According to a HubSpot report, 75% of searches never go above the first page of results. As a result, if your website does not appear in Google’s top 10 results for your target keywords, it may as well be invisible. As a result, it is critical to do all possible to rank on Google’s first page.
You can use a variety of strategies and approaches to improve your Google rating, but if you don’t get the basics right, your chances of ranking on Google’s first page are slim.
You’ll be establishing the groundwork for your site’s increased search visibility if you follow these top SEO strategies. You can move on to more advanced keyword research and link-building tactics once you’ve set the foundation.
To get you started, here are the 9 top SEO tactics to adopt in 2020 if you want to improve your search rankings.
1. Get Your Content Aligned with the Search Intent
Every search query is driven by search intent (also known as “user intent”). Google’s first priority is to understand and satisfy search intent. Pages that appear on Google’s first page have all passed Google’s search intent litmus test.
There are four categories of search intent to consider:
- Informational: When a user searches for specific information, it is classified as informative intent. It could be something as easy as “what’s the weather today?” that yields immediate answers or something more difficult like “top SEO methods,” which necessitates a more detailed explanation.
- Navigational: The searcher in this situation is seeking for a certain website or app. “Facebook login,” “SEMrush,” and “Amazon” are all examples of navigational searches.
- Commercial: When a person is seeking for a certain product but hasn’t made a final decision, the search intent is commercial. Searches like “best SEO tools” and “best DSLR cameras,” for example, are all commercial.
- Transactional: The intention is to buy in this case. The searcher has already decided to purchase a particular product or tool. Search terms like “buy Nikon d500,” “buy Macbook Air,” and “purchase groceries online” are examples.
When generating content for your website, an SEO best practise is to keep the search intent in mind at all times.
If you want to rank for the terms “best DSLR cameras,” for example, you must understand that the search intent is commercial, not transactional. The consumer is still undecided about which DSLR manufacturer to go with.
It’s pointless to use those precise keywords to optimise your DSLR landing page. When consumers search for “best DSLR cameras,” Google understands what they want. They’re seeking alternatives. They want a blog piece or a video that lists the top DSLR cameras, not product sites or eCommerce pages.
As a conclusion, create content that matches your target audience’s search intent.
2. Provide a Title Tag and Meta Description
The meta description and page title are two of the most significant meta tags on your page. Let’s start with title tags.
From an SEO standpoint, title tags are clickable headlines that appear in search results and are incredibly important.
According to Google:
“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
The first 50-60 letters of a title are usually displayed by search engines like Google. As long as your title tag is under 60 characters, Google will display the complete title of your page.
Here are some other best practices to keep in mind while creating title tags:
- Include your target keywords.
- Write a title that matches search intent.
- Avoid creating duplicate title tags.
- Avoid keyword stuffing.
- Keep it descriptive but concise.
The meta description is the second most essential meta tag on a page. A meta description is a short explanation of a page that appears after the title tag in SERPs.
Although meta descriptions have no direct impact on search rankings, they do have an impact on click-through rates.
Google explains it best:
“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convinces the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”
Because meta descriptions are often truncated to 155–160 characters by Google, make sure you provide an accurate representation of your content while staying under 160 characters
Here are some best practices to follow while writing your meta descriptions:
- Write unique meta descriptions for each page.
- Use action-oriented copy.
- Include your target keywords.
- Match search intent.
- Provide an accurate summary.
3. Optimize Your Images
Images are essential for boosting the user experience of your site’s visitors. You probably spend a lot of time choosing the correct photos to complement your blog posts, product pages, and other key pages on your website.
Do you, on the other hand, devote the same amount of work to optimising your site’s images? Images, when used correctly, can help your site’s overall SEO and increase organic traffic. There are four things you may do to improve the quality of your photos.
Choose the Best File Format
Images are often the largest contributor to overall page size, and site speed is an essential ranking signal. As a result, in order to increase the overall performance of your site, you must optimise pictures for speed. The first step in image optimization is to choose the right file format, therefore let’s compare JPEG vs. PNG vs. WebP.
JPEG and PNG are the most used picture formats on the internet. Because both of these formats use different compression techniques, the file sizes of these two can vary substantially.
It would be easy to pronounce JPEG the clear winner based on the file sizes disparity. However, using JPEG as the de facto picture format for your website would be a mistake.
While JPEGs are fantastic for photos, PNGs are better for images with text, line drawings, and other elements. Another alternative is WebP. “WebP is a contemporary picture format that enables greater lossless and lossy compression for photos on the web,” according to Google.
- WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs.
- WebP lossy images are 25-34% smaller than comparable JPEG images at equivalent SSIM quality index.”
Learn more about how to use WebP in this Google guide.
Compress Your Images
The higher the image file size, the longer it takes for the web page to load, which is why compressing your photos before submitting them to your site is essential.
Fortunately, there are various free software available to assist you with compressing your photographs.
- TinyPNG: TinyPNG uses smart lossy compression techniques to reduce the file size of your PNG and JPEG files
- ImageOptim: You may download and utilise this free programme for all your picture compression needs if you’re a Mac user. Google also recommends ImageOption as a tool. It’s the best tool for compressing JPEGs, but it’s not good for PNGs. TinyPNG is a superior option for compressing PNGs.
- ShortPixel: If you use WordPress for your website, you may use this plugin to compress your photographs. You can compress 100 pictures every month using ShortPixel’s free plan.
Provide Alt Text for Images
Adding alt text to photos is still necessary, despite developments in Google’s ability to recognise images. Adding alt text to photos enhances online accessibility and helps browsers interpret your site’s graphics.
Here’s what Google has to say about alt text:
“When choosing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.
Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.”
When writing alt text for images, be concise in your description, and avoid stuffing your target keywords.
Lazy-Load Your Images
Lazy loading is a page-loading strategy that delays the loading of non-essential resources (pictures, videos, and so on). Instead, images and videos are only loaded when they are required.
Google defines the relationship between lazy loading and site performance as follows:
“When we lazy load images and video, we reduce initial page load time, initial page weight, and system resource usage, all of which have positive impacts on performance.”
Learn more in Google’s resource guide for lazy-loading images and videos.
To lazy load your images and videos on WordPress, you can use the free a3 Lazy Load plugin.
4. Optimize Your Page Speed
If your site takes a long time to load, you’ll have a lot of disgruntled users, and your rankings will suffer as a result.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is one of numerous free tools that may help you check your page speed; you can learn how to increase your Google PageSpeed Insights score here on SEMrush.
GTMetrix is the tool I recommend for this work. This free tool analyses your page performance and makes ideas for how you can improve it.
You can also utilise SEMrush to do a site audit and resolve all of your site’s performance concerns. Here’s how to do it:
- Login to your SEMrush dashboard and navigate to Projects > Add New Project > Enter your domain.
- Enter all the details here and hit “Start Site Audit.”
- Within a few seconds, SEMrush will generate an audit report showing all the on-site errors you need to fix to improve the overall SEO health of your site.
- From the audit report, navigate to Site Performance and click on the “View details” button.
You may now see all of the performance issues that are keeping your site from loading faster and take actions to resolve them. There are a few additional things you can do to help your pages load faster besides image compression:
- Enable browser caching.
- Delete unnecessary plugins.
- Reduce server response time.
- Reduce the number of redirects.
5. Use Internal Linking
Internal links are vital because they assist Google interpret the content on your page by establishing an information hierarchy for your website. When implemented correctly, internal links can dramatically improve your rankings.
Case in point: NinjaOutreach boosted their organic traffic by 40% by optimizing internal links.
Internal links from your site’s top-ranking pages to sites that need a boost are an SEO smart practise.
SEMrush can also help you find and fix internal linking issues on your website. The Internal Linking Report in SEMrush’s Site Audit tool can help you detect issues with your site’s internal linking structure.
- Run a site audit for your site on SEMrush to generate an audit report.
- Navigate to Internal Linking and click on the “View details” button.
Now you can see all of your site’s internal linking problems and solve them.
6. Improve the User Experience on Your Website
Google monitors how people interact with your content. As a result, one of the most important variables in enhancing your search rankings is user experience.
Page speed is critical for improving the user experience of your site’s visitors (see #4).
Here are a few more pointers to ensure that visitors to your site have a positive experience:
- Use subheadings: Proper use of subheadings (H1, H2, H3) helps Google understand your content better and makes your text more accessible to readers.
- Make your content visually appealing: Visuals, according to several studies, aid in the comprehension of your material. To illustrate your points, include relevant photographs, videos, and screenshots.
- Avoid using intrusive pop ups: Popups are not only ineffective in terms of SEO, but they also upset your visitors. Google has started penalising websites that utilise obtrusive pop-ups since 2017. As a result, use popups sparingly. Use exit-intent popups or show them to people who have spent at least 5 minutes on your site if you absolutely must use them to develop your email list.
- Use white space: The use of white space is an important part of effective design. White space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins, according to Crazy Egg, improves comprehension by 20%. As a result, think about how you might use white space to make your text more readable and draw attention to it.
7. Include Keywords in Your URL
The structure of a URL is an area of SEO that is sometimes disregarded. A proper URL structure informs both visitors and search engines about the content of the destination page.
Google explains it best:
“A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).”
With that in mind, here’s how to make a URL that’s well-structured:
- Use short URLs: A study conducted by Backlinko found that short URLs tend to outperform long URLs in SERPs.
- Use keyword-rich URLs: To improve your chances of appearing higher in search results, always include your goal keywords in the URL
- Remove unnecessary stop words: Consider deleting stop words from your URL to make it look cleaner and more concise.
Despite multiple updates to Google’s search algorithm and ranking system, backlinks remain a significant ranking factor. Backlinks are regarded by Google as votes of confidence.
Your chances of ranking better in search results improve if your web pages have a large number of backlinks. As a result, it’s critical that you concentrate on increasing the number of backlinks to your website.
Backlinks, however, are not all made equal. Some backlinks can significantly enhance your rating for specific search searches, while others can derail your rankings, which is why authoritative backlinks should be prioritised over other sorts of backlinks.
You should concentrate all of your efforts on obtaining high-quality backlinks that will help you rank higher for your target keywords. Replicating your competitors’ link-building tactics is one of the most effective ways to get authoritative backlinks.
To uncover undiscovered link development possibilities, use SEMrush’s Backlink Gap Tool to evaluate the backlink profiles of up to five competitors.
To get started:
- Navigate to Gap Analysis —> Backlink Gap.
- Enter your domain as well as four of your top competitors’ domains, and hit “Find prospects.”
The Backlink Gap tool will generate a graph and a table that compares the backlink profiles of the five domains. The graph gives you a fast look at your competitors’ most recent link-building efforts.
To see link-building chances for your site, use the drop-down menu just above the table to pick your domain.
This list will include websites that connect to the domains of your competitors, but not yours. You can use this information to launch a campaign to steal your competitors’ most authoritative backlinks.
9. Publish Long-Form Content
The truth is that long-form content performs better in Google searches. Several studies, including the most recent SEMrush analysis on top-performing articles, support this hypothesis.
Long-form articles (those with 3000+ words) attract 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x more backlinks than articles of medium length, according to the study (901-1200 words).
To cut a long tale short, there’s a strong link between content length and search results.
As a result, you should try to write 1-2 in-depth, long-form articles that provide useful information to Google users. Google prefers that you prioritise user needs over SEO, and this is the most effective strategy to keep readers and convert them. We all know, however, that SEO is also vital.
Target keywords that strike a solid mix between search traffic and keyword complexity when writing long-form content for your site.
Long-tail keywords have a low search volume, yet they could help you reach the customers you need in some circumstances. Aim for mid-tail keywords with low to medium keyword difficulty if the search volume is simply too low.
SEMrush can help you figure out the keyword difficulty score for any keywords you want to utilise in your content
- Enter your keyword(s) in the SEMrush search bar and hit the “Search” button.
- The Term Overview report contains important information such as overall search volume, keyword difficulty score, and more.
You may see keyword variations, queries, and similar keywords by scrolling down. To examine alternative permutations of your seed keyword(s) along with useful keyword data, click the “View all” option under any of these sections.
With this information, you can figure out which keywords are worth focusing on while writing long-form content.
The aforementioned SEO best practises are an excellent place to start if you want to improve your search rankings. Regardless of the niche you operate in, the competition for the coveted first page on Google is fierce. Once you’ve implemented these best practises, make sure you’re keeping up with the current SEO trends and employing other SEO strategies on a regular basis to stay ahead of the competition.