But, with a new year comes a new strategy.
This year, SEO is about quality and utility.
Here are some of the latest SEO techniques to help you take out the top spots in Google’s SERPs (and some tips and tricks for getting the hang of them).
Master the Latest SEO Techniques: Backlinks, Content and Keywords
Pay attention to where your backlinks are hanging out
We’re emphasizing the #@%! out of quality, and this starts with your backlink profile.
You need to take a closer look at all the websites pointing back to you, especially the backlinks found from the dirtier corners of the web, as guilt by association is a big deal.
Just click on the “Your Links” tab to see your full link profile, along with Moz and Majestic reputation scores and other quality metrics for each link.
Look closely at the backlinks with low Trust and Citation Flow, low Domain Authority and high Spam Score.
You can sort these columns from lowest to highest (or highest to lowest for Spam Score) and then just work your way down the list.
Take a look at each linking website to determine if it’s a low-quality backlink.
What to watch out for:
- Flashing ads promoting diet pills and sketchy ED solutions. If a site feels like it can give you a virus, go with your gut and skip this one.
- Websites that’ll cover anything. While this doesn’t necessarily equate with bad content, it confuses Google. The algorithm can’t get a read on the target audience if there is no target audience.
- Sites with low-quality content like misspellings, poor grammar and misinformation. No explanation needed.
If you find sites like this linking to you, you can disassociate yourself with them by disavowing the backlink from within Monitor Backlinks.
Just select the low-quality links you want to get rid of, click on the gear icon next to the link and choose “Disavow”.
(Don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account? Pick up a free 30-day trial here!)
Don’t forget about video
You can’t ignore video any longer—over half of all marketers claim video content provides the best ROI, and many experts have found success by hosting videos both on their website and social accounts.
Long story short, now is the time to start working video backlinks into your SEO strategy.
And no, that doesn’t mean you have to find the budget for video productions—you can get started with building high-quality, follow backlinks from YouTube just by having an active channel.
We may be on the brink of going linkless.
Bing is giving link-free mentions more weight in their search results, and Google soon may be following suit. Linkless backlinks include mentions of your brand in blogs, articles and social media posts, with no actual link to your site or anchor text.
So, what does this mean for link building? Well, it’s all somewhat hypothetical at this point (though Google does include implied links in its Panda patent), but mentions without any link attached may start to bring some ranking points to the table.
The benefit of mentioning brands without the link is that it feels more natural and less promotional, which makes it easier for outreach.
If you’re having trouble getting backlinks from certain websites, try switching your tactic to linkless and see if they’ll give you a mention, instead.
Everyone from plumbers to the Insta-famous is on to the fact that content marketing is essential. So, it’s going to take more than a halfhearted blog post once a week to stand out in such a massive crowd.
It’s been a few years since RankBrain came on the scene, and its quality scanning has shaken up how content is received by the search giant.
Google’s AI analyzes how searchers interact with content, so your success has to do most with how well you answer questions.
Websites that provide thoughtful answers will be rewarded, while those with too many spammy backlinks and bad writing will be penalized.
Here’s how to keep the search engines happy with your content strategy this year.
Backlinks coming from credible sources give you more credibility with Google, of course, but the opposite is true as well. If you’re linking to irrelevant or low-quality sites from your own site, people (and bots) won’t trust your judgment.
So, skip the dodgy external links and only link to sites you trust.
Before you credit a source in your content with a valuable backlink, look at the website as a whole and make sure it’s trustworthy, authoritative and worth being associated with.
Write naturally, but very clearly
You also need to strategize. Find keywords that work with your content goals and weave them in naturally.
Your content needs to clearly show Google’s bots what it’s for, who it’s for and who it isn’t for.
Additionally, stepping up your writing means formatting for SEO with headers, easy-to-read text (12-point, black text on a light-colored background), and writing to a 9th(ish) grade audience.
Do this and the backlinks, and of course traffic, will follow.
Consider voice search
According to Google, 20% of all mobile queries in 2016 were through voice search. And with the rise of digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, it’s clear that we’re just licking the tip of a new era in searching.
So, how does one get ahead of the curve and optimize, already?
The easiest way to rank for voice search is to write the same way you would talk (“what are the best SEO techniques?”), and not the disjointed way we type (“SEO best practices 2018”).
Secondly, consider using keywords that appear in the featured snippet.
The featured snippet is a desirable place to be for voice search, which delivers a single answer. If you’re the featured snippet, you’ll automatically win the majority of voice search traffic.
So, if I was trying to rank for “content marketing tips for small businesses,” I’d look at the featured snippet result to find other keywords and phrases to include in my content to optimize it for voice search.
You can see that the snippet also includes “tips for small business owners” and “online content marketing.” The latter is a little too broad, but combining “small business and content marketing tips” is a good place to start ranking for that topic.
Revisit your guest posting strategy
Every year, there’s a barrage of blogs that herald the death of guest blogging. But, despite the annual predictions, guest posting remains a reliable way to build backlinks, promote your business and your personal brand.
A guest blogging strategy is an essential tactic for boosting online traffic. It also builds trust with both the search engine and the searchers. Just check out this chart linking Google position and number of backlinks.
So, I’ve made a case for guest posting, but how do we turn this into a strategy?
There are a few ways to go about this.
Start with the sites you admire. Who are the big names in the game? Make a spreadsheet to keep track of outreach efforts and learn each site’s writer guidelines.
Before pitching or sending a completed story, be sure to check that your target blogs haven’t covered your topic of choice in the past several months.
Your other option, if you’re not sure where to start, is to Google “[your niche] + guest posting,” “[your niche] + write for us” and so on.
This should give you a solid pool of sites to pitch to. Make sure the site looks good—check Moz, Majestic and Alexa scores to ensure you’re associating with “the right people.”
Then, poach new opportunities. Where are your competitors getting their links from? You can use Monitor Backlinks to uncover new guest posting opportunities.
Click on the “Competitor Links” tab and select the competitor you want to take a closer look at. You’ll get a list of their backlinks, sorted by the date added.
Go through the list and identify any backlinks that came from a guest post by your competitor. Then, you can reach out to the site about your own guest post—if your competitor already got a link from them, it’s likely you’ll be able to as well!
Write for searcher intent
Keywords do still matter—a lot. But the approach is shifting away from aiming for a specific key phrase quota in your blogs or awkwardly jamming meta tags with clunky terms.
Instead, Google’s algorithm is more focused on how to bring value to searchers. Know that it’s essential to make sure your content fits in with what searchers are looking for when they type something into the query bar.
There are four types of searches:
- Informational: Refers to internet searches that seek to answer a question. This could be asking Google about the weather or asking a question like how to change my own oil.
- Navigation: Basically, these are the people Googling “Gmail” or “Facebook” to access their account. This is only beneficial for organic rankings if people actually want to visit your site.
- Commercial research: Refers to searchers doing some in-depth analysis on larger purchases. If you’re writing long-form reviews about the best cars of the year or which tractors are best for small farms, this is the audience you want to capture.
- Transactional: Here, you’re trying to attract shoppers. These searchers are looking for the best price on a pair of Nikes, they’re shopping for a holiday, etc.
Keywords like buy, discount, savings, suggest they’re looking for products to purchase. Key phrases that begin with how or why suggest someone wants to learn more about a particular topic.
Stay in your lane
An unfortunate example of poor SEO is mixing product keywords with informational keywords.
If someone wants information on how to remove stains from their kitchen sink, sending them to a product page for a stain remover is going to result in a high bounce rate, putting your reputation on the line.
So, be aware of which stage of the buyer’s journey the reader of your post is likely to be at, and target keywords related to only that.
The Latest SEO Techniques? It Comes Down to Quality
As always, the latest Penguin updates mean you’ll need to pay more attention than ever to the issue of quality over quantity.
That means no more buying links or accepting bad ones, and no more forcing the worst key phrases into your copy as if it’s your last chance to drive traffic.
This is the year you get serious about SEO.
Start with an audience-first approach, and build from there.