Sometimes the basics just won’t cut it.
Just because you’ve scoured every SEO blog on the internet and covered all your bases, it doesn’t mean your website will shoot to the top of the SERPs.
Your competitors are probably still dominating Page 1, with your little ol’ website struggling to make it past position 30.
Unfortunately, that happens—more often than not.
There are thousands of factors that could make (or break) your SERP success.
But it’s what you do next that matters.
In the case of SEO, those next steps are turning to more advanced techniques, and digging deeper into your website to better optimize it (and smash your competitors out of the water).
Shhh! 7 Advanced SEO Techniques Your Competitors Don’t Want You to Know
So, here are seven next-level and highly under-used tactics that many sites already ranking on Page 1 are secretly using…
And that you can use on your own site to bolster your rankings and become a real threat to your online competitors.
1. Flatten Your Site Structure and Prioritize URLs
First up is flattening your site structure.
Wondering what the heck I’m talking about? Here’s a simple explanation:
Flattening your site structure means reducing the number of clicks someone needs to make to visit a URL from the homepage.
Notice how there are no more than three clicks from the homepage to any URL on the flat structure?
That’s what you should aim for, because it can take Google’s spiders a long time to crawl pages that are further from a homepage, resulting in slow rankings (and a longer time to wait for your hard work to pay off).
Links that are discoverable after more than three clicks don’t do any favors for the experience a user has on your site, either.
It’s tricky to find those pages hidden in the depths of your website, and since user experience is a huge ranking factor in any search engine’s algorithm, your rankings won’t shoot up—no matter how well-optimized the URL is.
You can put this into practice by flattening your site structure, starting with your navigation bar.
- Homepage > Services > Content Marketing
- Homepage > Blog > Blog Post
- Homepage > Category > Product
…Get the gist?
The second thing you’ll need to consider is the priority order of each link.
As you get further away from the homepage, the authority of each link decreases.
So, links nearer to the homepage should be prioritized because Google’s spiders will crawl them first.
Nate Masterson, Chief Marketing Officer at Maple Holistics, told me how his company flattened their entire website architecture and saw incredible results:
“It’s becoming increasingly important for websites to find the perfect balance of complexity and simplicity, especially considering the methods search engines are using to spider sites.
A flat site structure means managing content, running countless page crawls, and creating an overall user-friendly experience.
Likewise, a flat site structure enables visitors to find any page on your site with the fewest amount of clicks. However, it takes some serious SEO agility to properly format your site architecture.
We found that the easiest way to flatten our site was to promote lower pages through internal links.
We started this process in early January and saw positive results by the end of February and outstanding numbers by the end of March. Our organic traffic rates were just under 30k in January, jumped to nearly 37k in February, and reached over 70k by March.”
But before you rush off to overhaul your entire site structure, don’t forget that edited links will need to be redirected.
Failing to add old, edited links into a redirection chain will lead to a bunch of broken links and 404 errors (more on this in a bit).
2. Make the Most out of Schema Markup
Schema markup is bits of code that gets added to a webpage to help Google better understand it.
You can use it to display SERP rich snippets for star-based ratings, images and reading times—like in this example:
The answer is simple, really: It demands more space in the SERPs, giving searchers a better chance of seeing your site and being inclined to click through to it.
That results in a higher organic click-through rate (CTR),which is a known ranking factor.
Think about it:
If Google is displaying a list of ten results for a search term, the one receiving the most clicks is likely to be the most relevant, right? That’s why it’ll rank higher.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to make your organic CTR as high as possible, to prove to Google that people are viewing your listing in the SERPs and wanting to learn more.
You can add schema markup to several types of webpages, including:
Simply head over to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to get started. You’ll find full instructions on how to embed the code on your site.
Depending on your level of skill, you may or may not need a developer to help out.
Just remember to make sure you’ve got a backup of your website, should you make a coding mistake. If you use WordPress, you can use tools like UpDraftPlus for this.
You’ll also need to double-check the changes you’ve made on various devices, including mobiles, PCs and tablets. That way, you can spot any fatal mistakes that could defeat the user experience point we’re trying to make.
3. Fix Crawl Errors and Broken Links
I briefly touched on how landing on 404 errors can be frustrating. There’s nothing worse than clicking a link with total anticipation, only to see the words “Sorry, page not found” light up your screen, right?
Those pages, if they’ve been found after clicking a broken link, are called crawl errors.
You can collect these crawl errors when links have been removed or edited, but not added to a redirection train.
For example: If you link to a blog post from your product page but delete the blog post and leave the link, you’ll send your audience (and Google spiders) to a 404 error page.
This can happen for external links too, if you’ve collected a backlink but deleted the page it’s pointing to.
In either situation, you’re losing link juice.
404 errors essentially lead humans and search engines to dead ends, which doesn’t help user experience.
Luckily, they’re not too hard to clean up. Simply head over to Google Search Console and open your Coverage report.
Here, you’ll find a complete list of crawl errors found by Google spiders:
For each crawl error you find, use a tool like Redirection to change the old URL to the new URL.
Don’t fall into the trap of redirecting people to your homepage, though. The new URL redirection should be pushing people to the next most relevant page.
For example, you’d redirect a deleted blog post on “content marketing benefits” to a main content marketing category or sub-category page.
Irrelevant redirections are bad for user experience.
You won’t want to land on an article about pet food if you expected to learn about content marketing, right?
In fact, that would lead to a high bounce rate—known to affect organic rankings, too.
Finally, head back to your Google Search Console and mark the crawl error as fixed. Google will then re-crawl the broken link and pass the link juice back through to the new URL:
Mark Cook, Marketing Director at Candour, told me how this advanced SEO tip helped supercharge his client’s SEO performance:
“As part of a brand update and technical rebuild, we took the opportunity to look at the internal linking and content structure of the AlanBoswell website.
It became clear during our initial investigations that years of adding content had created its own issues, with some pages being lost several clicks deep, many internal links being broken or going through chain redirects, and the common problem of lots of small pages that were cannibalizing each other.
We worked closely with the client to identify what they believed were the core areas of their business, and cross referenced this with user panels that investigated how real customers would search for and interact with information on the site.
This information allowed us to organize content into a preferential ‘hub and spoke’ model whilst having confidence we were not pulling the rug out from anyone by removing potentially valuable pages. During the migration, we also took the opportunity to remove middle steps in redirects and fix crawl errors.
Without building a single link, we saw a 56% improvement in organic visitors combined with a 33% increase in inquiries just weeks after the new site launch.”
4. Apply Key CRO Principles to Landing Pages
You might have lots of local landing pages on your website (try saying that without stuttering), but think about whether they’re really doing much for your SEO.
These pages should be optimized for conversions, together with other types of landing pages like lead magnet downloads or video landing pages.
But how do you optimize for conversions, exactly?
“The most high-converting landing pages are those that prospects look at and can immediately see themselves in them.
These type of landing pages stop people from tab-jumping from your offer to the competitor’s, and get them to actually stay on the page, be wowed by your offer, and take an action without hesitation.
One of the ways of creating these kind of pages is by making sure your landing page content matches exactly to what prospects expect and want it to include.
Prospects go through five stages of awareness before converting:
- Unaware – People who are unaware that they have a problem
- Pain aware – People who know they have a problem but aren’t aware there are solutions
- Solution aware – People who are in the process of finding a solution, reading articles and researching
- Product aware – People who are aware of the different options and solution to their product, but still aren’t convinced by one in particular
- Most aware – People who are convinced and just need the right CTA to drive them towards an action
Figuring out which stage your prospects is in is the key to writing high-converting content for your landing page.
For example, if your landing page visitor is in the ‘unaware’ stage, focusing on your product, its price or features can seriously decrease your bounce rate and conversion rates.
The good news? You can identify what stage of awareness your landing page prospects are at by simply looking at your SEO data.
Take the time to review the main keywords people use to land on your page.
- Are they searching for your brand? That probably means they’re product aware.
- Are they searching for the pain they’re experiencing? They may be in the solution aware stage.
- Did they search for your competitor and end up on your landing page? Probably product aware too.
Take the time to figure these out so you can create high-converting landing pages that people can immediately see you understand them, know what they need and are there to deliver.”
Each of these activities suggested by Talia can increase the time users are spending on your site when they come through search.
If the landing page is optimized for conversions, people will spend more time clicking around and are more likely to fill in your form or complete another action.
This leads to a higher time on site and a lower bounce rate, which in turn, improves your overall rankings.
5. Optimize Your Archive, Tag and Category Pages
Websites create pages automatically, like archive, tag and category pages.
But these pages are not often used to their full advantage because people rarely bother optimizing them, even though they often rank!
Fear not. The simplest way to optimize these pages is to edit your meta title using the following structure:
- Archive pages: “Read Blog Posts on *blog topic* from the Archives”
- Tag pages: “Read All Blog Posts Tagged With *tag*”
- Category pages: “Read All *category name* Blog Posts from *brand name*”
Then, edit the meta description field to tell people why they should visit that page.
Can they learn more about a specific topic? Do you have better quality content than your competitors? Can a user easily browse your product collection?
The goal here is to boost organic CTR, so go all out and test your power of persuasion!
Here’s how Search Engine Journal do this for their SMM category page, which ranks for “social media marketing:”
You can add onsite content to any of these pages, too. This will help Google to crawl it, and get a better understanding of what the page does.
You never know—you could get search traffic from these pages, and they help to improve time on site and reduce bounce rate, too.
Why? Because people visiting these types of pages will usually click through to read something else, meaning they’re making more than one click and visiting multiple pages on your site.
6. Create (and Rank for) Your Own Keyword
I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out.
15% of Google’s search queries have never been searched for before. That’s a huge volume of keywords that could be easy to rank on Page 1 for, without much competition.
While nobody wants to target keywords with zero search volume, imagine if you created your own keyword, shared it like crazy, and eventually turned it into a well-known phrase?
You’d already have the foundations and ranking power on your website, meaning those new searchers will be exposed to you first.
That’s exactly what Brian Dean did over at Backlinko when he invented the term “skyscraper technique.”
He wrote a blog post to introduce the term when it wasn’t a well-known phrase—but now it has a few hundred regular monthly searches, and he ranks in position 1 for it:
You can do this for your own website by creating your own keyword and adding “technique” or “strategy” to the end.
For example: A pet company could invent the “hearsay technique” to help with dog training, or a tree cutting company could invent the “snub shrubbing strategy” to help homeowners control their shrubs.
To get the keyword off the ground, use Moz’s 10x content framework and create an epic piece of content around the phrase you’ve invented, including a clear definition.
Then, promote the blog post like crazy and keep an eye on Google Trends to see if it’s catching on.
If it does, you’ll already be ranking before other people start using the term—giving you the chance to collect hundreds of monthly visitors a few months down the line!
7. Think Carefully About Image Optimization and Placement
Image SEO is coming back from the dead.
Google recently admitted that they’re focusing more on image search in their algorithms, which is why it’s a necessary technique to master.
The aim here is to be shown in Google Image search results for a query. But, just like normal text-based results, you’ll need to put in a bit of elbow grease to get there by:
- Uploading high-resolution images that are clear and easy to view
- Naming images with keywords before uploading to your website
- Editing the images’ alt text to contain the most relevant keywords
But, it’s not just image optimization that could help to boost search traffic, as this recent announcement by the Google team explains:
“…It wasn’t long ago that if you visited an image’s web page, it might be hard to find the specific image you were looking for when you got there.
We now prioritize sites where the image is central to the page, and higher up on the page.
So if you’re looking to buy a specific pair of shoes, a product page dedicated to that pair of shoes will be prioritized above, say, a category page showing a range of shoe styles.”
In a nutshell: Google is prioritizing pages with images higher up in search.
That’s not surprising though, considering images account for 3% of all search clicks. (I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it could make a world of difference to your overall search traffic.)
So, simply place photos and images higher up on your page—like this example in a blog post on my website:
You can test the effect of image placement on your rankings by re-arranging images on a handful of pages, and then measuring the ranking differences in your Monitor Backlinks account.
Head to the Rank Tracker tab and organize the results by page to find this data:
The History and Ranking columns will tell you how you’ve performed over time for that keyword, which makes it easy to see if the image changes you made had an impact on your rankings.
That way, you can determine whether you should roll out the same changes site-wide.
(Don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account? Start tracking your keyword rankings and backlinks right away with a free 30-day trial!)
Boom! Now you’re well-equipped with the advanced SEO techniques that’ll blow your competition out of the water, it’s time to put them into practice.
Remember to always check that the changes you’ve made are fully functioning before putting them live, think about how accessible your site is to Google spiders, and focus on providing visitors with an A+ experience.
You’ll see your rankings shoot up in no time!