higher quality article.
This is what search engines like Google are looking for. They want to give users the best quality search results possible. A vague, short article typically won’t answer all the questions the viewer has.
Quicksprout has a great chart that shows you the effect of more content on search result rankings:
As you can see, there tends to be a correlation between more words and average rankings. But, if you’re still not convinced that you should write longer articles for SEO, here’s a bonus that BuzzSumo and OkDork discovered:
Not only do you get higher average rankings and please website visitors by going more in-depth with content, you even get more social media shares. So, why would you not write lengthy content?
Related: On-Page SEO Complete Breakdown
5. Optimize site speed
Believe it or not, page load time can affect everything from bounce rate and conversions to even your rankings in search engines. In fact, for every 1% delay in load time, you could be sacrificing 7% of potential conversions.
That really adds up! If you have the typical 3-5 second load time, you could be losing as much as 35% of potential revenue. People hate waiting, and Google has figured that out. This is why page load time is now a ranking signal.
Credit to Backlinko for this visual representation of page speed’s impact on SEO.
To improve rankings, bounce rates, conversions, and overall user-friendliness…
Do these things to improve site speed:
- Use GZIP compression
- Optimize your images
- Use caching
- Use a CDN
- Stop relying on HTML to resize images
- Minimize 301 redirects
6. Do mass social media promotion
Although it isn’t completely known whether Google and other search engines use the number of shares of articles to determine if they should be ranked higher, you will find that top ranking articles typically have a lot more shares.
He also says that just because an article with lots of shares is ranking at the top of search results, doesn’t mean that is the cause. Of course, SEO is complex and we know that there is no one factor that will just cause top rankings, but a combination.
Still, the correlation between more shares and higher rankings is there, cause or not.
Plus, they make for great social signals, because posts with lots of shares have a good first impression on new readers. This makes visitors more likely to read all the way through and share it themselves.
For getting the benefits of positive social signals and possibly an SEO boost…
Here’s how to leverage social media for articles:
7. Constantly publish new content
If you want better rankings, you need to write more in-depth articles, like I mentioned earlier. The more in-depth posts you have, the more chances you have of ranking for your top keywords.
Publishing more, doesn’t always equal better rankings though, because many blogs sacrifice their quality for quantity when they try this.
Publishing more content helps because it tells search engines your blog is active and constantly updating with fresh content.
The trick is, can you keep up the same high quality standards when you post more often?
Credit to HubSpot for this great visual.
A comparison of two blog styles
If you look at the keywords Quicksprout is trying to rank for, the site is almost always in the top results. You’ll almost never see Entrepreneur beat it for the same keywords, yet Entrepreneur gets more traffic and cranks out way more content.
The difference between these two sites besides their post volume is the quality of the articles. Sure, Entrepreneur has successful people contribute pretty good articles everyday, but they’re typically 1,000 words or less and never go into much detail.
Whereas, Quicksprout has extremely detailed posts full of keywords, thousands of words, dozens of images, statistics, examples, etc.
Why both styles work
Because of their detail, Quicksprout articles are more likely to rank than typical Entrepreneur articles, even though Entrepreneur may have more site authority and overall traffic.
Quicksprout gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. Now, imagine if Neil Patel (the owner of Quicksprout) cranked out even half as many posts per day as Entrepreneur while keeping the same quality.
His traffic would be astronomical! But, it’s not necessary for Neil Patel to write more on Quicksprout because he does very well for himself already. Entrepreneur probably won’t change much either.
The point is, publishing more often makes your site fresher and rank a little better as long as you don’t sacrifice quality. Entrepreneur wouldn’t get as much traffic if they posted the same amount as Quicksprout.
Quicksprout would have to post A LOT more if the articles were more like Entrepreneur’s to get the same traffic. Posting more improves your SEO as long as you keep the quality and quantity balanced.
8. Get people to comment
Remember how I said content length helps SEO? Well, what if I told you that all the words in your article don’t have to be written in the article? Comments also count towards your post length.
If you have a 1,000 word post that is really insightful, chances are it won’t stay at 1,000 words because people will want to comment on it. This could add on another 500 or more words to your article!
On top of that, comments are considered engagement. The more engagement with your posts, the more popular they look to search engines, making them likely to give you at least a small boost in SEO.
Additionally, comments are great social signals. When you see a post and are wondering if it is helpful or popular, you tend to look at how many social shares and comments it has.
To sum it up, there are a lot of benefits to getting more comments, so you need to take the right steps to get them.
Here are a few strategies for getting more blog comments:
- Decluttering the area below your articles, so people can easily go straight to the comment section after reading.
- Giving a call to action at the end to get people to comment.
- Create insightful content that is too good not to comment on.
- Respond to comments that you get and people are more likely to join the conversation.
- Write in a conversational way, using questions, encouraging others’ ideas, and treating the article like you’re talking to a friend.
- Talk about sensitive or controversial topics (at your own risk).
- Talk about current news and events.
- Be approachable by answering emails, social comments, etc.
- Comment on other blogs in a way that adds value.
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“320 Blog Post Ideas (With Examples)
Never Worry About Writer's Block Again And Start Getting Bigger Blog Conversions, Traffic, Rankings And Engagement.
9. Use lots of media on each post
Have you ever noticed how a lot of the top SEO bloggers use lots of media like videos and images in their posts? Neil Patel of Quicksprout and Brian Dean of Backlinko are two great examples.
The question is: Is it possible that the media in these posts has an impact on rankings too as opposed to just user-friendliness?
We all love media and process it better than text, so it definitely helps people enjoy the post more when there are a few images or videos in it. But, while that’s very important, you may get a small SEO boost as well from using media.
One thing we know is that media really impacts social shares. In fact, a post that has at least one image gets 43% more social shares on average compared to text-only alternatives.
Here is some more interesting data we found relating to the use of media in posts and pages:
- Posts with photos get 94% more views.
- A video on a landing page can increase conversions by 86%.
- A post with a video gets up to 300% more inbound links.
Whether Google and other search engines have an actual part of their algorithm dedicated to whether pages have media or not, no one knows.
But, based on the data, it sure seems like media can help you with lots of things related to rankings or user-friendliness like social shares, views, conversions, and backlinks.
Also, keep in mind that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and huge pieces of text without media are becoming more intimidating. All of this proves there is no reason not to use media throughout posts.
10. Link to your related articles
When you link from your post to your other related articles, also called “internal linking”, it helps search engines figure out what your content is about. It also makes it easier for people looking to expand on the topic more.
This is one of the few ways you can help search engines figure out what your main topic for the article is, so you should never overlook it. But, there are ways to abuse internal linking as well.
Here are some best practices for internal linking:
- Use links that are natural for the reader. Don’t have them there just for SEO because search engines will see right through it.
- Make sure internet links are relevant. They should flow throughout the article and be used in a way that adds to the content by giving people the chance to expand on certain points more in-depth.
- Think about the probability of a visitor clicking the link before inserting it. This will help you determine if it’s worth putting there and how much the impact might be on the SEO benefits for this piece and the linked piece.
- Don’t use the same anchor text over and over thoughout the same post. This looks like spam and could get your penalized.
- Use internal links in moderation because each one could delude their impact as you add more, according to James White, Head of Technical SEO, Search Laboratory.
- Use follow links and don’t worry about their nofollow counterparts. Nofollow links don’t add any SEO juice and don’t help you in terms of SEO anymore.
11. Link to external resources
Not only does it help Google figure out what your content is about when you link internally, but also when you link externally. In fact, this study proves external linking correctly can improve SEO.
On top of that, it helps readers expand more on points made in a post, just like internal linking does.
So, what’s the difference between external and internal links? Internal links are to pages on the same website and external links are to other websites.
Here are a few best practices for including external links in your blog posts:
- Link to high-authority sites. You want to link to the highest quality sites, because they add the most value for readers and make your site look better to search engines.
- Make sure links are very relevant. Linking to random posts that aren’t related to your content will hurt, not help you.
- Don’t use external links specifically for SEO purposes. Your content quality will be much better if you focus on links that add value to the reader’s experience.
12. Use proper tags
According to Wordstream, post tags don’t have the same impact they used to, but they still serve a purpose. They are somewhat similar to categories, but they are more specific.
You might have a few broad categories for your different types of content, but then you have, maybe, hundreds of specific tags that group articles together in terms of relevancy to each other.
For example, if you have a food blog, you might have American, Asian, and Italian Cuisine as your categories. Then, for the American Cuisine category, you might have American breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, etc. as more specific tags.
As far as rankings go, tags probably have one of the smallest impacts on this list. But, you should still use a couple of them per post to help site navigation and the understanding of what topic is being covered.
Quick tip: Don’t use tags that match categories. If you have “Marketing” as a blog category and “Marketing” as a tag as well, that can mess with your site configuration, confusing search engines.
13. Use proper categories
Categories are broad groupings of pages on your site. As mentioned earlier, tags are just more specific versions of categories, not unlike sub-categories.
Having good category and tag pages can improve SEO, even if they don’t make up a very big chunk of the Google algorithm.
You might reference the food blog example I gave earlier when talking about tags to see how to properly separate them from categories. It’s pretty straight forward how to use them.
Their purpose is to help navigation and give more insight into what the content is about. This helps search engines and visitors both.
As mentioned in the “Tags” section, be careful not to have duplicates between tags and categories. You can read more about that on this post on Yoast.
14. Make it easy to read
One thing I typically recommend for WordPress users looking to improve SEO is to download the free Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin can instantly help you improve SEO in many areas, including readability.
Readability is something many bloggers tend to overlook. Many believe that using big words and flaunting their diverse vocabulary makes them look smarter. This may be true in some cases, but blog posts you write are about helping the reader, not yourself.
You can help a lot more people by writing at a level that is easy for more people of all sorts of educational backgrounds to understand.
Many writers forget that their style, while being understandable to them, seems more like quantum physics to most readers. This is why we have the Flesch Reading Ease test.
This test just gives you a score on a scale of 0-100 telling you how easy your content is to read.
Here is a breakdown of the Flesch Reading Ease scores:
- 0-30: content should be reserved for university graduates.
- 60-70: easily understood by 13-15 year old students.
- 90-100: easily understood by an 11 year old student.
It would be a real pain in the you-know-what to copy and paste this content into a site to get the readability score every time, so luckily the Yoast SEO plugin does it for you.
It will show you your content readability using the Flesch Reading Ease test, as well as other factors as you write your post in WordPress.
We don’t know whether readability is a part of Google’s algorithm or not, but it can really impact other things that are.
This is an example of what the Yoast readability indicators look like in WordPress.
If you have bad readability, you can expect negative effects on:
- Bounce rates
- Social shares
- Email subscriptions
- Return visitors
All of these are great reasons to take your readability seriously when optimizing your website.
15. Get natural backlinks
When it comes down to the roots of search engine optimization, the accumulation of quality backlinks has always been there. And, of course, it still is.
According to Moz, around 77.8% of top search results had at least one external link pointing to the page (otherwise known as a backlink).
Also, the same study concluded that the impact of external links on rankings is 0.3, which happens to be one of the highest correlations in the extremely diverse Google algorithm.
But, here’s the thing that’s really changed over the years: you have to get backlinks that are natural. You can’t use article spinning, profile creation software, and things like that anymore because you will get penalized by Google.
All search engines want is quality and natural-looking backlinks are one of the greatest symbols of it.
Here are a few ways to get quality backlinks:
- Give testimonials and have your link listed under your name.
- Give bloggers your product or service for free and have them do a review of it, also linking back to your site.
- Take part in link roundups where blogs look for the latest and greatest posts on a certain topic.
- Use BuzzSumo or Mention.net to find non-linked mentions of your brand name and email the site owner a friendly reminder to add your link to the text.
- Use HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to provide information to reporters needing an expert on certain topics, having them link back to your brand’s website.
- Submit to website feedback sites that review your layout and other aspects while usually linking to you. Try Suggestion Box or Criticue.
- Submit your website to blog aggregators who list quality blogs in different categories. Alltop is a good example.
- Find broken links on websites related to your industry and email them about it with one of your blog post links that they could use to replace it.
16. Build up domain authority
Domain authority is one of the most important factors in all of SEO. Domain authority is something that Moz came up with that is supposed to help measure a site’s likelihood in competing for top rankings.
Domain authority, if I had to put it in the simplest terms, basically refers to your site’s reputation as a quality source. So, domain authority is your reputation as an entire site and doesn’t worry as much about one individual page.
Search engines try to improve the quality of search results as much as possible, so the more reliable the source of a post is, the more likely they’ll rank it at the top. The thing is, how do you prove that your site is worthy of being an authority?
There are many factors that go into your site’s domain authority, so it’s hard to directly influence it, especially in a short time span.
Some things that can help site authority are:
- Domain age. Sites that have withstood the test of time tend to have a better reputation.
- Post/Update frequency. Domains that are active and publishing fresh articles or updates tend to rank higher than ones that post less often.
- Backlinks from authority sites that have already been established. Google knows a quality site wouldn’t risk their reputation to link to a low quality site.
- Linking to quality sites. For your visitors, you should want nothing but the best. Even if your content is good, if you lead visitors to sketchy or spammy websites by linking to them, they won’t appreciate it.
There’s actually a browser extension that Moz created for us to measure our domain authority in terms of their very detailed SEO algorithms. You can get it here.
Here’s what the Moz tool shows you in terms of domain authority, page authority, etc.
It will give you an overall number score that represents your site’s authority as well as others’.
SEO is now less about search engines and more about user-friendliness. Always be asking yourself what would be better for your visitors.
Use these 16 search engine optimization strategies to rank your site and avoid being penalized in the future. Don’t ever try to trick Google and take a shortcut, because it never works.
FREE BLOG RESOURCE:
“320 Blog Post Ideas (With Examples)
Never Worry About Writer's Block Again And Start Getting Bigger Blog Conversions, Traffic, Rankings And Engagement.