Link building is difficult but it is not the only way in which you can gain traffic from Google’s search engine results page.
There are people who can build links very easily, there are people who can write winning contents and then there are people who can do wonders in outreach campaigns. If you posses neither of those qualities yet want to become a prominent SEO then there are easier ways as well.
The off pages activities generally work better in influencing the ranking factors, compared to the on page factors. SEOs however, can use a combination of those tricks nowadays to make life easier for them and using the perfect combination they can get great ranking and traffic without ever building a single link.
These techniques are not new for experienced SEO people, in fact, many of these practices are well used. However, even the most well optimised sites might miss a few of these tricks as well.
1. In-depth articles
Mozcast graph decided that 6% of Google’s search results contain in-depth articles. Although this might not a be a huge number but the articles which qualify for this will see significant improvement over other competitors. If an article is included like that, the traffic can go up by as much as 10%.
If you add a few HTML techniques, the articles which you right can also qualify for this. There are a few mark ups, as suggested by Google, which are
- Google+ Authorship
- Logo markup
- First click free – for paywall content
- Schema.org Article markup – (NewsArticle works too)
- Pagination and canonicalization best practices
While Google loves fresh contents, the old sites and their content might also come up if they use the proper semantic markups on their pages.
2. Improving user satisfaction
Can you really improve your ranking by making users ‘feel’ better at your site? The answer is yes, even if it might sound a bit surprising. If the experience of a few SEOs are to be trusted then the effect of user satisfaction might have a much bigger effect than we might imagine.
You know that Google Panda is there to punish the low-quality websites. We also know that Google uses user click as a signal to measure the user satisfaction on the site.
Let us quote Stephen Levy from his excellent book In the Plex
“… Google could see how satisfied users were. … The best sign of their happiness was the “long click” – this occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return.”
This idea is often called return to SERP of pogosticking, if you can keep the users there on your site without them returning to Google SERP to click on another result, there are people who strongly believe that you will be rewarded as you are providing the users exactly what they are looking for.
Tim Grice of Branded3 said they believe at their SEO agency:
“If you have enough links to be in the top 5, you have enough links to be position 1″
While it is very difficult to prove that the pogosticking effects Google’s search results, we have enough case studies and analysis and reports where the positive correlation between these two has been proved beyond doubt.
3. Rich snippets from structured data
Google is expanding the scope of the rich snippet in its SERP every day. Now you can see events, songs, videos and the traditional breadcrumbs as well.
Matthew Brown first presented the idea of structured data in a presentation, way back in 2011, at a MozCon. Matthew is now working with Moz and we are happy that he shares his knowledge most often. Try to study his Schema 101 if you can find time.
You can also check for Guide to Generating Rich Snippets from SEOgadget basic understanding. This is a very good kick starter. You should have at least two types of markups going for you, the videos and Google Authorship.
4. Video optimization
If we measure the pixels, the video results capture much more area on the SERP than any other search result with the rich snippet coming up. Not even the much hyped authorship photos can capture so much of space. Study shows that we look at the videos first.
Unlike Google authorship images, video snippets often are easier to display and they don’t require any special setting to get those rich snippet going. You can however use, video XML sitemap and adding schema.org video markup if you are using video snippets.
To make your life easier, there are many third party software which will help you in this. You can use Wistia, like the Moz employees use which does the sitemap creation and schema.org markup creation automatically.
You can easily define the thumbnail which can which is to appear using either schema.org and XML sitemaps. The thumbnail is the first impression about the video to the user. Thus wisely use these tools.
5. Google authorship
Getting the authorship photo appear in the search engine result page easily if you integrate the code. However, getting the image appear doesn’t get you many clicks. Getting the right image, however, will mean many important clicks and the click-through rate improves as well. There is no clear rule about what type of images might help but there are a few types which certainly help.
- Using a real face over a cartoon or a company logo is preferred.
- Use high contrast image as the photo is small, the background and foreground should be clearly stark to make it understandable or recognisable.
- Target audience, an old man is less likely to click of a 14 years old kid wearing Bermuda shorts and tshirts, talking about pension schemes.
Google nowadays is more selective about which images to show and which are not, they have actually placed a few conditions about the authorship image. Mozcast says, if the authorship is set up properly, 20% of your searches will come up with the image.
6. Improving site speed
Improving the site speed not only makes the visitor satisfaction better but also directly influences the search ranking. Google itself has confirmed that a quicker loading site has more chances to rank better.
There is one vary important thing which we came to learn from the exciting Zoompf people this year. It is not the actual page load time which is most important but the Time to First Byte (TTFB) which is more important. TTFb is the time a server takes to respond to the ping and release the first acknowledgement byte.
While the page load factor, or TTFB, is very important for desktop sites, this factor gets even more important for websites for mobile. We all know how irritatingly slowly a website might load in our mobile device, especially if smaller screen and weaker signal. Google developers said “Optimizing a page’s loading time on smartphones is particularly important given the characteristics of mobile data networks smartphones are connected to.”
7. Smartphone SEO
Even if we forget the page load speed, the website must be at least configured to be displayed on mobile devices. Otherwise, the website will rank lower in Google SERP. Google openly admits that no smartphone- friendly version means the site will probably rank lower for a mobile customer.
There can be several common smartphone errors. Some are
- The visitor is redirected to wrong mobile URL.
- Embedding multimedia which are unsuitable for smartphone playback.
- Annoying pop-ups which make mobile browsing difficult.
- Very small or too large buttons, images or texts for a small mobile screen.
Although Google stresses on making your website responsive, many top sites, including apple.com, are not responsive it type. However, they still manage to provide a great mobile browsing experience.
8. Expanding your international audience
Do you have potential international audience? Do you desire to serve beyond your country and local language? While the international experts like Aleyda Solis stresses the importance of having your site ready for international visitors, many north American companies are still looking for improvement.
When you start for international exposure, we have seen it is easier to get ranked compared to the local SEO ranking. You might also face poor competition. You can check the International SEO check-list by Aleyda to see if your website is a candidate for internal SEO or not.
9. Social annotations with Google+
When you are using Facebook and Twitter as the platforms to share your contents, the network of friends, colleagues and buyers can only see it when they open these networks. On the other time, if you share on Google Plus, the content appears every time someone is searching on Google.
Google did a study and it was proven that users are habituated of noticing the social icons and this is true when the page is having other engaging elements like video and/or infographics.
The best way to exploit this is to expand Google+ friend circle and share content which matters, regularly and often. Rand Fishkin did a whiteboard Friday on how to make your Google Plus result appear at the top of Google SERP always. Moreover, the content which are shared via Google Plus often top the regular search results which means even if a user isn’t logged in, he can still see your content at the top.
10. Snippet optimization
This might sound like the good old meta tag and tittle tag optimization says but the practice is never out previously it used be the number of characters which decided the length of the snippet. However, recently Google removed this setting and thus the present restriction is of pixels. Presently, one snippet is getting around 500 pixels on SERP. However, this also might change.
As it is difficult to maintain characters which will convert into 500 pixels, it is still a safe practice to maintain the 60-80 characters of snippets. There are, however, online snippet optimization tools which can help you a lot as well.
Google is here as well, with its advice on meta description and confirmed what we always believed, duplicate meta descriptions are not a great idea. It goes to the extent where matt Cutts says that better not have any meta description than to have duplicate meta description.
“You can either have a unique meta tag description, or you can choose to have no meta tag description.”
You can see duplicate meta description tags in the Google Webmasters Tool and this is one of the few HTML errors which are shown there. Does this mean, they take actions against it? We need to be careful.
11. Updating fresh content
Websites start to lose ranking once they stop to make new links. At the same time, the sites lose ranking once they stop adding newer contents on the page and the pages go stale. Freshening up the content doesn’t guarantee a better ranking, which is the case with any other factor. For some queries, however, it helps a lot. Google has many different ways to judge the fresh content.
- Date of posting.
- Percentage of content change
- Frequency of content change.
- New page creation
- Which content is changed, body, H1, footer or other.
12. Ongoing on-page SEO
The factors mentioned here only go good for earning more real estate on the Google SERP. The issues like canonicalization, site architecture, indexing, keyword research, crawling, image optimization, duplicate content, internal linking and many other factors can move the ranking, with cumulative effort.
SEO is getting much more technical every passing day but it also means that we have much more opportunities now to exploit than we ever had.
If we think that SEO is easy or the old tricks will work perfectly in SEO, you can’t be further from truth really. It will also be imprudent to think Google will rank the site automatically.