When you think of SEO, what techniques come to mind? Keywords? Link building? Huge blocks of text with as many key phrases as possible? If this was 2010, you might be onto something. But in 2016, there’s a little more to SEO than tricking Google into thinking your page is important. As Google continues to improve its understanding of human internet behavior, it shifts what it considers to be important ranking signals.
The search engine now gives UX and user intent as much attention as linking and keywords. These six technical tweaks you can make to your site’s content will allow you to take advantage of the modern SEO opportunities Google is offering.
1. Open Graphs on social media are more than just a pretty format
If you’re anything like me, you probably have some very opinionated Facebook friends who are chronic article-posters. The protocol that formats the dynamic posts you see them sharing on social media is called Open Graph. It’s available for Facebook and Twitter, and it can dramatically increase your site’s performance.
Open Graph pulls from your webpage’s designated content and displays it richly in a social media share. Proper Open Graph formatting on link shares can benefit your page in two ways:
- It will increase your visibility and ranking. Google crawls Open Graph social content (but doesn’t always crawl regular, unformatted content on social media).
- The user-friendly and appealing format will drive more traffic to your site than plain links. Every visitor will then be reflected in your Google ranking.
A correctly formatted Open Graph link will populate a title, sample text, a picture and a cosmetic link. It should look something like this:
Make sure your webpage’s content is configured to work with Facebook’s Open Graph format, (and of course, keep the focus on making engaging, shareable content). KissMetrics recommends using pictures that are 1200 x 627 pixels. If you don’t use proper Open Graph practices, you’ll get pixelated, irrelevant or thumbnail graphics, with repetitive or off-topic text.
2. Fix your robots.txt file
When Google’s spiders scan through your site, they look for a robots.txt file to provide crawling procedures. Don’t give them misleading instructions.
If you’ve been noticing unexplainable traffic or engagement drop-off, check to make sure your robot.txt files are correct. You can control what user agent crawls your site, what specific pages they look at and which pages are off limits.
Be careful not to just unblock everything – bots and spam can hit your page, which artificially and misleadingly influence your analytics, or kick off CPU-heavy processes.
3. Heading tags help Google understand your page
The more naturally you format your content, the easier it will be for the audience to read it and the better experience they will have. Google understands when users appreciate a site’s readable content and good UX, and rewards the site accordingly. But Google will also boost a site’s ranking based on the UX that it experiences while indexing. Effective, natural, logical headers help Google (and your readers) scan and understand the important points of your content.
Don’t overuse H1 tags because you think it will fool Google into taking your content more seriously. Their algorithm already accounts for abusers. Stick to one H1 tag per page, and only exceed that when absolutely necessary. Use the next level of headers to carefully structure your content according to the hierarchy of information. The better your headers can simply and accurately provide digestible solutions to queries, the more Google will consider the content as satisfying your users’ intent, which will only improve your ranking.
4. Use Google’s website admin tools
Google’s suite of web services can help your site operate more efficiently and boost your SEO. Tools like Google’s Search Console – which gives site admins the ability to monitor their indexing progress, examine their search ranking and modify how their site is crawled – will also dramatically, and quickly, improve your SEO performance.
Take advantage of this free service and submit your sitemaps directly to Google. This will allow for quicker indexing, as you tell Google’s crawlers to look over your site immediately, rather than waiting for them to do so organically.
5. Always check for the latest site plugins & updates
Any small change you can make to your site’s navigation, speed, display or design could be recognized by Google, and incorporated into its ranking considerations. Most website hosting services constantly update plugins and templates, which can subtly boost your site’s UX, improving your overall performance and SEO.
WordPress, for instance, hosts over 17 million sites, according to BuiltWith.com. These range from small personal blogs to CNN, Spotify and even the blog you’re reading right now. One of the most recent WordPress plugin updates is their image switcher. Instead of resizing one image for each display size every time the page loads, the image switcher will now generate and store copies of the image scaled for different screen sizes. Images, and the entire page, will be able to load as quickly as possible, in full resolution and optimized for the user’s device. Embracing a plugin update like this would effectively increase your overall SEO by giving a boost to the speed and UX of the page.
6. Optimize for instant: Facebook, Google & more
We’ve been excited by (and writing about) the recent developments in instant-loading, pre-cached content. Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News are thus far leading this advancement. Facebook Instant Articles, for example, tempt users to click by promising a clean layout and blindingly fast load times. Though a user isn’t directed away from Facebook when they click, the interaction is still registered to the site that hosts the content. Instant formats like this offer a great, stress-free browsing experience for the user, and publishers often benefit from increased traffic, and therefore, higher ranking.
Last week, eBay became the first major non-news site to be optimized for Google AMP, signaling that the medium is on a trajectory to become viable for all content marketers, not just those in the news industry. Now is the time to get a quick jump on the up-and-coming medium – it’s currently a very accessible and enjoyable format for users to read, and it can help your traditional page ranking with the added surge of instant traffic.
Whether you implement all of these techy tips, or just pick the one that works best for your content, you should begin to see your ranking (and traffic) start to rise. Go forth, and start SEO-ing yourself to the top!
Want more tips on how to combine content and SEO to boost your content marketing results? Check out our eBook, Content for SEO.