As little as a decade ago, there were hundreds of SEO tactics and hacks that would almost guarantee your website a first page search ranking. Unethical techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and the use of private link networks meant it was very easy to outsmart Google’s algorithm.
But fast forward to 2020. Google is a very different animal!
Getting anywhere near the top of the search results can be extremely challenging, especially in competitive industries.
But before you decide to throw in the towel and give up on SEO completely. All is not lost.
In this article, I’ll be breaking down 13 ways to instantly improve the SEO on your website, so you can increase your chances of a first-page ranking.
TABLE OF CONTENT
- Check your website is mobile-friendly
- Increase Loading Speed
- Keep your content up-to-date
- Delete blog post dates
- Increase dwell time
- Add outbound links to high authority websites
- Remove broken links
- Optimise anchor text
- Utilise E-A-T
- Add breadcrumbs
- Tweak your headlines
- Youtube Video Content
- Check your N-A-P
1. Check your website is mobile-friendly
In September 2020, Google switched to mobile-first indexing. This basically means that Google crawls the mobile version of your website first, and the desktop version second.
The reason for this is simple. 60% – 75% of all google searches are done on a mobile device.
So does that mean Google won’t index a site that’s not mobile friendly? Not at all. It just means that you’ll probably slip down a few pages in the search results, never to be found again!
Because Google rewards websites that provide the best user experience. Most desktop only sites are very hard to read on a mobile device, making navigation and link clicking virtually impossible.
If you are not sure whether your site is mobile friendly simply click the following link and type your URL into the search bar.
If your website isn’t considered mobile friendly, it’ll let you know what the issues are and how to fix them.
2. Increase Loading Speed
Page loading speed is a massive factor when it comes to ranking well in the search engines. The quicker your website loads, the better the user experience.
Be honest, how many times have you clicked on a search result and almost instantly aborted mission because it took too long to load?
We are impatient creatures.
Research shows that 47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or LESS!
For 40%, they expect no more than 3 seconds.
Think of how many page visitors, leads and sales you could have lost out on because of a slow website!
Fortunately there are small actions you can take today to speed up your website and retain those all important visitors.
How to test the speed of your site
Simply go to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and enter your URL.
It will then analyse your site and give you a score from 0-100.
Pagespeed insights will also give you advice on where and how to improve on that loading speed.
So now you have a good idea about how fast your site is, let’s look at some ways to improve it.
Install a caching plug-in for your WordPress site
This may sound ridiculously technical, and you may be wondering what the hell’s a caching plugin?
Well to put it simply (sort of), a caching plug-in saves an HTML version of your website, then loads that every time to get a new visitor. Cache versions load significantly quicker and reduce the load on your hostings server.
One of the best and most beginner friendly Caching plug-ins is WP Rocket. With one click you can cache your website without the need for any technical knowledge whatsoever.
Reduce image size
Images make up a large portion of your website and always take the longest time to load. Speeding up your image loading can shave seconds off your websites overall loading time. One way of achieving this is to reduce the size of your images.
A great plugin for this would be something like reSmush.it.
This simple plugin allows you to compress and optimise images once uploaded. It can also batch compress which is great if you have a lot of images loaded onto your site already.
On-demand loading will only load and show images as and when you want to view them. Like when you are scrolling down a large page or blog post.
A fantastic tool for this is A3 Lazy Load. It’s super easy to set up and has great customising capabilities. You can pick and choose which elements you want to lazy load and change them anytime.
3. Keep your content up-to-date
One of the major points that Google takes into consideration when deciding where to rank a website is the freshness factor.
This part of the algorithm ensures that Google is only showing the latest content in the SERPS for any given search term.
Users looking for information also tend to favour the latest and greatest information.
As a result, page visits to older blog posts can deteriorate over time.
One way to ensure all your existing posts stay relevant is to keep them updated. If you’re writing content about mountain bikes for example, and have existing posts such as, “best mountain bike helmet”, it’s always a good idea to periodically up-date the information with the latest products, images and videos.
4. Delete Blog Post Dates
Staying on the topic of freshness, there is a small hack you can do to trick Google into thinking older content is new. In turn, helping it climb back up the search results.
Research has shown that deleting post dates from old blog posts can improve the ranking. However this does not come without some consequences.
Readers generally like to know the content they are consuming contains the most up to date information. Not showing the date means that your audience may not know whether your content is still relevant or outdated. This leads to a lack of trust and a high bounce rate.
So, is there a way of showing your users the date of the post without showing it to the Google search bots.
Well the answer is yes.
One plugin we recommend is WP Meta and date remover. Once you’ve enabled the plugin, all meta information will be automatically removed. It’s also customisable. You can choose to delete the date from the front end, back end or both.
5. Increase Dwell Time
Another important ranking factor is dwell time and bounce rate. Dwell time is the length of time a user spends on your website. Obviously the higher the dwell time the better.
Bounce rate is the exact opposite. It measures how quickly a user leaves your site after first entering. The quicker a user leaves, the higher the bounce rate. Not good!
So how can you increase the amount of time your readers spend on your site? I’m glad you asked. Below are some actions you can take today to increase dwell time, improve the user experience and reduce the dreaded bounce rate.
Reformat the text of existing articles
Are the posts on your site full of chunky paragraphs or are the sentences clearly spaced out?
I’m asking this because poor readability is one of the main reasons people will rapidly leave a website.
Dense, chunky paragraphs provide a very poor user experience.
You could have the best post in the world, with all the latest information going. But if it’s difficult to read, the user won’t bother and they’ll hit the back button quicker than you can blink.
Us humans like to be spoon-fed. We want to be able to click on an article and have the answers we are looking for pop out in an instant. If you’re making your audience work for the information, you’ll lose them.
So space out your text, no more than 2-3 sentences per paragraph. Separate the information and add more subheadings. That way the reader can quickly scroll your post and find what they are looking for fast.
Comments are a great way of driving engagement and increasing dwell time on your website.
Go through your existing posts and add a call to action at the end. Ask your audience a question and encourage them to leave a comment. Maybe even offer them something for free if they do.
Let’s just say for example, your post is about the 10 best ride-on lawn mowers. Ask your audience if they’ve had any experience with the lawn mowers listed. Or you could ask them if the information was helpful.
It’s always good to get feedback from your audience so you can improve future posts. It also shows you actually care about the reader.
Add internal links to related posts
Among many other SEO benefits, adding internal links to related posts is a great way of increasing dwell time.
To use these effectively, sprinkle them throughout your post.
Let’s say i was writing an article about the best trail running shoes (i like trail running so let’s go with that). I may want to add links to in depth shoe reviews, articles on inner soles, an article on gait analysis etc.
Add video content
I’ll be discussing video in a little more depth later in the post, but I can’t talk about increasing dwell time on a website without talking about video.
Users will typically spend up to 88% more time on a website with video than one without.
So go over your existing articles and make a video for each one. Then upload it to Youtube and embed each one into the relevant blog article on your site. Your visitors will love it and it’s sure to help you shoot up the search results.
6. Add outbound links to high authority websites
Outbound links are simply links you put on your site to other websites. They are commonly used within blog posts to back up facts and send people to credible sources of information.
Although at first, sending people to another website may seem counterintuitive, there are a number of good SEO reasons for this.
It encourages backlinks
Backlinks are still a massive ranking factor in 2020. The more quality backlinks you have, the higher you rank.
Notice i said quality?
Gone are the days where only the quantity of backlinks mattered. Google now prefers links from high domain authority sites that are relevant to your niche.
But how do you get those all important backlinks?
One way of gaining links is by building relationships with folks in your industry. Link to their website, then let them know by sending a quick email.
You could say something like
“Hi, really enjoyed your post about (insert topic), just letting you know i’ve linked to it in my article 10 ways to blah blah blah.
Keep up the great work, regards (insert your name)”
And that’s it.
Do NOT ask for a link in return. The last thing you want to do is come across like you have an agenda (even though you do). Most of the time, if you straight up ask for a link, you’ll get ignored.
The goal here is to give the author an ego boost. Make them feel good about themselves. And that’s it.
Overtime, as these relationships build, they’ll be more inclined to return the favour. This is classic foundation laying and playing the SEO long game. It takes time, but it works.
For more information on this topic, check out the The Ultimate Guide Link Building (http://finetuneseo.co/guide/the-ultimate-guide-to-link-building/) in our SEO Hub.
Outbound links increase value and boost your credibility
If you are trying to make a point by stating actual facts, then it’s a great idea to link to the source of the information.
This shows the reader you have done your research and are willing to guide them to the best information on the web.
The trust you build with your audience means it’ll encourage readers to keep coming to your blog, because they know the information you present is true and credible.
Increase your site’s relevance with Google
The more clues you can give Google about what your website’s about, the easier you make it for them to crawl, categorise and rank your site.
Outbound linking to other sites in your industry achieves two key things:
- Confirms what your website is about, helping Google decipher which search terms you should show up for.
- Shows Google the information you have on your site is credible.
By doing those things you are increasing the authority of your own site, in turn helping you rank higher in the search results.
How to use Outbound links
So now you know the benefits, let’s touch on how to add them to your posts.
If you are quoting information from another source, mention where it’s taken from straight away and add the link.
I’ve seen some bloggers list a ton of links at the bottom of a post. Not only does it look untidy, but it can get confusing for the reader as the correct URL’s aren’t always obvious.
This makes for a bad user experience, so add them as you go.
Use outbound links sparingly
As we said before, outbound links do help your SEO to a degree. But that doesn’t mean spam your pages with links.
Again, this can get confusing for the reader and ruin their experience on your page. This in turn could lead to people leaving your site pretty quickly, increasing bounce rate and harming your SEO efforts.
Open links in another tab
Even though you are sending the reader to another website, you don’t want them to abandon your site completely.
Opening links in a new tab means that your reader is still “technically” on your site. In Google’s eyes, that means increased dwell time.
Separate tabs also make it easier for the reader to navigate back to your site without frantically hitting the back arrow.
7. Remove broken links
An essential part of website maintenance, especially for larger sites, is to find and remove broken links. Whether it’s links to another website (outbound) or links to another page on your own site (internal).
Links are broken when the site or page you are linking to cannot be found and the user sees a 404 error message. This is usually because the page has been deleted or archived, or the website no longer exists.
Why are broken links bad for your website
Broken links have a negative affect on both the user experience and SEO.
If your readers click a broken link and get sent straight to an error page, it’s likely they’ll leave your site and never return.
Why? Because again, you’ve provided a bad user experience. The user hasn’t been able to find the information they were looking for, so they’ll go elsewhere.
Another thing to consider, is the fact that when Google crawls your site, you are essentially sending their bots into dead ends. This restricts the flow of link equity which can have a damaging effect on your SEO.
How to spot broken links
A great tool to use for this is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool.
Screaming Frog is a powerful website crawler that will diagnose any technical SEO issues within your website. It’ll find broken links, Errors and redirects and export the source URL’s for you to analyse.
What to do next
Now you’ve identified all the broken links, you now need to look at the reasons why they are broken and go from there.
Sometimes it’s a simple case of a typo in the URL. In which case, correct it.
Other times, it may be that the page simply does not exist. If this is true, it’s up to you whether you add a different link to another information source, add a 301 redirect to another one of your posts or delete it altogether.
8. Optimise Anchor Text
We’ve all read an article that contained highlighted text that, when clicked, takes you to another webpage either internally or externally.
The words you see here are known as the anchor text.
Anchor text is important for SEO because it provides the search engines (and users) with information about the topic of the webpage it’s linked to.
If your anchor text is optimised correctly, it’ll help the linked to web page rank better in the search engines. This is especially important with internal links because naturally you want your web pages to rank well.
So how do you optimise anchor text?
Follow these golden rules and you won’t go wrong.
- Keep your anchor text concise and to the point. A couple of words is usually enough.
- Make it relevant to the page you are linking to.
- Use different keyword variations. If you use the exact same keyword everytime you link to a specific page, Google may look at that as spam.
9. Utilise E-A-T
Expertise, Authoritativeness and trustworthiness (EAT) are 3 factors that google take into account when deciding where to rank web pages. It uses these points to determine whether or not your website is a credible source of information for the industry you are in.
This is especially important if you are in the medical, legal or financial sectors.
Because bad advice from charlotens and fake gurus can potentially ruin people’s lives.
Businesses who can best display their expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness will begin to see their websites shoot up the search rankings.
So how do you optimise your website for E-A-T?
Testimonials & reviews
The best way to prove your credentials, both from an SEO and human perspective, is to have your existing customers wax lyrical about you.
Whether its testimonials or customer reviews, do what you can to show how you have already helped other people.
Sign up to review sites such as Trustpilot, Facebook, Yell, Trip advisor or Checkatrade to name a few, and find a way of displaying those throughout your website.
Social proof is always the best form of promotion.
Go on feel free to show off
Talk about yourself for a bit by adding things like industry awards, years of experience and qualifications etc on to your site.
A quick word of warning though.
Apart from industry awards crests, i would try to avoid putting years of experience, qualifications etc on the home page as it comes across a bit self centred and quite frankly, boring.
Your customer doesn’t care and only wants to know what you can do for them.
Save this stuff for the About page.
Smile for the camera!
Another way to establish E-A-T is to have pictures of you and your team on the website.
By putting your face out there, it proves to Google and potential customers that you are not just another faceless company.
After all, why would you add a picture of yourself if you were not 100% confident in what you are offering as a business.
10. Add breadcrumbs
Google and users alike love breadcrumbs, and i’m not talking about the Captain Birdseye kind.
Breadcrumbs are a small text path at the top of a webpage, indicating where the user is on the site. Every element of the path is clickable making navigation to previous pages a breeze for the user.
They also help Google crawl your site with ease.
Breadcrumbs also show up in the Google search results giving the user a better idea of where the page sits on your site.
The 3 types of breadcrumbs
Location based breadcrumbs indicate where the current page sits within the hierarchy of the website. It provides the user with a natural path back to the homepage.
Most commonly used on E-Commerce sites. Rather than the path showing pages on your site, it shows product attributes, such as size, gender, colour etc.
History based breadcrumbs are ordered according to what you’ve been doing on that particular site. They are an alternative to hitting the back and front button or going to the history bar.
How to add breadcrumbs to your site
The best and easiest way to do this is by using the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast plugin will not only add these to your site, but it’ll make them ready for Google to show in the search results.
Now, depending on what wordpress theme your site uses, you may need to edit the theme files to incorporate breadcrumbs. If you are not sure how to do this, just contact the theme developer.
Once the theme has been edited, you now need to install the Yoast SEO plugin, if you don’t already have it.
Yoast then gives you a piece of code that you need to manually add to your site before enabling breadcrumbs in the Yoast plugin.
This piece of code can be added to the single.php and/or page.php files, depending on where on your site you want to show the breadcrumbs. Some themes make it really easy by letting you paste the code into the header.php file at the end.
11. Tweak your headlines
Although an article may be doing fairly well in the search engines, you could still be missing out on a ton of clicks. One reason for this is your headline may not be intriguing enough for the user to click on.
The opposite may also be true.
You can be too much on the other end of the spectrum by having a super click worthy headline, but it may not be particularly search engine friendly.
To give your web pages the best possible chance of success, you need a mix of both.
Here are some tips you can apply to your headlines today.
Speak your readers language
This is important from both a user experience and SEO perspective. It’s why knowing your customer is so important.
When creating a headline put yourself in the reader’s shoes, and ask yourself what would they be typing into Google? What phrases, words, or even slang would they use?
Your headlines need to be relatable.
Writing headlines in this manner will not only help the article rank, but it’ll be something your user will want to click on.
No one like as smart ass
Unless you run a news site like buzzfeed or the Huff post, avoid making your headlines too click baity.
Yes the headline is massively important to attract readers, but as i said before, you need to have that SEO aspect in there.
Remember the goal. You want your articles to be found in the search results.
This may seem like basic information but you’ll be surprised at the amount of articles and web pages i see that don’t include keywords in the title.
Keywords in post titles give Google and the reader a better understanding of what the page is about.
Let’s say you want you to optimise a homepage for the keyphrase “Plumbers in West Malling”, why would you make your page headline “Welcome to Tim & Sons”.
Tim should be including the keyphrase he wants to rank for, or a variation of it.
Put keywords at the beginning of headline
If adding keywords to the front of the headline makes sense for the user, do it. It makes life easy for both the reader and Google.
You’ll also avoid the possibility of having the keywords cut off when being displayed in the search results.
Address benefits or painful objections
This is particularly relevant for information based blog posts.
By adding a benefit you’re immediately telling the reader what they are going to get by reading this post. You’ll be giving users a positive reason, right off the bat to read your post.
For example, “How to write blog headlines that the search engines will love”
The same is true by adding a painful objection.
Example, “How to create a website without any technical knowledge”
In the latter, you are touching on a reason why someone would procrastinate on building a website for themselves. Straight away you are addressing your reader’s main objection, and smashing it out the ballpark!
12. Youtube Video Content
Earlier in the post I briefly touched on why videos are important for increasing dwell time on your site.
But that’s not the only reason you should utilise video and start a Youtube channel.
In Google’s eyes, video content is just as important as text based articles. If you could provide both, you have a winning formula.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why.
Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine
People type queries into Youtube the same as they do in Google. That’s why it’s a great idea to turn those blog posts into a helpful, value packed Youtube video.
Youtube videos show up in Google’s organic search results
This is your chance to really dominate the search results. Imagine having a webpage AND a Youtube video ranking on the first page of Google.
Whatever industry you’re in, i bet there’s a ton of websites and blogs already on the internet about that topic. This makes ranking in Google hard to say the least.
The same cannot be said for Youtube channels, especially if you are in a less competitive industry.
Youtube is a great way to set you apart from the competition.
Youtube can drive website traffic
By adding links to your website on Youtube, you will be sending a whole new audience to your business. Some of which may never have found you had it not been for Youtube.
Go over older content and start making videos today.
13. Check your N-A-P
N-A-P consistency is one of the biggest ranking factors for local SEO. Google uses N-A-P data to determine which companies show up for geo-targeted searches. For example, “Accountants in Maidstone” or “Accountants near me”.
Whether your business runs from a single location or you have multiple units. Not checking and updating your N-A-P regularly can have a damaging effect on your ability to rank in the local Google searches.
What is N-A-P
N-A-P simply stands for Name, Address, Phone number. When determining where to rank your company for local searches it crawls the web to see what other sites you show up on.
The more directories, social platforms and review sites you are listed in, the greater the chance of you performing well in the search results.
Well, remember earlier in the article i spoke about E-A-T?
Google and prospective clients will look at your company as a legitimate, trustworthy business.
In order for this to work, your N-A-P citations need to be consistent throughout the web. And when i say consistent, i mean, exactly the same.
Hypothetically, let’s say the business address on your website is “22 Smith Street, London, EC2 6GY”, it’s no good having an abbreviated listing on Yell which says “22 Smith St, London, EC2 6GY”.
Google will look at that as an inconsistency. In their eyes, it’s not the same so they won’t consider it when deciding where to rank your site.
The same goes for your phone number and company name.
“Joe Blogs Ltd” and “Joe Blogs Limited” are not the same.
“01732 825825” and “01732825825” are also not the same.
N-A-P best practices to ensure consistency
- Keep a spreadsheet of what sites your company is listed on.
- Keep all listings updated, especially when you move address, change company name or phone number.
- Make sure your N-A-P details are prominently displayed in the footer of your website.
Checking N-A-P consistency
Sometimes your company might be listed on so many websites it’s hard to keep track of every single listing. As time goes on you quickly forget where you are listed, which makes data cleansing extremely hard.
Fortunately there are a few ways of checking where you are listed on the web. You can then go into each of these listings and amend them accordingly.
Manual Google search
This can be a long winded but free way of checking online citations. By typing in all variations of your company name, address and phone number individually, (including outdated details or previous names) you’ll be able to find where those are listed.
Go in and make any N-A-P adjustments necessary to ensure consistency.
Use online tools
A quicker way of doing this is by using a tool called MOZ Local.
Simply type in your company name, and address details in the search box, and it’ll show you where and how your business listings appear across the web.
You can then log into each inconsistent listing and amend accordingly.
As you can see there are so many things you can do today to improve the SEO of your website.
If you want more information regarding Local SEO, take a look at our Ultimate Local SEO Guide
SEO can be a frustrating thing at times especially in competitive industries.
You may look at your rivals and think how am I ever going to compete with them?
But remember, whilst your competition may have thousands of backlinks and hundreds of articles on their website, in 2020 it’s all about quality.
Often, it’s the little things done right that can make a big difference over time.
Now is your chance to go through the list above, take the appropriate action and eventually you will see a big improvement in both rankings and traffic.
Leave us a comment
Which one of these tactics have you already implemented? What kind of impact did it have on your traffic?