No matter what time of the year, it's never too late to amp up your SEO strategy. We’ve got 10 items to add to your SEO strategy to-do list that you should probably tackle before the next wave of SEO trends crop up.
Some of these tips are based on new trends; some are new spins on old ones. Either way, just trust us—if you’re going to stay on the forefront of SEO and use your web presence to its fullest potential, you can’t afford to put off using these SEO techniques any longer.
1. Go Secure
Ever notice the “s” in “https”? It’s just one extra letter, but it can make quite a bit of difference. S stands for secure, and it signals to visitors that when they’re on your site, they’re in good hands.
Without using a lot of fancy internet jargon, let’s just say that having an HTTPS address means all communications between your site and the browser loading it are encrypted. It’s good for you, it’s good for your visitors, and it keeps Google happy, so why aren’t you doing it yet?
While you shouldn’t expect a huge boost in rankings just from going secure, you should still make securing your site part of your SEO strategy this year. It’s one of those ranking factors that—when combined with other SEO strategies—boosts your overall brand image in Google’s eyes. And, when all things are equal, Google may use HTTPS as a tie breaker.
2. Improve Mobile Speed With AMP Pages…
What exactly are AMP pages? Will Critchlow from moz.com calls it a “stripped-down form of HTML, a diet HTML if you will.”
It means using a certain set of rules within your site’s HTML that’ll ensure the mobile version of your site loads as quickly as possible. Because—while Google wants to show the most relevant search results possible—it also wants to know your site performs well on mobile platforms. That means that if you still haven’t made AMP pages part of your mobile web strategy yet, you’re missing out.
This is especially true if you’re big on content production. Google’s AMP Cache program lets content publishers link to cached versions of content, making the loading process even speedier than before.
AMP pages are shown as a carousel at the top of the Google SERPs from your mobile device. You can identify these pages as they’ll have a small lightning bolt signifying they’re AMP.
It was also announced in early August that AMP pages will not only be shown in the carousel but in the organic search results (from a mobile device) as well.
How do your create AMP pages? Get started here.
3. …And Then Improve Speed Everywhere Else
Google doesn’t like slow, mobile or otherwise. Which is why you could quite possibly incur a penalty if your site’s loading time isn’t up to par. While loading speed won’t necessarily make or break you in terms of SERP rankings, it definitely has at least a moderate effect.
Check your speed using tools like Pingdom. Cover all the bases. Still having speed problems? It’s worth getting a pro to check it out if you can fit it into your budget this year.
There are more important things on this list to worry about, so don’t worry too much if you can’t make it a priority this year. But a good benchmark is to check your speed against direct competitors. If you’re slower than they are, it’s time to get it checked out.
- Speed up with the experts: What Is Time To First Byte, And How To Improve It
4. Use Schema Markup
We know, we know—schema markup is nothing new—and you’re wondering why we’re including it in a list of 2016 strategies. “But it’s been around since 2011!” you might exclaim. And you’d have a point, because that’s certainly true—but if that’s the case, then why aren’t you using it yet?
You know what it looks like—with over 10 million sites using it, surely you’ve seen it. It can take on many forms. Here’s just one example of how schema markup can be used to display apple pie recipes in the SERPs:
Schema markup made the list for the simple fact that 80% of websites still aren’t using it. Since all it takes is conquering a small learning curve to enjoy the benefits of using schema (richer search results, higher click-through rates, and ultimately more traffic) you really don’t have any excuse not to.
Put simply, schema markup is what tells search engines that you’ve got exactly what people are looking for. Or, as Kissmetrics.com puts it, “Schema tells search engines what your data means, not just what it says.” It’s what makes using a search engine a little more human-friendly.
What kind of content does your site offer? Can you benefit from using schema markup? Seeing as how it can be used for…
- recipe pages
- e-commerce websites
- local business information
- software information
- news articles
- event information
- and literally hundreds more types of data
5. Keep An Eye On Your Title Tags
Yes, Google did extend their title tags earlier this year, but let’s not get too comfy. Dr. Peter J. Myers at Moz gives us a perfect breakdown of why this extension is indeed good news, but not as great as it originally sounds.
Here’s the lowdown: earlier this year Google experimented with increasing the pixel width of the results container from 512px to 600px, which is a 17% increase. A few years go Dr. Myers suggested a 55-character limit for title tags, a guideline based on the design of SERPs in 2014. But what about now—does he recommend increasing the length of our title tags by 17% to fill all the extra space we’ve been given?
Not necessarily. Here’s some fast facts on what this extension means for SEO experts:
- Character lengths vary in pixel size, so it’s not feasible to give a hard and fast max character rule. (Here’s a W. Here’s an I. See what we mean?)
- Google likes to tack on your brand name at the end. Regardless of whether or not it’s in your title tags, you’re likely to see a “ — Your Brand Name Here” tacked on to the end of your search result. Depending on the length of your brand name, that can take up some serious title tag real estate.
- It’s not just about characters, it’s about words. Lengths of the words you use counts since Google breaks title tags at the spaces between words.
- Google’s still experimenting. Remember when title tags changed in 2014? And then in 2015? Looks like Google hasn’t quite found their ideal title tag format yet, so the best thing to do for now is keep your eyes and ears open for updates.
What’s all this mean for you? Put simply, it means this: use these title tag changes to your advantage, but stay on your toes and be ready to adapt.
6. Get Creative
Let’s get real for a minute: when you sit down to write out your content and SEO strategy, are you writing for humans or are you writing for Google?
Take title tags, for instance. Some may say, it’s better to have a compelling/engaging title that ranks #3 than a generic one that ranks #1.
That’s why—although you may feel compelled to stuff as many keywords into your title tag as humanly possible—you’re better off focusing on being helpful to searchers than getting as many visitors as possible. Genuine engagement outranks clever SEO tricks every time.
Use title tag best practices, sure, but don’t let any one tactic get in the way of getting your message across as clearly as possible. As often as you can, take a step back from your work and ask yourself: am I appealing to real humans? Or am I simply playing the ranking game? Long story short, write for humans, not bots.
7. Aim For The Rich Answer Box
You know what it looks like:
It’s Google’s attempt to answer our most pressing questions as efficiently as they can. Here are some quick facts about rich answers:
- While scoring a spot in the rich answer box makes you look authoritative, you don’t necessarily need a high domain authority rating to make the cut.
- Google rotates out rich answers to see which users like best. It all depends on user engagement and how popular your rich answer is, so make it a good one!
- There’s many different types of rich answers. From restaurant menus to videos, if it answers a question, it counts.
- There are steps you can take to increase your chances of scoring a spot in the rich answer box.
“Why bother?” you might be wondering. After all, it almost seems like Google’s trying to use your content to make themselves look more resourceful and efficient without rewarding you with click-throughs and more traffic.
But that’s not really the case—often a site’s appearing in the rich answer box make a brand look so authoritative and trustworthy that searchers know that this is the place to go for more information on a certain topic. If they decide to click-through anywhere, it’ll be your site.
8. Utilize Google Street View
Here’s one more thing to add to our list of “cool SEO strategies from years ago that lots of people haven’t started using yet!”. It’s 2016—it’s time to get on it!
You know what makes your company look even more legit to Google and its users than a fancy brick-and-mortar location? Showing off that fancy brick-and-mortar location online so potential customers can get an inside look when they search for you.
If you’ve got it in your budget this year, it’s worth your while to hire a photographer to come document your location and put together a digital walkthrough. It’s like giving potential customers a walk-in tour of your place of business, only you get to sit at your desk and handle important business stuff while they get to sit on the couch in their PJs checking out your place. How cool is that?
9. Stop Dwelling On Rankings - Focus On Conversions & Engagement
Focusing on rankings too heavily isn’t a healthy SEO strategy, but you already knew that. If you’re going to dwell on any one SEO stat, it should be dwell time. (See what we did there?)
Getting your site to rank is half the battle. You’ve got them on your site, but now what? How long can you get them to dwell there?
You’ve got to engage them to keep them, and that means you need to have content that’s worth their while. You’ve got to have easy-to-use site navigation and effective calls to action. You’ve got to—surprise—keep them on your site—which involves much more than simple SEO tricks.
10. Mobile CTA & Mobile Conversions
Ah, speaking of calls to action. Getting users to engage in them on your mobile site can be a whole different ballgame.
Your customers are hard workers. They’re exhausted. They’re so darn tired of taking to their phones to have to dial in 10 whole numbers just to get in touch with you. (Just kidding. Sort of.) Make it easy on them by using “Click to Call” and “Click for Directions” on your mobile site. It ensures that your customers are only one tap away from jumping on the phone with you or visiting you in person.
Have you put these systems in place? Good—but you’re not done yet. Search Engine Land tells us that it’s wise to “know where your calls are coming from” and to keep track of that data so you know exactly where you’re getting your best leads.
What Will You Do With The Rest Of The Year?
There’s still time to make a few changes to your SEO strategy. Time to find better ways to show off that sparkling web presence of yours. Time to show Google you’re putting your money where your mouth is.
But most importantly, time to show your customers that you’re doing everything you can to make their experience on your site as smooth as possible. (These 10 tips are the perfect place to start.)
You’ve still got time left to make your mark on the digital world this year. How will you choose to use the time and these tips?