The year was turning.
Like everyone, I was super excited for the new year.
Our team caught up for a quick meeting to discuss the new SEO techniques to be taken up for the year. Interesting points were thrown in that were as focused as scaling up the company to as simple as buying a coffee machine for the office.
We spent quality time on reviewing a number of SEO strategies, discussing possible ways to improve. While we were examining the SEO Checklist that we typically follow in our inbound process, there was a sudden intervention in the discussion.
Our Founder Raj questioned:
"Does implementing the current checklist be sufficient to rank a page in Top 3 of the search results?"
We looked at each other, wondering what to answer. There were times when we had exhausted almost all the hacks in the checklist and still failed. We know that Google algorithm gets updated daily, so there is never a single success formula in SEO. We decided to re-lookup the checklist and update it with the new set of hacks.
Though it requires intensive efforts, I knew it will be fascinating if I take this up. So, It didn't even take a fraction of a second to show my interest. That's how my hunt towards the SEO hacks started.
Let’s dive into my findings!
SEO Technique #1 - Improve Website Loading Speed
Thinking that improving your website speed isn't essential?
I’d say, think again!
Google has officially confirmed Page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches. With the index now being mobile-first, optimization of your website's page speed has become critical.
It's time for you to dig deeper!
Page Speed is a performance metric that denotes the time taken by a page to show on the user's screen. Your website's speed is an average of several sample pages on the site.
But also remember, the website speed is the first impression of your business. It's essential to understand that you won't get a second chance when it comes to user experience. To make a strong first impression, your website must load super-fast.
Why is it important?
According to 2018 research by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Unfortunately, most websites perform comparatively weaker and end up losing significant amounts of dollars.
Yes! Today's buyers are impatient, and slow sites can kill your conversions affecting your bottom line.
Page Speed has a significant impact on:
- Attract - Where you rank in organic search
- Engage - How long visitors stay on your site
- Convert - How many of engaged visitors become your customers
Check your page speed in Google PageSpeed Insights.
Best Practices for Diagnostics
1. Image Optimization
Images and Videos are an inevitable part of today's website. But do you know that these multimedia content can negatively impact your page performance if not optimized?
So, here are a few tips that can be followed to optimize all your images,
- Write an accurate Alt text
It is the text alternative to the image that helps the search engine to know about it when the image couldn't be rendered. As part of an essential SEO technique, it’s best to include your keyword in the Image Alt text to improve visibility. Also, avoid spaces in the text and use a hyphen instead.
- Use correct image size
The more significant the file sizes, the longer it takes a webpage to load. So, it's necessary to resize the images by compressing them significantly. It is important to keep in mind that the visual quality is not compromised. Also, avoid resizing within responsive auto-sizing/CSS.
- Select appropriate image format
JPEG, PNG or SVG? It all depends on what the image is. So, know the different image formats available and select the appropriate one.
Here are a few recommendations that I found:
JPEG - for photos of living / non-living objects (use JPEG Progressive format)
PNG - for images with transparent background and those that have text content in it (PNG retains resolution unlike JPEG)
SVG - for logos and icons (it’s a vector format that allows scaling to any size without a loss in image quality)
- Make use of CDN
Content Delivery Network decreases the latency to the user and delivers the images from a server node very close to them. More than this, image CDNs can also provide the correct image tailored to each device.
2. Eliminate render-blocking resources
Let’s see how to optimize these codes to improve speed
- Render Blocking CSS
CSS codes must be appropriately called from the HTML, and unwanted CSS must be removed. If possible, combine all the CSS into one, thereby lowering the number of requests.
3. Leverage browser cache
Browser cache stores the static content on a user's browser during the first visit to the website. Now, are you wondering how this can impact your page speed?
Here’s your answer
As mentioned earlier, leveraging browser cache will temporarily store the web page content and data in the user's browser. This will prevent downloading certain site elements over and over again, thereby lowering the total requests on a page. This results in a faster web page and improves server response time.
You can know the different HTTP Cache Headers below:
It defines how long individual data can be cached by the browser. It is an HTTP header used to describe cache policies in both client requests and server responses. There are various cache-control directives like Max-age, No-cache, No-store, Public, and Private.
This is a revalidation token automatically sent by the browser to check if the resource has been modified. It identifies the content version with a string of quotes, e.g., "8987efi922t" that changes every time the resource is altered. If it is unchanged, the browser uses its local version.
This header specifies the fixed date/time highlighting when the cache will expire. After the expiry time, the browser needs to fetch data only from the server.
SEO Technique #2 - Optimize Crawl Rate
What is the crawl budget?
In 2017, Google's Gary Illyes described how Google determines the crawl budget for a specific website. He added that "Prioritizing what to crawl, when, and how many resources the server hosting the site can allocate to crawling is more important for bigger sites or those that auto-generate pages based on URL parameters."
To understand the crawl budget, you need to know what is crawl rate and crawl demand.
1. Crawl Rate
Crawl rate limit is designed to make sure Google doesn't crawl your page too much so that your server performance gets affected. It is determined by the following factors:
- How quickly your server responds to the requests?
Google recommends reducing server response time to under 200ms and notes that "dozens of potential factors" might slow down the server.
- Whether there are errors returned during the requests?
You can find out if Googlebot is getting server errors when crawling your site from the Crawl Errors report in Google Search Console.
As you might imagine, the best way to improve the crawl rate is to fasten your server. If the site responds quickly and there aren't any errors returned, Google automatically adjusts the crawl rate limit to open more connections in limited time.
2. Crawl Demand
It is to understand how much google is interested in crawling your page? This depends on various factors like:
- How popular is your URL on the Internet?
- How fresh is your content?
Google always loves to crawl pages with new content.
Now, the most important factor - Crawl Budget
3. Crawl Budget
It is determined based on both the Crawl rate (technical limitation) and the Crawl Demand (importance of your URLs). In a nutshell, Crawl Budget is the number of URLs Google can and wants to crawl.
How important is the crawl rate for an effective SEO technique?
If Google doesn't crawl, your page won't rank for anything.
Though you have exciting and unique content, it's the crawl budget that decides the fate. So, If you have more URLs than the crawl budget, there are chances that Google might not be crawling your relevant pages.
That said if you have a big website with hundreds of links, you need to get the site optimized for the crawl.
- Use XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps are one of the essential paths for Google to discover URLs. So, it's worth maintaining the sitemaps updated, free from errors and minimal redirects. For larger sites, it's recommended to have a dynamic sitemap.
- Reduce crawlable URLs
Leverage robot.txt to prevent the crawl of unnecessary URLs like administrative pages, documents, gated contents. This allows the crawl budget to be focused on essential pages and reduce errors.
- Remove robot.txt blocked URLs from XML Sitemap
This is a very common mistake and it needs to be avoided. When you no-index a URL in robot.txt, you suggest Google not to crawl that link. But at the same time, if you include those URLs in the XML sitemap, it creates a lack in the consistency of messaging to Google. It is like you share Google the address to crawl but remove the URL from that place. Due to this, there is a high chance of getting negatively impacted in rankings.
- Avoid Duplicate content
Google doesn't want to waste the resources by crawling multiple pages with the same content. Though it's not easy, you must be smart enough if you want to get the most from the crawl budget.
- Correct HTTP Errors
Crawl budget optimization is always about clean technical SEO. You need to make sure whenever a Googlebot visits your page, it must get a status code 200 or at times redirect code 301. So, clean up all the URLs returning a 404 error or redirect it. Also, avoid redirecting the bot multiple times.
SEO Technique #3 - Get Featured Snippets
Ever since Google opened up about the Featured snippets in search, hundreds of questions have arisen in the world of SEO techniques asking if they are worth targeting.
My answer is a definite Yes!
Featured Snippets are great opportunities to have visibility and competitive edge over the competitors to acquire high traffic from search engines.
What exactly are Featured Snippets?
When Google tries to answer a question, it hunts for the right pieces of information and ranks for that particular search. While doing so, if it finds some unique, extraordinary content, Google creates a special class of organic results known as Featured Snippets that are usually highlighted compared to other results.
In simple terms, Featured Snippets are the content pieces from SERP results that Google considers as 'rich in data' for a particular search.
How many different snippets are available?
There are a variety of Featured Snippet formats appearing at the top of the search results, making them a highly significant result for top searches.
Before dreaming to rank, you must know some essential snippets among them, and my best advice is to question yourself what type of Featured snippet best fits the questions that your users might ask before taking the effort.
- Paragraph Snippets
This is the most common type of snippets that includes one or more paragraphs from the featured results. Generally in the size of 40 to 50 words and answers the questions like What? Who? Why?
- List Snippets
These can be either numbered or bulleted content that is listed from the featured articles. This answers the question - How? and includes content like recipes and DIY answers.
- Table Snippets
Good thing about this type of snippet is Google pulls the data and re-formats it into a table automatically. You can get these snippets while looking for rates, pricing or some specific data points.
How to get your place?
Now that you know the different snippets available let's discuss how you go about ranking for them. Also, remember that earning a featured snippet definitely gives you an edge but requires crafting great answers and excellent SEO techniques..
- Find the right keywords
Look for keywords more focused on the questions. An easier way to get this is to look into 'People also ask' segment in the search results
- Create excellent content
Ideally, create a content piece focused on the particular keyword under the word limit (Snippets typically tend to show content with 40 to 50 words). Answer the question clearly in the first few lines and place a pulling content at the end that can urge the user to click on the result.
- Format it properly
With the use of HTML tags, format the content based on the snippet you wanted to rank for. <h1>, <h2> for questions, <p> for paragraph, <li> for listed items.
- Request Index
Now, It's time to wait and watch.
On Page SEO
SEO Technique #1 - Build Topic Clusters
You might have done intensive keyword research and would have crafted a detailed quality content. Even the titles and meta could be catchy, but still, your keyword rank might remain flat.
Something is wrong!
But don’t worry, It’s not only you!
Even digital giants like HubSpot, Backlinko, and many others will face it unless the content has been built with a comprehensive approach.
Yes, building a topic cluster is the only way you can get rewarded.
What is a Topic cluster?
A Topic cluster is a collection of content pieces on a specific topic that typically includes a Pillar Page with a comprehensive overview interlinked to a bunch of cluster pages with detailed content around the same topic. Interlinking between pages is done in an umbrella format.
Building a content structure like this helps you establish a firm authority over the particular topic and also gives your readers a tremendous value with a broader exploration.
Components of a Topic Cluster
- Pillar Content - A comprehensive piece of content that is appropriately structured and logically organized to cover all the aspects of a particular topic.
For a user, it acts as a complete guide that answers all the essential questions and provides a path to explore the topic in more depth by hyperlinking to cluster contents.
- Cluster Content - It’s a detailed content that elaborates on a subtopic under the pillar page umbrella. This collection of many related blog posts provides contextual support to the Pillar Page.
- Hyperlinks - Interlinks that connect all the cluster content with the pillar content in a manner that establishes the relationship between the pages. It’s like spokes on a wheel that helps both users and the search engine to navigate more in-depth into the pillar theme.
Here is an example
Workout Routine is the Pillar Page, and the content blocks linked with it are the cluster contents that support the pillar content.
Steps to create a Topic Cluster:
- Decide on the Buyer Persona whom you are going to target.
- Brainstorm to list all the needs of that buyer persona
- Find the search volume of those needs to sort and pick the most important one.
- After you have picked the right topic, identify the content gap to build a structure for your Pillar page.
- Draft a comprehensive piece of content that covers all the aspects of the topic
- Now, list down all the possible questions that a user can get to decide on the cluster pages
- With the questions, select the right high volume keywords to target.
- Start building pages with detailed content around those keywords that answer the respective questions
- Craft and implement a strong interlinking strategy that links all the cluster content pieces together with the pillar content in an umbrella format.
- Continue to hunt for opportunities to create new content pieces that expands the cluster and fills the content gap.
The ultimate goal of a Topic Cluster is to become the authority of the particular topic and provide a user with everything there is to know about the topic.
SEO Technique #2 - Use of Keyword Difficulty
Nobody understands Google's actual method for ranking websites. Even if they did, the fact that some keywords are more difficult to rank than others would remain unchanged. That is why the concept of "keyword difficulty" is one of the most difficult aspects of SEO techniques..
Some of you may already be aware that we have a keyword research metric. However, we've seen that many people have unrealistic expectations of this measure.
So, in this point, I'll explain the broad concept of keyword difficulty (i.e., what seasoned SEOs look for when estimating their odds of ranking in Google) and demonstrate how the Keyword Difficulty measure can be useful.
How would you figure out how difficult a keyword is to rank for?
Most SEO practitioners determine a keyword's "ranking difficulty" by looking at the pages that already rank in Google for recognised characteristics that influence rankings.
This boils down to four main characteristics:
- Content of the page
- Searcher intent
- Links from other websites
- Domain/website authority
Because there are so many distinct “schools of thought” in SEO, some SEO marketing companies will disagree with some of my observations and thoughts below. That is quite acceptable to me, and I encourage you to thoroughly analyse any opposing arguments you may encounter. It's possible that a different school of thought appeals more to you.
SEO Technique # 3 - Use LSI Keywords
The days of marketers focusing over a single keyword to achieve strong ranks are long gone. The importance of context in today's content creation is undeniable. And with that good reason: 15% of Google’s daily searches are new terms that users have never searched before. And, with trillions of searches every year, that translates to a lot of new inquiries.
This is why LSI keywords have become such a big component of Google's ranking considerations, with Googler's discovering so many varied and unique methods of searching for common concerns. Omit SEO, using LSI keywords yields excellent results. You may increase the contextuality of your content and improve your search exposure by including them in it.
What are LSI Keywords?
LSI keywords are search terms linked to the main keyword you're targeting SEO (Search Engine Optimization). They support your content and provide more context, allowing people and search engines to know what it's about.These keywords can also be categorised as follows:
- Related Keywords
- Non Related Keywords
1) Related Keywords - Related LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are terms and phrases that are similar or related to a webpage's target keyword. By giving context and tying the copy to the target keyword, they help search engines better grasp the content of the page
2) Non-RelatedKeywords- Non-Related LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are terms and phrases that are not similar but related to a webpage's target keyword. By giving context and tying the copy to the target keyword, they help search engines better grasp the content of the page.
Are LSI keywords the same as synonyms?
The majority of LSI keywords are words and phrases that are closely related to your main keyword. Using synonyms in your articles can help add to an on-page SEO technique, synonyms aren't LSI keywords.
For example, the term "coat" is a synonym for "jacket." LSI keywords for "jacket" include terms like: reversible, winter, feather down, warm, padded, puffer, and so on.
How to use LSI keyword tools to locate related keywords
Creating a list of important keywords for your business is the first step in finding LSI keywords. It will be simple to come up with related keywords once that is complete. All you need is a little study to reveal unlimited possibilities—and you'll need tools for that.
1. Google Autocomplete
The quickest way to identify keywords related to your main one is to use Google's rapid search option. Input your main keyword into Google's search box, and you'll get a list of suggestions for what you should type next.
Look for the words in bold that serve as ideas. Make a list of the ones that apply to your topic and use them in your text.
2. Google Related Searches
You may also input your main keyword into Google and then scroll down to the “Related Searches” section at the bottom of the page. Check out the terms below for more LSI keyword suggestions for your content.
3. People Also Ask
The “People Also Ask” section in the search results page is yet another useful and free resource that will present you with a variety of more alternatives. You can look through a couple of the results to see if there are any other words that you might use. Look for the bolded ones, as seen in the sample below.
The Power of Deep Linking in Topic clusters
While the long tail keyword search is growing every day, there arises the need for building pages with in-depth content that answers more specific questions. As the long-tail searches are highly-focused, they tend to convert exceptionally well. So, any content strategy must now involve pages optimized for these long-tail keywords.
Usually, these pages act as the 2nd or 3rd level contents of a Topic Cluster. To rank these more in-depth pages, placing the right architecture of interlinks that passes the link juice from high SEO value pages is critical.
Deep Linking is nothing but linking the high-value SEO pages with more in-depth pages on the website in architecture to help those pages rank higher. In a content cluster, the pillar pages are hyperlinked to the first level of cluster pages that, in turn, are linked with these more in-depth pages following the umbrella structure. This hierarchical interlinking helps more in-depth pages in the cluster to get SEO value that supports building authority to the entire topic cluster.
Hey, don't worry! It's not the end.
I will keep on updating the blog with new SEO hacks as long as Google's update stops.
If you are looking for more interesting reads, I highly recommed this blog on subdomain seo that is scorching the internet.