Despite content marketing’s golden child status, SEO remains one of the most important factors in ranking websites on Google. According to a Hubshout survey of small to midsize digital marketing agencies, 32% of agencies reported that SEO as a service generates the most revenue for them. But as technology advances and search engines continue to evolve and adapt their algorithms, it can be difficult even for veteran SEOs to keep up. This means you could be overlooking significant SEO value on your site. In other words, if you’re missing key SEO strategies, you could cost your business some serious revenue.
Not interested in flushing money down the toilet?
I didn’t think so.
Implement these four SEO hacks to skyrocket your rankings and put money in the bank.
1. Increase page speed by compressing images
Images are one of the biggest culprits to slow loading times.
In fact, on average, images make up 68% of a web page’s total weight.
But even though many people know that page speed is an important SEO ranking factor, when it comes to optimization, the image size is often overlooked.
One of the reasons for this is because if you are loading (and reloading) your website on your own computer or mobile device, the page has likely been cached.
A web cache temporarily stores the data on a web page to reduce server lag (aka page speed).
In other words, once a page has been loaded and cached, the server will provide the cached version to save time when you return later on to bring up the site.
While caching once a week is a good idea if you want to increase fetched response time, it can inadvertently give SEOs the impression that their website is loading faster than it actually is.
If you aren’t checking page speed from an outside computer or with a page loading measuring tool, you may not notice that your images are causing delays on the user’s end.
And when 53% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, that is a mistake you can’t afford.
Bottom line: If your images are slowing your loading time — even by a second — you could be frustrating users and increasing your bounce rate (two important SEO ranking factors).
Luckily, this is a simple fix.
To improve loading times and increase user satisfaction and retention rates, first, you’ll need to evaluate your page speeds, then resize problem images.
Evaluate your page speeds
There are many free tools you can use to test your page speeds.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is great for not only measuring loading time for both mobile and desktop but also identifying the causes of any speed delays, including images.
If images are contributing to page lag, PageSpeed Insights will build a list of which images you need to optimize.
When optimizing your pages, it’s important to take a special interest in making them mobile-friendly.
Since the rollout of Google’s mobile-first index, websites that are mobile-friendly will rank higher than those that aren’t optimized.
Based on this analysis, Target’s landing page has an average speed of around 2.2s and good optimization at 88/100.
While this isn’t a perfect score on PageSpeed Insights, it’s pretty close. And, with minor tweaks to the images, they could see a spike in page speed.
GTMetrix is another page speed tool that will help you identify problem areas.
The tool will uncover each of the problems that your site has and recommend tips to help you fix each of them.
And it goes a bit more in-depth than PageSpeed Insights.
If you have any images causing slow loading times, they’ll be listed here.
RankPay utilized GTmetrix page speed reports to reduce their bounce rate by 20% and increase their page speed by 20%.
As you can see, it’s worth the time and effort to analyze and fix your page speed issues. It will not only help you rank better in the SERPs, but also improve the UX experience.
Compress problem images
Once you’ve evaluated your page speed, the next step is to analyze what elements are bringing your page speed down.
And, large image sizes are usually a major culprit in slowing down websites.
Remember: smaller images = faster page speeds.
If you’re using Photoshop, Lightroom, or a similar tool, you want to make sure your images are 1,500 pixels in width or less.
The key here is to balance image quality with file size.
The goal is to use the smallest file size possible while maintaining acceptable image quality.
There are several image file types to use, but the most common are JPG and PNG.
Below is an example of what a JPG looks like not compressed vs. compressed. The original, untouched image was 2.06MB.
Here this image has low compression. This preserves the quality of the image but also doesn’t shrink the overall file size much.
A web page shouldn’t be more than 1-2 MB in weight. While compressing the image did shrink it from the original size, 590 KB is still a significant portion of the page’s optimal weight.
On the other hand, it’s possible to do too much compression.
When the image is highly compressed, the size becomes much more manageable at 68KB.
But the quality stinks.
You want to strike a compression note that is just right.
In this case, the best level of compression on the image is somewhere in the middle. This allows us to maintain the quality while significantly reducing file size (and associated page speed).
If you’re not a Photoshop guru (or don’t want to shell out the cash for an Adobe Suite monthly subscription), I recommend using a compression tool like TinyPNG.
TinyPNG lets you resize up to 20 PNG or JPG images for free. Simply drag and drop your files onto their page and they’ll do the work for you.
If you need more files, there is also a Pro upgrade starting at just $25 for a single-user yearly subscription.
2. Improve CTR with Google Search Console
When was the last time you reviewed your meta descriptions?
Or, attempted to clean up ugly URLs?
While CTR isn’t a proven ranking factor, improving your organic CTR will help boost your organic rankings.
Back in 2009, the head of Google’s webspam, Matt Cutts, answered questions related to CTR on YouTube:
“It doesn’t really matter how often you show up. It matters how often you get clicked on and then how often you … convert those to whatever you really want (sales, purchases, subscriptions)… Do spend some time looking at your title, your URL, and your snippet that Google generates, and see if you can find ways to improve that and make it better for users because then they’re more likely to click. You’ll get more visitors, you’ll get a better return on your investment.”
Still want more proof?
A local auto parts company increased their click-through rate by 20% and got 30% more organic clicks.
Another B2B software company went from 35,000 organic visits per month to 225,000 organic visits per month by increasing their CTR.
Increasing CTRs means better rankings, more traffic, and increased brand awareness. To increase CTRs, use Google Search Console to guide your next steps.
Update underperforming pages
Before you can identify what pages you should update, you need to get a baseline CTR.
To find this, log in to Google Search Console > Status > Performance.
In the example above, the average CTR is 5.6%. Now that you have this average, you can begin to uncover what content needs to be updated.
Within the same report on Google Search Console, make sure Total Clicks, Total Impressions, and Average CTR are checked. Then, Pages at the bottom.
Here you should have a list of top performing pages.
To discover pages that need to be updated, click the arrow button to flip the CTR. You should have a list of your underperforming pages.
Next, scroll through your underperforming pages to find pages with high impressions and low clicks.
This will give you insight into what pages are showing up in the SERPs, but not receiving clicks.
Things like this tell me I need to review the keyword strategy, meta description, and overall content of this specific page.
This strategy works. Just look at how Siege Media took one client from zero to 100,000 visitors.
And, how Bill Hunt reworked Absolut’s meta descriptions based on user intent to improve the CTR from 1.69% to 14.81% in just 45 days.
While this may seem like a lot of extra work to optimize pages you thought were already performing well, it will pay off in the end.
3. Use linkless mentions to build ranking value
Yes, you read that right.
Though it goes against traditional understanding of SEO, link building without links is becoming a key part of ranking strategy.
Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, said during his keynote at Brighton SEO:
“If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the Internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”
The idea is that brands that garner a lot of mentions, both in social media and on websites and long-form content, are trusted and therefore authoritative in search engines’ eyes.
While this ranking strategy has flown under the radar a bit, both Google and Bing have indicated that linkless brand mentions factor into how the search engines measure authority and quality.
In fact, Duane Forrester, former senior product manager at Bing noted back in 2016 that Bing had already:
“figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings…”
But Bing isn’t the only one showing us their hand.
Google references linkless mentions as “implied links” in their patent:
And it makes sense.
For years, word-of-mouth marketing and social shares have made and broken brands.
It’s no wonder that search engines are using this social capital as a key indicator of consumer trust and confidence.
How to track linkless mentions
If you’re not already tracking brand mentions through a rep management campaign, you’ll need to use a tool to monitor the web for you.
There are a variety of options, such as Awario or SEMrush.
Let’s take a look at Awario.
Awario is a monitoring tool that lets you track the conversation around your brand (as well as competitors’ brands) on the web in real-time.
To get started, create an account with your preferred email. (There’s a two-week free trial before you select a paid plan).
Once you create your account, set up a campaign (or project) to monitor brand mentions.
Awario will ask you to input the keywords you wish to track.
For example, let’s say you want to track Photoshop mentions.
So I’ll enter “Adobe Photoshop” into the field.
Once you’re done adding keywords to your campaign, Awario takes you to a dashboard that gives you an at-a-glance look at your current monitors.
As you can see here, Awario collects data on:
- The number of total mentions for that keyword
- Sentiment (i.e., whether the mentions are negative or positive)
- The reach those mentions have
- Who the top influencers are that have mentioned your keywords
- Where mentions are coming from in the world
- What languages are represented in the conversation
Additionally, you can filter the data to see mentions from specific platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
This information helps you track where your brand or product is trending as well as how well it stacks up against competitors.
Awario’s Sentiment metric is a particularly useful datapoint to measure because it allows you to gauge the overall health of your brand’s reputation (i.e., is it viewed more or less favorably).
In fact, at last year’s State of Search event, Google’s Gary Illyes noted that Google uses sentiment analysis to evaluate off-site sentiment to inform their rankings.
This means that tracking linkless brand mentions and their associated sentiment can give SEOs an advantage over marketers who fail to track implied links.
How to use linkless mentions to optimize search rankings
Once you have a brand monitoring tool in your arsenal, it’s time to use the information you glean to direct campaigns that will build your online rankings and authority.
Fortunately, many of the strategies for linkless mentions will be the same as your traditional link building campaigns.
For example, let’s say you’re tracking your brand mentions and notice a recent negative review published on Yelp.
What can you do?
Well, when 68% of consumers will form an opinion about your local business after reading just 1-6 online reviews, you need to make every review (and response) count.
How you should respond depends on the review, but here are a few good rules of thumb from ReviewTrackers:
- Resolve issues and provide solutions.
- Reinforce the positive experiences the customer mentions.
- Give a sincere apology as needed.
For instance, take this review from a disappointed customer flying JetBlue.
The TV screens were out in his row for the duration of the flight.
When he notified JetBlue via Twitter, JetBlue responded quickly to apologize and resolve the issue by offering a $15 credit to everyone in that row.
Keep in mind that responding to reviews and participating in conversations is not only a chance to say the right thing but to establish your brand’s voice.
Even though you’re communicating virtually, use these opportunities to show your brand’s human side.
In other words, don’t be a robot.
Whether you’re replying to a negative or positive comment, be personable.
Take JetBlue’s lead.
As SEO expands into brand management, you’ll notice a lot of overlap between teams in your marketing department.
SEO is no longer just about building backlinks and writing keyword-rich landing page copy.
Instead, off-page SEO is becoming just as important as on-page SEO.
To be successful, you’ll need to collaborate with rep managers, content marketers, social media marketers, and even your customer service team to execute a strong, cohesive campaign.
4. Optimize your content for voice search
Images aren’t the only places you can squeeze out more SEO value.
With the advancement of Siri, Google Assistant, and other smart AI systems, voice search has become increasingly common among mobile users.
In fact, as many as 40% of online adults use voice search at least once per day.
Some estimates are putting voice search at over one billion queries a month, and more than 50 million voice-activated devices were in circulation as of January 2018.
And voice search is just starting to take off. At least 20% of mobile searches are now voice searches.
This shift in the way users use and interact with search engines will inevitably affect SEO tactics.
Fortunately, for now, most of the strategies for regular SEO also apply to voice search optimization — but not all.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, including voice search optimization is a must.
How do search engines rank voice search results?
The first place to look to answer this question is Google. To understand how and where to optimize, you have to understand what Google is ranking.
Typically, Google voice search results tend to favor concise answers.
You can see in Google’s voice search rater guidelines that the emphasis is placed on how well the content meets the user’s need and whether or not it does so clearly and concisely.
These two goals are defined as “Needs Met” and “Speech Quality.”
Voice search rater guidelines: needs met
You can see above that the highest rated responses are those that fully (but concisely) answer the query.
In fact, Backlinko conducted a study of 10,000 voice search results and found that the average voice search answer is only 29 words.
Voice search rater guidelines: speech quality
Not only is Google looking for brief answers, but it also prefers easy-to-read content.
This means simple sentence structure and vocabulary. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.
So save the exposition for your great American novel.
How to optimize for voice search ranking factors
Based on the information above, you have to focus on content that is direct and clear.
An FAQ section is the most natural place to build out relevant answers to voice searches because FAQs contain direct questions with brief answers.
But you can also add questions to your landing pages to direct more voice searches to your site.
Sherry Bonelli, BrightLocal’s local search evangelist, says to “focus on those long-tail+ conversational keywords,” for FAQ pages.
The goal is to group common questions together on one page for natural-sounding questions and answers.
Another option would be to create long-form blog posts that answer a specific long-tail conversational keyword question.
The average word count for a results page is 2,312 words.
This doesn’t mean that the content length itself is a ranking factor for voice search. However, with long-form content comes greater opportunities to include relevant search terms.
This is likely why there is a high correlation between longer content and voice search results.
Capitalize on this trend by building out rich long-form content surrounding a central keyword topic.
MakeSpace jumped 65 positions in one day by creating long-form content.
And, MrGarageDoor.com went from zero to over 2,400 visits per month from creating long-form blog content.
The goal is to provide answers to questions your users are asking.
If you have a page full of content that doesn’t address what your users actually want to know, then it isn’t doing you any good.
SEO has a basic premise: build links and authority to rank in SERPs.
But with ever-changing algorithms, competing data, and hundreds of tools, strategies, and approaches, it’s easy to see how an SEO can get lost in the to-do lists.
I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.
Since SEO has a significant impact on business revenue, digital marketers can’t afford to overlook any strategies that provide added SEO value.
Optimize your image sizes to boost page speeds. Resize them as needed.
Add descriptive image file names to your images so that Google ranks them for keywords, too.
Use linkless mentions to build your ranking value.
Finally, be sure to optimize your site for voice search.
Though some of these hacks may seem deceptively simple, their combined value can have a profound effect on your overall rankings.
Be smart. Don’t let these SEO hacks pass you by.
What SEO strategies have you used to improve rankings?