The Magnificent 7 Essential SEO Tactics to Focus On Now
SEO changes on a constant basis. By the time an “SEO trend” hits the industry mainstream, it’s already old news.
Because of this, many SEOs struggle to balance staying on the cutting edge with maintaining SEO gold standards. It’s precisely that balance, though, that makes for truly exceptional websites.
7 Key SEO Tactics You Should Know
Whether you’re launching a new site or improving an existing one, you’ll do well to consider these seven SEO tactics.
1. Think About Site Speed as a Site Killer
Today, speed is a disqualifying factor for websites.
Slow sites do not rank. Period.
More than 70% of consumers report that a page’s load time influences their willingness to buy from the retailer that owns the page. Further, a Google study found that 53% of people bounce from a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
Despite this, many SEOs and their teams aren’t being as aggressive as they should be about monitoring and improving site speed.
Save Yourself: According to Google, sites that load within 5 seconds see 70% longer sessions and 35% lower bounce rates than sites taking 19 seconds.
With that in mind, 5 seconds should be your maximum acceptable page load time. But evaluate the top pages returned for your important search queries. Beating their load time is your real benchmark. If all your competitor sites are loading in less than 4 seconds, you need to beat that time. No matter what, it’s smart to make your site load as quickly as possible for your visitor’s sake.
If you need to shave seconds off your page, here’s where to start …
- Evaluate your plugins and identify slow or duplicate tools.
- Audit your page media.
- Reduce image file sizes for better page performance (see image optimization tips).
Check the speed of our site — load any page. For a complex site, we are optimized.
2. Evaluate Whether Your Pages are Worthy of Being Ranked
Today, SEOs everywhere are focusing obsessively on ranking. Everyone wants to be ranked. The problem with this mindset, though, is that it doesn’t consider whether your pages are worth ranking.
To put this bluntly, your pages don’t deserve to be at the top of the SERPs just because they exist. That’s not enough.
The pages must be useful to Google. Google doesn’t need to index pages that nobody links to, mentions, or clicks on. If that page is not important to others, then why is it important to Google?
Search engines are quick to demote pages they consider unworthy. If nobody ever sees your page, Google doesn’t want to spider it. If you’re going to rank, you’ve got to focus on providing competent information people can trust and refer to.
Save Yourself: How does YOUR page help Google? For example, is it “shared” by others?
If you want to be worthy of ranking, create useful content, not just “on-topic” material.
The content must inspire visitors to take action. This demonstrates to Google that the material is valuable.
You’ll also want to evaluate your ability to reach people through Google My Business. Make sure your listing is current and complete so that locally targeted searches can include you. (If you’re interested, read more on how to rank in local search.)
3. Don’t Forget That the Basics are Still Qualifiers
If you don’t have your SEO checklist of basics covered, you’re disqualified from the game.
Take meta tags, for example. If you don’t create good tags, you lose. (SEO teams must pay their dues by making tags and on-page material as good as possible.)
Tags often fall by the wayside because people don’t understand the relationship between tags and content. The definition of metadata is that it is data about data. On a webpage, metadata is information provided to a search engine that describes the content of the page. This metadata must be as accurate and descriptive as possible.
Save Yourself: Make sure your page’s meta information (title, meta description, etc.) is unique. If every page has nearly identical tags, what signal does that send?
Also align these tags with the prominent content and theme of the page.
If you have a page with a title and meta description about computer keyboards, for example, the page content should also be about computer keyboards.
For best results, analyze your page, understand its topic, and use that to build a unique title. If you need additional assistance, we have SEO tools that analyze content and identify keywords used on the page. (Or you can use the free-version Single Page Analyzer here.)
4. Stop Worrying About Duplicate Content
This may sound counterintuitive, but duplicate content on your site is not always a problem — mostly because duplicate content is essentially filtered out of search results.
Many sites should stop obsessing over duplicate content and focus on creating canonical tags instead. Each page’s tag should refer to your preferred URL for the content. In this way, you’re suggesting to Google which page you want to rank in the search engine’s index.
Using canonical tags can eliminate the worry over inadvertently duplicated content. It allows you to cross-reference content to content.
Save Yourself: This approach goes wrong when people build substantially replicated content and make only minor changes. For example, it’s a bad idea to duplicate a service description across hundreds of pages and swap out only a few key words. That’s still considered thin content.
Note: Plagiarism is still a crime. As a general rule, avoid copying content from other sites.
5. Beware of Thin or Excessive Content
“Thin content” occurs when you don’t have sufficient words on a page to demonstrate subject matter expertise. To put it another way, the relevant-word count does not match the topic.
Complex topics require more description. For example, a 100-word page telling you how to do SEO is not going to qualify on any level.
Just as troublesome as thin content, though, is content that trends the other way — too many words on a narrow topic. One of the goals of content creation is to develop shareable content. Nobody wants to share “fluff” or non-expert information.
Too often, copywriters are required to fill a specific word count. Instructions like “give me 1500 words on [keyword]” are often way off target.
Not every topic should have thousands of words.
Save Yourself: Help your content writer avoid dealing with arbitrary page sizes. Focus instead on providing expert content with the correct number of words.
If you need help getting rid of thin or “fluff” content, the Bruce Clay SEO for WordPress plugin gives customized guidance that can help. Instead of arbitrary page length and keyword usage counts, it provides a target range based on the top-ranked results for your page’s keywords. This takes some guesswork out of creating content.
No matter what tools you use, shoot for the appropriate number of words — not the minimum. Content is still about quality, not quantity.
6. Optimize for Mobile
Google looks for certain usability characteristics that it considers critical for a good mobile searching experience. So these characteristics matter for SEO.
They include: button sizes large enough to press; fast page load speed; limited navigation structure; and others.
Since those limitations do not exist on desktop, Google also needed a new spider. Today, pages in the Google index and all first-time spidering are based upon what a search engine would see if they came on a mobile device.
This mobile-first spider has consequences for you. If your website was designed primarily for desktop, then your site’s formatting, organization, and even volume of content may need to change.
Today, searchers see results based on what Google sees as a mobile device. Visitors may land on your site and see it on their desktop computer. But they search for it as if they were a mobile device. Sites that don’t support mobile users suffer in search engine rankings. Because of this, you CANNOT afford to ignore mobile.
Save Yourself: Design your site for a mobile device and make it work on a desktop, not the other way around. (Our Mobile SEO & UX Optimization guide can help with this.)
Even if your site is responsive (i.e., it automatically resizes to fit the visitor’s window size), do quality checks often. Catch things like a video not resizing, a drop-down menu being cut off, or a form button not submitting properly on a mobile device. Make sure your mobile user’s experience is a good one.
7. Keep the Foundation as the Foundation
Some SEO tactics stay the same year after year. As examples, continue to …
- Choose keywords (phrases) that describe the topic of the page.
- Utilize high-value keywords and their variants in your copy.
- Write unique title tags that include the main keyword for that page. Google may dynamically change your title in search results, but your title still communicates what the page is about and has SEO value. (Be aware that title tag length can vary a lot.)
- Write unique meta descriptions that feature the page’s keyword.
- Avoid duplicate meta content … and many more.
Save Yourself: Follow best practices during any redesign. No matter how times change, certain SEO gold standards will always serve you well. As always, SEO should be built-in, not bolted on.
For More Help …
SEO is a moving target. Your website’s own SEO tactics may not be keeping up.
We offer education, tools, and assistance to help you improve your SEO efforts, both now and in the future. To get our team working alongside you, or just to ask a question, I invite you to contact us today.
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