We all know what it could mean for your business if you are ranking higher on Google.
It is one of those things that can make or break a business.
But, it can be quite a difficult task especially if you’re just starting and not really familiar with using SEO techniques.
I remember back when I started my site, I was certain that I can thrive on good content only and the rest will happen. That was not the case, of course. Just because you have good content and you’re hard-working doesn’t grant you the first page of Google.
I asked myself how can I change this and realized I need to make the most of white hat SEO techniques. Since then I have never looked back and my business has only gotten better.
They are fairly easy to implement and they are good for anybody no matter the level of SEO they use.
Today, I can rank my posts almost effortlessly on the first page of Google, and oftentimes even as number 1.
If you would prefer to watch a video with some of the best techniques, here’s Backlinko’s take on it:
1. Optimize Page Titles, Descriptions and Other Tags
If you want to do well on the search engines, you have to pay attention to on-page SEO factors on your website.
Usually overlooked, the page’s Meta titles and Meta descriptions play a big role in your potential ranking.
These Meta tags are the first things Google sees when crawling a website, and that is why this is the perfect place to add your most important keywords.
Let’s talk a bit about Meta tags, what they are and why they are important.
Meta tags are very important simply because they can impact how your page ranks on the search engines and determine how many people are drawn to click on your link.
This is the whole point of SEO, right? Your page ranking high, and people finding your content helpful.
That is how meta tags influence conversion, engagement rates, traffic, rankings, etc. All the most important things for any website.
You just can’t have a good SEO strategy without meta tags and no webpage should fail to develop them no matter how small or big they are.
But, what exactly are meta tags?
Meta tags are little pieces of information that tell the search engines what type of information your page contains.
Within meta tags, there are many other important sections like:
- Title tags
- Meta description
- Viewport tags
- Canonical tags
- Hreflang tags
- Open graph tags
Every page on your website should serve a unique purpose.
When somebody visits your webpage, they should be able to tell immediately what your business is and where it is located.
Many people make the mistake of actually labeling their home page title as default “Home”. This sends zero confidence to search engines that this is actually a site for a particular business.
If we take a dentist as an example, a good page title might be “Colorado Springs Best Dentist | Acme Dentist Services” instead of just a default title.
Giving a descriptive page title can capitalize on search results. Telling a better story than just with “Home” which is not very good for SEO.
Another hack that you can include when choosing a Meta title, it’s to include title modifiers as the following:
- Numbers: 6 tips, 7 tricks, 10 SEO techniques, etc.
- The Year: 2020 guide, 2019 recipes, etc.
- The following words: free, guide, simple, easy, step-by-step, etc.
By including these Meta title hacks, you will most certainly increase your CTR, which will be rewarded heavily by Google’s latest Rankbrain algorithm update.
Although not as important to rankings in comparison to page titles, the meta description is all about getting people to click on your listing vs the other 9 results on the page.
Also known as click-through rate, you want your description (which can now be up to 320 characters) to drive as many clicks to your site as possible.
What separates you from your competition, and how do you stand out?
First, you want to be honest about what your website is about. You should never present your listing in a grey light.
Doing so will create mistrust among users and ultimately they will go directly back to the search results causing them to bounce (pogo-sticking).
High bounce rates show Google that your site is not worthy of the results and with the introduction of RankBrain, an AI search bot, Google will take note and devalue your website as a result.
Your description should be a quick and well-written synopsis of what the page is all about.
The copy should be enticing and promotional leading into what the person is searching for.
It is a great place to add keywords through which people typically find you.
The searcher knows exactly what they want based on the keywords they input into Google. Your description should always follow suit.
A superb place to find ideas for your Google Meta info is on the ads shown at the top of search results.
These ads have been tested for the best conversions, so you can incorporate some of these words into your Meta titles and descriptions.
If you want to go deeper into SEO and explore other tags that are used in the HTML code of the pages, keep reading!:
- Viewport Tags
The viewport is the area of the window in which the content of the web is shown.
Now in cases when the page is seen on a mobile device, the size of the viewport differs and can influence the content.
If a page is not mobile optimized, the pages might be rendered with a viewport different than the one suitable for them and shrink down to fit properly.
This can cause a page to break or look quite bad when seen on a mobile device.
So in short, these viewport tags impact the way your page is presented on a mobile device.
- Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are used to specify the primary or principle version of the specific page.
Using these tags in your code is a way of telling a search engine which URL represents the master copy of a page.
The problems that this solves are those caused by identical content appearing on several URLs.
If there is duplicate content on several URLs, this can cause many problems when it comes to SEO.
Some of the problems that can happen when there is too much duplicate content are:
- The crawlers that go through too much duplicate content can easily miss the original content
- Search engines can choose the wrong URL to rank
- A lot of duplicate content may lower your ranking
This can be extremely helpful with displaying the proper content and high ranking on search engines.
- Hreflang Tags
Another type of important tags is hreflang tags.
These are attributes that let Google know which language is the specific page in, so the engine can present that result to users that are searching in that particular language.
These tags were introduced back in 2011 by Google, and they let the search engine know about the type of relationship your pages have in alternate languages.
With the use of these tags, you can create content for a specific audience, and you can have your pages translated into different languages.
- Open Graph Tags
Open Graph tags are extremely important when it comes to wanting to have content that is more clickable, shareable and looking overall nicer when it’s shared.
These tags are basically code that controls how URLs are displayed when they are shared on social media platforms.
And that is quite important!
People are far more likely to click something or notice when the content has optimized open graph tags.
This can mean more traffic to the website, or more clicks on the shop button.
Optimized OG tags make the content more eye-catching, they make the content clear at glance, and they help the platform to understand what the content is about.
Even if these tags are out of your expertise, it is good to know that they exist and that they can play a big role in your ranking.
You can choose to hire somebody who knows how to optimize these types of tags, or you can dedicate time to learn how to do it yourself.
Either way, they can be quite important in the overall SEO strategy.
2. Have short URLs
Permanent linking structure (aka Permalinks) basically refers to how the URL reads for a post or page in the browser’s address bar.
This is the perfect place to add keywords into the mix and believe it or not, this is something Google’s web crawlers look at to help you rank.
Several studies have confirmed that shorter URLs tend to rank higher than lengthy URLs.
Here are some items to keep in mind when creating your web page URLs
- Keep them clean and short
- Incorporate keywords
- Only use hyphens “-“to separate words
- Customize your URLs based on what the content is
- Follow a standard URL structure with categories and subcategories
- Remove Stop words
- Use canonical tags where needed
Another good thing to know is that there are URL shortening services out there that can be used to shorten a specific long URL.
These are a good option when you just can’t find a way to shorten your URL naturally but it looks quite unattractive as it is.
You can use these when you want to share your content but there are a number of characters allowed like for example on Twitter.
These types of character limits are bad for sharing long URLs because it won’t be a lot of space afterward for the text you want to display.
Another usage of the URL shortener is when you’re sending a long URL in instant messaging or e-mail and you want to avoid broken links etc.
An example of a shortened URL is http://goo.gl/l6MS that comes from http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/making-urls-shorter-for-google-toolbar.html.
You can see how the first URL looks much better and concise than the second one.
Once the URLs are short, Google and other search engines can find, read and understand them much easier.
Having long and too complex URLs can make your page look unorganized and it can make it hard for Google crawlers to visit each page which in the end can bring worse search rankings.
And we don’t want those.
Examples of good URL structures:
You get the idea….
Which is to incorporate keyword-rich “telling” terms of what the website encompasses and is about.
Usually, 3-4 words max should do the trick. To change your permalink on WordPress go to Settings > Permalinks.
3. Use HTML Headers Properly
A headers is basically the title or lead-in of an article or content. I am referring to the HTML code: H1, H2, etc. that leads off paragraphs in content. Google sees these as important. So should you.
Starting with H1’s, their rules are simple. These stress, like the other headers, the main “subject of the page” and Google takes action appropriately.
You should only use one H1 tag per page as this is the main header and will confuse search engines when more is used and devalue your rankings.
Moreover, you should come up with a unique H1 header. Also, you should use your main keyword of the landing page in the h1 header.
Keep in mind not to make the h1 title too long, or not longer than one line.
H2’s should be similar to H1’s. A good place for keywords, but a good practice is to base this on sub-subjects for the page.
For instance, if your page is about a dentist then a good H2 tag could be about one of the services the Dentist provides (i.e. cavity cleaning) followed by content in regards to the H2 tag.
Pro-tip for the WordPress WYSIWYG editor: You can select the words that you want to use an H2 tag on and then press ctrl+alt+2 to make them into H2.
H2 tags should inform the reader about the contents of the corresponding paragraph. Or more simply said, readers should know what the upcoming paragraph is about by reading the h2 title.
Similar to H2’s but should be used for topics that are not as important. These should be used as subtopics inside H2 tags but are not always necessary.
By incorporating these tags into your webpages, you are reinforcing what your website is all about.
You can also add some keywords here too. A good tip is to use these headings as questions.
Difference between title and H1
A very often asked question is what’s the difference between a page title and an h1 tag.
In HTML terms, both of those serve as titles or to describe what your page is about.
The biggest difference between them is the location, or where they appear.
The page title appears in the title bar at the top of the browser and the purpose of it is for search engines so it acts as a hyperlink that readers click on to observe your page.
The title tags are not actually visible on the webpage. On the other hand, h1 tags are what the readers will see on the actual page.
This is what acts as a physical title of the content on your page.
H1 tags usually don’t appear in the Google engine results.
When you are coming up with your h1, h2, h3, h4, etc tags you should think about what the content of your page is about and what point do you want to make to your readers.
Then, it is a good idea to do keyword research so you can see what types of words people are looking for on the search engines.
Once you have the relevant keywords, you know what to focus your content around and you need to include these keywords in the h1 and h2 tags.
4. Speed Up Your Website using a CDN
The speed of your website is extremely important. The whole user experience might be threatened if your website takes too long to load.
If you speed it up, not only the UX will improve, but with that better rankings will come.
The site speed is even a bigger ranking factor when it comes to mobile pages.
Users will be a lot more likely to spend more time on a website that is loading properly then on a website that takes a long time to load.
For this reason, Google made the site speed a ranking factor.
If you are asking yourself how many seconds does your website need to have until it’s properly loaded, the answer is under two.
A few years ago, the answer might have been three to four seconds, but technology is moving fast and we need to stay on top of it.
The faster the loading is, the higher the ranking will become. Simple as that.
There are several things you can do to help with website speed
- Upgrade your hosting
- Compress your images so they serve faster
- Reduce the number of images on a single page
- Use a CDN (content delivery network) to serve websites faster across the globe
What is a CDN?
If you are wondering what CDN or content delivery network is, let me explain.
It basically is a network of servers that is shortening the information path between the server and the user.
CDN has servers in multiple locations which are not the case with simple software. When a user wants to load a certain webpage, the information is being shown from the closest server.
In this way, a CDN lessens the time users need to access the webpage.
5. Link To Other Articles (Internal and External Linking)
By connecting pages on a website using keywords as the anchor text, you are in essence creating backlinks internally to your site’s pages.
This helps users and search engines alike, by connecting the topics of your web pages together.
By using keywords to connect pages, you are telling Google what the page the link goes to is all about.
This also sends link juice to that page increasing the page’s authority. It is almost like a page is vouching for another page and giving its recommendation of the content found there.
A couple of things to keep in mind. You want to push these internal links to the pages you want to rank for.
If you don’t want to rank your “Contact Us” page, then don’t force a ton of internal links there.
Instead, push links at those pages you want to rank for such as the home page or an important promotions page.
You should also include outbound links to authoritative websites such as Wikipedia.
6. Optimize Your Images
Image optimization refers to using images in order to advance rankings.
Yes, there is even a separate search engine that is strictly for images, however, there are some items we can address with images that will help with Google’s standard search engine as well.
Again, your image should be nice and compressed to increase page speed, but more so than that you should always name your image file using keywords for your site.
Forget naming your images 268767sdfsd.jpg or image1.png. This tells Google nothing about the image.
Instead, try for something keyword rich. For example, if you have a Dentist’s website then perhaps an image file with the name Chicago-dentist.jpg will serve you better.
On top of this, it is always a good idea to incorporate keywords into the alt tag of an image.
The alt tag was designed to give the visually impaired an idea of what pictures are all about. If Google thinks you are trying to make a page that is accessible for all then they are more likely to up rank your website. Keywords are important here as you can imagine.
Pay attention to the size of the images as well. As I mentioned earlier, visitors would wait two seconds only for an image to load.
This means that you can’t add huge images that take too much to load.
That is why you need to decrease the size of the image and that increases the page loading speed.
This reduction can happen in Adobe Photoshop by using the “save for web” command. There are also other tools that can be used such as Canva, PIXLR or other image editing platforms.
Also, a good idea is to pay attention to your decorative images. Decorative images are all background images, borders, and buttons.
Those can also result in a large combined file size that makes the page load slowly.
Even though decorative images are very important for aesthetics, they shouldn’t be more important than the page speed.
7. Use Google Search Console
I could go on for days about Google’s Search Console. This powerful tool is a must for all website owners, especially those wearing those white SEO hats.
Google Search Console is a free service provided by Google that gives you access to many tools that can be used in optimizing your page for the Google search.
This is the place you can go to tell Google exactly how you want the search results to appear for your website, which version of the website to use, Google even tells you how people found your site using what keywords and above all else if there is an issue with your site that needs immediate attention.
This, in fact, is the only place that will tell you if your site has been compromised by hackers or if you have any penalties affecting your site.
Google will not send you an email to let you know. You must go here.
Search Console also allows you to submit sitemaps to tell Google what and where your pages are located.
Anything that helps Google understand your site better will ultimately lead to better rankings.
8. Submit a Sitemap to Google
We mentioned this above, but why is a sitemap important?
A sitemap, submitted to Google’s Search Console is a powerful thing. It helps Google to index your site and tells them exactly where the site is, so you don’t have to wait until Google finds you (which may be months or never).
It also gives them a roadmap to every page and the ability to upgrade or downgrade a page’s importance.
There really is no downside to having a sitemap and they are extremely important on sites that create dynamic pages, if you have few external links pointing to your site such as a new site and if you have a huge site with many pages.
A quick and easy way to submit a sitemap to google is to install the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin and follow their XML sitemap instructions.
9. Create Long-Form Content
Google loves content and so do its users.
If you are looking to rank #1 on Google, then you should consider creating blog posts that cover topics in depth.
Word count does have an effect on the SERPs, with blog posts over 1900 words ranking among the top results.
Writing lengthy blog posts allow you to increase the time that a visitor spends on your site, reduce the bounce rate and also include various keyword variations naturally.
All of this will contribute to a healthy white hat SEO profile.
Add LSI keywords
LSI keywords are essentially synonyms for the keywords you are looking to rank for.
For instance, when you are writing a post about “home improvements”, you can include words such as “home DIY projects” or “fix your home”.
This will also help you rank for long-tail keywords.
10. Add Engaging Videos
Video is king these days.
55% of all keyword searches now include a Youtube video on the first page.
By adding videos and other rich media to your blog posts, you will increase the time someone spends on your site, which will, in turn, give you higher rankings.
Plus, videos are also a great way to explain a topic.
What’s more, videos are becoming more and more relevant. The reason why people are more focused on videos is that they provide a bulk of information in a short amount of time.
It’s much more tiring to read 10 pages of text then it is to listen to 2-3 minutes of video.
Another great reason why videos are awesome is that you can tell a story better with a video than with plain text.
Everything is important, the demeanor, the way you’re telling something, the body language, etc. All of those can impact users to trust you more.
Even if you’re not the one owning the video, choosing engaging videos that people can learn more from can only be a plus for you.
Videos also improve user experience. And what’s even better they can be watched on mobile phones and that can be quite easier to do than read lots of text.
Backlinks are links from other sites to yours.
You can get backlinks 2 ways:
- By creating awesome content that people naturally want to link to
- By creating awesome (or average) content and promoting it to a lot of bloggers and asking for a link
Either way, you should make sure that the sites that are linking to you are high-quality (not spammy, have great content, etc).
Another great way to get backlinks is to go on Podcasts or get interviewed on Future Sharks.
If you are looking to start implementing backlinking but you have no idea where to start from, I have some suggestion for you:
- Reciprocal Linking– a mild reciprocal linking on a relevant topic can be helpful. Find another page with similar content as you and collaborate. Note that too much reciprocity is not good for ranking.
- Guest Posting– is always a good idea as long as you make it natural and not anchor lots of links to your site. Use brand keywords and navigational phrases.
- Web Directory Links– The best directories are those that offer useful information for your website visitors. The important thing to have is relevancy which is why directories that lead to information relevant to what your content is can help out.
- Forum and Blog Commenting– find active discussions on forums or blogs that are on a relevant topic to what your business is and include yourself in the discussion. Don’t overdo it, and don’t make it too obvious.
Google takes into account your article’s social signals (likes, shares, comments) as a factor of engagement.
If Google sees that people are sharing and commenting on an article, they will reward that post with higher rankings.
A very easy way to get more comments and shares is to literally tell your readers to “share the post if they found it valuable”.
You can also partner up with Influencers and Thought Leaders and have them promote your article to their followers.
Also, this goes without saying, but make content that people will find valuable and would want to share!
Try to do your best when writing and try to include all the aspects of the subject. This can guarantee you more shares than if you just write something with mediocre effort.
Another thing to focus on, the social media buttons. Make sure you put them somewhere where it’s visible to make it easy for the readers to share your content.
Make your content stimulating and visually good. Try to engage with your readers asking questions or asking them to leave suggestions in the comments.
Users want to be asked for their opinion.
13. Provide a great user experience
As I previously mentioned, the user experience is very important. It is what makes your users comfortable to be on your webpage and be loyal to it in the future.
I mentioned that page speed is one of the crucial things that makes or breaks the user experience, but there are other things as well.
There are many strategies, practices, and advice out there on how to create a great user experience.
The difference between the pros and those who just think they are trying in the infamous A/B testing.
You have to experiment with the design and take notes of what works and what doesn’t with your particular users.
That is the only way you will get it right eventually.
14. Focus on Mobile First experience
I can’t stress enough how important it is to update your page and all the processes to display quality on mobile devices.
In 2016, Google realized how important mobile searches are and with that they announced pages that are not mobile-friendly would not rank as high as those who are.
After that, new guidelines were in place. Nowadays, all pages that are created with no consideration of mobile users, will suffer the consequences overall not only from mobile users themselves.
Also, if your website had intrusive interstitial ads, it will rank even lower.
To check how mobile friendly you page is, log in your Search Console account and read the Mobile Usability Report.
There you will find all the issues that Google reports and you can act in accordance to them.
15. Local Business Listing (Google My Business)
Don’t be hesitant to claim your local business listing since this is one more way in which Google’s algorithms match user intent.
If you have a physical place of business, GMB is a must!
Users won’t be satisfied if they search for a business and Google gives them something that is tens of miles away. They want something that is near.
That is where GMB comes. Prioritizing local searchers can be a very big opportunity for your business.
Also, the process of acquiring the GMB is fairly easy and simple. All you need to do is apply for it and follow the confirmation steps.
Once you do have it, don’t fail to use it the best you can. Update the info constantly, and engage with your users as much as you can.
Sometimes it can become hard to pay attention to all of these separate strategies and efforts.
That is why, here are tools that can make all of this easier for you. Rankz is one of them.
It is basically a SEO tool that allows for enterprises to plan, create and collaborate to achieve amazing campaigns and content.
By using Rankz, you can distribute your content on high quality blogs and reap the SEO benefits of that.
It is a tool that will make you step up your marketing game.
17. Quuu Promote
Another awesome tool that can come in handy.
By using this tool you can get tons of mentions and engagement with your relevant audience.
This can also drive quite a lot of traffic to your website, and once users see your content they might like it and keep on sharing it.
If you are interested in more SEO tools both paid and free, read more here.
This might appear like too much information to get in your head all at once, but it is good to know that you have plenty of options when it comes to optimizing your content.
By creating a big picture for search engines using these little steps is what white hat SEO is all about.
You are telling a complete story with each and every effort you put forth.
Bookmark this article for the future, and get working on those rankings.
If this article was helpful, take a look at my other SEO guides here:
Drop a comment below letting me know which aspect of SEO you want me to cover next.