Whether you’re a small business with minimal resources dedicated to regular SEO of your website or you’re a larger enterprise with an SEO team, these tips are worth reviewing and making sure they are part of your ongoing content strategy and optimization efforts in 2019.
So without further ado, here are my top tips for SEO in 2019:
1. Do Keyword Research and Basic On-Page Optimization
With the ever-specialized Google search algorithm, including RankBrain, Google’s machine learning-based system that sorts search results, it is clear that we are no longer living in the era where you can ONLY rely on targeting one keyword for each page on your site and calling your on-page search optimization efforts complete. Multiple factors come into play for page rank including page load time, security and website engagement metrics such as visitor dwell time (how long a user stays on your page) and click-through rate (the percentage of people who click on your page in a search result).
This does not mean, however, we should throw the baby out with the bath water and forgo keyword research and basic optimization altogether. In 2019, it is still crucial to research and select keywords/key phrases that your audience is typing into Google. The authority of your overall website and how niche your target phrases are will play a role in how you prioritize which keywords to target. Generally speaking, you want to home in on target phrases that you have a relatively good chance of ranking for (low competition) and that also have at least some consistent monthly search volume. Please note that the search volume for your target keywords/phrases does not necessarily need to be very high (say in the 1000s of searches each month). A recent study by Ahrefs points out that the vast majority of search queries, 93% to be exact, have 10 or fewer searches per month! So don’t shy away from what we call long-tail keywords.
When you have done your basic keyword research (or updated previous keyword research documentation), make sure you place your target keywords/phrases in primary locations:
Your page’s title tag and meta description.
Your H1 tag. Without getting too technical here, the h1 tag indicates a heading on your webpage. It’s usually the primary topic of the page. Oftentimes your title tag and h1 tag will be the same but double-check this within your CMS tool. If you’re using WordPress, SEO plugins like Yoast SEO will make it easy for you to view and make edits to your SEO-related HTML tags.
In your URL.
There are several free tools out there that can simulate what your page attributes will look like within a search engine results page. Again, the Yoast plugin for WordPress does this automatically but check out Technical SEO’s SERP simulator or SERPSIM. The idea here is for you to get familiar with how your page will look to your potential visitor on a search results page and to modify based on the simulation. The common SEO practice is to keep the length of URL brief but still keyword-rich.
2. Use Modifiers in Your Title Tag, When Appropriate
As mentioned earlier, your page’s click-through rate (CTR) is a ranking signal for Google (and likely other search engines) so you want to make sure you’re writing a title tag that really gets the user’s attention on a search results page (SERP) and entices the user to click . Your page may be ranking in the top 5 position for a target keyphrase but if it’s not getting consistent clicks, it will eventually drop in the rankings and, conversely, if your page is currently in position 5 for a search term but starts to get more clicks than higher ranking pages, Google may move your page higher up on the SERP.
All this is to say, experiment. Include your keyphrase but also consider adding a compelling modifier that grabs the reader’s attention. Some of the most common modifiers that have been documented to increase page rankings are:
- The current year
Here is a great Moz WhiteBoard Friday to watch and get additional ideas of how to experiment with title tag modifiers and hopefully increase your pages’ CTRs.
3. Expand Your Competitive Research
Most companies have a very good sense of who the primary competitors in their space are and, ideally, monitoring the competitors’ website performance. You should research and document answers to questions such as:
- What keywords are your top 5 competitors ranking for?
- What are their top pages?
- What keywords are their top 5 pages ranking for?
- Who is linking back to your competitors’ top pages?
If you’re not already mining your competition’s traffic and keyword rankings to inform your own content strategy, start doing so in 2019. It will require keyword research/digital marketing software such as SEMRush, Moz or Ahrefs, just to name a few.
Once you’ve got the data on your traditional competitors’ website performance, you can move on to researching who your “content competitors” are. By the term content competitors, I’m referring to other websites that are ranking for your target keywords. In many instances, your content competitors may be the same as your traditional competitors but in many cases, they are not. Other companies serving your primary audience are investing in content marketing and keyword research. They are just as capable at discovering and writing about those key topics your audience is searching for as you are. Moreover, if they are a larger company with a stronger domain authority, they may rank higher for some of your primary topics.
You can either use Google to search for your top keyphrases and examine the top ranking pages or again you can use digital marketing software to do that work for you. Once you’ve isolated the top-ranking pages for your search terms, find the answers to the following questions.
- What about their page is getting them to rank higher than your article/blog/resource?
- Is it more thorough?
- Are they doing a great job at getting external links to their piece? Who is linking to that page?
- Does that higher-ranking page internally link to relevant topics, meaning, are they doing a better job of creating a content hub or content cluster than you are?
Use the knowledge you’ve acquired on your content competitors to improve the quality of your page. Don’t be afraid to edit your page or blog after it’s been published. Make your content on the topic the best it can be and use what’s you’ve mined from the competition to do just that.
4. Dedicate Time to Backlink Building
Acquiring backlinks to your pages is still crucial in 2019. Backlinks are links other place on their website back to your website. Here are three tactics that should be part of your SEO practice in 2019:
Research your content competitors’ backlink profile
As I mentioned, mining your competitor’s traffic is incredibly important. Research your content competitors. Who is linking to them? Do you think your blog or article is genuinely more thorough, more up-to-date and a better resource for that company to be linking to? If so, then reach out to the editor, the author or the website manager directly and recommend they at least read your resource and consider including a link to it on their site.
Broken link outreach
Another way to find places to get a backlink is again by using competitive research data. In your favorite digital marketing tool (SEMRush, Ahrefs, etc.), get a list of your competitors’ 404 (broken) pages. Then drill down to sites that link to those 404 pages. This is now your outreach list. Take a screengrab of the broken-page message on your competitor’s site and politely ask if they would consider replacing the link on their site that is currently going to your competitor’s 404 page with your resource/blog/article.
Sometimes a company or publisher will mention you or your company on their website and not link back to you. If you can aggregate a list of websites that have your brand mentioned but not linked back to your site, you then have another outreach list to work with. Here’s an in-depth article on how to do this with Ahrefs though you can do something similar with most digital marketing tools these days.
5. Repurpose Your Most Popular Content for Additional Traffic
If you haven’t compiled your most popular content from 2018, make the time to pinpoint and review your most popular articles, blogs, videos, etc. When you have that list, an easy way to reach larger organic audiences is to repurpose that content into different formats. Consider taking your most viewed video of 2018 and writing a blog on the same topic, if you haven’t already. Maybe one of your podcasts garnered much higher downloads/listens than others. Why not take the content from the podcast and blog about that topic? Finally, consider your most popular blogs and articles and weigh the value of creating a video on a similar or even the same topic. YouTube is the second most popular website in the U.S. and globally, with over 1.8 billion logged-in viewers a month, so make sure your most popular content is also available on that platform.
I wish you all the best in your SEO efforts in 2019! I’d love to hear what your top tips for SEO in 2019 are. Feel free to share them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at [email protected].