12 Essential SEO Techniques You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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12 Essential SEO Techniques
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12 Essential SEO Techniques You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Are you overwhelmed by constantly changing and conflicting SEO advice online? SEO is a complex subject and it’s easy to feel like you need to be an expert before you even get started. Thankfully this isn’t true. These easy SEO techniques will help boost your organic traffic and rankings. 

Google is always changing its algorithms and ranking factors, but a few SEO fundamentals remain consistent. Creating relevant content, building backlinks, and optimising your technical SEO will never get old. 

But, here comes the million-dollar question, how do you do this? 
Read on to find out our 12 essential SEO techniques that will help you boost your site in the SERPs.

1. Target Featured Snippets to Steal Clicks 

Featured snippets occupy the coveted position #0, above the number 1 ranking content. 

They take up more space on the SERPs and give users a clear preview of the web page’s content. Eye-catching and in many ways more attractive, you can see why users are drawn to clicking through. 

For a quick recap, featured snippets look like this. 

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According to a study done by Ahrefs, users still click through to result #1 more often than the featured snippet. However, the featured snippet does, in fact, steal clicks from the #1 ranking result. 

As we know pulling content up from position #10 to #1 can be a slow and time-consuming process. However, if you purposefully aim for a featured snippet rather than position #1, you’re much more likely to have success in many cases. 

While you can target featured snippets from the moment you start writing content, it’s actually pretty easy to target position #0 if your content is already ranking in the top 10 for a target keyword. Overwhelmingly, Google chooses content from the top 10 or more so the top 5 to appear in a featured snippet. 

If you make a few changes to some already high ranking content, you may be surprised to see your content pop up in the featured snippet. 

How to Optimize Content For Featured Snippets

1. Format Your Content

If you’ve looked at several different featured snippets, you’ll soon realise that they’re often formatted in bulleted or numbered lists. 

Knowing this, you can look at your content and figure out which pieces are best suited to a list-like format. We’re not saying go and change all of your content to bulleted or numbered lists but a clear structure will definitely help push your content up to the position #0 spot. If numbers and bullets don’t work for the content you have in mind, ensure that you’re using HTML tags throughout.

2. Write Comprehensive Content That Helps Users

Google is far more likely to bump up an existing piece of content that successfully gives users the resources they want to obtain from your content. 

Most featured snippets aren’t a result of direct questions or comparisons. In fact, they’re often comprehensive guides that contain multiple sections addressing the search query.

Keep in mind featured snippets are often triggered by less common and more specific long-tail keywords. 

3. Target the Right Pieces of Content

Since Google generally selects the featured snippet from the top 10 performing pieces of content, it’s wise to choose your top-performing content for optimization

Once you’ve identified which content to target, all you need to do is present Google with a better featured snippet than the current version. 

Update your content so it’s comprehensive and totally up to date on the topic. Google’s freshness factor always rewards up to date content. 

Copy the current format of the featured snippet whether that’s a list, image, paragraph or graph. 


Include a short version of the question and the answer somewhere on your page so Google can easily pick it out. Ensure both are short enough to fit in the featured snippet box. 

In the best-case scenario, your piece of content will not only have the #1 spot on the SERPs but also claim the featured snippet too. Producing lots of high-quality thorough content along with formatting according to Google’s preferences is the best way to appear in featured snippets. 

2. Steal Your Competitors’ Top Performing Keywords 

When it comes to keyword research, you can enter seed keywords into a generator tool and figure out which make the most sense for your industry based on search volume, relevance and opportunity.

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Or you can reverse engineer your competitors’ strategies and give them a run for their money to the top spot. 

First, identify your competitor and then enter their domain into an SEO tool like SEMrush to receive a list of keywords they’re already ranking for. 

From this list, you can identify which keywords are most relevant to your business and which ones you may have a chance at ranking for. 

This simple SEO technique helps you figure out which keywords are most relevant for your business to try and rank for. 

3. Make Mobile-Friendly Content a Priority

The majority of searches take place from a mobile device. In fact, 63% of Google’s US organic search traffic originates from mobile devices

Mobile-friendly content also converts seeing as 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their smartphone in the last six months. 

Google’s crawling bots also prioritise mobile-friendly sites over other pages. Mobile-first indexing means if your site’s not up to speed with its mobile-friendly layout, you may lose out on a lot of traffic. 

Try using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly tool for some insights and actionable tips for improving your site. 

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4. Write Longer Content (When it Matches User Search Intent) 

According to Backlinko, the average word count of a page one Google result is 1890 words. What does that tell us? A long-form piece of comprehensive content is much more likely to rank than a short 500-word blog post that skims over the topic. 

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However, writing around 2000 words for each blog post is quite a time-consuming commitment and definitely isn’t always necessary. 

The key is to match search intent to your content. 

How do you do that? 

While there’s no magic formula for working out the right word count, work backwards to your readers’ search intent. 

Are your users looking for a detailed product guide or a ‘how to’ blog post? In these cases, long-form content may be your best bet. If however, your readers are looking for a list of succinct bullet points that answer their question, you need to incorporate that into your content. 

Remember most users don’t have unlimited time to read your content to find the answers they’re looking for. 

If you opt for long-form content, follow the inverted pyramid method and put the most important information at the beginning of the content. Answer your users’ search query before going into more depth. 

Break up long-form content by including bulleted or numbered lists, multimedia, and the correct use of HTML headers to keep things interesting for your readers. 

You should also consider adding a content menu, so users can easily jump to the most relevant portion of the content and read more details if they’d like to after. 

5. Improve Under-Performing Pages with Content Optimization 

It’s not always about churning out new content the whole time. Sometimes your best chance of ranking well lies with older pieces of content that just need a few simple tweaks. 

Optimizing already published content should form a regular part of your content strategy. Regularly updating and optimizing content will also prevent content decay from becoming an issue. 

Instead of creating a new piece of content, it’s sometimes easier and more time-effective to improve an existing piece of content’s performance in the SERPs by updating it with fresh information and more content. 

The best content to update is content that’s time-sensitive along with pieces that are already ranking and receiving some decent organic traffic already. 

Essential SEO techniques you can't ignore

Image Source: Single Grain

Maybe your business sells laptops and you published a guide to the best laptops available to digital nomads last year. 

Now a year on, the best makes and models available have likely changed and your content needs to be updated to represent these changes. If you don’t make updates, this content will go out of date and fall in the rankings. 

You can add in some up to date facts and stats along with more details to make sure the content is comprehensive and relevant to your target audience. 

Remember Google rewards content that’s received significant updates and has been significantly improved.  

6. Prioritize Local Listings and Google My Business for Local SEO

If you have a brick and mortar business or provide local services, you can’t afford to forget about local SEO

A staggering 92% of searchers will pick a business on the first page of local search results. 

Optimizing your local SEO techniques will help your business to attract more potential customers. 

88% of local business searches from a mobile device result in a visit or a call to the business within 24 hours. 

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Ensure Your Business Is Correctly Listed on Google My Business 

Seeing as Google continues to be the most widely used search engine, visitors often go directly to Google Maps to find instant results for local businesses. 

Free and easy to use, you can update your business’s separate addresses if there are several, including phone numbers and additional amenities like parking and WiFi if relevant. 

You should also add high-quality photos to make your business look more appealing. 

Implement Schema Markup 

Harnessing schema markup is a great way of making your business look more attractive to prospects. A coding language, it allows search engines to take information from your site and present it in a more user-friendly and appealing format. 

Known as rich results, these snippets show photos, reviews and ratings and are obviously a lot more engaging than just plain text. 

You don’t need any coding experience either to implement schema markup. Simply head to schema.org to get started. Implement schema markup on all your business’s different location pages. 

Optimize for Voice Search 

Voice search has surged in popularity in recent years, and people love to use voice search functions when they’re occupied with other tasks like driving. 

Think about how your business could incorporate a few voice search enquiries into its SEO efforts. For example, if you own a Thai restaurant, you could optimize for a few keywords, so your business pops up in relevant voice searches. 

  • ‘Ok Google, what’s my nearest Thai restaurant?’ 
  • ‘Alexa find me a Thai restaurant’. 

Optimizing for local SEO is key to giving your business visibility when it comes to local search results. 

7. Don’t Forget Technical SEO 

It’s easy to get caught up in the content side of SEO. While creating relevant high-quality content will certainly help you rank well, if the technical side of your site isn’t strong enough it will impact your performance. 

Fix 404 Errors 

404 pages are annoying to both search engines and users. No one likes to click on a page they’re interested in reading only to see a message pop up saying “404 Error: Page Not Found”. 

Users will quickly get bored and probably move onto a competitor’s web page. When you take a look at the number of views your 404 error pages are generating you’ll probably be shocked at the missed opportunities for engaging and converting your target audience. 

First, easily identify 404s in Google Search Console. In WordPress, you can easily redirect broken URLs to active pages. Make sure your redirect goes to a relevant page and not something unrelated to what your users were searching for in the first place. 

Don’t Allow Page Speed to Let You Down 

Long page loading times increase user bounce rate. No one wants to wait for ages for pages to load. In fact, 37% of visitors bounce when your site takes five seconds to load. 

70% of consumers say site speed impacts their purchasing decisions too. 

Ensuring your site runs at a fast speed will improve your overall user experience and prevent users from jumping off your site out of impatience. 

First, try using Google’s free page speed tool to see how your site is currently running. 

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You can improve your site speed by: 

  • Removing unnecessary plugins. If WordPress hosts your site, this is easy enough to do through the central dashboard. Deactivating non-essential plugins will noticeably speed up your site’s load time.
  • Lowering the number of redirects. Every time a user clicks on a redirect, they have to wait an additional few moments for the page to pop up. 
  • Compressing images. Images can cause your site to load a lot more slowly. Compress your site’s images so they’re no larger than they need to be. Try using ShortPixel for this. 
  • Implementing a CDN. A content delivery network evenly distributes the load of delivering content. 
  • Compressing Files. Reduce the size of your site’s files to 150 bytes. 

Enable HTTPs Across Your Site 

Site security is a big deal, especially if your site facilitates transactions with money. Sites that don’t have proper security won’t rank well. Google made HTTPs a ranking factor back in 2014. 

Google even warns users when they visit a page that isn’t secure. This warning sign doesn’t exactly encourage users to stay on your site and browse - many will just go straight back to the SERPs and look for a secure site.

Using HTTPs is an essential part of technical SEO. It keeps your site secure and makes it harder for hackers to break into your website. 

8. Create Content Around Topic Clusters 

Instead of planning your content around specific keywords, broaden your research and plan your content around topic clusters instead. 

You’ll find that your content strategy evolves more naturally and that your content is always relevant to your chosen topics. 

Choosing what content to create based on topic clusters helps ensure you’re matching user search intent and not just creating content for the sake of it without any context. 

Organize Your Content Around Topic Clusters

HubSpot made the topic cluster model popular for good reason - it keeps your content strategy streamlined. Once you follow this model, all of your content will become connected offering opportunities for internal linking and further development of topics. 

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Core topics are your site’s most important pages. These could be resource pages directing users to different internal and external links or main products pages providing an overview of the site’s main products. 

Subtopic pages link back to their relevant core topic page. They go into more detail than the core topic page and answer users’ more specific search queries. 

This is a great user-friendly approach to creating content and you’ll likely achieve much better rankings by following this strategy. 

Organising content around topic clusters means a higher chance of satisfying search intent since users will be able to click through to pages that explore their queries in more detail. 

Lots of internal links on core topic pages also means that Google will see your site as a better resource for these topics, boosting your rankings. 

Still Perform Keyword Research 

While organising content around topic clusters is essential, it’s still important to perform thorough keyword research. Keywords help show Google and other search engines what your content is about so they can show it to relevant users. 

Solid keyword research means you’ll gain a better understanding of the types of users searching for your content, and find more unique angles for blog posts and other pieces of content. 

Understand Your Target Audience 

It goes without saying that to create highly relevant and comprehensive content, you’re going to have to understand your target audience on a deeper level. 

First up you need to know their general age range, lifestyle and interests. Next, you’ll want to know about what sort of problems and issues they run into on a daily basis - namely their pain points. 

Creating buyer personas that explore your target audience’s demographics, interests and worries will help you build actionable content that solves their problems and offers up solutions. 

The content you create will depend entirely on your target audience so remember to keep in mind their communication style and likely preferences for language use. 

For example, if you’re creating blog posts on fantasy football aimed at young men your language should differ to a website aimed at educating expectant mothers. 

10. Build Relevant and High-Quality Backlinks

Google seems to place increasing importance on having high-quality backlinks. It’s best to think of backlinks as a vote of confidence that another site gives to your web page. 

You always have to remember though that backlinks from spammy sites or those with a low domain authority rating will actually harm your site as opposed to helping it perform well. 

Links from sites with older domains also provide more value than those from newer sites. When you have backlinks coming from sites with high authority, it makes your site look more trustworthy in Google’s eyes. Likewise, Google will consider your site to be more trustworthy and authoritative if you link to sites with higher domain authority. 

How do you figure out where to find your backlinks from?

Alltop 

A good starting point for uncovering possible backlink sources is Alltop. Simply type in your chosen topic and Alltop will pull up a list of top related content from high authority websites. 

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You could then link to these sites or instead reach out to these websites and ask them to link back to your content. 

A simple email is sometimes all it takes to generate organic traffic from a high performing piece of content. 

Flippa 

Flippa is another great place where you can identify highly specific link building opportunities. Essentially a marketplace for websites, users are here to sell their websites and in the process give away details about how they made their site a success. 

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Within Flippa you can uncover people’s keyword strategy and backlink sources - essentially their whole content marketing strategy. 

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To get started, enter a keyword related to your site’s industry, eg. ‘fitness’, and select websites from the drop-down menu. You should also tick the box for established sites. 

Once you’re on a site you like the look of, you can scroll through and read through their strategy, specifically their backlink profile. 

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While it may take some digging at first, you can uncover some valuable insights into what backlinks may be most valuable to your industry niche as well as other key components of a site’s content strategy. 

The best thing is that since these sites are for sale, owners are very open about their strategy. 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is often ignored by marketers but is, in fact, a robust tool for building authoritative well-respected backlinks. 

The best way to go about Wikipedia backlink building is to scan the pages for dead links. 

You can try to claim dead links as your own when the source that was previously linked to doesn’t exist any more. 

Alternatively, you can become the linkable source when Wikipedia requires content to link to when it comes to a statistic or fact. 

If you can prove your content is a viable and accurate source of information, Wikipedia may give you these backlinks. 

We recommend using WikiGrabber for uncovering dead links and required citations. 

Read more: Building Wikipedia Backlinks. 

10. Improve User Experience According to Google RankBrain Algorithm 

Google’s RankBrain algorithm uses AI to filter results on the SERPs. 

Why is RankBrain important? 

The algorithm measures how the user interacts with results on page one. This boils down to the happier you make Google’s users the higher your page will rank. While links and content are still important, RankBrain is a key Google ranking signal. 

Backlinko’s infographic explains how Rankbrain analyses UX signals. 

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How do you improve UX while optimizing for RankBrain? 

Boost Your CTR

If Google sees that lots of people are clicking through to your site in the search results, it tells Google that people love your content. Seeing as your content is attracting users, Google will then bump up your page so that more users find your content. 

This also means that if people aren’t clicking on your web page, Google will drop your site in the SERPs, meaning fewer people will find it. 

As soon as fewer people click on your page and Google drops it down in search results, it’s easy to get trapped in a vicious circle where no-one sees your page so they don’t click on it either. 

Make your title catchy and memorable by using power words and consider putting in numbers where appropriate. 

For example, ‘10 Science-Backed Tips to Help You Burn Fat’ is way more powerful than simply ‘How to Burn Fat’.

Don’t waste your meta description either. Here you have a few characters to make users eager to click through to your site. Treat it like an ad in a newspaper to keep things concise, relevant, and interesting. 

Improve Your Introductions

Introductions can make or break a piece of content. If your introduction is boring, vague or doesn’t get to the point fast enough, users are going to bounce. 

A high bounce rate is exactly what you want to avoid. It tells Google your content isn’t useful or engaging. 

Tell your users straight away what your content will be about and consider giving them the answer to their question right away. If visitors read your introduction in its entirety, they’re more likely to continue reading your content and this will improve dwell time

Prioritise readable, user-friendly content for time-strapped readers and you’ll keep bounce rates lower and dwell time higher. 

11. Capitalise on Guest Posting and Barnacle SEO

Incorporating a mix of guest posting and barnacle SEO can be great ways to pull in targeted organic traffic, especially if you’re just getting your site off the ground. 

Both strategies capitalise on using sites that are already pulling in your target audience. 

Guest Posting 

This strategy is best suited for driving targeted organic traffic to your blog. When choosing which websites to approach, always prioritise those that are directly related to your industry or niche. Ideally, you want to write for those that already have a larger audience than your own. 

These blogs need to be credible and have authority in Google’s eyes. Don’t be tempted to reach out to low-quality blogs because you think they may be an easier win. Links to these types of blogs may even harm your site in the long run. 

Make sure to include links back to your site throughout the post and include at least one CTA. People need to have the option to navigate to your site if they’re interested in learning more. 

These links will also help boost your backlink strategy. 

Barnacle SEO

Barnacle SEO is when you leverage another site or platform with a much higher authority to rank your content on Google. 

By publishing a piece of content on another more established and authoritative site, you’ll be able to drive more organic traffic to your site without having to play the long game.

This strategy is particularly useful if you have a new site that’s trying to rank for competitive keywords. 

Depending on your industry you could try: 

  • LinkedIn
  • Medium 
  • Reddit 
  • YouTube

Publishing articles on these sites are great ways of gaining exposure and winning some backlinks even if they are nofollow

The key is to write something original, high-quality and definitely not too self-promotional. 

12. Monitor Your SEO Performance 

Implementing these actionable SEO techniques is pointless if you’re not going to continually monitor your SEO performance. 

Analysing and reporting on your SEO efforts is critical for figuring out what works and what doesn’t. 

Effective SEO monitoring means you’ll be able to drill down to the tiny details and intricacies of each new technique you implement. 

Knowledge = power and it’s no different when it comes to SEO. With a few key insights, you can continue to improve your site’s rankings.

Monitor your site to find out: 

  • Which pages have high bounce rates. 
  • Which types of content are most popular with users. 
  • Which keywords pull in organic traffic. 
  • Which pages saw an uptick in traffic following content optimization

Without using analytical and reporting tools, it will be near impossible to figure these things out on your own. 

Google Analytics is your one-stop shop for checking in on organic traffic. 

SEMrush is best for checking which keywords are ranking. 

Google Search Console is great for seeing if Google has any technical issues with your site. 

The Bottom Line on SEO Techniques

SEO constantly changes just like Google’s algorithms. It’s essential to always adapt your SEO techniques to remain ahead of the competition. 

SEO can be overwhelming and is always a balancing act. To ensure a basic foundation is there, always prioritise relevant content, technical SEO, and backlinks. Don’t neglect the analytical and reporting side of things and you’ll find it easier to figure out what’s working. 

Start by incorporating a few of these techniques and take it step by step without getting carried away. Even a few of these strategies will help increase your organic traffic and rankings. 

About
Holly Stanley
Holly's love for travel and Latin America led her to working in luxury travel, creating content for an award-winning agency. When not working she's usually found in one of the city’s buzziest bars and restaurants or out in the countryside riding and playing polo.