In the past, all you had to do to rank high on the search engine results pages, or SERPs, was put your target keyword in the copy over and over and over again. The keyword just had to exactly match what people were looking for and you were good to go. Since then, SEO best practices have changed – and it’s definitely for the better.
Nowadays, Google and other major search engines understand a little thing called user intent, which goes beyond the exact terms to pinpoint the reason behind the search. On top of that, they’re focused on providing the best user experience possible, so every search produces the desired results.
If you want to stay in the running for the top SERP spots, you need to employ strategies of SEO that align with the changes. Ready to make that happen? Here’s what to do.
Table of Contents
Optimize Your Website
Search engine optimization success starts with the function of your website. When websites fail to load, incorrectly display content, and enrage antivirus programs, the visitor simply has a bad experience. So, you need your website set up correctly from the start or you’ll end up getting the cold shoulder from Google and the rest of the crew.
If you’re not sure how to make that happen, speak with a web design team for help improving security, optimizing for mobile, boosting load speeds, and so much more. They can even improve your site design by setting up smart navigation buttons that lead your visitors to the right content every time. Once you have your website quality optimized, it’s time to start using keywords to make great content.
Look at Domain Authority
Through their years of research, Google has figured out that websites with a high domain authority number are more likely to provide a great user experience. The authority of the domain relates directly to its backlinks, after all, or the number of sites that find their content link-worthy.
The domain authority also lets you know your overall ability to rank for certain keywords. Authority directly aligns with the keyword difficulty, so you need to know your number if you want to have a chance to create content that ranks.
To find your website’s current number, just install the MozBar extension in your Chrome browser. Then, go to your website and look at the top bar for your domain and page authority numbers.
Identify a Target Keyword
Keyword research is a must when trying to figure out what your customers need from your brand. You can get a list of keywords through Google Ads Keyword Planner or by signing up for a paid account at SEMrush or Ahrefs.
Once you have your list in hand, you’ll need to identify keywords that align with your brand purpose, products and services, and customer needs. Then, look at their search volume, keyword difficulty, and cost per click, or CPC, and any other relevant figures to find a few clear winners.
You don’t need to go with the highest search volume or the lowest difficulty. Just look for the keywords that will help answer your customers’ questions and help them through the buyer’s journey.
Find Semantic Keywords
To best align the search results with user intent, Google and other search engines use semantic keywords to find just the right pages. So, take note: You can no longer just repeat the target keyword over and over to rank high. In fact, that approach will leave you at the bottom of the pile as the search engine flags your site as a spammy mess.
Instead, go to a tool like Clearscope to see what other keywords are being used by the leaders for your target term. Barring that, you can do a Google search and look in the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Related searches’ sections. Create a list of all the keywords used with the target phrase to best align with modern strategies of SEO.
Perform Unique Research
To best position yourself as an SEO expert, you need to come up with content that no one has ever seen before. Although that might sound like a tall order, you can do that by collecting your own data and using it to tell a story.
Send out a survey, review your customer service complaints, and talk to your customers directly to see what they are saying about your industry, products and services, and the like. Then, take that unique data and create charts, graphs, and other fun elements for use in your web page or blog.
On top of that, go above and beyond in telling the world what the data shows and why it matters. As you do that, you’ll start earning tons of backlinks, which will help boost your domain authority into the target range.
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Map Out Your Content
Before you can start writing winning content, you’ll need to create a map to success. Also known as a content brief, this smart map tells the writer how to craft the content to best match the search intent.
To abide by the SEO best practices, your brief should contain:
- Target and semantic keywords
- Internal and external links
- Word count target
- Content purpose
- Social media promotion plans
As you do that, be sure to infuse your keywords into all the titles and subheads. Plus, write at least 10 different keyword-rich titles, so you can use them for your title tags and social media pages.
Write Quality Content
Once you have your content brief ready to go, start writing. Aim for high-quality content that’s easy to read and aligns with the website visitor’s most likely search intent. An eighth-grade reading level or below is often best, although it largely depends on your industry and target audience’s needs.
As far as strategies for SEO go, put your target keyword in the first paragraph, and then use it about once every 500 words. Also, use your semantic keywords to help search engines understand what the page is all about and match it to related search phrases.
When it comes to an ideal word count, there’s no hard and fast rule on how long to make it. You’ll need to look at other high-ranking pages for that keyword to see how much they’re writing, and then fall in that range. You can do so by using SEMrush or just copy and pasting the content into your word processing program to see where they’re at.
Don’t forget to add unique graphs, captivating images, and other visuals that break up the content and keep people scrolling. Beyond that, aim to write short paragraphs of up to three to four sentences long to avoid overwhelming your visitors.
Gain Backlinks as Content Circulates
Once you proofread and post your content, share it far and wide through all your social media channels. Keep sharing the content on a regular basis to drive clicks and start gaining backlinks.
As people write their own content, they’ll undoubtedly want to use your unique graphs and data stories to support their own works. As they do that, you’ll get backlinks that help improve your domain authority and make it more likely for search engines to rank your pages high on the results.
You can then start to aim for higher-difficulty keywords, repeating the process over and over to increase your domain authority score. You’ll eventually build a big library of helpful content that guides readers through the buyer’s journey and helps them meaningfully engage with your brand.
Don’t forget to revisit your old content as time goes on, so you can improve upon its build and push your page rankings even higher. Over time, you’ll start to get recognized as a true SEO expert as your content ranks for many major keywords in your industry.
Of course, another option is to leverage an SEO professional to manage all your research, keyword targeting, content creation, and backlinking for you. That is exactly where we come in. We provide the whole package so you can focus on what you do best.