SEO is any activity that helps you improve your ranking on search engines such as Google, Bing, and others. With 3.9 billion internet users and over 3.3 billion searches being performed each day, getting a good rank isn’t easy. And that’s why SEO techniques are important for businesses.
A good SEO strategy is critical for most businesses. This is true even for local businesses that don’t necessarily offer their services online. As per one of the studies, local searches account for 35% of all searches. Local search functions such as Google’s “near me” have seen a massive increase over the years.
Search engines are always tweaking their search algorithms and changing the value they attach to certain aspects of your website. This adds an additional layer of complexity to the already challenging task that SEO managers are faced with.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide that includes effective SEO tactics and best-practices for 2018. By focusing your SEO efforts on these, your website can stay competitive and maintain a strong ranking. So let’s get right to it.
1. Conduct Competitor Analysis
One of the most effective SEO tactics that can help your rankings is extensive competitor research and analysis. The first step is simply to identify your key competitors, either by industry, geography, keywords, or any other relevant factors.
A thorough analysis will help you discover areas where your competitor is succeeding and possibly unearth weaknesses you can benefit from.
Any competitor analysis you perform should include these primary activities:
- Keyword Analysis: As one of the most important factors of good SEO, analyzing your competitors’ keyword usage is absolutely critical. Using keyword suggestion tools such as – KeySearch, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Google Keyword Planner can help you find keywords that your competition is using as well as ones you can use yourself.
- Link-Building Analysis: Another key SEO factor, link-building is vitally important for improving a site’s SERP rankings. Look for their origin, numbers, and the anchor text they use to help determine how your competition is performing on this front. It may be worth contacting those sites to see if they can provide backlinks to your site as well.
- Content Analysis: Take a look at the content on your competitors’ sites. How often do they post new content? What is the length of their blog posts? How is their content structured? If your competitor is performing better in search rankings, it may be worth emulating the practices that appear most valuable.
I’d strongly recommend that you use specialized tools available to perform competitor analysis. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or SpyFu help with the tedious legwork required in optimizing your site for searches.
2. Analyze Your Backlinks
While backlinks are an invaluable part of a good SEO strategy, not all backlinks are created equally. Some will naturally tend to perform better than others, so it’s important to monitor their performance. This helps you zero in on the types of backlinks which are most valuable. Or understand which sites tend to drive the highest quality traffic.
You may want to remove certain links or unilaterally disavow them if they are adding no value or penalizing your search rankings. Tools like Majestic, Ahrefs, or Moz Open Site Explorer can help you conduct a thorough backlink analysis of your website.
3. Optimize for Mobile
The mobile search market has been growing rapidly, and we’ve always anticipated that mobile may become more influential than desktops eventually. In 2017 mobiles finally took the lead and now account for more than half of all web traffic globally.
There have been a number of standards for mobile development – from clunky (and now largely defunct) mobile sites to the far more contemporary, technically, and visually elegant “responsive design.”
However, it’s not enough to just look good. Sites also need to load fast or else your visitors will get frustrated and leave. With these performance goals in mind Google, along with a number of other tech companies, introduced AMP – an open source project to deliver Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Using a stripped-down form of HTML, Google claims that AMP optimized pages load up to 85% faster. So, if you’ve not yet optimized your web pages for mobile, the time to act is now.
4. Use Secure HTTP
Making the move to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) for encryption, has a number of benefits:
- Security and Privacy: By securing communication between users and your servers, chances of interference or damage by third parties reduce greatly. This results in a greater level of trust from both your users and from web browsers – many of which now display warnings when users navigate to non-HTTPS sites.
- Improved Ranking: By virtue of your increased trustworthiness, most sites that make the change to HTTPS can expect to see a small boost in their search rankings. You can also expect to see a larger number of referrals and traffic over time as Google is more likely to recommend secure sites in search results.
As of mid-2017, around 31% of web domains have completed the transition to HTTPS. This number is only set to rise from here as secure communication protocols increasingly become the norm across the web.
Immediately after making the switch to HTTPS, you can expect to see a dip in your website rank and search results performance. This is because of the change you make to your base URL. However, this dip will be short-lived and you should see your rank recover or even improve in short order.
5. Optimize Page Speed
As internet speeds have increased, so have the expectations of website performance from mainstream users. As per Adobe, almost 40% of users will leave a website if it takes too long to load.
Thankfully there’s a lot you can do to help boost that load time, most of which can be easily implemented. Use high compression for images to significantly reduce your load time. You can even use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to help global users access your content without having to ping your domestic server.
6. Optimize for Voice Search
As part of your efforts to optimize for mobile devices, integrating better voice search functionality is a good idea. The ultimate goal of focusing on voice search is to be considered a source for a “Featured Snippet” – as Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa will read out information from these sources and often cite the source as well.
7. Use Structured Data
Website crawlers have gotten far more advanced and capable over the years. However, sometimes what is obvious to a human user is completely obscure to a machine. The result is that, occasionally, site crawlers may make errors or omit data while indexing your site. The solution, of course, is to use structured data.
Using structured data is nothing more than formatting your website’s code into a uniform layout. When search engine crawlers index your site, they will be able to pick up a richer amount of data since it was laid out in an “expected” format.
To help webmasters optimize their data, search engines have established the open source Schema.org. It has all the code conventions and standards to help structure your site and make it more “crawler-friendly.”
Some of the Best Tools for SEO Analysis
Now that we’ve covered what you need to do, let’s talk little about how you can go about it. Here are a few tools that can get your SEO efforts pointed in the right direction:
SEMrush: is one of the most popular marketing and SEO platforms available. It has an impressive range of tools and services to provide an extensive, holistic view of your website’s performance.
SEMrush goes beyond just providing SEO solutions. It supports a number of key marketing operations such as advertising strategy reports, social media, PR tools, and even content suggestion and curation services.
SpyFu: This specialized tool is your one-stop-shop for getting all of the information you need about your competition. From detailed keyword research and backlink analysis to organic vs paid search traffic analysis, SpyFu has you covered.
Using premium competitor analysis tools is a great way to avoid the time and labor-intensive tasks that go into researching your competitors – to identify opportunities and points of weakness that you can exploit.
3. Pro Rank Tracker
Pro Rank Track: Knowing where you stand in search rankings is critical to help you plan your SEO efforts effectively. Pro Rank Tracker not only helps you keep track of your global rankings, but also your local and mobile search rankings.
This can be really useful to analyze the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. You can also see where you’re going wrong and what you can do to improve your search performance.
You can even track your ranking across various geographic zones from regional rankings, right down to an individual city. This is incredibly useful for local businesses who only want to focus on SEO for their local area.
Ahrefs: features a large suite of tools that help fill any gaps in your current SEO tool suite. Specializing in competitor analysis and keyword research, Ahrefs also helps you with link-building content research. This can help you determine what’s trending and how to successfully integrate high performing keywords into your content.
5. Google Structured Data Testing Tool
Google structured Data Testing Tool: Improving your site’s data structure is likely to be a time-consuming process. Particularly if you have a large site that has been around for many years and worked on by multiple people.
This free tool can help you quickly analyze your site’s code and identify errors or points of concern. Having a uniform and intuitive data structure on your back-end helps site crawlers to easily navigate and index your site.
8.Use Digital PR to Earn Authority Backlinks
One of the biggest challenges that SEOs face is how to earn authority backlinks at scale.
Backlinks remain one of Google’s top ranking factors, and while there are many different link building strategies that can help you to successfully earn relevant links, the fact remains that many tactics are difficult to scale effectively.
When we look at Google’s link schemes guidelines, the recommendations are clear:
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
And one tactic that can help you to earn editorially placed links through the creation of awesome content is digital PR.
Think of this as creating and promoting content to journalists and publishers that they’ll want to cover and link to from within their articles. Content such as:
- Research studies
- Tools and calculators
- Expert insights
But really, it’s all about thinking like a PR and executing like an SEO. Digital PR isn’t about pitching out promotional pieces with a press release, rather promoting linkable assets with a solid outreach strategy. The real appeal here is that the right story can deliver significant numbers of editorially earned links from publications where your next customer could be hanging out online.
Digital PR brings benefits beyond just links, including:
- Driving referral traffic
- Creating social engagement
- Increasing brand awareness
- Putting you in front of your customers when they’re consuming content online
- Generating sales
Here’s a great guide to help you to learn more.
9.Optimize for ‘People Also Ask’
The SERPs in 2022 go way beyond the ‘10 blue links’ that once occupied Google’s first page, and smart SEOs need to be tweaking their techniques and strategies to take advantage of as many SERP features as possible.
One of these features that SEOs need to utilize is ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA).
According to Semrush Sensor, the average percentage of SERPs with PAA has grown to about 40-42% for both desktop and mobile. But there are a whole host of reasons why you should be paying attention to PAA, including:
- They can help you to rank twice on page 1, with it being possible to hold a PAA result and first page ranking, unlike with featured snippets.
- They can help you to appear prominently at the top of the SERPs as an answer to the questions your customers are asking, with over 75% of PAA results showing in the top three results.
- They can be triggered as query refinements for the kinds of questions that Google might struggle to interpret.
Many marketers aren’t paying attention to PAA right now, but this means it’s an opportunity for you to gain a competitive advantage.
10.Use Supporting Content to Show Topical Expertise
Google wants to rank the best result for any given search query, and that’s why it’s so important for you to think about optimizing for topics, not just single keywords.
You need to be demonstrating topical expertise to stand a chance of ranking at the top of the SERPs for your main ‘money’ keywords, and this means getting to grips with the concept of supporting content. Familiar with topic clusters?
Essentially, this is the process of creating cluster content that’s internally linked back to a pillar page. These are more in-depth pages that answer a specific question about your broad topic and link back to the main pillar page. This strategy allows you to also create content that’s optimized for long-tail keywords.
Just think of supporting content as pieces that add topical depth to your site and demonstrate to Google (and users) that you’re an expert in your field. However, it’s important to remember that this content doesn’t always need to be created based on insights from keyword research.
In fact, publishing content around new breaking trends or subtopics is just as important as it is to be writing opinion pieces that can gain traction on social or other channels.
Supporting content, on its own, might not drive thousands of hits from organic search each month, but it can help your main pages to rank higher and earn its own traffic through other channels if promoted properly. Additionally, it can help your overall blog SEO, if you’re connecting posts to one another.
11. Use Internal Links to Supercharge Page 2 Rankings
Have you got keywords that are ranking on page 2 that need boosting onto the first page of the SERPs? Adding internal links that point to these pages could help you to achieve this.
Internal linking passes both PageRank (link authority) and relevancy signals. Internal linking is a massively underutilized SEO technique, and it’s often enough to see these page 2 rankings jump onto page 1.
To take advantage of internal linking, you first need to find opportunities to boost page 2 positions.
Enter your domain into the Semrush Organic Research tool and click the ‘Positions’ tab.
From the ‘Positions’ filter, choose #11-20. This then gives you a list of those search queries ranking on page 2 that could benefit from an internal linking boost.
12. Update Your Content Regularly
You’ve probably noticed that we feel pretty strongly about content. Search engines do, too. Regularly updated content is viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy, so be sure to keep it fresh. Audit your content on a set schedule (semesterly for example) and make updates as needed.
Writing additional content, rich with keyword phrases, on your departmental news blog can also boost your search engine rankings. Blog posts can even be shorter updates about the specific topics you are targeting. Interlink your related CMS webpages and blog posts when it helps give the reader a better picture or additional information about the topic.
When designing your website, each page contains a space between the <head> tags to insert metadata, or information about the contents of your page. If you have a CMS site originally produced by the UMC web team will have pre-populated this data for you. However, it is important for you to review and update metadata as your site changes over time.
Title metadata is responsible for the page titles displayed at the top of a browser window and as the headline within search engine results. It is the most important metadata on your page.
For those with a CMS website, the web team has developed an automated system for creating the meta title for each webpage based on your page title. This adds to the importance of using well-thought-out page titles rich with keyword phrases.
Description metadata is the textual description that a browser may use in your page search return. Think of it as your site’s window display—a concise and appealing description of what is contained within, with the goal of encouraging people to enter. A good meta description will typically contain two full sentences. Search engines may not always use your meta description, but it is important to give them the option.
Keyword metadata is rarely if ever used to tabulate search engine rankings. However, you should already know your keyword phrases, so it doesn’t hurt to add them into your keyword metadata. You’ll want to include a variety of phrases. As a general rule, try to keep it to about 3-7 phrases with each phrase consisting of 1-4 words. A great example would be “computer science degree.”
Now that you have the low-down on the best SEO tactics and tools, work on developing a robust long-term SEO strategy. And before you pull the trigger on a new SEO strategy, take a look at this comprehensive SEO audit checklist just to make sure you don’t miss anything important.