Ready to win the SEO battle of 2020? Hopefully, your content marketing strategy is good to go, with SEO a major priority, of course. Your list of premium keywords is decided. Your blogging is moving up a gear and your website has been optimized to within an inch of its life.
If your marketing efforts are truly advanced, your SEO plan will extend to on and off-page. You'll have Google Analytics dashboards bookmarked, so too your preferred SEO ranking tools - (I like SEMrush and ahrefs). You've also probably got several Google sheets on the go, so you can easily track results and search engine rank positions. Or you using a keyword tracking tool.
Don't worry if the above scenario isn't an accurate reflection of your situation. If you start now, there's still time for you to get SEO strategies and tactics in place ready for 2020. As long as you follow the advice we feature here.
This is the only article you need to read to get your SEO in great shape for the new year. Information, insights and intelligence, it's all here. And I have linked to all the tools you need because we know not everyone has the time and resources to commit to in-depth planning.
An SEO Reality Check
For many, accessing the latest SEO tricks, tips and trends is a case of grabbing spare moments to read blogs and just hope that your current set-up delivers the goods.
In an ideal world, this would be enough for your SEO to increase leads and the quality of web visits you need to boost your business. In reality, your content marketing plan may be a little loose around the edges, your competitors consistently ranking above you when you search your best keywords. So what can you do to level the playing field? After all, there are only 24 hours in the day, 7 days in the week, right?
So let's take our reality check right here. Space on page one of Google is strictly limited to ten sitelinks and therefore highly prized. You're not going to be alone in trying to seal a coveted top ten spot. And even those that get there will have their work cut out staying there.
Google has upped the SEO stakes still further by throwing things like image packs, knowledge panels and videos into the mix. So what do you do to get on and stay on the top table?
I've compiled a top ten of our own. They're steps you can take right now to boost your SEO performance so you're best placed to let organic SEO do its thing. Here goes.
1 - Get Back To SEO Basics
First of all, consider what you are trying to achieve with your SEO, and also think about why Google is doing what it's doing.
Put yourself in a potential customer's shoes. When they search online they're looking for something specific. Maybe an answer to a question, information about a product, or a specific image. And they expect their query resolved instantaneously. Google has the power to do that, That's why it's become the world's most famous search engine. If it didn't work, people would look elsewhere.
But Google needs you to provide the data for their search engine results pages (SERPs). And if the data you provide is the most relevant in terms of what your prospects are looking for, your content will get a higher ranking on those SERPs.
3 things you can do:
Run a Google search query
Do it using your best keywords and most common questions. Take a look at the brands that feature of the first page. Are they the usual suspects? Competitors? These are the search results your prospective customers will receive.
See how search engines work
This 30 minute film picks the brains of Google experts such as Paul Haahr and Gary Illyes who can explain how Google's ranking and algorithms work.
Matt Cutts talks about what happens when people conduct a web search. It will only take 3 minutes.
2 - Optimise Your Website
Give your website a full SEO makeover, ensuring things like meta descriptions, page titles, image tags and URLs are working hard to deliver results. Mangools has a very useful Google SERP optimization tool that can help with your page ranking in search results.
3 things you can do:
Review your current web pages
As Ollie Hill has stated on many occasion, observation is such an area that gets missed. Focus on how your most popular pages are performing in search results. Compare your meta descriptions to those of your competitors. How accurately does your title reflect the content of your page? Is it worded in such a way as to compel people to click? If you need assistance writing your meta description is a great resource.
Get a free SEO audit of your website
ScreamingFrog is a free tool that will quickly scan up to 500 web pages to carry out an SEO audit of your content, highlighting specific data on each page that can be improved to get you a higher ranking in the search results.
Get a second opinion of your website
Here's a way you can see how strong your website is from an SEO perspective, and uncover on-site issues as well as get suggestions on steps you can take to improve things. Marketing Grader from HubSpot.
3 - Secure Your Site And Get It Up To Speed
3 seconds. That's the maximum time it should take your webpage to load. Any longer, and it's likely that website visitors will look elsewhere. Page load times form a part of the algorithms Google uses to calculate its search rankings. Check out if your website is winning the race to load using HubSpot's Marketing Grader. If your site is more tortoise than a hare when it comes to page load speed, here are some ways to help reduce the loading speed of your website page.
Security is also important for Google, and soon all browsers will be drawing attention to sites that aren't encrypted. To be sure your site doesn't get tagged as a security risk, you'll need to get your SSL certification which you can do easily enough.
4 - Speak Your Customers' Language
The more you know about your target audience, the more precisely you can appeal to them. Be sure to know what they want from life, their desires and fears. It's safe to assume you're already doing something right, because if not, you wouldn't be in business. But be sure to reflect that in your website content.
3 things you can do:
List what your customers need
This will help you develop an in-depth understanding of your prospects and customers, and is essential to improving your rankings. Ensure these features are reflected on your website, and that those features which make your business a success are communicated clearly in a style and language that will resonate with your audience. Google will reward you for doing this.
Discover the most popular search terms
This can be done quickly, easily and for free by entering your keywords and questions into the Google search bar. A drop down menu will appear featuring related searches. You should use these terms in your copy.
Use a top SEO tool
There are a range of SEO tools you can use to research keyword alternatives. One of the best is Moz's Keyword Explorer as it provides keyword suggestions and details of monthly search volumes. Another that's worth using is Ahrefs. To get the best results, use a selection of the most searched terms in your copy. If you do so in an easy to understand way, you'll delight your customers and Google.
Brian Dean (backlinko.com) Always mecca content!
5 - Make Your Content Really Useful
The term 'content' covers a multitude of communications - blogs, videos, webinars, live chats, how-to guides and the like. It's important that your content appears on channels across the web where your prospects are looking, not just your website. Your content needs to answer the kinds of questions your customers are asking, and provide solutions to the problems they're facing.
Best-selling marketing author Ann Handley sums it up like this:
" Know the purpose or mission of every piece of content that you write. What are you trying to achieve? What information are you trying to communicate? And why should your audience care? Provide answers. Be helpful. Solve their problems. Make your content relevant and rich."
3 things you can do:
Publish the low-down on your business
Find out who the real big thinkers are within your business and ask them what they know about the company and its customers. Get them to answer the kind of questions customers are asking right now. And turn their answers into a compelling blog post for your company website. Here's an article about SEO best practice that's well worth spending time reading.
Get closer to your company's internal thought leaders
Ask yours to forward any emails they get that feature questions from prospects and current customers, as well as the responses they've given. These can be used to create new content that deals with your customers' concerns.
Exploit the power of video
Many people regard video as the most impactful communication platform. Its supporters include Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute. Your customers now expect at least some of your content to be delivered in video form, so it's vital video plays an important role in your content marketing plan.
6 - Grow To Love Lists
Online company directory listings not only make it easy for prospects to find you, but they also improve your Google rankings and give you more exposure. Listings can be on a local or national level. On a local level, in particular, SEO will play a critical role as Google generates its results in different ways from location to location. Knowing how to make the kind of impact that Google likes in your area is crucial.
3 things you can do:
Update your Google My Business profile
There are plenty of opportunities to advertise your services on Google My Business. So you want to make sure you make the most of them. It's well worth investing time in ensuring your profile is complete with all the content and images you can provide.
Have a presence in every directory listing you can
Google likes pages that are listed in the quality directories, and there are plenty out there that will be happy to have your business featured on them. Yext is just one of the platforms that can help you get listed for a reasonable price. And Bright Local. Here also a handy comparison between the two.
Localise your landing pages
If your business is based in multiple locations, create a specific, locally focused landing page for each site. Ensure it's optimised with local addresses and information that's relevant to local customers.
7 - Pay Attention To Your Backlinks
Which other sites are linking to your site? If there aren't any, there's no reason why Google would want to. Getting backlinks is vital to your SERP success. But the quality of those links is important. Google can quickly spot any underhand SEO tactics (known as blackhat) and these will be penalised. But quality backlinks are worth their weight in gold, as evidenced by this study into the links between Google search rankings and backlinks.
3 things you can do:
Check your backlinks
There are tools for pretty much everything online, so yes, there's a backlink checker tool that will let you see who's connecting their site to your site. Try running a report on this backlink tool.
See how your brand is viewed online
Reputation matters across social media channels. Tracking how your brand is viewed and is being talked about is crucial. Social monitoring tools can really help, and here's a link to some of the best.
Find out your rival's backlinks
This will give you a great source of new backlinks for your site. After all, if they're linking to a company offering similar products or services to you, there's a good chance that site will be interested in linking with you.
8 - Promote Your Business, Don't Rely On Organic
It's unreasonable to expect organic SEO to do all the work to promote your business. You're going to need to get out there with content across different channels and in different formats to appeal to your audience.
3 things you can do:
Boost your content's shareability
A quick fix is to include social sharing icons with every post you write, so readers can share with just a click. Don't just post content once in a blue moon. Do so regularly on social channels that are relevant to your industry. Staying active will earn you shares and comments. It's best practice to always thank sharers and reply to comments.
Get your team to spread the word too
Your employees provide a good way to spread your content further afield, and they have a vested interest in helping spread the word. What's more, they could well have the kind of connections who will lap-up the sort of content you're producing.
Save time using social media management tools
Managing your online presence is a full-time job in itself, and often most companies don't have the resources. But there are tools that will do it for you, and some are free. Discover the best social media tools and decide which is best for you.
9 - Always Track Your Progress
Regular reviews of how things are going give you a great way to fine-tune and improve your SEO strategies. When tracking, always have your specific business goals in mind so that what you're tracking is relevant to what you want to achieve.
The free Google Search Console gives you a handy dashboard on which you can see the pages of yours that are visible on SERPs and those that are driving organic traffic to your site.
Track your keyword rankings
A good free option for doing this is Serps, or choose AWR Cloud for a paid version. Always keep a watch on how you're doing compared with competitors, but take the longer term approach, assessing performance on a monthly rather than weekly basis.
Track page visits
Knowing which of your pages convert best can be invaluable, as it will give you insights into the kind of content that's resonating most with your target audience, and can influence your future content. For instance, you can discover whether your How to... blog posts are the most popular, or if your shorter articles with plenty of visuals are proving a hit with your audience. To track this, you need to list your top pages and their monthly traffic, and if there's no upward trend, amend your SEO strategy and rework those pages that are struggling.
Track your organic search traffic
Google Analytics is a good way to track this, so too the SEO tools provided by HubSpot.
Track time spent on each page
Dwell-time is perhaps an even more valuable element to track than page visits, as it shows how long your page content is engaging each website visitor. Getting data that shows the average time spent on each page is vital, and Google Analytics is a good way to do that. To delve deeper into your user's behaviour, try the HotJar recording tool.
Track page visits per session
A good barometer of how compelling your content is, lies in seeing whether visitors to your site visit multiple pages. Having internal links on your site is a good way to tempt them into doing this and increase the time spent on your site. Tracking this can happen on Google Analytics.
Track your backlinks
As mentioned earlier, backlinks are vital to search engine rankings. See how many you have via the SEMrush Backlinks Checkers. If there's a continuous upward trend, that's a good sign.
Track returning users
One-hit wonders to your website aren't what you really want. Regular visitors are more valuable, and to get those, you need to be giving them relevant and useful content that compels them to come back for more. Google Analytics will help measure this.
Track page load speed
How fast your page loads is important to Google, and slowness will result in a lower page ranking. So ensure your page is up to speed with the help of GT Metrix.
Track mobile activity
More than half of your customers will discover your business via their mobile devices, so you need to make sure your website is optimised for mobile. Google Analytics will help you track your mobile bounce rate.
Site visit stats are all very well, but the real money-makers are conversions. The better your SEO strategy, the higher your conversion rate will be. So be sure to keep a close eye on these using Google Analytics. See here to set up your conversions.
What better way to see how your audience is reacting to your content than via shares and likes. Each post will have a stat to show you how well it's going down with your customers, so you can see which content performs best.
Track your ROI
This takes a little more effort to track but is essential, as it will help you see which of your SEO strategies and tactics is generating the most leads, and which of those leads is converting into sales.
Track Customer Retention Rates
Keeping existing customers is more efficient than trying to acquire new ones, so you want to be doing all you can to keep your current customers happy and engaged with your business. So be sure to focus plenty of your marketing efforts on retention.
10 - Start today and stay patient
Don't put off making the necessary changes to your SEO. The best of your competitors won't, so you need to give yourself every chance of success. Get those plans in place ready to hit the new year and new decade running. Don't expect instant results. Look long-term and you will win-out.
If you need help with anything associated with your SEO strategy and tactics, please drop me a message. And I will be happy to help.