These 10 SEO tips are based on years of personal experience ranking high and driving high intent leads from search.
Building an SEO engine is a powerful strategy for winning new business.
It takes dedication, investment and patience to execute. But, a well-executed SEO strategy could bring you thousands, if not millions, of visitors each month who could become paying customers.
You know what the best part is? One well-written optimised article could passively convert visitors into customers for years.
SEO is like outbound sales working around the clock for free.
I've interviewed a number of SEO experts like Tim Soulo (Ahrefs), Nick Jordan (ContentDistribution) and Gareth Morgan (Liberty Marketing), who generously shared their tactics on this podcast.
And, with their SEO tips, and a few years of trial and error under my belt, I've been building out, refining, and implementing an SEO strategy at my full-time job at SentiSum (Update, 2022: I've since switched jobs).
For obvious reasons, I won't detail our full SEO strategy. But, I can tell you that we've grown from zero to 4,000 unique visitors per month with a relatively low volume of articles produced.
It works. And the 10 rules below are my tactic bible for consistently ranking a piece of content on the first page (if not #1).
Take them, repurpose for your industry, and see how they work for you.
My SEO Tips Bible 👇
1/ When choosing a keyword to target, high intent is always better for business even if it's low volume
IMHO the first content you write should be the content most likely to convert a reader into a customer.
Yes, even if the search volume is low.
It's better to get your content in front of 10 visitors who are actively looking for your product or service rather than 100 who aren’t even aware they need it.
Look at why you're writing search engine optimisated content at all...it's to win clients right? So start by writing content for customers who already down the funnel, those searching for your product, software category, or the problem you solve.
When you've run out of high intent keywords to target, then you can start moving up the funnel.
SEO Tip: High intent, low volume > Low intent, high volume.
P.s. I covered this SEO tip in more depth, here: 'Capture Active Buyers'.
2/ Cluster keywords: Each article =/= one keyword
While you should have one keyword as your main focus, your article should be picking up traffic across multiple keywords.
Let’s say you want to rank for a primary keyword, like: ‘SEO tips’. But you notice there are also variations out there like, ‘SEO recommendations’, ‘SEO advice’ and ‘SEO tricks’.
Should you attempt to win all of these with one article?
One way to tell is to type your 'variation' keywords into Google. Does the same article appear at #1 when you search ‘SEO tips’ and ‘SEO tricks’?
If so, it shows that Google sees these keywords as similar enough as to have the same search intent and therefore not require a separate article. Therefore, you could win both keywords with one article and should optimise for both.
This method of 'clustering' works beyond simple variations like in the example above.
For every article I write, I create a hierarchy of keywords to cover. The primary keyword is usually the most difficult and highest volume, the secondary keywords are usually easier to win, are 'subtopics' to the main keyword, and will be included in subheadings (H2s and H3s).
Here's an example:
- Primary: Customer Churn
- Primary Variations: Churn Customer, Churning Customers, Consumer Churn, Client Churn
- Secondary: What is customer churn? Customer churn definition
The number one article (by Hubspot) is ranking #1 for all of these, so it's safe to say rather than writing one article called 'customer churn', another called 'what is customer churn?' and another called 'customer churn definition', we should write one to capture all three.
3/ Your main keyword must be in the right places. Help Google help you.
To rank high for a keyword, you need to include it everywhere. It should in your URL, the front of your H1 and some H2s, 10-15 times in the text itself, and even in the alt text of your images.
This is how you make it crystal clear to Google what your article is about.
4/ Your page performance is KEY.
Page performance indicators are KEY for SEO.
If you have Google Analytics setup, you’ll know that some key performance indicators are ‘time on page’ and ‘bounce rate’.
Google understands content quality by measuring small indicators like these, so you should aim to improve them.
How can you improve time on page and bounce rate?
- Write well-written, quality content. Make every line count.
- Closely answer the ‘why’ behind the initial keyword search. Keep an eye on search intent and try to align your content with it. Don't accidentally bait and switch.
- BLUF and TLDR your content. Your intro should be written with copywriter-level attention to detail. It should convince the reader to read on.
- Make your font size +16px, reduce paragraph length, and reduce column width. Readability is important.
- Make the main points scannable without a full read. The overall reading experience is important.
- Interlink like crazy. Keep your visitors on-site.
Read Google's latest algorithm update on core web vitals and page experience here.
5/ You can't just write whatever you want on the subject, you need to analyse your competition.
My number one way to rank in Google for a keyword?
Search the keyword in Google and open the top 5 articles. These articles are now your competition.
Google is smart, they want to show the best content to the searcher. This means the 5 articles already at the top are what Google thinks is the best answer to the search query.
What should you do? Take note of what those 5 articles have written and write the same, but better.
Quite literally, take all of their subheadings and make one mega guide (making sure it's coherent and complete for the reader, of course—take note of Animalz excellent guide here).
6/ For your content to rank #1 it must go the extra mile (how to be better).
Here’s how I make my content better.
- Length: Making it longer than the number one article seems to have a significant impact.
- Completeness: Take the top 5 articles (the ones I mentioned in point 5) and make sure you include every heading/ section that they did. Now your articles cover everything they do put together.
- Uniqueness: Go the extra mile by running and including a survey, new statistics you’ve covered, or by interviewing an expert to include. This goes a long way to organically building backlinks, too.
- Ease of reading: Add lots of 'summaries' (Investopedia are king at this) and make the titles skimmable.
- Extra content: I like to add an FAQs section that answers all the 'people also ask' questions Google surfaces. That way you increase the length and usefulness of your article while also capturing more search volume.
7/ Interlinking (linking from one page to another within your site) is as important as backlinks.
I see it time and time again. Websites with a low rating and hardly any backlinks are ranking #1 for a competitive keyword.
Conclusion? Backlinks aren’t as important as people seem to think.
From experience, I’ve noticed that I can get a blog post to rank higher, faster if I make sure my best-performing pages (e.g., the homepage, key product pages, or other high performing blog posts) link to the new piece of content.
As a rule of thumb, try adding three internal links to a new piece of content each time.
8/ To rapidly increase your search traffic, you must write a lot of articles. Build processes that help you scale.
New blog posts take a while to propel to the top of Google, especially when your website is new.
If you want to see hyper-growth in your traffic, I’m talking 0 to 100K+ in a year…you need to pump out large volumes of articles. The faster you can write and publish new articles, the faster you'll get high volumes of traffic.
I work for a startup so I know how hard it can be to get out even 1-2 articles a week. But with the right funding, team sizes, and, importantly, processes, I’ve seen teams write and ship 50-70 new SEO optimised blog posts per month.
My friend Dimitris over at Peanut is one such case study, and they've grown from 0 to 2m monthly traffic in under one year! Read how here.
Read the full article that includes my analysis of the SEO technique 'writing velocity' here: 'Improve Your SEO Strategy'.
9/ When you have 12 months of content, updating old content can win more traffic than writing new.
After 3-6 months, you’ll know which of your blog posts have ranked and which haven’t.
After 12 months of continuous effort, take a couple of weeks to stop writing and assess your content. Does some of your content not rank at all? Do some articles make it onto page 2 or 3 but not 1? Or has your top-ranking content degraded as competitors updated theirs?
Now is a good opportunity to sit back and reassess. John Bonini, Marketing Director over at Databox has a great approach to content updates:
Break down all your content into those three categories and fix accordingly. That's when the magic happens—I’ve personally updated content and have it 1.5x in traffic in a matter of days.
Read the full article on why, when, how you should update content here: Get More Traffic.
10/ Title & description matter a lot. Check your CTR on Google Search Console.
I’ve always breezed past the meta title and meta description. But their impact on traffic is significant.
The quality of your title and description determines how many Google searchers actually click it. So you should spend much more time optimising them.
Your titles should be:
- Clearly related to search intent, to show the searcher you'll give them the answer.
- Unique and differentiated, so they stand out in the SERPs
- Intriguing enough to warrant a click—perhaps indicating a solution that's unexpected.
Ps. Want your articles to not just drive traffic, but to drive results? Here are two tips:
- Make your content with a goal in mind. Are you trying to collect emails? Push visitors down the funnel to a product page? Or convert visitors directly?
- Design it to convert in the way you want. If you want to collect more emails, design a 'downloadable' additional piece of content that fits the same search intent as the keyword targeted in the article. You'll have much higher conversions if it was designed for purpose.
Go forth and conquer,