It’s easy to forget that successful SEO campaigns are the product of taking a series of smaller steps over time. However, in the spirit of ‘quick-win’ optimization, Zion & Zion’s SEO team reached out to some of search marketing’s best and brightest minds and asked them one simple question…
What’s something I can do today to improve my SEO?
There are things you can do right now to improve your organic search results down the road.
Here’s what the experts have to say.
SEO Expert: Andy Crestodina
The fastest way to improve your Google rankings is to work on pages that are in “striking distance.” These are the pages that already rank high on page two. Here’s how to find and improve them…
- Find the pages that already rank, but don’t rank very high (hint: use a filter on your Acquisition > Search Console > Queries report)
- Confirm the rankings
- Make it a better page! This means indicating relevance in all the usual ways, but also adding detail, length, answers, evidence, images, etc.
The goal in SEO is to make the best page on the internet for the topic, but first find the pages and phrases that have the best opportunity!
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SEO Expert: Jordan Kasteler
Most sites have a canonical tag for their homepage these days, but most canonical tags link to the trailing slash version of their site. We’ve known over the years that Google handles internal pages with trailing slashes differently than those without, thus causing a duplicate content issue. The jury is out on if this is an issue for the homepage, some sources point to “no”, but to be safe – remove the trailing slash at the end of your homepage canonical tag. By doing so you won’t have to have your canonical point to a URL that redirects, and most SEOs are weary of needing the redirect because some link juice can be lost in that process.
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SEO Expert: AJ Ghergich
- Download a list of keywords you rank 11th-20th (with acceptable search volume) from Search Console.
- Rewrite your title tags, headers and refresh your body copy with more useful and semantically related content.
- Improve your internal linking to the pages you just optimized.
- Fetch and render the updated landing pages in Search Console.
- Rinse and repeat with various keyword buckets like 5th-10th etc.
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SEO Expert: Josh Bachynski
Look at your Google Analytics Time on Page, Pages per visit, and Drop Off or Exit Rate… does this tell you they are loving the site?
— If not, fix it!
Compress your images and code – many tools to do this.
Buy $50 to $100 per month of Facebook Ads (or more if you like, but doesn’t have to be much), optimize them to seek your best customers who will love you, and click to site, and make sure they don’t bounce.
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SEO Expert: John Doherty
The biggest wins to improve SEO on your site are usually fixing website errors, making sure your images all have ALT text specific for the page on which it lives, and speeding up your website.
First go to Search Console and look at your site errors. You can cross-reference those against your Top Pages on OpenSiteExplorer so that you can prioritize the largest impact pages, or simply find a relevant page and 301 redirect to that. Fix any internal links pointing to these 404 pages.
Second, make sure all of your images have ALT text that is relevant to the image and the page the image is embedded on. This is super easy to do in WordPress and harder in other systems, but it is an easy way to improve your onpage SEO and rank your images better at the same.
Finally, speed up your website. Reduce image file sizes, use a CDN, and if you have to consider moving to a new host if you are on shared hosting and it’s slow. Speeding up your website isn’t a one-and-done thing and it can’t just be done today, but you can start.
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SEO Expert: Everett Sizemore
Pick one old blog post to improve. You might choose which post to update based on publication date, traffic and search metrics, or just to fit in with the current editorial calendar theme. You may choose to leave the original publication date (though the Last Updated date will change, which is good) or you may choose the date of yesterday so it shows up in feeds again, including your own blog home page. This gives it a much needed internal PR boost for a while. Add images, fix broken links, update onpage SEO, rewrite outdated information… In a digital world choking on content, sometimes it’s better to improve what you have than generate a bigger footprint.
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SEO Expert: Paul Shapiro
If you’re a larger website, especially an ecommerce website, you should start a/b testing for SEO today. It’s a huge missed opportunity for most websites and can lead to some huge wins. If you’re interested in doing your own testing, I recommend reading how Etsy is doing it and this recent evaluation of approaches from Wayfair (that also determined that PPC isn’t a great option for testing for Organic).
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SEO Expert: Eli Schwartz
One thing you can do right now to improve their SEO is look at their search analytics report on the Google Search Console. If there are keywords, where you seem to be ranking at decent but not top positions, then this is an opportunity for more traffic. Go beef up that page with content, improve the title tag and just as important, improve the meta description which will increase the CTR from the search page.
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SEO Expert: Michelle Panzironi
If you’re also doing paid search marketing, dig through those query reports to get ideas for new content. It’s a known best practice to take search terms that occur often and add them to your campaigns, but you can take that a step further and actually build a content strategy around them. If your ads are targeted properly, the phrases that trigger them will be relevant and of high interest to your audience.
Example: I noticed a lot of queries in our “Presentation Design” campaign were referencing a “6×6 rule” that I had never heard of. We did some research and ended up developing a blog post debunking the 6×6 rule for presentation design. It started picking up organic traffic almost immediately.
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SEO Expert: Gael Breton
Take your 10 best blog posts / pieces of content and register a free trial account to Ahrefs.com. Google the main keyword these pieces of content are targeting and look at their top 50 links inside ahrefs.
Email the people linking to those competitors showing them your content and asking them if they’d be interested in adding it to their page.
That’s it. Email 10 people per day (30 minutes maybe) and you’re well on your way to increase your search presence with a sustained effort.
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SEO Expert: Ryan Clutter
To improve your SEO today, I would look at improving and modifying site content and meta information. Add in longer-tail keywords and more concise content to deliver relevant information quickly. With a strategy in place, consistent updates can lead to immediate results.
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SEO Expert: Tom Pick
Most SEO people naturally think about Google first for optimization. But if you’ve already put substantial effort into optimizing for Google, you may be able to get some quick bang-for-the-buck by checking to see how Bing views your key pages. Log into Bing Webmaster Tools. Verify your site if you haven’t already done so. In the left menu, click Diagnostics & Tools…SEO Analyzer. Enter the URL for your home page, and test other key pages as well. The Bing tool will identify SEO errors and recommendations for improvement, such as missing h1 tags, meta tags, and image alt tags.
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SEO Expert: Dan Taylor
Be realistic about what keywords you go after.
My biggest tip to anyone doing their own SEO this year is to see the difference between what is realistic, and what is unrealistic in terms of ranking for some keywords, and that both are mutually exclusive.
With the various Google updates we’ve seen make the headlines this year, as well as the changes made to the Search Quality Guidelines it’s more apparent than ever that value your website offers users is a paramount ranking factor.
Google changing its SERPs to better meet a users needs isn’t something new. Over the past year/16 months I’ve seen big changes in some verticals as to what classes as a valuable result meeting a user’s needs.
Some of these changes have been down to external factors, such as increased news exposure around a specific topic or Google changing what it believes highly meets a users needs.
Big marquee keywords are typically the most competitive, and there can be a number of factors that mean they’re not realistic ranking targets for you. Whether it’s the power of your domain, your business model (if you offer subscription based content like the Financial Times v free content aggregators), or that you haven’t invested in the right types of content that Google and the other search engines are currently seeing as relevant.
If you want to improve your SEO today, be realistic about your current position within the organic search market and look at realistic progression goals and aims.
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SEO Expert: JP Sherman
It’s imperative to stop thinking about Google as just a search engine. It is and will likely always be a search engine, but it has made great strides to become an answer engine. From a practical perspective, this relies on Google being able to understand the query as a vehicle of user intent. In order to do that, it must understand things in context. It needs to recognize entities and those entities’ relationship with people, places and other things.
Google uses taxonomies to define what an entity is, then it uses schema to understand the relationship between entities.
One thing you can do that will provide long term benefit is to create taxonomies that define your products, services and content. Update your CMS taxonomies to define what your products, services and even content types are. If your first thought is, “how will Google see my taxonomy?” you’re asking the right question. Your taxonomy will create the foundation to create structured markup that can be placed into the code of each page. When search engines see the structured markup, it will better understand what the page is about in context. Google will know that the product you have exists in a universe with similar products, for similar uses and will have the product details to help users make better comparisons. Taking the long view of defining your products and services then mapping them to schema will create undeniable authority signals in Google that will give you a domain wide recognition of authority. If Google sees similar content, one structured with schema and the other unstructured, Google will better understand the structured version and will likely rank your structured content more favorably.
Admittedly, this may take longer than a day, but starting to understand the critical importance of taxonomic organization and the structured markup Google uses to understand user intent is one of the most powerful thing you can do to match your content with what Google wants to provide their user.
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SEO Expert: Harris Schachter
One thing you can do today is a content audit and look for low hanging fruit. Go make a free account at Deep Crawl for a more automated approach, or get down and dirty with Screaming Frog. Drop in your domain or a list of URLs and look for things like duplicate or missing titles or meta descriptions, proper use of canonical tags, character lengths of these page elements, in-link and out-link counts, and especially on-site redirects. It’s amazing what you can find when all your content is in a simplified spreadsheet.
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SEO Expert: Tor Refsland
This is a very good question.
When my clients ask me this, I usually respond that we need to optimize the on-page SEO.
No need to put rocket fuel into the rocket, if we don’t know that the rocket works properly, right?
That being said, let’s just say that your onsite SEO is awesome.
Something that every single business can do with their website, regardless of their on-site SEO being perfect is …
Drum roll …
… build more high-quality backlinks.
And you might be thinking, “But Tor, that takes A LOT of work.”
But usually becoming #1 does require that 😉
Want to rank #1?
Stop making excuses, and go out and build.
You can do it!
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SEO Expert: Bruce Clay
Until you understand what you’re trying to rank for and where, you won’t be effective in developing a strategy, setting goals, and executing SEO tactics.
Having clearly defined goals is a surprisingly often overlooked precursor to developing an SEO strategy.
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SEO Expert: Shari Thurow
My approach to SEO addresses more durable, sustainable items. 2 particular items I always address are part of a website’s (or app’s) information architecture and corresponding site navigation.
Search engine optimizers should always screen, identify, and solve these 2 issues. Content with limited accessibility communicates that the content is not important to both users AND search engines.
An orphaned or nearly orphaned page is a page that has one or very few links to it within a site navigation system. A tool tip and a pop-up window are examples of commonly orphaned web documents.
Tool tips are acceptable content orphans. They are highly contextual & support task completion. However, other orphaned content is unacceptable to users who want and need specific information.
For example, help-section content should NEVER be orphaned. It should not appear in a pop-up window. It should have contextual links pointing to and from this group of pages.
Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, can help SEOs identify content orphans. If SEOs see that a page doesn’t have many links pointing to it, they should re-evaluate that content. Should local site navigation be modified to provide a clearer path to content? Where are opportunities for placing relevant contextual links?
A content silo is a section of a website or app where information is kept and segregated from other parts of the architecture. The analogy I use for a content silo Is a cul-de-sac: a dead-end street typically laid out in a circular turnaround.
Avoid and/or minimize content silos because they impede findability.
The solution to a content silo is to increase contextual and supplemental navigation. Supplemental navigation includes:
- Site map (wayfinder, not an XML sitemap)
- Site index
Inline text links are an example of contextual navigation. Topically related blog posts are another example of contextual navigation.
If SEO professionals identify and fix these 2 accessibility issues regularly? A site is likely to perform much better in web-search listings.
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SEO Expert: Emily Carrion
Quality search strategies now require an omnichannel approach. Make sure your search plan includes heavy emphasis on mobile in order for people to find the information they need about your product/service no matter where they are. If you have an app, spend ample time executing an App Store Search strategy that employs many of the same tactics traditional SEO is built on. The app stores are a busy place, and it’s easy for apps who don’t focus on ASO to get buried by competitors. Being thoughtful around keywords, app title, description, and the preview content you include sets your app—and ultimately, your brand—up for better visibility.
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SEO Expert: Ronell Smith
Focus on becoming a remarkable brand that places a priority on customer experience. Why? Because creating worthwhile, sought-after content is much easier when the entity behind it means something to the people it hopes to serve.
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SEO Expert: Joe Robison
Create an authoritative super-post
- This isn’t revolutionary, but so many business blogs completely miss the mark on creating even decent content that will bring in traffic organically. Businesses often pump out less than 400-word posts like it’s 2011. The one thing your company can do today is set aside 3-4 hours and write the most authoritative and epic post your blog has ever seen. Make it 2,000 plus words, with 10 graphics, and 10 links to references. Then outreach to 10-20 people who may link to the post. Again, this tactic is not revolutionary, but it’s something actionable you can complete in a day.
Build a content pillar strategy with the 5×5 method
- This is how you can build a quick content pillar strategy today that will help your SEO over the next few months. Think about your business as a whole and what you want to bring traffic/sales in for. Break down your products or services into five distinct topics that you can create content around. Each of these five distinct topics are the categories for your blog (assuming you haven’t perfected this part yet). Then build out a plan to write five high-quality blog posts under each topic over the next few weeks to next few months, depending on your publishing frequency. For each blog post, choose a mix of five targeted keywords. At the same time, you’ll want to acquire five backlinks for each post via guest blogging or other outreach. In most industries, this will work beautifully.
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SEO Expert: George Freitag
Whether you’re a business with one location or thousands, if you want to show up on Google, Apple, Yelp, or any other search or navigation device you need to be relevant. Even though proximity rules in local, picking the wrong category is the one thing that will kill your local search strategy no matter how close a potential customer is to your business. Use something like Moz’s category resource to find the most relevant category for you on each website and directory. If several categories fit your business, do some keyword research with a tool like Keyword Explorer or SEMrush to discover which one gets the highest traffic and use that as your primary. Don’t overstuff your categories either – only pick the ones directly relevant to your business. Be sure to this on Google, Apple, Yelp, Bing and any other source you want people to find you on.
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SEO Expert: Robbie Richards
The tactics I prioritize depend largely on the size and type of website. For example, a quick win for a local website is in most cases going to be different than a larger international site. Since I know a common answer will be things like improve page load speed, optimize the mobile experience, which are all critical, I’m going to give a few different quick-win SEO opportunities I look for on new clients sites:
Local Business: I’ll run a local citation audit to assess the consistency of the NAP across relevant local and industry directories. In most cases there are lot of gaps and inconsistencies to clean up. I’ll start with Yext to get a direct feed into some of the major directories for immediate updates, then layer on top some manual directory listings with BrightLocal. Once that is complete, I’ll run some search operators to find authoritative industry citation opportunities and submit to 5-10 of those. Time to execute: 1 day.
Established website: Run a keyword report and extract all the keywords rankings in positions #11-#20. I’ll identify relevant keywords (ideally, mid-bottom funnel) and map them to respective pages on the site (read full tuturoial here). We’ll begin with basic on-page opimizations, and in some cases expand the content and relaunch it. This often pushes pages up to page 1 within a matter of days. Time to execute: 1-2 days.
Ecommerce websites: I always start by looking for duplicate content issues. Often, the filtering and sorting options create dynamic URLs that cause the same content to be reached from the different URLs (query strings). Usually, making a few tweaks to the configuration of the robots.txt file will help eliminate these issues.
International sites: When working with sites that have a large amount of localized content, there is almost always issues with the hrelang configuration. I just did an audit for a site that spanned 7 different languages across half a million pages. By updating the hreflang attributes in template code we will be able to correct significant issues at scale across the entire site. Time to execute: 1-2 days (depends on developer resources).
Obviously there are a million and one different things we could do today for our sites, but those are a few of the common ones that can be executed quickly and have tangible results almost immediately.
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There’s plenty of advice contained here to keep you busy in the coming weeks, here’s a bonus tip: start buildingrelationships. Actively maintaining our professional relationships is a major priority within Zion & Zion’s SEO team. While it probably goes without saying, this article genuinely would not be possible without the awesome contributions we received from dozens of marketing experts we coordinated with online.
SEO is a difficult undertaking when you go it alone, not unlike pushing a boulder uphill. Making genuine connections with your peers and experts in your field can help share some of the load.
The relationships you make can help build links, create linkable assets and present countless other opportunities that benefit your site in organic search. Remember, networking in marketing is very much a situation where to get out what you put in — the more meaningful contributions you make to others, the more likely you’ll find it reciprocated. Don’t take shortcuts at the expense of others.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out and get start pushing the needle. You might not see results today but your long-term success in SEO depends on the action you take now.