Marketing School: The Marketer’s 7-Point Checklist to Advanced SEO
Let's be real. SEO is not an easy concept, right?
For me, it was something I never enjoyed learning, implementing, or trying to improve, but it's so important.
Optimizing your website pages means you're actively trying to make it easier to understand and get found by both your visitors and search engines.
In today's competitive online marketing space, you need to keep your website up-to-date with what users are looking for and in a way that makes it easy for them to find the answer to their question quickly and efficiently.
Otherwise, you risk falling behind in both the search rankings and the business world.
So, how do you get ahead?
We all know the basics of SEO: focus on page titles, meta-descriptions, URL structure, internal links, formatting, keywords, etc., and don't get me wrong, those are all must-haves -- but when you're put into a situation where you need to outrank your competitors (and you should), it's time to start thinking about some more advanced tactics.
For example, if you're looking to build a new site or completely redesign your current one, what should you be focusing on in regards to SEO and usability?
In a recent Marketing School podcast episode, Neil Patel and Eric Siu talk about seven things to include on your SEO checklist to rank higher and create the best user experience possible.
The great thing about the Marketing School podcast is the amount of value you get from each super-short episode.
Seriously. This one is less than four and a half minutes, but you're left with, "now how do I implement all the things I just learned?"
In an effort to provide a helpful answer to that question, here are the seven checklist items expertly recommended by Neil and Eric and my advice on how to follow through.
1. Crawl Your Site
When Google crawls a site, they send out spiders -- yes, spiders -- to move around the pages and follow links, discover content and keywords, and bring back important ranking information.
Google is constantly sending spiders out to bring back the most timely and relevant information they can find in order to rebuild its index. A sitemap makes it easier for the spiders to find the content on a site, as well as see how often it's updated.
Tools like the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool, OnPage.org, and Google Search Console allow you to crawl your site quickly to find onsite elements to analyze your SEO data. (e.g. to find broken links, analyze page titles and meta-descriptions, identify redirect chains and loops, discover duplicate content, and so much more.)
Once you've got a detailed report of all of your SEO data, you can begin working on resolving any issues that may be evident, which leads me to the next checklist item.
2. Combine Duplicate Pages
Regardless of whether you're an SEO beginner or a pro, people make the mistake of creating duplicate content. This doesn't necessarily mean you have the exact same article or page on your website, but it could simply mean you have multiple pages with content written on the same topic.
Since these pages talk about the same thing, are probably using the same keywords and links, and are most likely answering the same question, Google gets confused. The spiders bring back conflicting data, and the search engines don't know which page to rank for.
To quickly solve for this, analyze the amount of traffic and/or conversions each has accumulated using Google Analytics, HubSpot, or another similar platform to determine which is the most popular.
Combine the duplicate content into that page and set up 301 redirects to point to it. Once you do that, work on getting it to rank higher!
3. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Last year, the Google AMP project was introduced. According to Google itself, "AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a Google-backed project designed as an open standard for any publisher to have pages load quickly on mobile devices."
So what does this have to do with SEO?
Well, for starters, Google is adding more carousels (the slider you see in your search results on a mobile device), which means more opportunities to get content into the ranks. These carousels also create a better experience for your users in terms of ease of use, instantaneous answers (AMP pages load four times faster than normal mobile-optimized pages), and relevance.
Implementing AMP and getting your site optimized for it can seem pretty difficult, especially if you're not savvy in web development. However, Google offers a lot of informative resources and support to help you get started.
4. Update Your Outdated & Most Popular Content
Now, this is seriously a game-changer.
If you're not regularly updating your most popular content or historically optimizing your outdated content, you are missing out on a huge lift in traffic and leads.
Take a look at your content. For the sake of this conversation, let's say your blog content specifically.
Do you have blog posts that are driving a significant amount of traffic and/or conversions? Are some of these older than 6 months?
A lot can change in 6 months, so whatever your blog articles are talking about, you need to make sure they're providing accurate information to your visitors.
It doesn't take much time to do some rewriting, add some relevant links, update your CTAs, and really refresh your ideas.
We do this constantly at IMPACT. In fact, I have a client who has been blogging for over five years.
After a while, their blog topics remain relevant and still rank well, but the content becomes outdated. Just by updating the oldest articles that drive the most visitors and rank the highest, their blog traffic has increased over 88% in only 3 months.
5. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Having a website optimized for mobile is no longer a choice, it's a must-have.
According to MicKinsey & Company, Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and 40% visit a competitor's site instead -- that's just the beginning of the "you need to be mobile-friendly" statistics.
Everyone these days uses their phone to surf the web, and behavior on a mobile site is completely different from that on a desktop.
Therefore, it's super important to make sure all of your pages are optimized to the expectations of a mobile user, or you're likely going to lose them to someone who has already done that.
To see how easily a visitor can use your page(s) on a mobile device, use Google's mobile-friendly test.
6. Know Your Bounce Rate & How to Decrease It
Your bounce rate defines the percentage of users who leave your website after viewing only one page. If it's high, you can assume your users probably aren't finding value in the page they landed on.
To find your bounce rate, you can use a platform such as Google Analytics or HubSpot (on the new Web Analytics Dashboard).
It's best to analyze it on a regular basis -- such as monthly -- and really pay attention to the changes quarter over quarter.
Some key ways to decrease your bounce rate include:
- adding more relevant links to your content to bring the visitor to a logical next page
- updating your content (see #4) to better serve the users
- adding calls-to-action to entrance pages where it makes sense
- making sure your page load time is adequate.
Once your bounce rate decreases, your rankings in Google will increase.
7. Keep Your Page Load Speed Down
When you land on a web page, how frustrated do you get when it takes more than a few seconds to load?
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, almost half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. What's more, they will abandon the site if it's not loaded within 3 seconds. Talk about impatience!
To find out your average page load speed, you can use tools such as Google Search Console or GTmetrix to analyze your site's performance.
If you discover your load speed is higher than it should be, you'll want to make a few improvements to decrease it.
Some best practices for speeding up page load time include:
- Optimizing Images
- Reducing Redirects
- Using GZIP Compression
- Using a Content Distribution Network (CDN)
Since Google uses site speed and page load speed in its ranking algorithm, you can bet that faster page load times will increase your indexation in search engine results.
When redesigning your website or building a new one from scratch, you may be wary of the post-launch effects the new look and format may have on your current SEO standings. To make sure you're getting the most out of optimizing your site, follow these 7 checklist points:
- Crawl your site to receive a detailed SEO analysis of all your current website elements.
- Combine duplicate pages and content to eliminate any confusion Google may have when trying to rank similar pages.
- Try implementing Google AMP to create a more user-focused experience on mobile.
- Historically optimize any popular or outdated content to continuously keep it fresh, relevant, and driving high traffic and conversions.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly to accommodate for the plethora of mobile users.
- Become aware of your bounce rate, and know ways to decrease it to better your chance of increasing in search rankings.
- Keep your page load speed down to decrease the risk of losing visitors to your competition.
Have you tried any of these seven advanced SEO tactics? What kinds of results have you generated? Let me know by commenting below!
About Kaitlyn Petro
As an Inbound Marketing Strategist at IMPACT Branding & Design, Kaitlyn works closely with her clients to understand their challenges, goals, and vision. She works hard to deliver successful client engagements, while providing the project management oversight for her team, ensuring every task is executed to the highest quality, on time and on budget. Her background in psychology aids her in further understanding her clients' target market and personas to obtain the most successful and qualified results. In her spare time, Kaitlyn can be found obnoxiously rooting for the Red Sox and NY Giants or playing with her adorable puppy.