Understanding SEO is crucial to significantly increasing your traffic and brand awareness.
Right now, thousands of people are looking for content just like yours. You can help them find it by becoming an SEO expert.
According to HubSpot, 80% of a website’s traffic begins with a search query. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important.
Staying on top of SEO takes a lot of research and experimentation. Google’s algorithms are constantly updated so it’s important to stay tuned into the latest news. With this in mind, and a bit of practice, you can become your own SEO expert.
That’s what I did!
Every day, people use Google to conduct over 3.5 billion searches. In the U.S., 78% of people use the web to research products and services before buying.
Once your website begins to rank in the first pages of Google’s search results, you’ll get more visibility. This means more traffic, more conversions, and eventually, increased revenue.
Getting to page one of the search results is vital. 75% of users don’t even click past the first page!
The first three organic search results get 60% of all traffic from a web search. Leads coming from a search have a 14.6% close rate, compared to just 1.7% from channels like print or direct mail advertising.
1. Complete an SEO Audit on your website
Auditing your website helps you discover why you’re not getting enough search traffic and sales. Many SEO companies offer this service, but you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself.
An SEO audit means you’re closely examining your overall site performance, setting new goals based on what you find, and implementing tactics to reach those goals. This process helps you increase your profits by making the best use of the content you already have.
This may not sound like an advanced SEO strategy, but you’d be surprised how many websites are missing basic on-page SEO like page titles or descriptions. It’s easy to overlook when creating your website, but easy to fix with an audit.
Here’s what you should be looking for during an audit:
Check #1: Do all your website’s pages have SEO meta titles and descriptions?
Check #2: Is each page on your website optimized for SEO keywords?
Check #4. Is each page and blog post formatted properly?
By properly, I mean is each page:
Broken up with headings and subheadings (h1 and h2 tags)?
Using 2-3 sentences per paragraph?
Bolding or italicizing important points?
Optimized with a call to action?
43% of people skim blog posts instead of reading the whole thing. Make it easy for people to read!
Check #5: Do all your images have keywords in their ALT tags?
Check #6: Are you using links in your content?
This includes both internal links (to your own content) and external links (to other websites).
I cover linking in detail later in this article, but it’s very important for SEO as one of Google’s top three ranking factors.
Looking for an easier way to perform a website SEO audit? Here’s how to use QuickSprout to conduct a site audit and discover opportunities for improving your search traffic:
Step #1: Go to QuickSprout. Enter your website URL into the box, and press Analyze website.
Step #2: You’ll be taken to a results page outlining all the SEO items you should fix.
From the results above, you can see that forbes.com does mostly everything right except for a few things in orange. The page title for the homepage is too short, at just 6 characters, when the recommended length is between 15-65 characters.
Additionally, there are several subheadings on the page that are too long which QuickSprout lists for you:
The best heading tags contain 15 to 65 characters. We can easily edit the ones above to be under 65 characters.
Example: Introducing the Forbes SportsMoney Index, The Definitive Money Ranking in Sports
That’s 80 characters. Let’s reduce it to 65 or less, but still keep the keywords and intent:
Introducing Forbes SportsMoney: Money Ranking in Sports
Now it’s 55 characters. Easy, right?
Some other options could be:
Forbes SportsMoney: The Definitive Money Ranking in Sports (58 characters)
Forbes SportsMoney: Guide to Financial Rankings in Sports (57 characters)
An SEO expert will tell you that this single tweak may not improve your page rankings or authority very much, but it will get more clicks. More clicks means more search traffic.
A heading tag is an <h1> or <h2> tag, typically the title of your page or blog post or an important heading within it. They’re basic, standards-compliant HTML, which is why Google expects to see them on your site. Optimizing heading tags can get you more traffic.
Think about Kickstarter. Most campaigns languish unnoticed for days until a few people donate some money. Then, other people follow.
So, how do you get relevant data about your users’ interests?
And how do you get feedback from your ideal customer if you’re just starting out and don’t have any real customers to ask?
There are several ways to find out:
Use social media platforms like Quora
See your most popular pages in Google Analytics
See what posts get the most shares
Listen to visitor comments on your blog posts
Let’s cover the first one: social media platforms.
Ask yourself, “Where do the people I want to attract hang out online, and what topics do they talk about?”
I personally like to use Quora.
It gives me an idea of what my target audience is talking about and I can learn from experts in the process. If I wanted to write a book or course, the things people ask on Quora would be useful sources for content ideas.
Here’s how to find out what people want using Quora:
Step #1: Go to Quora. You’ll need to sign up for an account, or sign in with Google or Facebook to get in.
Once you’re logged in, type in your primary keyword (e.g. blog traffic) and hit enter.
Step #2: Review the questions people are asking.
If you know how to answer one of these questions, write a blog post about it.
You already know that people want to learn about that subject. If one person asked it on Quora, chances are there are hundreds of other people wondering the exact same thing.
Step #3: Extract ideas from experts for your post.
Quora is a great place to learn new things. When it comes to advanced SEO, you can never know everything so I visit it frequently to learn from others.
Use these answers to form the outline for your next blog post.
Another tool for finding out what people want to know is UberSuggest. UberSuggest generates long-tail keywords for you that are based on what real people are searching on Google.
Here’s how to use it:
Step #1: Go to UberSuggest. Input your keyword (e.g. website traffic) in the search box and click Suggest.
Step #2: You’ll get a list of long-tail keywords for that topic. This is a great place to start getting ideas for your blog post or to find the perfect keyword when you already have an idea to write about.
Research like this is useful because it tells you what real people want to read online. If you just guess, you don’t know if your content will be successful or not.
Other social media sites to look for ideas are in LinkedIn and Facebook groups or web forums related to your topic.
You can also use Google Analytics to find out what your readers want.
Step #1: Login to Google Analytics. On the left-side menu, click on Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages.
Step #2: Look at what your most popular pages and posts are.
The total number of page views is important, but also take a look at the average time spent on the page (the higher the better!), the bounce rate, and the exit percentage.
Here are my top pages from May 14th to June 14th 2017:
The average time spent on the page tells you if people actually took the time to read your full post, or just skimmed it.
Anything under a minute should be a sign that people are quickly skimming and not reading your article?
So if I see an average time of thirty seconds, I’ll know that people didn’t find my post that interesting to stick around for long.
The bounce rate tells you the percentage of people who landed on this page, but then left without visiting any other pages. It’s not an indicator of success or failure by itself, but ideally you want people to stick around and check out at least 2-3 pages.
The exit percentage tells you that for this page specifically, x % of users left your site after visiting this page. Like the bounce rate, it’s not an indicator of a problem by itself, but if your exit rate is 99%, well, that probably means users aren’t finding what they want to know on that page and don’t want to explore any further.
Another great way to find out what people want is to see how many times your content gets shared on social media.
BuzzSumo is a great tool for this. Just enter your website URL and hit Go.
It will give you a list of your most popular content, sorted by the highest share counts.
With that being said, the total number of shares your post gets is a good way to tell if people find your content useful.
You want to know the easiest way to find out what your users think? Just read their comments on your posts.
When you answer real user questions with your content, your search traffic will improve dramatically.
3. Create SEO optimized landing pages
A well-designed landing page can improve your lead generation and sales. The more landing pages you create, the more gateways you open up for incoming search traffic.
Unfortunately, not many B2B companies fully grasp the importance of using specific landing pages to capture new users.
According to the SEO research firm, MarketingSherpa, 44% of clicks for B2B companies go to a homepage, not a landing page. Sure, the homepage is important, but a landing page is where you can initiate a strong relationship.
Here’s an example.
Copyblogger creates high-quality landing pages on popular topics. They go the extra mile with professional graphics and a clean, modern layout.
Then they drive traffic to the landing page through press releases, email marketing, and SEO optimization.
As you can see from the screenshot above, this landing page has 799 trusted inbound links, over 1,000 tweets and 446 Facebook likes. This landing page is clearly doing its job of converting visitors into leads.
Basecamp has a great landing page to sign up for a free trial of their product.
It draws you in with a big, bold headline. It highlights the key points in a list for easy skimming. It also features a noticeable sign up form.
But good landing pages don’t always need to be just one page. Check out this example from Bills.com:
It features an interactive way to draw visitors in. First, you select how much debt you have.
I’m going to pick $50,000.
The landing page then asks me a series of questions, which are the company’s pre-qualifying questions for new leads.
To see my results, I need to enter my contact information. Some visitors may not want to and abandon the landing page at this point, but those who really want to know if their debt relief program will help them will fill it out.
This is a very simple landing page to set up that results in thousands of leads per month for Bills.com.
It’s a great example of how a simple design and interactive elements can easily come together to generate huge results.
Here’s how to make sure your landing page is SEO optimized.
Step #1: Find a long-tail keyword and use it throughout your landing page. For example, Copyblogger targets the keyword “SEO copywriting” on one of their landing pages.
If you use Optimizepress or another landing page creator for WordPress, make sure that you add title tags, a meta tag description, and keywords.
Use the keywords naturally throughout your content to avoid getting penalized for keyword stuffing. Include your long-tail keyword in the headline, at least one subheading on the page, and a few times in your body content.
Remember that the anatomy of a successful landing page begins with the headline. Your body content is also important and should include a testimonial or review from a customer to add trust and credibility.
You also want to make sure your landing page looks modern with a professional design.
“Design is King,” says Derek Halpern. If your content is useful, but your design sucks, you’ll most likely fail.
The design is part of what makes the page unique and relevant to your target audience. Paper Anniversary’s landing page was professionally designed with Unbounce software. They’re converting their users at 67%!
Their landing page has strong copy, a persuasive video that’s emotionally appealing and testimonials from satisfied customers, which go a long way toward swaying new customers.
Finally, build links from your existing content to your new landing page.
Without quality links, your page will probably not rank very high in search, even if you have excellent copy or use every other SEO ranking factor out there. Since 75% of users never look further than page 1 of search results, it’s important to rank as high as possible.
4. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
It’s more important than ever to make sure your website looks good and performs well on mobile devices.
In May 2016, Google introduced an update to their search algorithm that significantly boosts organic search result rankings to websites that are mobile friendly, or in other words, responsive.
When it comes to e-commerce, the numbers are even more surprising. Business Insider predicts that by 2020, 45% of all e-commerce sales in the United States will be completed on a mobile device. That represents $284 billion in the US alone!
All these statistics are pointing to one thing: you simply cannot afford to not have a mobile-friendly website anymore.
5. Grow your traffic with infographics
Infographics are popular because they allow you to display complex information in an easy to understand way. Since 65% of people are visual learners, a graphic goes a lot further than just a text article.
Here’s a good infographic on infographics from NeoMam Studios:
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that helps analyze search results. It learns what a page of content is about and how that relates to keywords people are searching for. Essentially, it helps connect a search with relevant results.
Let’s say you search for “remote work”.
That could mean a few different things:
You’re searching for remote, or distance/telecommute, jobs
Your remote control for the TV is broken and you want to make it work again
How does Google know which one you want?
RankBrain goes to work and determines that you want the first option based on thousands of other web searches performed by people looking for the same term.
7. Write at least 1,890 words
Backlinko analyzed 1 million searches and found the average first-page search result was 1,890 words.
There have been numerous studies and experiments on the correlation between content length and search engine ranking.
This graph from Backlinko shows their findings that the top five search results all had an average content length of over 1,900 words.
The author of this post contacted 27 experts in their field, asked them the same question (“How would you handle a media crisis?”) and published the results.
9. Post valuable content on social media
If your blog is new, it can be difficult to rank well in Google search results for high volume keywords because your Domain Authority and Page Authority are still very low.
However, you can use social media platforms to gain credibility and traffic.
In the screenshot below, you can see the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) for each search result. I’m using the free Moz SEO Toolbar to see this information.
Page Authority was developed by Moz, and it means the likelihood that your page will rank highly in search. A higher number means it’s more likely to rank well.
This is based on several factors: content length, links, keywords, readability and more.
Domain Authority is the overall likelihood that your whole website, or domain, will rank highly in search.
But not all social media platforms are created equal when it comes to building authority and traffic.
I’m not talking about Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest where anyone can post whatever they want. I’m talking about authoritative platforms where quality content is expected.
10. Use advanced SEO internal deep linking
Deep linking is the practice of using anchor text to link to other pages inside your blog. This shows Google the depth of your site’s pages and encourages it to index more of them.
Most people focus on getting search visitors to their homepage, but struggle to rank their internal pages.
Your older blog posts and landing pages that provide immense value on relevant topics can pull in a lot of new traffic. You should link to them often to help build the structure of your website.
11. Send link juice to lower ranked pages
If you have a page that’s currently on page 2 or 3 of Google search results, you can help move it up to page 1 by passing on quality link juice to those lower ranked pages.
Link juice refers to outbound links from high authority sources to your content. Since those links are coming from high authority websites, that reputation gets rubbed off on your content. Essentially, this gives Google an indication that your content must be high quality too.
Let’s look at it this way: you have two websites that are 100% identical – same design, same content. If every other factor were the same, the site with the most links would rank the highest in search results.
This article about indexing used to be on page 2 of Google’s results for the search term “index your site”.
Now, it’s the third organic search result on page 1!
Here’s how I did it.
Step #1: Updated the post. I added new links, content and recent data to bring the post up to date.
I cover how to update your older content in detail in Section 18!
Step #2: Shared it across social media again. Since I updated the post, I shared it on all my social networks again. This brought in a lot of new traffic.
Step #3: Linked to it in my newer posts. Every time it was relevant to a new post I was writing, I included a link to it. This directed traffic to the older post and resulted in people sharing it and linking to it themselves.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but over the span of a few months, I went from page 2 to almost the top of page 1.
12. Link to external sites with high Domain Authority
It helps pass link juice to your content when you get links from high authority domains. Likewise, it also helps your overall trustworthiness in Google’s eyes when you link to high authority sites.
A good place to look for sites to link to is Alltop.
You’ll see some featured sites on the homepage and recent content published by them.
All six of these options would be good to link to, and get links from.
To find something for your topic, just search for your keyword at the top of the page.
You’ll see related categories to what you typed in. I chose SEO here.
Alltop then shows me the top SEO related content from the following high authority websites:
I could link over to one of them as a data source in my content.
Like if I said that user experience was just as important as on-page SEO for ranking high in search.
Better yet, I could approach these websites and ask them to link back to my content.
They may not link back to you, but a simple email only takes a minute to write. That minute could result in huge traffic gains later on, so it’s worth the time.
13. Snag broken link opportunities on Wikipedia to build links
This is something a lot of marketers overlook, but it’s very powerful for generating high authority backlinks to your content.
Scan Wikipedia for dead links and claim them as your own!
Didn’t think of that, did you?
There are two types of links you can get from Wikipedia:
Citation needed: This means someone editing a Wikipedia article mentioned a statistic or fact without linking to a source.
Dead link: This is a source that was previously linked to but for whatever reason, the website or page does not exist anymore.
14. Find and use your competitors’ SEO keywords
Researching your competitors is a smart move. Why reinvent the wheel, when all of the hard work of ranking in Google’s top pages has already been done by your competitors?
Something as simple as signing up for your competitor’s newsletter can reveal their whole email marketing strategy to you. A little research doesn’t cost anything but your time, and can produce some great new strategies for you to try.
Starbucks’ profit in China has been steadily increasing because they did some simple research.
So how do you find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for right now?
15. Use AdWords copy in your on-page SEO
Another great way to steal the spotlight from your competition is to look for keyword ideas in their Google AdWords search ads.
Google AdWords ads are short and already optimized for your competition’s target keywords. If you can produce a quality article that ranks well organically for that same keyword, you can easily establish yourself among your target customers.
With over 300 million downloads of AdBlocker Plus and counting, consumers are warier than ever of paid advertising.
Establishing yourself high in organic search results establishes trust and will display you first to those using ad blockers.
To find some good AdWords keywords to create content around, try searching for keywords you want to rank for:
Analyze the titles and copy used in each of these ads. They should give you at least a few ideas for headlines you can use in new content.
16. Use multiple keywords in SEO page titles
Your SEO page title is the title that is displayed in Google search results. Here’s an example.
You want to ensure that each page title for each page and post on your website contains a keyword.
A strategy I have found particularly effective is to include multiple keywords within each page title. Make sure not to be spammy with this or it could end up hurting you.
By spammy I mean just cramming keywords in there for the sake of it, even if they sound a little off. Or, by using spam trigger words that instantly make Google think your content is less than legit.
Let’s say your post is about hair colours for autumn and you want to rank for the following keywords:
Autumn hair trends
Here are a few examples of a page title that combines those in a natural-sounding way:
Autumn Hair Trends: The Best Hair Colours of the Season
5 Hot Hair Colours Right Now: Autumn Hair Trends
And here’s an example of a keyword-stuffed, not good page title:
Autumn Hair Colour Trends – Hair Colour for Autumn
See the difference? The first two sound natural and like you could picture seeing them online. The last one just seems spammy and like it’s trying too hard.
If your page titles sound like you’re trying too hard, you probably are.
17. Monitor Google Search Console stats
Google Search Console is a powerful tool to help you track potential issues with your site that affect your rankings.
If you haven’t already signed up for it, you can see how to do that step by step right here.
There are three main things you want to check regularly in Search Console:
Watching for crawl errors, like 404 pages
Submitting new sitemaps
See which keywords people are using to find you
When you first sign in to Search Console, you’ll see your Dashboard page.
If you have any urgent issues, they appear at the top under “New and important”.
Click on Crawl Errors to check out your error history and report.
As you can see, I have seven recent URL errors for my blog.
I had corrected a lot of 404 page errors in previous months that were caused by a switch to a new webhost, as you can tell by the red line. It’s important to keep monitoring these reports often as new errors can pop up anytime, like these seven have!
18. Regularly update your old content
If you’ve been blogging for more than 3 months, you’ve got a goldmine of content in your archives to repurpose.
You’ve undoubtedly written some posts that are still generating organic traffic. You can improve those posts and leverage their authority for higher search rankings.
19. BONUS – Revamp old articles with more organic traffic potential
In the previous section, we covered how you can keep your best performing articles fresh and optimized. But what about the articles that didn’t go over so well?
You know it’s a good topic and that people want to know about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have written about it in the first place. Revamping an old underperforming article is a sure way to get more organic search traffic.
What’s the alternative? Writing a new post from scratch. It may do well, or it could flop too. It;s worth the effort to revamp an old post!