[updated for 2019]
It seems like SEO is getting more and more complicated by the minute. Unfortunately, more complications mean that it requires more resources, which in turn makes optimizing websites for search engines a costly matter.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! This guide provides you with a list of 15 SEO tips that will help you win in 2019 that will give your wallet a little break.
1. Title Tag Optimization
A title tag briefly describes the content of a webpage for search engines and searchers. Title tags are one of the most important, if not the most important, ranking factor for Google. It’s essential that you include your main keywords here.
When optimizing title tags, we have to view them from two different angles:
- What will gain me the most significant benefit for my rankings?
According to Moz, adding your most important keyword(s) at the beginning of a title tag is the best SEO practice, and it helps increase your click-through-rate. Many users prefer to quickly scan the search engine results page (SERP), only taking in the first couple of words of a page title instead of reading it in its entirety so having these keywords at the forefront is crucial.
2. Internal Linking (increase them to your important pages while decreasing them from less important pages)
From a user standpoint, internal linking allows you to navigate through a website. If a site had no internal links at all, that would clearly ruin the user experience, while too many links can lead to confusion and information overload.
Internal links also provide search engines with more information about the structure of a website, meaning which content is related to each other and what the hierarchy of the different pages are.
Therefore, it’s important that when you place an internal link, you make sure not to link between pages that are totally unrelated in terms of content. It doesn’t make sense to link from a page about vegan dog food to a page about how to saddle a horse, right?
At the same time, internal links help to distribute incoming link juice throughout your website. Pages that have more links pointing to them get a bigger ranking boost in search engines.
And if you think about it, it only makes sense to point more links to the most important pages that are essential for a site’s overall goal (such as a product page or a page with a sign-up form) while decreasing the amount of links pointing to less important pages (like contact or about pages).
3. Content-Length & Re-Crawls
Don’t get me wrong, longer content doesn’t mean that it’s automatically better content. However, as you can see here and here, the numbers clearly indicate that the total word count of a page has a direct impact on how well it is going to rank in Google and other search engines.
The optimum word count seems to go far beyond the average 500-word post and ranges between 2,000 and 2,500 words.
In terms of social media, content with 3k – 10k words get the most amount of shares and almost twice as many shares as content that has up to 1,000 words. (source)
And let’s not forget that usually the more content a page has, the more keywords it’s going to rank for, which means more traffic coming to your site.
From the user perspective, it’s important to remove all the fluff and not try to make an article any longer than it necessarily has to be, just for the sake of having a higher word count. Simply put, focus on providing just enough detailed information to answer all the questions on any given topic that a reader might have, but not more.
If you decide to revise some of your already existing content, don’t forget to have it re-crawled by Google using the Fetch as Google tool in your Google Webmaster dashboard. Although the re-crawl won’t happen immediately, it usually shortens the time period that Google needs to revisit your site to recognize and index the changes you’ve made.
4. Technical Issues
When you run a simple site audit, chances are that you stumbled upon a handful of technical SEO issues that might have a negative impact on your site’s rankings. Some of these issues you will be able to resolve on your own in under 5 minutes. For others, you may need an experienced developer to get to the bottom of things.
The great benefit of running a technical site audit is that oftentimes, you will find really low hanging fruits. One example of this might be getting an immediate 20% increase in conversions of your eCommerce store simply because you could reduce page load times by half.
Addressing all the technical issues a website can have would go too far within the context of this guide, but if you want to run a simple site audit yourself, here is what you can check:
- Robots.txt – Your robots.txt might prevent the Googlebot from properly crawling your website.
- Broken backlinks – Broken links pointing to your site lose their link power.
- Page load times – Long page load times are bad for SEO and UX.
- Mobile responsiveness – Again, it’s bad for your rankings and the user experience if your website can’t be properly viewed on a smartphone or tablet.
- Duplicate content – If two more or less identical versions of the same webpage exist, this can lead to duplicate content issues.
- Redirects – Redirects are important when reclaiming broken links or preventing duplicate content issues.
- Sitemaps – A broken sitemap can lead to indexation errors.
NAP stands for ‘Name, Address, Phone Number‘. When the name, address, phone number, and possibly other information (such as an email address and the website URL of your business) are mentioned somewhere on the web, let’s say on yellowpages.com, then this is called a ‘local business citation‘ or just ‘citation‘.
The number of citations that can be found online, their quality, and their consistency is what’s super important when it comes to local SEO. Especially when you want to rank in the Google Snack Pack and be found in Google Maps.
What you have to know is that for local search results, Google browses the web collecting all the data that it can find about your business. For verification purposes, it compares the data to information from other sources like telephone or post office records.
If the information that Google has found is inconsistent, meaning that there could be two different phone numbers or two entirely different addresses, then this will almost guarantee a negative influence on your rankings.
The reason behind that is that Google doesn’t know which of the data is the most appropriate to display. So it’s essential that you find all your business’s citations on the web and double-check that they are consistent and up-to-date.
By the way, consistency also means that you have to use the same format in each citation. For example, if you register your business with Yelp entering ‘105 Main Street’ as the street address, make sure to keep that format and don’t enter ‘105 Main St.’ when you register your business with Yellow Pages.
6. Google My Business
A Google My Business (GMB) listing helps you to rank in the local search results of Google and is therefore crucial for businesses’ local SEO.
In the GMB dashboard, you can add photos to your listing to give your business a “face”. You can add hours of operation so customers know when you are open for business. You can also collect and showcase customer’s reviews and so much more!
Here is how you can create a new GMB listing or claim one that already exists:
- Visit https://www.google.com/business/.
- Click the green ‘START NOW‘ button.
- Sign in with your already existing Google account or create a new one if need be.
- Type in the name of your business. If it shows up in the results, that’s great. Click on the name of your business and hit ‘NEXT‘. If it doesn’t show up, that’s not a problem and you still have to click ‘NEXT‘ to continue.
- Now it’s time to add all your business’s information, most importantly the correct address and phone number. As already mentioned in the NAP section above, it’s important to make your business listings consistent.
- Last but not least, you have to verify your new or claimed business listing by having a postcard sent to the registered address via snail mail. Once that’s done you get full access to your GMB dashboard and can use all the awesome features, such as the new video upload function.
GMB allows you to choose one or multiple categories for your business from a predefined list. Choosing the right category (or categories) is key and has a big influence on your listing’s rankability.
The maximum number of categories you can choose is 10, however, Google recommends you to choose as few categories as possible. And above that, categories are not supposed to be used to target keywords or describe different attributes of your business.
Try to focus on choosing one specific category instead. If no specific category exists, don’t worry, simply go a little broader.
Labels in Google My Business are optional and only needed if you manage more than 1 location. If that’s the case, the labels help you to better organize your locations and divide them into groups.
You can assign up to 10 different labels to each location and use them to filter the different locations in your GMB dashboard and also in AdWords.
You can create and share a direct link pointing to your GMB listing. By clicking on the link, your customers can view your business on Google Maps, which is great, if they are trying to find out where exactly your business is located and how to get there.
You can also create a link for your customers to rate and leave a review of your business. What’s great about these types of links is that it’s so much easier for you to get more positive business reviews, which also helps your SEO.
7. SSL Certificate
SSL stands for ‘secure sockets layer‘ and an SSL certificate is used to create an encrypted connection between the server your website is hosted on and a user’s web browser.
A website that is secured with an SSL certificate uses an HTTPS instead of the regular HTTP protocol, which I’m sure you have all seen many times before.
From an SEO point of view, adding SSL to your website has the following benefits:
- Google has stated that it’s ‘working towards a web that’s secure by default‘. Although that doesn’t prove anything, it’s a broad hint that secure connections are the future and an important part of SEO. Also, multiple case studies have proven that switching to SSL can have a positive impact on rankings.
- When correctly setup, websites running on https have faster loading times than HTTP sites.
Secured websites also have the advantage that they get displayed with a lock icon in browsers, which today the majority of users (especially those purchasing products online) consciously look out for. What’s more, Chrome even labels HTTP websites as ‘insecure‘.
8. Images – EXIF Data & Alt Text
First and foremost, alt text or alt tags are used by screen readers of visually impaired people to find out more about the content of an image.
Alt text also tells the Googlebot and other crawlers what an image on your website is all about and it helps search engines to understand the context of an image.
Will adding proper alt text to each image on your site have a measurable impact on rankings? Probably not. But it’s one more step into the right direction – a step you shouldn’t skip from now on! Adding alt text to your images is also a great way of including additional keywords on your site.
Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) is a format that allows you to add metadata tags to image and sound files. These metadata tags cover:
- a description,
- information on copyright,
- a thumbnail preview for images,
- camera model and settings (e.g. focal length, ISO speed),
- and most importantly date time, and geolocation information.
As you can see, with the help of Exif data you can, for example, store geolocation information in an image file, which basically means telling search engines where a certain picture was taken.
Now, this technique is quite advanced and can be used as one measure in your local SEO campaign. Basically, you give crawlers another hint that your website is super relevant for a specific local search query.
What’s more, images containing geolocation information are also more likely to be displayed prominently in the local image search results.
9. Authority Outbound Links
An authority outbound link is a link that points from your website to an external domain that is highly trusted by search engines. Two examples for high authority sites are Wikipedia and usually the web presence of your local city hall.
The benefits of adding authority outbound links are that:
- you increase the trustworthiness of your own site,
- search engines can better determine your niche, as you show what kind of content your own content is related to,
- you refer your readers to other sources for high-quality information.
For local SEO, linking out to the official site of your local government is one more indicator for search engines that your business is highly relevant for that particular location.
Want to find out whether or not a site is authoritative?
Simply use Moz’s Open Site Explorer and look out for sites with a DA (Domain Authority) above 60. (Please note that DA is a metric made up by Moz and not Google, but is still a good indicator of authority)
Lastly, here are a couple of best practices for placing authority outbound links:
- Only link to topically relevant content.
- Don’t insert too many outbound links for better readability.
- Link out with do follow links – don’t worry, this won’t harm your site’s rankings unless you link out to dozens of external sites.
10. Keyword Synonyms For Semantic Search
Google & Co. have incorporated semantic signals into their search results long ago and looking into the future, semantic search is going to become more and more important taking into account that voice search is on the rise.
The concept behind semantic search is to personalize and improve the accuracy of the search results by trying to understand the true intent of a search query.
Thereby, search engines not only get a better idea of what words are likely to appear together on the same page and in what frequency, but they also get a lot better at recognizing natural language patterns and detecting spam.
So if your goal is to create content that matches today’s requirements – and to be honest, why would it not be? – remember this:
- Write in a natural voice, which means that your content will automatically include lots of synonyms of the keywords you are trying to rank for. Writing naturally also means that you don’t have to pay any attention to keyword densities anymore. What a relief!
- Give your sentences a clear structure so they are easy to understand for both search engines and users.
- Focus on providing real value, e.g. by answering the most common questions on a topic.
- Read your content out loud before publishing it. This helps you to identify passages that may sound a little strange.
11. Schema Markup
Schema markup allows you to display specific information in the form of rich snippets in the SERPs, such as product or service ratings, reviews and opening hours of your business.
Here is an example markup that you would have to add to the HTML code of your website:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Dentist”>
<span itemprop=”name”>Mr. Dental</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>1 Main Street</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Los Angeles</span>,
Web: <span itemprop=”url” href=”https://www.mrdental.com/”>mrdental.com</span>
Phone: <span itemprop=”telephone”>+1(123)456-7890</span>
Email: <span itemprop=”email”>email@example.com</span>
The Benefits Of Adding Schema
First of all, there is no direct proof that schema benefits your SEO in any way. In fact, Backlinko has found that ‘Schema markup doesn’t correlate with higher rankings‘ – at least at this point.
Still, rich snippets are great to attract the eyes of the searchers and almost always lead to an increase in click-through rates, which means more traffic and ultimately leads for your business.
For local businesses, schema comes in handy when you want to tell search engines ‘Hey, here is my NAP information, so you don’t need to go looking for it somewhere else.’ This helps to prevent the bots crawling your site getting confused.
By the way, you can find a full list of all available markup types on this page.
Starting a blog as a business or brand has so many benefits. Here is a couple:
- Show personality – By telling engaging stories and sharing your thoughts, you can give your business or brand a unique voice and create a strong connection to your readers. Write about your mission, your values, and also about your vision and goals for the future.
- Become an industry leader – Use your blog to demonstrate your industry expertise and set yourself apart from the competition.
- Create opportunities – The more engaging content you create, the more content your followers can share, like, and comment on.
- Build relationships – Blogging is a great tool for building relationships. At the end of each post remember to add a CTA (call to action) and invite people to interact with your content.
- Higher visibility – Google and its competitors love fresh content. Plus, the more content you create, the more keywords you are going to rank for.
- Links – Create high-quality content and you will earn natural links. This is also a great opportunity to build more internal links to your money pages.
13. Google Reviews
Google reviews appear right next to your GMB listing in Google Maps and the local search results. They draw attention and make your business stand out. They also provide additional information about your products and services and build lots of trust with potential customers or clients. Did you know that 93% of consumers say that reviews have a direct influence on their buying decision when they purchase something online?
Also, according to searchenginewatch.com review signals makeup roughly 10% of all ranking factors, something that should not be taken lightly.
Now obviously, only a happy client will leave a positive review for your business. So apart from doing everything that you can to try and satisfy all of your clients, here are two strategies for you to test that should help you to get more four and five-star reviews:
- Go out and ask for reviews. Depending on the nature of your business, this can happen in a face-to-face meeting, via automatic emails, or on the phone.
- As mentioned earlier, with Google My Business, you can create a direct link for your customers to review and rate your business.
Last but not least, don’t forget to respond to negative reviews.
14. Facebook Ad Boost
Backlinks are what makes our pages jump higher in the SERP, which is why we all want tons of links pointing to our site, right? One way to achieve this is by establishing a blog where you publish informative, yet engaging content on a regular basis.
But what can you do to make your link building efforts more effective? It’s quite simple; boost your most popular and valuable posts on social media, first and foremost on Facebook.
By “boost” I mean setting up a sponsored ad campaign and paying smaller amounts of money to get more engagement for your posts and more importantly traffic to your website.
If the content you are promoting is good enough, then it will generate lots of natural inbound links from trustworthy sources, which is the most valuable type of link out there.
Also, what’s great about Facebook ad campaigns is that you can set them up within minutes. All you need is an ad account to get started. Then you create one or more ads, define your target audience, and set a daily or lifetime budget – and that’s it. Time to get some links!
15. Get A Professional SEO Audit
There are many tools on the internet that can provide a technical SEO audit. Some tools are better than others when it comes to providing great insight to the issues your site is facing. These tools will reveal issues with things like robot.txt, broken links, www resolve issues, 300/400/500 errors, and many more.
On the other hand, data without interpretation is useless, right? A professional audit can give you clear direction based on your unique goals and selling propositions. A good, professional audit will consist of analyzing the content on the site with the keyword research to make sure that the on-page optimization is right. Further, auditing backlink profiles can be a challenge using only tools like Ahref or SEMRush. We suggest getting a professional audit if you’re trying to take your SEO seriously.
Adding a CTA, or Call to Action, to a page that gets a considerable amount of traffic doesn’t have a direct impact on SEO. However, not including at least one CTA on that page is a waste of resources and you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to win more potential customers.
Each site that already ranks in Google and each site that you want to rank in the future should contain a clear CTA or a ‘next step’ to direct your visitors through your site.
Does this mean that you always have to add a button that points to the description page of a product in your eCommerce store that you want to sell, or should you always link to your SaaS subscription page? Of course not!
You could, for example, link to your newsletter signup form. You could encourage your readers to share your content on social media. You could ask for a review on Yelp or promote an upcoming event, just to name a few
Be creative and try to imagine what could be the next step in your visitor’s journey!