24th May 2020
How to Increase Google Rankings by Creating Content, Building Links & Auditing Your Site for SEO
Getting to the top of Google theoretically shouldn’t have to be difficult, but for most people it’s almost impossible. In our experience people tend to over-complicate SEO and end up wasting precious time on things that matter little. It’s always been our ethos to keep things simple, and we believe this methodology helps us to deliver consistent results for our clients.
If you’re running an online business, this article might be the most important thing you read this year, as we’re going to tell you how to increase your rankings higher than they’ve ever been before. You’ll definitely want to bookmark this post.
Why are we telling you our secrets? Well for one they’re not secrets, they just require understanding and studious application to implement. All of this information is already out there in a myriad of different blog posts and websites – we’ve just decided to write what we call our “SEO Bible”.
Ok, so how do you get your website appearing on Page 1 of Google? Let’s get started.
It comes down to three main things which if you concentrate on, you’ll see staggering results, given time.
- Technical SEO
- Content Creation
- Link Building
Patience & Results
The information below is not something that can be performed overnight, and most likely you won’t see big improvements in just a couple of months (it can and does happen though).
Instead, you need to look at this as a long-term strategy over the next 12-24 months. Look and plan ahead this far, and it’s almost guaranteed that your website will have higher rankings, more traffic and more customers as a result. Wouldn’t that make your life easier?
The internet has changed the world, and with it comes limitless opportunities. Competition is rife though, so if you want to be at the top, you have to work not just harder, but cleverer.
How do we measure if what we’re doing is actually working, and how do we judge success? With any campaign, there has to be trackable metrics, like:
- Increasing the Domain Authority of the website
- Increasing Google Rankings (like, duh)
- Increasing Dwell Time – the amount of time that users spend on your website
- Lowering Bounce Rate – the percentage of visitors who navigate away after viewing just one page
- Increase the number of Conversions – enquiries, orders or actions on a website
The last one is by far the most important, after all who cares about ranking first for ten keywords if you don’t get any orders as a result?
Higher rankings will bring more traffic, and with more traffic you should see more activity on your website, but don’t forget about how users behave once they land on your site. This is another article in itself, but it goes without saying that having a clear user journey and well designed pages is a must.
The Steps We Carry Out
Right, let’s get going then, shall we.
Step 1: Keyword Research
You can’t start an SEO campaign without having a good set of keywords. Everything stems from this, so pay close attention to this first section.
A large percentage of your customers will use Google or other search engines (SERPS) to search for words or phrases, and whether your website appears in the list of websites is based on how well optimised your site is. But how do you know what customers are actually searching for?
For example you might think that users type in “football tops”, when more might be searching for “football jerseys”. Or you could have optimised your site for “business voip systems” when in actual fact more people search for “voip providers”. Customers might not find you unless you correctly optimise for the phrases that they’re searching for.
That’s what keyword research helps you discover – the very keywords your audience is going to use to find you. It can help you find out about what topics to write about, or what keywords to add to a primary topic page you already have on your website.
From this data we can work out what information we need to write about, and what additional keywords we need to make sure our website contains.
How do I create a keyword list?
Firstly you’ll need to start with a seed list. This is a manually entered set of services, products, topics and general themes that describe what your website offers. Think in terms of the customer, and ask yourself what would they search for? Ask your family and friends, and try to get a good varied set of keywords.
Create a spreadsheet and enter all your keywords. Google Sheets is ideal.
Can’t I just use Google Analytics to find out keywords that users have searched to find my site?
Well you could, but the caveat here is that you’ll likely only be seeing information on keywords that you already rank for. Certainly you can include this data, but be careful that you’re not excluding keywords that you don’t currently rank for – because of course Google Analytics won’t have any data for these.
Should I include locations?
You could, but it’s not really necessary anymore. For example we rank well for “web design manchester”. We also rank the same for “web design” but only for searches carried out in the Manchester area. If you’re in London and search for “web design”, we don’t appear. So for now, just keep your keywords lean and without locations on the end – we’ll delve more into this later on the article.
Expanding the initial keyword set
With your seed list in place, you’ll want to expand this list using different keyword research tools. A favourite of ours is KeywordTool.io, and you can enter different sets of phrases to get lots of related suggestions back. This actually uses Google’s own Autocomplete data to generate hundreds of relevant long-tail and short-tail keywords for any topic.
See what other keywords are suggested, and add these to your list. You’ll still need to manually check them still, as not all of them will be relevant. Use your judgement and common sense.
We sometimes like to separate keywords into “Primary” and “Secondary” lists. The primary consisting of the most important ones, with a fairly lean amount, say 10/20, whilst the secondary list can go into hundreds.
Scan for your competitors keywords
Seeing what your competitors rank for is hugely important at the start of any campaign to improve organic visibility. The two main tools we recommend for this are:
- Google Keyword Planner
Using Google Keyword Planner to find keywords for a URL
With Google Keyword Planner, it’s relatively simple. However, in order to use this, you will need to have a Google Ads account. Don’t worry though, it’s free, so go and create one if you don’t have one already.
Once you’ve signed into Google Ads, click “Tools” > “Keyword Planner”. Then select “Find New Keywords” and simply paste your URL and click “Get Started”. You’ll then be presented with a selection of keywords on the next screen.
Using SEMRush to find keywords for a URL
SEMRush is a great app and there is so much you can do with it. To find keywords for a URL it’s very straightforward.
All you need to is go to “Organic Research” and enter your URL. Click “Search”.
On the next screen you’ll see a ton of useful information. Look under “Top Organic Keywords” to find the keywords that the site is ranking for. You can also look under “Main Organic Competitors” to find more competitors (as well as the ones that you already know about).
Now we have some additional sets of keywords, add them all to your spreadsheet (perhaps in a new tab), and cross-check them with your existing list. Look for new ones & alternatives that we don’t already have and then add them to the main lists.
How does my site rank currently?
We use SEMRush to track keywords for all our clients, but there are a huge variety of alternatives you can consider. Other apps we’ve used in the past include Ahrefs, Accuranker, Advanced Web Ranking, Moz & ProRankTracker to name but a few.
Using any of the above sites, simply add your chosen keywords as a new campaign. The search engine you choose will depend on the location & country you’re targeting. UK nationally? Choose Google.co.uk and organic. UK regionally? Choose Google.co.uk with organic local, with your chosen town, city or county.
We mentioned earlier about whether to add locations with your keywords. If you’re tracking regional keywords then all you need to do is choose Organic Local and then add your location name. Then your keywords will be tracked as though you were searching in that region. You can easily end up tracking too many different combinations if you start adding location selectors to your keywords.
Should I value all keywords the same?
Add all of the keywords into Google Keyword Planner to pull out search volume and costs for each of them. This will let us know how many times each keyword was searched for in a certain period and also the competitiveness of each one. The higher the cost, the more competitive it will be, and therefore the more traffic it could generate for your website.
Use this information to help determine which keywords to focus on.
Step 2: The Technical SEO Audit
Technical SEO, sounds pretty… technical, right? Admittedly it is, and if not carried out correctly it can hold back your website no matter how many great links you build and how fantastic your content is.
Nearly all websites still have some technical issues that could be improved, and we expect that yours will do too. In order to rank well, everything starts with having a solidly built website, so start your technical SEO audit as early as you can.
The overall goal of the audit is to identify errors and areas of improvement, with the logical next step being to fix them.
Crawl your website with an app like Screaming Frog and analyse the data
Screaming Frog is one of the most popular SEO tools out there, and their SEO spider tool is available as a Windows, macOS or Linux download. That’s right, a desktop application!
Screaming Frog lets you enter a website URL, and then it sets about crawling all pages on the site, fetching every single key element it can find to enable you to better analyse your SEO performance. It can crawl both small & large sites quickly.
Once the crawl has finished (and for larger sites it can take a while), we recommend exporting the results to a CSV or XLSX file, to make it easier for you to play around with the data. Our preferred methodology is to export as XLSX and then upload to Google Docs to make it easier for sharing.
By default you’ll get about 45 columns worth of data, so there might seem a lot to take in initially! Don’t get phased. It might be an idea to hide all of the columns apart from the items below to make the spreadsheet easier to navigate.
Also, we find it’s easier to group the URLs into different groups, eg. pages, posts, products, categories etc. You can usually delete a lot of pages too (for example you might not need to check 500 blog posts individually, once you’ve quickly checked them).
Using the crawl data, check for and fix/improve the following
Work through each key element below, going through your website code or CMS to implement them.
- Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
- H1 & H2 Tags
- Check for duplicate metadata
- Meta description length
- Presence of SSL
- Canonical tags present
- Www or non-www URLs – make sure the pages are only available in one of these forms, not both
- Meta robots tags & robots.txt file – make sure to check both of these and ensure they allow your site to be crawled freely
Add your domain to SEMRush (or similar app) and look for issues by running a Site Audit
Here you can crawl your website again, but this time you can automatically identify any key issues or errors that could be causing problems with your search rankings and visibility.
Issues are broken down into three categories – Errors, Warnings & Notices, with the former being the most important. Treat these with the highest priority, as Errors will generally consist of:
- Broken links
- Pages returning an error code
- Uncrawlable pages
- Missing/broken images
- Duplicate content problems
Next, the Warnings section looks at issues which should still be fixed, but aren’t as urgent. These could include factors such as:
- Page title problems
- Missing meta descriptions
- Missing image alt attributes
- Broken external links
Lastly, the Notices section will highlight issues such as the following:
- Multiple H1 tags
- Pages with only one incoming link
- Long URLs
- Duplicate pages
Register your site with Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Search Console is a great collection of resources & tools created to help website owners and SEO professionals monitor website performance. It was previously known as Google Webmaster Tools until renamed in 2015.
Once you’ve added your URL as a New Property and verified you have control of the domain, you’ll be able to do the following:
- Set your preferred domain – with or without www
- International targeting – are you targeting the correct country, regardless of your domain TLD?
- Check your sitemap status – have you submitted one? are there any errors or warnings?
- Check for index coverage – how many of your pages are indexed?
- Check for security issues – do you have any malware?
- Look for mobile usability – are any issues raised?
- Do you have AMP (accelerated mobile pages) – how are these performing?
- View search queries – see what keywords users have searched for to find your site
- Check your external and internal links – take a look at your link data
- Link your new profile with Google Analytics – we always recommend you do this
Done? Give yourself a pat on the back and keep reading.
Check your site’s loading speed & mobile responsiveness
Google values both loading speed and mobile responsiveness increasingly heavier each year. More people are browsing websites on smartphones, and as we don’t have as much patience in the modern world, it pays to make sure your website loads fast and has a great user experience on smaller devices.
Google’s own PageSpeed Insights is the best place to go to check how you fare, so open up that page in a new tab, enter your URL in the search box and click “Analyze”. You’ll be presented with two grades ranging from 0 to 100, for both mobile & desktop, along with a wealth of accompanying information. It’s now your job to get these two numbers as close as possible to 100.
We recommend creating a spreadsheet with these starting values, and then set about looking at the following:
- Check your server first-byte time – is your web hosting up to scratch?
- Optimise both PHP & MySQL – are you on the latest versions? are the memory limits correct?
- Page, object & browser caching – this will make a huge improvement in your load times
- HTML/CSS/JS minifying – similar to the above, this will make your pages load quicker
- Image compression – are your pages loading the correct sized images, optimally compressed?
- Lazy-loading of images – why load images before users have scrolled down to them?
- Delay the loading of render blocking resources – this will ensure users see elements on-screen as quickly as possible
Gamify the improvement of your website by setting yourself targets, and run tests after every change to see things improve.
Perform CMS specific checks
What CMS do you use?
WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet, currently responsible for over 33% of the world’s websites. A few tasks specific to WordPress that we recommend looking at include:
- Check for excess taxonomies (categories & tags):
This just results in duplicate data, so keep them to a low & manageable number. You shouldn’t have hundreds of tags with only one or two posts assigned to each. We recommend 5-10 categories max, and unless you have a very large site, keep tags down to a similar amount, or even avoid using them at all.
- Install Yoast SEO – this gives you many benefits, and the premium version also warns you about URL redirects.
- Also, don’t forget to untick “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” under “Search Engine Visibility”! It might seem obvious, but with the launching of new websites & updates to existing sites, this will cause huge problems if accidentally left ticked.
For Magento based websites, you could consider the following:
- Install a JS/CSS minifier such as Apptrian Minify HTML CSS JS
- Install a full page caching extension such as Wyomind Full Page Cache
- Consider utilising a CDN (content delivery network)
- Consider a flat catalog for larger sites
- Clean up Magento’s database & log files
- Also remember to keep the number of third-party/community extensions to a minimum
Have you implemented Schema Tags / Rich Snippets?
Schema markup is a form of structured microdata comprised of sets of tags. Created by the big search engines in 2011, it defines a universal standard for structured data.
In SEO, one example seeing increased use is called a rich snippet, which is a box shown at the top of the SERP which in most cases show the user the most relevant answer to their query. Any website can take advantage of schema markup & structured data, with common elements including:
- Rich Snippets
- Reviews & Ratings
- Products & Offers
- News Articles
- Creative works
- Local Business
- Person or Place
See Google’s Structured Data Reference for a more definitive list of what you can markup.
One easy way to generate schema markup is by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Other ways include WordPress plugins such as the following:
Incorrect markup can cause penalties, so be careful how you use it, and make sure to check your markup properly using Google Search Console.
Audit for keyword cannibalisation (or topic duplication)
Keyword cannibalisation is when an individual domain unintentionally targets the same topic or keyword phrase across multiple pages (or posts). This is also known as topic duplication.
This is something everyone should be wary of, though it is extremely common when you are creating a regular stream of content. If left untreated it can be bad for SEO, so we recommend that this issue is kept to a minimum if not eliminated altogether.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s exactly what we do with all our campaigns, again using SEMRush.
Firstly find your site’s organic keywords list and export the list to a Google Sheet. Next, filter the results so that the keyword column is is sorted alphabetically. You should now be able to see if any URLs & pages are targeting the same keywords by seeing if different URL’s are listed for the same keyword.
Fixing keyword cannibalisation isn’t a simple matter but some of the methods you will have to look at include:
- Reworking your site map
- Remove keyword references from pages you want to “demote”
- Change your internal linking structure by seeing what anchor text is being used
- Look at external backlinks – where do they point and what is their anchor text?
- Merge certain pages together – this will help create a better and more in-depth page, which as a result will generally rank higher.
- Noindex or even delete certain pages – this is a last resort
BONUS: Check your on-page optimisation with the Pixel Kicks SEO Audit Tool
This free SEO tool is meant to give you an overview of how well optimised your website/page is for a particular keyword. by analysing the on-page metrics as well as the authority of the page. Simply enter your URL along with your chosen keywords and click “Scan Now”.
Step 3: Competitor Analysis
Great, so you’ve got your set of keywords which have been fine-tuned & expanded as necessary. You’ve also given your site a comprehensive audit and are now ready to start checking out the competition.
So how should you go about this? As in the previous steps, we’ve broken this down for you into various sections each with instructions and tips alongside them.
Create a list of competitors and record the following domain metrics
First of all, you’ll need a list of domains that you want to compare. To start with we assume you’ll probably know of a few off by heart so mark these down (in a spreadsheet, of course). Next, head off to Google and do a search for your main keywords, marking down a few more domains that you find on the first few pages.
To expand this list further, you can again use SEMRush under the “Organic Research” page for your own domain name. This is the process we mentioned in the first Keyword Research section, and if you head to the “Main Organic Competitors” section you’ll find a list of suitable domains there.
- Domain Authority – Moz
- Page Authority – Moz
- Linking Domains – Moz
- Inbound Links – Moz
- Spam Score – Moz
- Alexa Rank – Alexa
- Domain Age – use any number of free domain age checkers. Essentially this is just a whois lookup
Link Explorer is free for the basic metrics above, but if you have a paid for version you could add further columns for a whole host of link information. See the full list of Moz’s Links API Response Fields here for an idea of what you could record.
Do a keyword audit of each competitor’s domain
For this step, use the same SEMRush “Organic Research” search for each domain, and you’ll be able to see the “Top Organic Keywords” listed. Cross-reference these with your own keyword lists, and use them for content ideas.
Do a backlink audit of each competitor’s domain
It’s SEMRush time again. This time you’ll want to run a “Backlink Audit” in the “Link Building” sections. You’ll be able to see a list of your competitor’s linking domains, along with their toxicity score.
Do a content audit of each competitor’s domain
Performing a full content audit for each of your competitors can be a fairly time-consuming process, but if done correctly it can help formulate a perfect content strategy for your own site.
Some tips we have include:
- Create a scorecard for what you’re going to be comparing – this will help you choose how to review each competing website
- Run a crawl of each domain – how many pages do they have? how does their on-page SEO stack up?
- Breadth, depth & formatting – length of pages, content type, aesthetic appeal, aimed to their target audience?
- Quality & consistency – ease of reading, spelling & grammar, do they attribute posts to multiple authors or a single entity? Does all their content have a consistent tone of voice? Do any common themes tie their content together?
- Publishing frequency – how often do they update their blog for example? Are their articles mainly evergreen?
- UI – how is the usability of their site? do the pages load fast? Do they have regular calls to action?
BONUS 1: Use something like BuzzSumo to see a snapshot of your competitor’s main pages and see how they’re performing socially.
BONUS 2: CognitiveSEO’s Site Explorer is another useful tool that visualises a website’s pages & backlinks. Sometimes having a different view on data can help introduce new ideas.
Step 4: Content Strategy & Site Map
It’s blatantly obvious that you’re never going to have a high ranking website without having anything worthwhile for users to read or watch and for Google to index.
Carrying on from the previous section, we now need to consider how we approach our own content. The type of content you decide to use on your website can and should include all of the following:
- Pages and posts
- Images & infographics
- Tools & calculators
- Guest posts
Static Page Sitemap
Using the information gained from successfully analysing & reviewing your competition, you can now start to formulate your own content.
Firstly, focus on establishing a sitemap that covers all your services, products and general information. Create the sitemap in Google Sheets or look at apps such as GlooMaps or SlickPlan, then ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a nice even spread of your services, products and information?
- Does the content represent what your website is about?
- Is there enough variety to keep users on your site, and coming back for more?
- Do all of your targeted keywords have a related page?
- Have you considered pages such as FAQ’s, glossaries and other types of help-based content?
- Is your blog or news section correctly categorised?
Consider how users in 2020 interact with modern web pages, together with their short attention span. Here’s our key tips for producing killer pages that keep the user interested and on your site for longer:
- Write at least 300 words for each page.
- Don’t write large paragraphs. Instead break your text up into short sentences.
- Regularly split sections with headings
- Carefully consider imagery, particularly the main featured image on each page – would it grab your attention?
- Add further images throughout each page
- Add videos within pages – if they add to the quality and relevance of your pages
- Consider embedding social media posts – again if they add to the quality and relevance of your pages
- Regularly include links to other pages on your site
Thin Content & Duplicate Content
Thin content is what Google considers to be of little or no value. Generally pages that don’t help or inform the reader. If users bounce quickly from your pages, the likelihood is that it doesn’t provide what they were looking for. To help you identify thin content, consider whether the pages on your site comprise of the following:
- Duplicate content or not unique enough
- Too many ads on the page, resulting in less unique content
- Low word count on the page
- Mostly comprised from external sources
- The topic is only covered in a shallow manner
- Contains many spelling or grammatical mistakes
- Not very informative to the user, and doesn’t read well
- Stuffed with keywords
Creating a content calendar is a great way to approach writing new copy for pages, creating videos, or producing imagery on a regular basis. One common problem is that people can easily get overawed by the amount of work they have to do, so by spreading jobs out on a weekly or monthly basis you make it easier to plan everything in, ensuring you stick to targets.
Our preferred method is to create a Google Sheet (split by weeks or months), decide what you’re going to write, when, and also who will be writing it. Share the sheet between all contributors.
Another tool you may want to consider is AirTable which essentially combines spreadsheets with database functionality. For larger sites with bigger content plans, we’ve found this to be really helpful. If you love being organised, understand databases, and have typically been a stickler for spreadsheets then give it a try.
Spending time on a well-structured content calendar causes less stress further down the line, can give you posting consistency and help to introduce a proper editorial process. Who doesn’t want a nice “at a glance” list of what you need to do?
We love writing really in-depth, long & engaging blog posts here at Pixel Kicks. As a digital marketing agency we’re constantly writing for our clients and ourselves, so we make it competitive between all our staff by seeing who’s blog post gets the most traffic. There’s prizes for the best blog of the month, quarter and year. Gamify the process and it makes it a whole lot more fun!
When deciding on subjects to write about, obviously it makes sense to stick to what your core services, products and areas of specialisation are. Posts based on your location can also help your local SEO. Once the subject has been decided upon, we try and stick to the following SEO factors that search engines just love.
- Minimum 1500 words long
- A great title – catchy, descriptive, inviting
- Short paragraphs
- Regular subheadings consisting of mainly H2 and H3 tags
- Bulleted lists
- 3/4 images
- 1/2 videos
- 1/2 embedded social posts
- 2/3 internal links
- 1/2 outbound links
Ideally try and base your subject around content that targets user search queries, and that satisfies user intent. It goes without saying that regardless of the above, you should always try and aim for the following criteria too:
- Interestingly written & engaging
- Uniqueness & freshness of content
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Fast to load
- Mobile optimised
Got that? Let’s move on and look at some other important content assets that can influence rankings: images & video.
Images: Alt tags, Title tags & Filenames
Without images, the web would be a much blander place, and adding them to your pages encourages people to read them by making them more attractive and appealing. This not only helps the ranking of the web page, but also the rankings of the images themselves in image search results.
As such we’re always amazed at how website fail to take advantage of correctly optimised image filenames. Are your images called “DCS0235522.jpg” or “blue-tshirt-labrador-dog.jpg”. The latter is most definitely better, as search engines can easily index the words present. Name your images as well as you can, thinking equally from a user perspective as well as SEO, but be careful about trying to cram unrelated keywords in.
Look at the Alt tags & Title tags too – do they have descriptive wording? Again, don’t go keyword stuffing, but describe them as best you can.
Google places a high value on alt text to determine how it relates to the surrounding text copy as well as the image itself. Alt text describes what is on the image as well as the function of the image on the page, and is a positive ranking factor. This is the main tag to describe the image textually so that search engines can understand what it is.
The title attribute is shown as a tooltip when you hover over the image, but they have little or zero impact on your SEO unlike alt tags. Wondering what to write in both? Try not to overthink things, essentially just write a simple title for the image that complements the alt text.
With your images correctly named and tagged, make sure to consider the following:
- Do you have a nice mix of images that complement your keywords?
- Are your images compressed and sized correctly?
- Do they add to the quality and relevance of your pages? *
* “But pictures of dogs don’t seem relevant to the topic of this post that I’m reading right now.”
True. But aren’t they more interesting than endless bar charts & magnifying glasses? Making an impact and standing out from the crowd is important too. The idea is that you might stand a better chance of remembering “that really in-depth blog post about SEO with the pictures of the dogs“.
Do you have video content for any or all of the pages? If so make sure to include them. The internet in becoming more and more dominated by video content, and this will help enrich your pages.
Users typically stay on your site for longer, in fact Wistia found that visitors spend 2.6x more time on pages with video. This in turn will increase your dwell time, which is a known positive ranking factor.
Now ask yourself the following:
- Are the videos related to the page in question and do they complement the body copy?
- If so, is the user likely to watch it?
- Does it load & play fast? – this is a no-brainer if you use any of the major video hosting networks such as YouTube, Vimeo, BrightCove etc.
- If self-hosting, check there are no lags or delays. This is not so much of a problem these days as it was 10/15 years ago.
Ideally you’ll want to use your own video content, but it’s perfectly fine to complement your pages with videos from other publishers. Why not send them a message telling them that you think their content is great, and you’ve used it on a page along with a link to it. They might love how you’ve used their video and possibly share your awesome content themselves.
Step 5: Link Building
Links are still hugely influential in determining search engine rankings. In fact we’d place them firmly at the top of the ranking list. Take a look at Moz’s most recent study on Links as a Google Ranking Factor. The TLDR of that article is that “links still matter”, but importantly “that the nature and the quality of those links matter too”.
Link building can be fairly difficult. There you go, we’ve said it. But when attacked with a methodical and well-planned out approach it can be hugely rewarding.
So what are the methods involved in link building in 2020 and beyond? Here are our most commonly used tactics.
Content marketing – build it and they will link
Essentially you must give other websites a reason to link to you. If your content is high quality enough this can happen organically, but it’s essential to properly market your content after you’ve spend the time in producing it.
Creating amazing content that ranks well is a sure-fire way of getting people to link to your site, and we gave away some of our tips in the previous section. Always make sure to be proactive and reach out to other websites, telling them what you’ve produced and politely suggesting they link to you. Tell them why your content is great!
We assume you’ll have already posted out your great new blog post to your Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn accounts, but have you also considered putting a small advertising budget behind them? Try spending between £20-£200 on a targeted ad campaign ran over 1 or 2 months to drive traffic to your web page. If users like it you’ll get social engagement, comments, likes and hopefully a few shares.
Do you have an email sign-up form on your site that enables users to subscribe to your blog posts? Start building an email list, and you can regular send email newsletters to your growing fan base.
Guest blogging & Guest posting
When done correctly, guest blogging can add a lot of value to the blog host’s website and their audience. This content can offer a new insight into a subject, often from a different perspective to the blogger. It does take time to research and write a guest blog post, and even more so to find a suitable host for the content.
The idea is that you write a blog post, and offer it to other blogs rather than hosting it yourselves. A link back to your own website is what you want in return, ideally followed.
Most blogs love the idea of free content, but the more popular ones might be offered guest posts a little too often for their liking. To find suitable blogs, a good method is to search Google for your main keywords and the following phrases.
Using “web design” as an example you might search for “web design guest blogs”. Also try the following:
- your keyword guest posts
- your keyword submission guidelines
- your keyword blog contribution
- your keyword write for us
- your keyword guest posts wanted
- your keyword submit blog post
Once you’ve spent time searching, create yourself a list of suitable blogs to contact, and then get in touch with them!
What other ways to build links are there?
Consider all of the following:
- Look for link opportunities in the top 100 or so Google results
- PR opportunities (existing & new) – Get mentions & links by getting some press releases published on news / industry websites. Also look for missed link opportunities in existing PR articles.
- Partner/manufacturer links – Contact all of your suppliers, partners, and other companies that you deal with. Will they list you on their website?
- Reviews / giveaways – People love free stuff. Send bloggers & influencers free stuff in exchange for a review and hopefully a link.
- Analyse competitor backlinks – Use the processes mentioned in the Competitor Analysis section above
- Real-life networking – Meet people, talk about things, build friendships. Yes this still works!
Directory submissions have always been a popular strategy for website owners to try and increase their search engine visibility, but how important are they in 2020?
Submitting your site to too many directories can be bad, but carefully choosing which directories you submit to can certainly help. Google looks for external signals to determine trust, quality and site credibility, so a website that is listed within a number of reputable directories more than likely is going to be trusted.
Making sure that your listings carry correct & consistent citations is very important for local SEO, so it’s with this in mind that we encourage directory submissions. You can use something like Brightlocal to help you with this.
For NAP consistency across directories (and social profiles), you’ll want to ensure the following are up-to-date:
- Physical address (if you have one), formatted the same across all directories
- Phone number
- Email address
- Website address
Also consider your hours of operation, registered company number (if you have one) and any feedback or customer reviews that a directory might allow you to have. Having carefully constructed NAP’s is key for businesses looking to improve their search rankings and increase their local organic traffic.
Niche Directories (industry or locality specific)
There are hundreds, if not thousands of popular, commercial type directories available to list in, but something that could be more beneficial for your rankings & search visibility are niche directories. These can be focused on your locations, such as major cities like London or Manchester, or aimed at industries such as technology, manufacturing, clothing, home etc.
Using a similar tactic to what we mentioned for guest blogging, try searching for your niche keyword or location such as “web design directory” or “manchester directory”. Like so:
- your keyword +directory
- your keyword +”add your business” / “list your business”
- your keyword +directory + add/submit/suggest/post
- your keyword +listings
Also don’t forget Google My Business and Bing Places. Google My Business is possibly THE most important “directory” to spend time optimising. When users google your website name this will appear on the right hand side of the page in the knowledge graph section, and can influence users on whether they click through to your website or not.
We pondered whether to categorise this section under Content or Link Building. Does it matter? Not much really, but we’re sticklers for organisation, and Chris wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if he didn’t feel we’d given enough thought into it.
What is external content? This is what we class content that is created not to go on your own site, but to be hosted elsewhere. Mostly it consists of the following:
- Blog posts
Why do we do this? Shouldn’t we put all the content we create on our own site? If we’re looking to create a natural online spread, gain balanced nofollow links and try to increase brand awareness, it can help by posting on external sites, such as the following:
- Blog Posts: Medium, LinkedIn, WordPress, Wix, Ghost, Tumblr, Blogger, Weebly
- Photos & Images: 500px, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Imgur, ImgBB, CtrlQ
- Videos: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, DailyMotion, Wistia
Use any available copy space to add relevant descriptions & citations too.
The aim here is to help Google crawl your website easier to find all of the newly created or updated content. Your homepage is generally the page with most authority on your site, and our goal here is to distribute link value throughout the site.
Within the body copy of each page, check for opportunities to cross-link with other pages. If nothing suitable exists, create it! Add new sentences, bullets or additional reading areas so that we can easily build internal links.
For anchor text, try to use a balance combination of targeted, generic and also branded keywords, and make sure any links you add fit in well, and don’t detract from the readability of the page.
For blog posts the same principle applies. You can however also use a good “related posts” type plugin to automatically cross-link with other blog posts. Don’t just show the “latest posts” on every page instead, as this won’t be as good for keyword relevancy and also user interest.
Followed vs Nofollow Links
When it comes to links, a followed link is the holy grail, as these pass link juice (pagerank) to your website, telling Google that the linking site thinks your website is credible.
Nofollowed links are typically used in examples such as:
- User-generated content – social media sites, public forums etc
- Paid links – reviews, editorials etc
- Advertisements & sponsors
- Press releases
Nofollowed links do not pass any link juice, and so may not directly help you rank. However they do send traffic which of course can generate leads, increase conversions and improve brand awareness.
Gaining an inbound followed link from a reputable website is the best way to drive increased traffic to your site, but it’s not easy. However every site needs a healthy balance of followed & nofollowed links, and this sends the correct signals to Google that everything is ok.
A site with 100% followed links sticks out like a sore thumb, but equally a site with 100% nofollowed links would do too, and it’s a sure bet that either scenario would see a Google penalty.
Results / Future
So you’ve read this article a dozen times, you’ve made notes, you’ve come up with a detailed plan of action for the next 12 months, and you’re ready to go….. so stick with it and be methodical in your approach.
This is hard work, and you have to be disciplined in order to get results. Don’t give up after 1 month when you’re not seeing instant improvements.
Great, I’ve been patient – and now my rankings have improved! How do I keep my website at the top?
SEO isn’t a one-off approach, and you’ll need to carry on working long after you reach the top. Sitting back and drinking in your success is a recipe for disaster if you think your work is done.
How should I approach SEO maintenance?
Don’t get bogged down with checking rankings every day. Instead spend your time creating regular content and networking to further strengthen your domain. Certainly keep an eye on rankings, traffic & conversions, but don’t make it an obsession.
Repetition & Rewinding
Repeat the SEO audit every 6/12 months. Things break, content & plugins gets updated and of course Google updates it’s algorithms. So repeat the process. Re-audit your site and you might notice a few things that you missed first time around. Start the whole approach again and you might have some new ideas and see how you can make further improvements.
Don’t focus on too small set of keywords, it might be holding you back. Try widening your list from time to time. Are you a daily or even multiple times per day rank checker? Stop it. It’s not helpful, and isn’t a great use of your time. Go write a blog post instead.
Stuck at number two in the rankings and trying ever so hard to get to number one. Don’t worry too much, it’s probably not worth it. Rankings can & will fluctuate, and not everybody is presented with the same results. Try spending your time improving other keywords instead.
References & Additional Reading
- Backlinko: How to Create an SEO Optimized Sitemap In 2019
- Gravy Train: Your Guide to Schema Markup & Structured Data for Ecommerce
- Hobo Web: How To Do Keyword Research Fast with SEMrush Pro in 2019
- Pixel Kicks: How to Optimise and Speed up WordPress like a Pro
- Pixel Kicks: How to perform an SEO Website Audit (Expert Tips)
- Pixel Kicks: How to refresh your Browser Cache
- Search Engine Journal: Why NAP & User Experience Are Crucial to Local SEO
- SEMRush: Keyword Cannibalization: How to Keep it From Harming Your On-Site SEO
- SEOPressor: Thin Content – What It Is and How To Fix It
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