The SEO Game: Tips for Ranking Ahead of Your Competitors

The SEO Game: Tips for Ranking Ahead of Your Competitors by Alexander Kesler.  Available from <> [September 29, 2017] Photo: Article Source

Are your SEO efforts always one step behind? Was your last attempt at the latest SEO trend simply too-little-too-late?

With over 6,586,013,574 searches a day worldwide, and click-through rates (CTR) entirely depending on favorable search engine results page (SERP) placement, your business’ SEO game will either make or break you.

The trick to improved SEO is all about staying ahead of the competition. However, with search engine algorithms evolving at higher paces than ever before, it’s become increasingly challenging to gain a competitive edge in a game that is constantly changing.

In this cutthroat digital marketing age, one thing is clear: your age-old SEO tactics are no longer sufficient. To stay ahead of your competitors, you must implement a strategy that effortlessly adapts to change and tactics that will keep you ahead of the SEO curve.

5 Best Practices for SEO Campaign Success

1. Ensure Flawless User-Experience (UX)

Creating user-friendly websites are not only integral for enhancing relationships with existing or potential customers, they are critical for SEO success as well. Search engine algorithms, which determine a website’s rank and discoverability, are heavily influenced by page load times, navigation, link quality, and many other elements that affect UX. To foster favorable UX and ultimately increase your SEO ranking, consider implementing the following site improvements.

Establish Clear Data Architecture

Creating a simple and usable site architecture is a proven tactic for boosting UX and amplifying a site’s search-ranking success. Through pairing a user-friendly design with legible pathways, your page visitors can easily find information most relevant to them. As a result of stellar site and navigation structure, Google’s algorithm may award your website with sitelinks. This search engine enhancement can drastically increase your click-through-rate (CTR) and bolster brand awareness; therefore, optimizing your site architecture to increase your chances of receiving sitelinks is beneficial to any SEO strategy.

To improve your website’s architecture:

  • Test your UI and identify problematic areas of your website in need redesigning.
  • Define distinct browsing paths for different segments of your target group.
  • Inform users where they are in the system, using page headers, progress bars, and breadcrumbs to achieve functional navigation.
  • Make relevant content accessible, using a navigation bar on the homepage.
  • Improve crawlability via HTML and CSS code optimization.

Recent machine learning developments now allow search engines to provide users with the most relevant results—bundling content pertinence and site usability into its analysis. By improving your site’s structure, you will not only markedly decrease bounce rates, but improve your site’s SERP placement as well.

Accelerate Site Speed

The internet has become a sea of content; if your page is not quick to load, your site will drown with the surging tides. With attention spans decreasing and search engine requirements increasing, lagging load times can significantly decrease your site’s exposure.

Site speed is not only critical to good UX, but it now acts as an important ranking factor for search engine algorithms, regardless of the search platform.  A Forrester Consulting study found that 52% of online users say that quick page loading-time is a principal factor in their loyalty to a site. In Google’s attempt to keep its searchers happy, it now takes site speed into account in its search rankings. Therefore, increasing page load times can bolster site performance and improve your SERP position.

To accelerate your site’s load time:

  • Simplify your site’s code.
  • Compress and optimize your images.
  • Employ a dedicated host server.
  • Minimize redirects, HTTP requests, and plug-ins.
  • Host large files externally via cloud storage services (i.e. Dropbox).

Optimize for Mobile

With 95% of American adults now owning a cellphone of sorts – 77% being smartphones – it’s safe to say that mobile devices are becoming the most commonly used search platform. As site-ranking algorithms – such as Google’s mobile-first indexing – are now primarily using the mobile versions of site’s content to rank pages, it is imperative for your site’s SERP position to optimize your website for mobile search.

To ensure your site is mobile-friendly:

  • Employ a responsive approach — keeping content the same on a page-by-page basis from your desktop to mobile site.
  • Establish great UX through functioning as a progressive web app (PWA) or designing user-friendly aesthetic and trouble-free navigation.
  • Comply with Accelerated-Mobile Pages (AMP) guidelines to improve site speed.

Secure Site Hosting

Creating a private online experience for site’s visitors, by adopting HTTPS, is another website factor which Google ranking algorithms reward. By obtaining a SSL security certificate, and moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS, Google crawlers will identify your site as being securely encrypted and offering data integrity and site authenticity—factoring to a positive ranking.

For now, Google claims that HTTPS is a “lightweight signal”—carrying less significance than signals such as high-quality content. However, with the current rise of data breaches (take the recent Petya Ransomware attack for example) it is extremely likely that Google will strengthen HTTPS’ ranking weight to ensure widespread internet safety.

2. Construct Strong Link Structure

In a recent Q&A with Google’s Andrey Lipattsev, the senior search-quality specialist revealed that inbound linking was among the top three ranking signals influencing Google’s search algorithm. Rather than solely analyzing site content, Google’s PageRank Algorithm looks not only at how many individuals have linked to a page, but the quality and authority of these links as well.

To establish a strong link-building strategy:

  • Create engaging and valuable content prime for audience linking.
  • Ensure links directing to your site are authoritative and relevant.
  • Avoid a Google Penguin penalty by limiting exact-match anchor text.
  • Tag rel=”nofollow” to disavow endorsement from low-quality links.
  • Engage and nurture “likely-linkers” presenting your content as a valuable addition to their page.
  • Establish partnerships with other high-value sites by attaching relevant outbound links to your site.

3. Create Quality Content

According to the same interview with Google’s Andrey Lipattsev, high-quality content tied for Google’s search algorithm’s most decisive ranking factor. Creating valuable and digestible content that serves your business’ purpose will help prevent SEO failure.

The rise in “dense content” is a SEO trend all digital marketers should anticipate. Readers have grown tired of wasting their precious time on one-bite, fluff pieces—providing them with little to no informative value. Google’s 2011 algorithm update aimed to address this content dissatisfaction and return high-quality sites to the top of search results—lowering the rank of “thin-quality sites”.

Your content remains the most important ranking factor. You can get all other factors right, but without high-quality content, your SEO will continue to fall flat. To make your content an SEO-winner, pay close notice to the following content pitfalls.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the top SEO issues that sites face. As a rule of thumb, try to avoid publishing duplicate content on your site, especially considering that there are a number of issues that arise from promoting a piece of content on multiple URLs. When duplicate content is hosted on multiple URLs, search engines may have difficulty determining which version is the most applicable to a given search query.

Moreover, if you are simply reposting others’ content to pass off as your own – don’t – Google will pick up on this right away. Rather, invest time in creating original and meaningful pieces.

Produce Intent-Based Content

Like its improved interpretation of publisher’s content-intent, Google’s algorithms are becoming increasingly capable of understanding user intent. Therefore, in addition to being more comprehensive and informative, your site’s content must be in accord with its users’ intent.

To optimize page visibility and increase conversions, take user intent into consideration when choosing relevant keywords. Determine whether your users’ search queries are navigational, informational, or transactional, and create content that matches the intent to yield stronger results.

Appeal to Buyer’s Personas

Through identifying your company’s typical buyer persona and accordingly designing content targeting specific prospect groups, you can markedly augment your content marketing success.

To improve the efficacy of your content:

  • Identify your buyer persona profiles.
  • Understand your personas’ buyer journey.
  • Craft specific and delegated content for each persona that relates to their current stage in the conversion funnel.

4. Design Effective Keyword Strategies

As discussed above, a productive keyword strategy is one that is carefully matched with user intent. Implementing a SEO strategy solely focused on high-search volume is not only detrimental to SERP placement, but it can lead to low conversion rates.

To ensure that your keyword strategy does not result in abysmal conversion, avoid:

  • Targeting highly-competitive keywords.
  • Ignoring long-tail keywords.
  • Overusing keywords.
  • Forgetting analytics in decision-making.

Determining the correct keywords for advertising your business’ page is an essential practice for augmenting rank on any search engine platform. Your keyword strategy should avoid irrelevant, traffic-driving keywords, and employ keywords that relate closely to your business and industry.

In turn, a successful keyword strategy will:

  • Provide comprehensive and relevant topic information.
  • Offer structured content with proficient internal linking.
  • Improve retention rates.
  • And increase click-through signals.

5. Avoid Google Penalties

The top way to discredit all SEO efforts is being flagged by Google. Google is constantly updating its algorithm to top rank only the most relevant and high-quality of sites—delivering the best user experience possible. Accordingly, Google will reward sites in the SERPs that deliver what users want and effectively penalize those which do not.

Google has been known to come down hard on spam sites that manipulate its algorithm, so in order to avoid the deep-depths of Google penalties:

  • Avoid “keyword stuffing” — once upon a time packing in top keywords reaped SEO stardom, but Google caught on and corrected its algorithm. Google Panda detects unreasonable “keyword density”. If your site has irrelevant keywords peppered throughout its content, your page will be flagged for algorithm manipulation and penalized accordingly.
  • Clean up your link-build — having a wealth of backlinks is no longer an SEO-win, if Google Penguin detects “link farming”, non-disavowed unnatural and low-quality links in your schema, your page will be penalized.
  • Optimize for mobile —  employing a responsive design functioning in a single-page app architecture is a sure-fire way to avoid SERP blows. Google’s Mobile-Friendly update, better known as the “Mobilegeddon”, boosts search rankings of pages that are optimized for mobile and penalizes those that are not.
  • Shave off above-the-fold ads — pages that force site visitors to scroll through multiple ads before arriving to the desired content will be penalized by Google. Google’s “Page Layout Algorithm” demotes search rankings of sites where content is buried under fixed primary ads. Sites that employ pop-ups and overlay ads will not be penalized according to this ranking factor.

Already Suffered a Google Penalty?

If you’ve realized a PageRank drop or significant decrease in organic traffic, chances are your site has been penalized.  If this is the case, don’t panic, rather, roll-up your sleeves and get ready to work.

Your first step is to identify why your site was flagged. Does your site have low-quality backlinks? Does your content include irrelevant, traffic-yielding keywords? Is your page top-heavy with ads? Figure out what violation Google penalized you for and make remedying it your top priority.

If your penalty is an abundance of unnatural links, thin out and disavow the low-quality ones. If your site is flagged for spam or unacceptable content, get rid of any irrelevant or duplicate material and replace forced keywords with proper synonyms.

Once you’ve identified and fixed all errors, submit a reconsideration request to Google. Document all violations and all efforts you have made to correct your site. If possible, explain what originally brought about the violation and map out all future practices you will employ to monitor your page and ensure that this violation doesn’t happen again.

If you do not hear back right away, or your first request is rejected, do not give up. Most initial reconsideration requests are denied, so keep working on cleaning up your site and resubmit requests until your penalty is lifted.

Audit SEO Efforts

As with most marketing trends, SEO is becoming more closely aligned with user behavior than ever before. Nowadays, a well-integrated and successful SEO strategy must provide a comprehensive and seamless user experience.

To stay ahead of the SEO curve, consistently audit and note your SEO efforts’ performance. Determine which practices are SEO heroes and which are SEO zeroes—regularly workshopping your approach . Incorporating these five best practices into your SEO strategy will make your site a well-oiled SEO machine and will always give you a leg-up over your competition.

The SEO Game: Tips for Ranking Ahead of Your Competitors by Alexander Kesler.  Available from <> [September 29, 2017] Photo: Article Source