Top 8 Ways to Bulletproof Your SEO Strategy in 2020
You’ve probably heard the terms – Penguin, Panda, RankBrain, which are the names of some of Google’s major algorithm updates. In addition to the significant algorithm updates, Google makes smaller updates to the tune of an average of twice a day. But don’t worry about staying up-to-date with all the latest changes. It’s just not possible, and it’ll drive you crazy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long term investment and if done right, SEO usually yields results for months, if not years, to come.
While you can’t control Google’s algorithm updates, what you can control is your company’s SEO strategy. It’s probably the single most important thing for getting your website to rank at the top of the search engines. And if done right, it is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. As with most things in life, the more effort you put into it, the higher the return on your investment. Once your website ranks at the top of Google, you’ll see a steady stream of potential customers coming to your website through organic (aka natural or non-paid) search.
I hope that the tips provided in this article will help you implement a winning SEO plan without having to worry about Google algorithm updates. Let’s get started!
1. Always Adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
The most important tip that I can share is that you should always adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
The guidelines describe some of the illegal practices that may result in a website being dropped from the Google index entirely or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action. If a spam action has affected a site, Google may no longer show search results that include the website.
According to the search giant, these are the basic principles that you should follow:
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
So now that we’ve discussed the basic guidelines, let’s take a look at some components of a winning SEO strategy in a bit more detail.
2. Perform SEO Keyword Research in a Scientific Way
An SEO keyword is a word or phrase that people are using to search for things online. If you’re serious about increasing the visibility of your site in Google and other search engines, you have to invest time in scientifically performing keyword research. This task is hugely important and also drives your content marketing strategy. But more on that in the following sections. Even for smaller websites, we usually go through hundreds, if not thousands of keywords to identify the best keywords that will help drive the right people to a particular website.
Avoid Selecting Only Short-Tail SEO Keywords
A common mistake that I often see when teaching SEO training classes is that students will pick only short-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords are search terms of one or two words strung together, and people often use these keywords when starting to do research. For most websites, it’s nearly impossible to rank high in Google for these short-tail keywords:
Tools to Support the Keyword Research Process
Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools, free and paid, to help you get started with keyword research. I usually recommend starting with Google Keyword Planner. Though, it does require you to run an active Google Ads campaign so that you get full access to all the data that you need.
As you can see from the Keyword Planner screenshot below, I now know that, on average, 1,300 people in the United States are searching for keyword seo training. The tool will also provide you with keyword ideas based on what you entered:
If you don’t have access to Google Keyword Planner, there’s no shortage of paid tools that will do the trick. One of my favorite paid keyword research tools is SerpStat. The tool pretty much offers the same function as Keyword Planner and more. SerpStat also sports a feature that allows you to identify the keywords that your website is already ranking for on Google, the current position, and the monthly search volume. Having access to this data is invaluable and helps you take your keyword research to the next level!
Categorize and Prioritize Your Keywords
The next steps are to categorize and prioritize your keywords and then use your chosen keywords in your content marketing strategy.
In the video below, I’ll briefly show how you could get started with keyword research for SEO. I’ll also show how we identify what it’s commonly known as low-hanging fruit keywords:
For additional information on how to get started, make sure to read a guide entitled SEO Keywords: The Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research.
3. Develop and Maintain a Content Marketing Plan
Developing a content marketing plan can seem like a big task, but it’s a requirement. If you have trouble getting writers within your company, you can always outsource the work to a digital marketing agency or a freelance writer. Yes, it’s an additional expense; however, you can make up that expense many times over with the results you get from ranking higher in search engine results. Nearly 75% of all clicks will go to the top three organic search results in Google. And this is where your website needs to rank for your target SEO keywords if you want to boost website visitors.
If you’re struggling for ideas, you can start by refreshing old content or reuse existing content in new ways. Also, you can do some research by going online where your audience hangs out, such as Facebook or Twitter, and read what they’re discussing.
Additionally, two great websites to find out what topics are currently trending in your industry are Google Trends and Buzzsumo. Of course, you could also email or call a few of your customers and ask them what they are currently searching for on the web.
I recommend staying organized by setting up a content calendar in Google Docs. You’ll be able to share the content calendar with your team. Using an online content calendar instead of an MS Excel spreadsheet also helps you avoid version control issues.
In the video below, I’ll briefly go over a simple content calendar template. You’re welcome to make a copy of this template and use it as you see fit:
4. Develop High-Quality Content Around Your Keywords
Let’s discuss how to create content that will perform well in the search engines.
A good rule of thumb is to optimize every page on a website (i.e., product pages, blog posts, articles, or customer case studies) for no more than three keywords. The three keywords should be closely related to each other so that we don’t risk confusing Google regarding the overall topic of a specific web page.
As pointed out earlier, always write for your audience. Develop content that your target audience needs and be strategic about using keywords. As part of a Master’s degree offered by the University of Strasbourg, France, I teach the content marketing and SEO portion to students enrolled in the online course around the globe. As their final assignment, the students need to produce a 400+ word search engine optimized blog post for the University’s website.
I created a template for the students, which also includes the top guidelines and instructions on how to develop content that will perform well in the search engines. In the video below, I’ll briefly go over the template and the instructions that I created. You’re welcome to use the template as you see fit:
I also highly recommend that you read a blog post by Google entitled What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates. In this blog post, they share straightforward advice on what you should ask yourself about the content that you’re creating for your website.
5. Establish a Good Link-Building Strategy
Whatever you do in regards to your link-building strategy, never engage in backlink schemes. It could get your website delisted from Google. Acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant websites to your website is still one of the most critical rankings signals in Google’s algorithm. Establishing an excellent link-building profile for your site will help Google recognize you as a credible resource. A good backlink example looks as follows: A complementary business adds a link in one of their blog posts to a blog post of yours on an industry-specific topic. It’s quality over quantity with link building, so make sure to keep an eye on your backlink profile. An easy and free way to see who’s linking back to you is Google’s Search Console’s Link section.
There are also many freemium and paid tools available that provide additional information. As you can see from the screenshot below, SerpStat has a great Backlink Analysis section:
6. Make Off-page Optimization Part of Your SEO Strategy
Off-page optimization strategies include tactics such as adding your website to directory listings and creating a LinkedIn company page. Off-page optimization is basically anything that you can do outside of your website to help Google better understand what your business and website are all about.
Even if you’re not a local business, I recommend that you apply specific local SEO techniques to your overall SEO strategy.
At the very least, you’ll want to create business listings in search engines. Google’s listing is called Google My Business (GMB). It’s a free and easy way to get your business listed in the local map pack and to connect with potential customers across Google search and in the maps listings. You could also add your website to online directories such as Yelp, the Business Journals, and other relevant and industry-specific online directories.
As you can see from the screenshot below, when performing a Google search for keyword seo agency boulder, the search giant will first show the top three Google My Business listings in the Map Pack. Right below the GMB listings and the Boulder SEO Marketing website, Google is listing UpCity, which is a directory. We’ve added our website to this directory, and it’s driving a good amount of high-quality referral traffic to our website:
7. Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
According to Statista, the percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones has increased from 35.1% in 2015 to 52.2% in 2018. Mobile now accounts for more than half of all global web pages served, and this trend will only continue as mobile devices become more accessible around the globe. Google recently announced that they switch to mobile-first indexing for all new websites.
Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Make sure to check out these tools.
8. Keep Your Website Updated and User-Friendly
In addition to being mobile-friendly, you need to make sure your website is user-friendly and that the content is up to date. Previous website visitors are more likely to return, and hopefully, eventually, become a customer.
The Behavior Flow section in Google Analytics provides a ton of information needed to identify if there are any usability issues with your website:
You can also take advantage of paid tools such as Optimizely, Qualaroo, Crazy Egg, and ClickHeat or do a usability test by asking some of your customers to accomplish specific tasks on your website.
Google doesn’t like stale content, so keep your content fresh and your website updated. Focus on your target audience, always, and develop content for their needs. And last but not least, make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you through a contact form, a click-to-call phone number, a live chat or help feature, and give them the option to connect with you via social media.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Don’t let Google algorithm updates get you frazzled, because, at the end of the day, updates are out of your control. Adjust your SEO strategy if needed and apply the best practices discussed in the article.
Should you need help, we offer a full range of digital marketing services, and we also host SEO training courses in the Denver area and online. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
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