Keyword research, link building, on-page optimization – these are all SEO strategies that get a lot of attention. For anyone who knows the first thing about SEO, these front-line strategies are hard to forget.
But there are other techniques that aren’t quite as sexy, and that tend to get forgotten in favor of more obvious, first-order ranking influencers. And there’s a very good reason for this: it’s possible to achieve decent rankings without using any of these strategies.
That said, the three strategies below have the potential to take your SEO to the next level. Beyond basic keyword research and on-page optimization, these techniques will help you attract highly-relevant traffic that actually converts. And because you’ll be working smart, you’ll find it take a lot less time and effort to achieve even better results.
1. Writing content based on user intent.
SEO and content marketing work together beautifully, when done right. Unfortunately, sometimes your SEO strategies can inadvertently sabotage your content marketing efforts.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, focus on creating content that matches user intent. While you may have certain keywords on your ‘must-have’ list, keep in mind that people who are searching for that word or phrase may have a very different intent than what you’re presuming.
As a refresher, there are three main types of searches:
Informational: Searches where people are looking for general information (e.g., “How do I cook a turkey?”)
Transactional: Searches where people are looking to perform some specific online action or activity (e.g., purchase a product)
Navigational: Where people are looking for a specific company or website (e.g., “Ford Motor Co.”)
Failing to consider these 3 search types can mean all your optimization efforts are in vain. For instance, trying to rank for informational phrases may be a waste of time and money for an e-commerce site that is looking for purchases (conversions).
So, how can you avoid this? When determining which keyword phrases you’re going to target, do some due diligence. I recommend plugging your keywords into Google, and examining the SERPs to see what comes up. Because Google has gotten pretty good at determining search intent, you can use the top ranking pages to give you an idea of what people are actually looking for.
Because many of the tasks related to SEO can be done in isolation, it’s easy to get stuck in your own little SEO ‘bubble’. But networking – particularly online networking – is absolutely critical for establishing mutually-beneficial relationships and opportunities.
There are a number of ways networking is imperative for SEO, but here are three of the most important.
Establishing guest blogging relationships: Cultivating relationships with other site owners and publications is A LOT of work. Big sites will often want to work with you on a piecemeal basis until you’ve proven that you can provide excellent content…and that you aren’t just churning out content to boost your own rankings.
Connecting with influencers: There’s no substitute for authenticity and trust when it comes to building your brand online. With so much content being produced and pushed every single day, anything you can do to stand out from the crowd is important. Having a key player in your field endorse, mention or promote your content can be HUGE; because even if you have zero credibility on your own, you are essentially ‘borrowing’ theirs. For more on this, check out my post 6 Critical Ways Social Media Influencers Can Expand Your Brand.
Increased reach and potential for external links: We can’t forget social networking. While we know that social sharing and engagement doesn’t have a direct impact on search rankings, the indirect benefits are undeniable. As your content gets liked, shared, retweeted, etc., it gets in front of more people. And as more people see it, it has more potential to accumulate links – which we know does directly impact rankings.
3. Optimizing for user experience.
A good user experience essentially means visitors can easily find and consume what they need on your page. There are many factors that go into creating a positive user experience, but most come down to one thing: giving visitors exactly what they want.
According to Moz, while user experience may be a second order influencer on rankings, it’s impact ‘downstream’ can be significant: “Crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience helps ensure that visitors to your site perceive it positively, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits, and inbound links—all signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.”
So, what elements should you incorporate in order to optimize user experience? According to Searchmetrics’ 2015 Search Ranking Factors report, there are a number of user experience (UX) elements that are correlated with high rankings. Some of the most significant are:
A well-optimized internal link structure to guide users and the search engines through your content
Relevant images and videos within content
Responsive design so the site is accessible on all devices
Readable font size (average of 14 pts above the fold, 12 points below)
Use of unordered lists to break up content into scannable chunks
There’s no question that Google tracks and weighs user signals like click-through rates and time on site to use as ranking factors. The elements above will all help ensure users who click through to your site find what they need and stay on your site longer.