Learn the top most significant SEO tips that really matter
Improve what needs improving to rank higher and get more traffic and sales
In this article, we will cover the top 7 SEO tips that actually move the needle. This is not a fluffy list of generic regurgitated tips but a detailed list of the top issues we see day in and day out from multiple site audits and many sites under management.
These are some of the biggest hitting and most common SEO items that need to be addressed.
- Make sure you are correctly targeting your keywords
- Correct canoniclization and https use
- Logical navigation menu and site hierarchy
- Check and verify indexing and internal link flow
- Remove thin content and audit and update your content
- Broken links and other errors
- User experience and performance issues
Correctly Targeting keywords
OK, so this sounds way too obvious and simple.
But seriously, this is one of the most common issues I see. It usually goes something like this;
Website Owner: We are targeting “round bue widgets” and we don’t even rank on the first page, we are the best producer of “round blue widgets” in the world, why don’t we show up?
Me: OK, let me check ….. Google it ….. See they are nowhere to be found, load their main page up, inspect the content and code, find that nowhere do they mention that exact keyword or they mention it only in their title and meta description but nowhere else on the page.
This is really really common.
The solution is detailed keyword research and understanding of content and keyword clustering, search intent, and SERP intent.
Lets address those in detail;
Content and Keyword Clustering
Content and Keyword Clustering can be considered individually, but for this purpose, I consider them as one item, because they are so synergistic and important to be considered together.
First and foremost, you need the content.
You can do this in two specific ways
- keyword research and produce the required content
- you can analyze and align your content into specific keyword aligned groups.
Both are valid approaches and which one you choose will depend on the nature of your site.
If you are starting from scratch option 1 is likely your best choice, but if you have an existing site with lots of content option 2 might be better for you. Your process can also be a hybrid of the two but the point is you need to make sure you have keywords and content well aligned.
Google has something called the knowledge graph which it uses to understand the topic and know what different groups (or clusters) of topics (keywords and content) are related to the Main Content (MC).
The MC or Main Content is something Google refers to in their Quality Raters Guidelines (QRG). Your entire site should be about one main topic and the site should follow a logical hierarchy drilling down into that topic in more detailed sub-topics.
Search intent is the reason behind the search. Many people will be looking for information on a topic while they are in the research stage. Some queries will be navigational by intent where they are trying to find something, some queries will be commercial in nature and others will also have transactional intent.
There are a few different ways to classify intent and they can be quite nuanced and granular. The point is there is a reason behind the search. This usually aligned quite strongly with the funnel stage of the customer journey. The content used to align to and attract these different stages and intent are also specific to each stage.
SERP intent is sometimes confused with search intent but it is different.
SERP intent is the type of content that Google thinks best matches the keyword. This is usually closely aligned with the search intent, however it is very important to understand that it is different.
The example I usually give on SERP intent is this; if you are trying to rank an eCommerce page and the SERP shows 10 how to type blog posts you are almost certainly never going to rank that product page for that query.
It is important that your content match the search and SERP intent.
Correct canoniclization and https use
Correctly using and implementing https, www and non-www versions of your domain are essential for a successful search engine optimization strategy.
This is where many sites fall short; they don’t realize how important https (and non-www vs www) is to optimizing their site and they end up shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to their search engine rankings.
It’s an easy fix that makes a huge difference to your SEO and that’s why we focus on these details so heavily as part of our SEO audit process when checking sites.
Make sure that your site returns one version of https and www. Each other version should 301 redirect to the primary or canonical URL.
Just fixing this issue can save you from multiple indexing headaches and problems down the line. Plus, implementing it can help to resolve historical indexing issues you may not even know you have.
Logical navigation menu and site hierarchy
I know what you’re thinking: What’s a site hierarchy? Do I need one? Yes, yes, and yes. A strong site hierarchy is critical to effective user navigation.
A logical hierarchy and organization of your site’s pages and content helps with user navigation and helps search engines to understand your site.
Too often we see really large cumbersome navigation menus with 100 links or more. The trouble with this is that they split link equity (page rank) evenly between all pages and don’t distribute your internal link flow into an organized hierarchy. This does not help shine the light on the more important prominent top-level categories.
For most sites, we advocate a 3-tier hierarchy as shown below.
An excellent way to help search engines understand your site is with a breadcrumb navigation menu (which appears in most major browsers). As you move from page to page within your website, breadcrumbs are an easy way for users to keep track of where they are within your site. Not only does it help visitors find their way around your site but it also can boost search rankings for specific content as well!
PRO Tip: Adding Schema breadcrumb markup further helps with this
Below you can see examples of a screamingfrog crawl and then a crawl tree visualization of the search engine crawl. It’s useful to see this structure and how a search engine would find and crawl your site.
Check and verify indexing and internal link flow
Indexing and internal link flow are both important aspects of a healthy SEO campaign.
A quick gut check is just to do a site:domain operator search in Google.
This does not necessarily give you a full account of all of the site pages that Google has for your domain, its just an approximation, however its useful to compare a full crawl by Screamingfor and this site operator and see if there is a large discrepancy. A lot less or a lot more pages suggests there are some indexing issues.
The next part of this section is looking into link flow and distribution. You want a majority of links going to your top pages. With the distribution chart below we want to see the majority of links going to only a handful of strong pages.
You will also likely want to have more links to other relevant pages on your site on your more specific lower-tier weaker pages.
With internal linking think like Wikipedia.
We recommend as a general guide having 3-5 internal links per 1000 words, but don’t take that too literally. Just make sure if there is a related page to something you are talking about, link to it.
Remove thin content and audit and update your content
Content is important. It’s what separates your website from others on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google has gotten much better at recognizing good content and rewarding sites with higher rankings based on quality content.
Good SEO is not just about using keywords and hoping your rank, it’s also about the quality, relevancy, usability, and trustworthiness of your content.
In modern SEO there is a developing concept of a general site-wide quality score. If you have a bunch of low-quality poor performing pages this drags your entire site down.
There have been multiple cases studies that show an increase in traffic when a bunch of poor-performing pages have been removed.
The content audit process goes something like this;
- Keep (200): Pages with lots of traffic and links:
- Rewrite (200): Pages with some traffic and links but poor UX
- Redirect (300): Pages with very little traffic, a few links and poor UX
- Delete (410): Pages with no traffic, no link and terrible UX for a 1 year period
You need to make sure your whole site is giving a positive quality score and there are not a bunch of pages that provide no value.
Broken links and other errors
In keeping with the sitewide quality theme and making it easy for Google to view your site, finding and fixing any errors is important. The top errors that make a difference are;
- 404 Error Pages
- Broken Intenral Links
- Broken External Links
- Redirect Chains
In our experience, fixing these types of problems can often cause rankings to improve in just a few days. If you’re trying to improve your SEO ranking quickly, look for issues like these before focusing on anything else. The easier you make it for Googlebot to crawl your site and see all of its content (and images), the more likely it is that it will return results that help you rank higher.
User experience and performance issues
If you’re not constantly optimizing your site for user experience and performance, then you’re going to lose visitors. Google has been very clear that it prioritizes sites with great user experience and speed over those with shoddy code or janky interfaces. And it doesn’t matter if your site is targeting phrases in its rankings—if users can’t easily find what they are looking for, they won’t stay on your site long enough to rank well. (Pay attention: any website that takes more than 3 seconds to load on a mobile device probably isn’t performing well.)
Google has clearly defined with their Page Experience and Core Web Vitals (CWV) update that page speed and performance is an important part of a quality website experience.
They want to show quality sites to their users.
As SEOs it is our job to ensure that we provide a quality website experience.
In this article, we have covered some of the most important high-level SEO items that we come across often that move the needle. The nature of SEO is improving every little thing that matters, however doing it effectively means prioritizing the heavy hitters and drilling down into these details.
Happy optimizing and good luck with your ranking