Sometimes SEO can seem like alchemy. Search engines use literally hundreds of different signals to determine rankings, they are constantly updating their algorithms and competition is fierce.
But there are a few very solid things you can do that will go a long way.
What do you need to know if you want to rank on page one, or even number one on Google?
I’m going to break down some up to date, solid tips I found from around the web that will help your pages rank well in search results.
1. Would you like to know the most direct way to incite curiosity?
Answer: Ask questions in your page titles.
What do most of us do when we want to know something these days? We reach for our phones. Googling things is becoming a reflex. Answering questions is the most direct route to positioning yourself as an authority on the things you’re good at.
Question based title tags typically see a 14% higher click-through rate.
The number of web searches using voice alone are rising rapidly. It’s the fastest growing area of search. Predictions of the growth of voice search vary wildly because the future is hard to predict, but the fact that most major tech companies are offering hardware built just for voice search should give you a clue that voice search is here to stay.
Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and the others are built to help answer people’s questions, so posing the subject of your posts as a question is the most direct way to key in to these searches.
2. Keep your page titles within 15-40 characters
The title of this blog post is 40 characters long.
More of us are searching the web using mobile devices these days, so it’s becoming increasingly important to deliver bitesize messages. I don’t know about you but the title of a web page is usually the only thing I read when searching. It’s so important to deliver the hook of your message within those pithy 15 to 40 characters available on a smaller screen.
Shorter URLs also receive better results on average.
3. Add an easy to read and compelling meta description
This seems common sense but this is one of those things that so often just slips through the net. It’s important.
In one study over 30% of websites don’t detail their own meta description. However by adding a meta description you can get 5.8% more clicks. It’s simple and easy to do and allows you to control the message that goes out with your search results, helping you put your best foot forward to be more appealing than your competition.
4. Optimise for featured snippets
According Authority Hacker 50-65% of all the top search spots are dominated by featured snippets.
Featured snippets are the little excerpts of content pulled from web pages that Google show in search results in answer to questions. They appear above ‘position zero’ the first organic search result, and are a great way to nab prime search engine real estate.
There’s no official API or plugin you can install to mark content for use as a featured snippet, but there are two things you can do to help search engines sniff it out and choose it for use:
Write your content with featured snippets in mind
How to write content for featured snippets:
- Be concise
- Ask a question and answer it using a list, like this!
- Answer common questions in condense paragraphs of 40-50 words
- Address commonly asked “who” “what” “why” (etc) questions relevant to your expertise
- Write a comparison (pros and cons of X vs Y), ideally in a table format with helpful column and/or row headings
- Make a short YouTube video, titled with the question that you answer, with plenty of helpful text in the video description and full captions
Where to find quality featured snippet opportunities:
Of course these are great resources for deciding what to write your whole blog posts about, not just for featured snippets.
Make use of structured markup
This is the subject of another post, but structured markup is extra info included in the background of web pages that tells computers what kind of content the page contains. Content that can be described using structured markup includes:
- Job posting
- Personal profiles
- Places of worship
- Software Application
Here’s a post from Moz about using structured markup for SEO.
5. Maintain good keyword density and title placement
The old-school tactics still matter.
Ideally your chosen keyword should account for 1% of the words in a post or page. Above the 3-5% range may start to make your writing seem repetitive to readers. Keyword over-saturation could get you marked down for keyword stuffing, which is a spammy technique frowned on by search engines as it adds no real value for visitors.
Vary your use of the keyword too. Build it around one particular version, but branch out a little. Search engines keep track of the relationship between words so they understand that when you write about “high vis jackets,” “hi-vis” and “visibility vests” on one page you’re talking about the same topic in each instance. Mixing it up a little makes sure you don’t start sounding too repetitive for visitors, while also optimising for a slightly broader range of similar searches.
6. Link internally well
The holy grail of SEO is getting quality external backlinks pointing from other people’s sites into yours, but internal links are also important.
If you have a lot of content under certain topics it’s a great idea to link back to the chief content of that topic in your posts and pages. This shows search engines how your pages relate to each other in content and which pages are the most important. Having a strong and helpful internal linking structure not only helps search engines to find your content in the first place, but also shows you have a thorough and well-rounded expertise on the topics you regularly talk about.
7. Include keywords in the page URL
On average URLs with the searched-for keyword have a 45% higher click-through rate than URLs without.
This is a no-brainer really. Shorter URLs get a little boost for being friendly and inclusion of relevant keywords makes the central page topic crystal clear.
An additional little tip though: avoid including stop words in page URLs. These are extremely common words that search engines skip over to save storage space (like “of”, “about”, “a”, “and”, “to” etc), and they just add bloat. Cut the fat.
8. Write good quality in-depth content
According to a study by Backlinko, longform content gets 77% more clicks and much more social engagement.
However that doesn’t mean that all long posts do well.
In 2011 Google released “Panda,” a search algorithm update designed to start taking more notice of the depth of useful information that websites provide on a given topic.
In response, writers and some SEOs started believing a myth that any long form blog posts would automatically perform better in search rankings. Now, while search engines still can’t fully understand written content as well as proper humans, they do still massively rely on user signals (that is the actual behaviour of site visitors) in determining page rankings. That means you can’t con search engines into thinking you know what you’re talking about by churning out verbose crap. It simply won’t work.
But, if you do know a topic in some depth, writing thorough quality content is a whole lot better than skimming the surface.
Bonus tip: big blocks of text can be off putting and difficult for the modern sugar-riddled brain to face, so it’s a good idea to break up text. A few tips for that:
- Add accompanying relevant photos or useful graphs (remembering to include alt text)
- Structure your content clearly and break it up with logical subtitling
- If it’s really long consider adding a table of contents at the start of the post
Summary of eight great SEO tips:
- Ask questions in your page titles
- Keep your page titles to within 15-40 characters
- Add an easy to read and compelling meta description
- Optimise for featured snippets with your content and use of strucured markup
- Maintain good keyword density and title placement
- Link internally well
- Include keywords in the page URL
- Write good quality in-depth content
Bonus: you may also be interested to read this post about preparing for SEO disruption in 2020 by Ignite Visibility.