Breaking: An SEO Strategy That Actually Works
There are many approaches to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Everywhere you look, online experts claim to have the secrets to ranking higher on search engines. The following are current best practices we are using for our clients that are having the most success.
We’ve done the research, studied the data and put it all into practice.
Here are the five core strategies that are yielding the best results today:
1. Answering questions is Awesome
Over the past ten years, we used to optimize for specific search terms like “digital marketing agency” or “personal injury lawyer”. Searchers would input search terms and refine their search until they got the answer they were looking for.
Now, over 50% of searches are done with a voice search. With the introduction of devices like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, we now ask questions when we search. “Who is the best personal injury attorney?” or “Is there a digital marketing agency that does SEO near me?”.
The new kind of SEO is question-based.
As technology has adapted to allow us to ask it questions and receive answers (i.e. “Alexa, what’s the weather?”), Google has rewritten their algorithms to understand semantics – the meaning of words and phrases. So when we ask questions, the search results Google shows us attempt to understand the meaning of the question, and answer the question with the web pages it displays.
Google rewards the best answers. They measure website analytics to determine which pages are getting the positive responses from readers, like longer time on page, newsletter signups and e-book downloads, ecommerce purchases, they use this data to reward websites and web pages that answer the questions people are searching for.
So, to capitalize on these new algorithms, we now answer questions in blogs, articles and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on websites. We collect questions that our customers and prospects ask us, and we answer these questions in videos and content on the site.
One bonus strategy you can implement to take advantage of this new algorithm is the “rich snippet.”
You’ve probably seen one before, even if you didn’t know what it was or the significance behind it. A rich snippet is the box that appears at the top of the search results with a brief and precise (45-60 words) answer to your search query. Landing your article in this box will earn your web page more views and clicks.
To get your article featured as a rich snippet, focus on answering questions efficiently and effectively within it with a precise 45-60 word answer to a search query. The more your article or web page benefits readers in this way, the more likelihood you could be featured in a rich snippet.
2. Longer articles perform better
According to our research and a study performed by SemRush, web posts of 3,000 words or more get three times the traffic and four times the social shares of posts of average length (under 1,200 words). Shorter articles (under 900 words) perform even worse than their average-lengthed counterparts.
If you want your content to rank high on Google, aim for 2,000 to 3,000 words (or greater).
The reasoning behind this is simple. Google analyzes user data to identify which articles should rank higher in a particular search. Articles that have more information are more likely to benefit the reader as they search for answers to their question. These articles are usually more comprehensive, meaning they cover an entire topic rather than one piece of the topic. Longer articles are more likely to fully answer questions and become viewed as authority pieces and be linked to by other websites. People will spend more time on these authority pages to read the answers and solve their query giving the page more “dwell time” spent on the page by users which Google values in its assessment of pages. For this reason, Google’s algorithm favors long-form content over short-form.
One way to optimize similar blog posts you may already have on your website is to combine them into one long article. For instance, if you have five different articles covering different ways to increase engagement on social media, you can create one master guide that includes all the information in those five articles. This will benefit your reader more, as they can now find all this information in just one place, and will increase your likelihood of ranking higher on Google.
However, you should avoid the common mistake of using filler content. Don’t repeat what you’ve already said or include a jumble of sentences just to increase the length of your blog post. While it may be longer, it will be less engaging, and readers will be far less likely to see the benefit in reading it. The new Google algorithms are designed to evaluate quality and penalize “fake news”.
3. Some titles perform better than others
As we’ve discussed, article length is a clear component to increased visibility, traffic and engagement. This applies to titles as well.
According to the same study by SemRush, articles with H1 headlines (H1 is the Headline tag in web language) longer than 14 words get two times more traffic and shares and five times more backlinks than those with shorter headlines (7-10 words).
Why do articles with longer headlines perform better?
Longer headlines give the reader more information about the content of the article. So, if a reader is scrolling through Google for an article that will answer their question or provide information on a topic, they are more likely to click on an article whose title provides more context.
The type of title an article has also relates to its success. The most popular type of title is one that includes lists (for instance, “10 Ways to Increase Engagement). These articles are typically rather simple and straightforward, making them popular shares on social media.
Subtitles are also an important consideration for blog post performance. Articles that contain H2 and H3 tags, which denote subtitles within the article itself, perform better than those without subtitles. This is because subtitles convey a well-structured article, which is more likely to benefit the reader than a rambly long-form article that will not keep the reader’s focus.
4. Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks
The #1 or #2 most important factor in getting a page to rank is the quality and number of backlinks (links from other websites to a web page). Google rates links from other websites to your web page as virtual votes for your page. Another webmaster or web editor has taken the time to put a link to your article and virtually proclaimed, ‘click this link to learn more about this topic’.
Backlinko.com recently released an in-depth study on the value of backlinks for online articles. According to their findings:
- A site’s overall link authority (number of links to a page and importance of those websites) strongly correlates with higher rankings.
- Pages with lots of backlinks rank above pages that don’t have as many backlinks. In fact, the #1 result in Google for a search term has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10.
- Getting backlinks from multiple different sites appears to be important for SEO. The number of domains linking to a page had a correlation with rankings.
Pages with the highest number of total backlinks tended to rank best in Google.
How can you get more backlinks? The best links occur naturally. If you write authority pages which answer questions then other writers and website owners will naturally link to your pages. Google was designed with this premise in mind. However, it is never a bad strategy to let other websites know that your web page helps answer questions and they could link to your website to benefit their readers.
5. Dwell time is important
“Dwell time” is the average amount of time that a visitor stays on your page. Not surprisingly, pages with higher dwell time rank higher on Google. This is because the search engine recognizes the content on that page is engaging to the reader, and is likely providing them with useful information.
The same Backlinko.com study found that the average dwell time for an article that ranks on the first page of a Google search is 2.5 minutes.
Longer pages that contain more content tend to have higher dwell times, simply because there is a greater volume of information for the reader to absorb.
Include Video, Images and Infographics
You should incorporate images and insightful videos into your articles. If someone remains on your page to watch the ten-minute video you embedded into your article, that dwell time will boost your ranking. Similarly, infographics and images containing lists will cause greater dwell time on your page.
If you want to explore SEO in more detail, please watch our webinar called “The ABCs of SEO” and click here for our checklist the “ABCs of SEO”.
So, what does this mean?
There are a lot of takeaways in the strategies we mentioned here. But there’s one overarching theme to all of them.
More than anything, the most important thing you can do to increase your ranking on Google searches is to create content that is meaningful. High quality pages that answer questions – after all a Google search is really a query or question – will perform best. By implementing the strategies we talked about today, your articles will be longer and deeper and will serve your readership well.
If you could use some expert assistance with your SEO strategy, we can help. Ten Golden Rules is a digital marketing agency based in Boca Raton, Florida that has been creating successful strategies since 2009. Contact us at 561-620-9121for a free consultation.