Best SEO Practices to Rank Your Website in 2021
If you are among the SEO professionals who feel that SEO tactics and their effectiveness are changing rapidly, you are not alone.
Remember the days when webmasters used to lose their sleep whenever Google announced an algorithm update? There were obvious reasons for such panic attacks as even the most successful websites, when hit by a Google algorithm update, lost all their rankings and traffic overnight. Ezinearticles.com is a prime example.
Google is investing a lot to keep its users within its framework and improve user experience. It’s also spending on research and development to identify, analyze and understand web pages in a better way thwarting the attempts by the SEO community to manipulate its algorithms.
Show up on Google’s First Result Page or Get Doomed
Google saves your time when it answers queries within the SERPs (search engine results pages) as 75% of searchers never go past the first page of search results. That’s why it’s crucial to rank or “get featured” (through elements like featured snippets) on the first page of search results, and if you are not ranking in the top 10 results for popular keywords, your website will almost be invisible on the web. So if your business is heavily dependent on Google’s organic search traffic, you can be in trouble.
Growth of Expanded SERP Features
Google is changing its SERPs in many ways, and it may not be good news for many businesses. Knowledge cards, top stories, featured snippets, ads, Q&A on Google, and reviews are some of the features introduced in Google search results recently.
With the increased visibility of knowledge panels and disguised ads along with image display and videos, organic rankings have gone down further and retailers have no option but to spend money on paid listings, which favors Google.
So, if you want to rank on top, you need to work harder. Better pages, an excellent user interface, and faster mobile-friendly websites are the features you should focus on.
SEO Best Practices in 2021
Here are some of the best SEO practices to rank your website on top in the SERPs in 2021.
1. Optimize Your Website Based on Topic Clusters Instead of Keywords
From search keywords to user intent, Google has evolved in recent years. Google has introduced various features such as a snippet box to answer the user query within the SERPs. Earlier, the focus was on the keywords, but now it has shifted to the context and the user intent. You can’t rank your web page just by optimizing it with the relevant keywords; you will have to create content on different topics that your users can be interested in.
A. Identify Your Target Audience
You need to identify your “target audience” to succeed in any digital marketing stream. Don’t attempt to define it just by the keywords they use. For example, if someone is searching for “Aspirin,” they could fall into different categories:
- People looking to buy Aspirin
- People associated with the pharmaceutical industry locating stores
- Medical practitioners or bloggers looking into its side effects
- Students looking for information on Aspirin to write an essay or article
If you don’t understand your target audience, you would likely create content around the general topics related to the product. But you can’t attain any rankings by creating generic content as a single piece of content may not provide value to different customer types.
Instead, building buyer personas and creating content on relevant topics to your audience will bring significant results. Identifying the shared traits of your ideal customers will also help find the appropriate titles.
B. Divide The Content Into Topic Clusters
According to HubSpot, rather than focusing on standalone keywords, if your content is organized based on different themes or groups, you would attract more traffic from organic searches.
Having great content and using the right keywords just aren’t enough to get Google’s attention these days. With so much content being published online, Google wants to confirm that you’re an authority in your niche. And one of the best practices to establish authority is to divide your content into pillar pages and topic clusters.
To organize content using clusters, you need to create a pillar page and a few related cluster pages, which must be linked to the original pillar page. These pages would answer different questions and cover topics related to the pillar page.
Let’s define what a pillar page and topic clusters are. A pillar page is a part of cornerstone content that we add to our website to provide a comprehensive synopsis on a topic. The topic clusters supplement the pillar page; these are the articles and web pages created to cover subtopics listed on the pillar page.
Both pillar page and the topic clusters are interlinked to provide an enhanced user experience that helps in exerting your authority to Google.
For example, suppose you’re creating content on decluttering. In that case, you can create a topic cluster around different subtopics such as decluttering of clothes, household stuff, cutlery and crockery, books, electronic gadgets, toiletry, and cosmetics, etc. In these clusters, your readers, who are likely to be “minimalists” or “want to be minimalists,” will easily find the topics of their interest.
It will make your website a better resource where your audience can find information on different topics in your niche in one place. It will also help Google index your site as a valuable content resource for the minimalists. Any of these cluster pages can rank high in Google search and drive traffic to your site.
There are four types of search intents:
- Informational: When the user is searching for specific or in-depth information.
- Navigational: When you’re looking for a specific website or app such as “DashClicks”
- Commercial: When the search intent is commercial, the user is looking for a specific product such as “best smartphones under $300.”
- Transactional: Here, the intent is buying when you’ve already decided what to buy. For example, Apple iPad Pro 11 (2nd Generation)
One standard SEO best practice is to always keep the search intent in mind.
C. Don’t Ignore Keywords
Even though search intent is more important for Google, the present algorithms still consider keywords as the signposts that help Google index your web pages based on different queries and matching keywords. You can use the SEO tools such as Ubersuggest, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or SEMRush for keyword research.
2. Write Long-Form Content
According to a study by Backlinko, long-form content is the best for getting backlinks and better rankings. According to Snap Agency’s research in 2017, the word count of the blogs with the largest organic traffic volume ranged between 2,250 – 2,500. However, search intent is more important than the length of the article for rankings.
Use your common sense to determine the length of your article. The article length should justify the user intent and information they are looking for. You should also not target multiple keywords and search queries in one post.
Use jump links for the people looking for just a fraction of the information to quickly navigate the relevant information in your long-form content.
How To Write Long-Form Content?
A. Sky-scraper technique
To create long-form content, you can adopt various strategies. The skyscraper technique is one of them in which you can pick the best points from different articles and create posts that cover the highest number of subheadings.
B. Update old content
You can also refresh your old content by updating the existing information and expanding it to make it more useful and relevant. This way, you can easily convert a current 1,200-word article into a 2,000-word article.
You can also update time-sensitive content. For example, if you have a published article titled “SEO tips to rank high in 2020” on your website, you can update this article by including the latest info and trends and change its title to “SEO tips to rank high in 2021”.
3. Create a Diverse Backlink Portfolio
Backlinks were and will remain an important ranking factor for search engines. However, search engines are getting smarter in identifying quality backlinks and penalizing spam links. So focus on link building from high domain authority sites. However, you will be under Google’s radar if your site is squeaky clean and contains the backlinks only from higher authority sites.
High-quality links may look like engineered links rather than earned links. Google may flag your site for a manual review. So ideally, a diversified link portfolio not only looks natural but also helps you rank high. Google doesn’t ignore link equity from smaller sites as they also add value, but they should be from your niche. Disavow links that are harmful and shady.
4. Measure SEO Performance
SEO is incomplete without reporting and analytics, which are crucial to your overall marketing strategy. Effective reporting also helps you improve your content marketing and UX issues. Analytics tells you what kind of content appeals to your customer more. It also enables you to identify the UX issues in your website and which page received the most or least traffic.
You can monitor the following metrics to improve the UI/UX of a website:
- Bounce Rate
- Average Session Duration
- Click-Through Rate
In the absence of monitoring and reporting, it can be challenging to understand these complexities. For measuring SEO performance, you can use various tools such as Google’s Data Studio, Wayback machine, SEMRush, Google Search Console, etc.
5. Improve the User Experience on Your Website
User experience is an essential consideration by Google because it’s ultimately the users who matter. It includes page speed and some other factors such as readability and visual appeal of the content.
Over the past few years, Google has evolved and it can figure out whether your website is UI/UX friendly or not.
You can use the following tips to improve the user experience on your website.
- Create visually appealing content: To improve the usability of your content, you can use videos, images, infographics, and screenshots to increase its visual appeal.
- Use subheadings: Introducing subheadings and heading tags such as H1, H2, and H3, makes your article more readable and easy to understand. Google loves it as it helps its spiders understand the content better.
- Avoid unnecessary pop-ups: Intrusive pop-ups are incredibly annoying for the website visitors and these are also not good from an SEO perspective. Google penalizes sites that use annoying pop-ups. However, you can use opt-ins sparingly if it is crucial to generate your email list. You can also use exit intent pop-ups, which people use to make the last-ditch effort to persuade the customer to take action before they leave the website.
6. Impact of BERT Update
Google continues rolling out various algorithm updates, but BERT was a significant update announced in October 2019. It negatively impacted numerous websites, so it’s essential to understand how it can affect your website’s rankings. BERT update was focused on content quality along with content relevance, keywords, and user intent.
If you want to improve the search engine rankings of your website, pay attention to the overall reputation of your website using the following factors:
- YMYL (Your Money Your Life)
- EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
Tips to address BERT Update:
- Ensure that your content answers your target audience’s queries as per their search intent (use topic clusters and create content around them).
- Context should be a major concern while creating content rather than keyword density, an old school practice.
- Create pillar content that answers maximum questions from the searchers about your brand
7. Add Lots of Relevant Data That the User Wants
To create content that adds value, avoid creating content mainly to stuff keywords. For better conversion and improved rankings, use lots of data in your content that helps your target audience.
You can follow these tips:
- Restrict keywords to prime SEO spots, such as meta titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags, etc. and avoid stuffing them in core content
- Create content for your target audience and keep it natural
- Use a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords to increase organic traffic
8. Improve Your Page Load Speed
Page load speed affects user experience on the site, so it’s an important ranking factor.
To check your page load speed, you can use PageSpeed Insights, a tool from Google Developers, and start tweaking your website accordingly.
Follow specific useful tips published on Search Engine Journal to improve page speed.
9. Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
With voice search catching up, 55% of US adults are expected to use smart speakers by 2022. So, your SEO strategy is incomplete if you don’t incorporate voice search into it. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Cortana, and Siri, are already influencing it in a big way.
Follow these tips to make your content voice search-friendly:
- Start adding content on every web page with natural language flavor. Provide short answers to match the voice queries of users.
- Voice search queries are usually in sentences and appear more like FAQs. Use long-tail keywords and create long-form content to match those queries.
- “Near me” searches are an essential part of local SEO. Include correct addresses and maps with matching structured data to help people find you using location-based queries.
- Go through these SEO strategies to optimize your site for voice search.
10. Create Rich Snippets
According to Yoast.com, snippets with rich content have a higher click-through rate. They provide more information on the search results page than the standard snippets.
You can take the following steps to create rich content:
- Make sure the headings are relevant and match with the content and SEO title
- Use structured data on your site as Google shows it in its results
- Follow the recommendations of the latest Google updates
- Add proper keywords
- Use attractive and informative meta descriptions
- Mention your brand in meta titles
11. Optimize for Local Searches
Almost 50% of searches include users seeking information about local businesses and stores, their opening and closing hours, phone numbers, and locations on the map. Local SEO can direct massive traffic to your store if the searchers are within a 5-6 mile radius. According to a study, 72% of searchers looking for local business info end up visiting your store.
You can take the following steps to improve your local SEO.
- Improve your directory listings
- Enter your details on Google My Business
- Fix your local directory listings (hire an agency for the tedious job)
- Interact with data aggregators to manage massive directory listings
- Build and optimize local landing pages such as “SEO services in Miami” to rank on top of SERPs
- Use schema markups
12. Leverage Video Content
According to a study, the number of video viewers in the US is expected to touch 248.9 million by 2022. With increasing video viewership, many businesses have started using video content as part of their marketing strategy. It keeps the website visitors hooked by using storytelling and situations to relate and connect with your audience.
Videos help trigger a chain of thoughts in viewers’ minds when the products are shown in action. Video making can be expensive and time-consuming, but it’s highly engaging and has a high ROI.
13. Leverage Social Listening
Social listening involves monitoring all your social handles to get your audiences’ pulse and connect with them using engaging content on your website. It includes tracking customer feedback, monitoring online conversations about your brand, and gaining insights to revamp your existing marketing strategy for better results.
Here are a few things you can do to leverage social listening to improve your SEO.
- Look for brand mentions: Use a tool like Brandwatch to find online brand mentions. If they are not linked to your website, contact the owner of those websites or the social influencers and ask them to add your link to those mentions.
- Find guest posting opportunities: Use a social listening tool and find all the popular blogs that publish quality content in your niche and seek guest posting opportunities with them.
- Surveil your competitors: Use social listening tools to spy on what your competitors are doing. Surveil their activities, find out which influencers they are collaborating with, and find the guest posting opportunities.
If you act on the tips mentioned above with a proper plan, your organic rankings will improve tremendously and sales will rise sharply. If you haven’t started investing in the SEO of your company website, it’s never too late. Even with content marketing making waves, You can’t ignore Search Engine Optimization. It provides the right mix of digital marketing and compliments content marketing to help your site rank on top.
Here are a few pro tips you can begin with:
- Update your web pages for local search
- Focus on link building, internal linking, and overall SEO strategy of your site
- Perform keyword research and use a mix of long-tail and short-tail keywords
- Perform conversion analysis and encourage the visitor to take a specific, desirable action
- Look into your EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust: the three factors that Google uses to measure how much trust it should place in a brand or website for ranking purposes) Factors & optimize it.
- Focus on the mobile experience of your website and zero-click searches (zero-click searches are those searches when the users use the information already presented on the SERPs such as “featured snippets” and “People Also Ask” features to get the answers to their query) to rank in 2021.
Follow these tips and if the information seems overwhelming to handle, hire a professional SEO agency to leverage the enormous potential of SEO for your website.