In the fifteen years that I have been the Director of SEO for BusinessOnline, I have had the benefit of having clients with very diverse business models, business sizes, Website sizes, and business priorities.
Those clients have run the gambit on B2B and B2C companies ranging from small businesses to enterprise corporations.
Admittedly the bulk of my experience has been with enterprise B2B tech companies. But regardless of the company, it’s been my experience that starting every campaign with a solid foundation of the basics pays big dividends.
It’s always good practice to ensure that all things within your control are well optimized and that any opportunities that represent “low hanging fruit” are always and constantly being taken advantage of.
So, with that in mind, I’m going to share the top 10 SEO tactical tips and strategy considerations that I’d recommend in 2020 to maximize your chances of a successful SEO program:
I’m sure many people reading this already understand the importance of Schema markup to maximizing SEO opportunity.
Structured data and other forms of content that have been coded with Schema markup are being leveraged in an ever-increasing number of ways by search engines.
As it stands today, there are a number of enormous opportunities to increase your traffic when you implement Schema markup correctly.
These opportunities include enhancements in search results, Featured Snippets, Knowledge panel enhancements, and many others depending on what content is being.
With that in mind, it’s also important to understand that not all Schema markup is being used by search engines to augment search results.
Additionally, Google has said that Schema makes your content and data more likely to be eligible for these opportunities, but it is not a ranking factor. So it’s important to prioritize your efforts.
To better understand which Schema markup Google is currently using, I invite you to bookmark this page and visit it periodically to keep up to date.
Click the Structured Datalink on this page to go to the Article Schema page which is the first of many types of Schema that Google details and how it affects results.
The great thing about marking up data with Schema is that the clicks generated from Schema are now visible in Google Search Console so you can track the results of your endeavors and show other team members the value of the work rendered.
If you want to better understand how to implement schema on structured data, here is a Webinar I did with one of our long time partners SEOClarity recently that explains the basics.
I also recommend trying out their new free Schema mark-up Chrome browser plug in to make coding and implementation for some Schema types. It’s a fairly new tool as of this post but there are already a number of important Schema types supported.
Speaking of basics, you should trim dead content from the site when possible and certainly, it goes without saying that you should eliminate 404 crawl errors from your site.
There are a lot of tools out there that can help you identify 404 pages starting with Google Search Console.
There are a number of third-party tools that can also help including Screaming Frog, MOZ or just about any Enterprise facing SEO Tool.
But the good old Google Search Console (which is free) is the best place to start. Connecting those 404 errors to the most relevant page on your site via 301 redirects improves SEO and user experience a needs constant and it is one that deserves ongoing attention and monitoring, especially for large enterprise sites that have a great deal of change.
For those pages that no longer have a relevant page on your site, a custom 404 page is recommended to improve user experience.
However, in many cases, a page that has an explanation that the content is retired or no longer valid with instructions for users who are looking for that content is a better user experience and is also better for SEO.
This can be an important content strategy consideration in preserving brand related traffic in the case of end of life product strategy or a discontinued brand or model.
Here is a great article that goes into more depth around cleaning up 404 errors and the various considerations to make in order to do it right.
Don’t forget to check your PDF documents periodically to make sure the links are up to date!
Remember that it’s not just internal links that need to be reconnected, but external links too.
Typically using a tool like Majestic or AHREFS is a great way to identify links that point to pages on your site that no longer exist, need to be fixed, or could be reconnected with a custom redirect to account for someone’s mistake.
The four common reasons for link losses:
To get some great insight into how to approach these scenarios, here is an article that goes into depth on how to use AHREFS to accomplish these tasks. Majestic has similar functionalities that can be leveraged to accomplish these tasks as do some other tools on the market.
There has been an increase in the role of content and the quality of content as a ranking factor as Google has gotten better at understanding context, entities, and relationships.
Once upon a time, links mattered above all things and some roads could only be traveled based on link strength.
Links are still a very important part of the algorithm but the depth and quality of the content are more important than ever.
Part of what defines the quality of content on a site is not having a lot of useless content.
However, proceed with caution before you remove anything. Here is a great guide to evaluating your content and taking appropriate steps to improve it as well as when to remove it, from the one and only, Danny Goodwin.
Actually, there are two articles I would like to recommend in order to do this kind of analysis. The other is an excellent article from Frank Vitovich of Botify that dives deep into performing a content audit and identifies ways to reduce and eliminate low quality and under-performing content.
Between these two articles, there are a number of different data-driven tactics to improve the performance of your content.
In a related topic, optimizing your crawl budget doesn’t help you rank better but it does ensure the timely indexing of your content which can be challenging for large sites that change frequently as well as anyone that wants to ensure that they are optimizing the bandwidth Google needs to find everything.
Aleh Barysevich wrote an article in 2019 that features some very relevant quotes from John Mueller of Google on this topic. It goes into detail as to why it’s important and some fairly recent changes that impact how to best optimize your site’s crawl budget.
Creating a site structure that balances user experience, brand messaging, SEO considerations while maintaining as shallow of architecture as possible across a large site can be challenging.
But optimizing your site’s architecture to ensure that Google requires the least number of “clicks” possible to get to your content has been correlated to SEO success.
If you want some compelling evidence of that, check out this quote from John featured in this article from Roger Montti.
“So what will happen is, we’ll see the home page is really important, things linked from the home page are generally pretty important as well.
And then… as it moves away from the home page we’ll think probably this is less critical.
That pages linked directly from the home page are important is fairly well known but it’s worth repeating. In a well-organized website the major category pages and any other important pages are going to be linked from the home page.”
If you want to get into the deep end on the topic, here is another great article by Roger that also features relevant video footage from Google’s John Mueller on this topic.
Roger then goes on to explore some very technical stuff for those who want more details. It’s a good read in terms of understanding the balancing act I was just referring to as well as giving some tactical advice.
I think creative internal linking strategies can improve a lot of things beyond SEO in terms of the benefits of flattening a site including and most importantly, improving the findability of content for all site users regardless of entry page.
Depending on your company, you will have different degrees of opportunity here. It’s still a worthwhile exercise for everyone but for large brands that may have a huge portfolio of various kinds of brand-related keywords, it can be quite challenging despite the benefits.
The question isn’t usually whether you can rank #1 for your brand-related terms (although that isn’t always a given), it’s usually can you rank the right page that delivers the best experience and can you own as much of the first-page screen real estate as possible, especially above the fold.
This is a critical endeavor in helping to control messaging, deliver exceptional user experience, and of course, maximize your traffic with the highest propensity for conversion.
Additionally, owning your brand is a key tenant of SEO for B2B companies that have any account-based marketing initiatives because of the amount of research that typically goes into a high consideration purchase.
I’ll be writing an extensive article on brand-related SEO considerations later this Summer, but in the meantime, check out this article for some solid advice on where to start from Andy Crestonia of Orbit Media:
Page Speed is a diverse area of discussion that is so big that it isn’t possible for me to concisely give you links to all possible issues. And recently Google’s new Core Vitals added new layers of complexity to improving overall site performance.
If you haven’t yet got up to speed on Google’s new Core Vitals, definitely do so. The impact of Core Vitals is still at least 6 months away but the time to plan, execute, and improve is now. You can get more information about Core Vitals here:
But addressing all of the issues with Core Vitals and Page Speed is a long, complex road. The place to start for a lot of sites is with the lowest hanging fruit that usually starts with image optimization.
Of course, optimizing images for search and optimizing them for speed are two different things.
Image optimization is more than just reducing image size and load time. It also includes properly optimized Alt tags, surrounding text, Schema implementation, and ensuring that your images are contributing to superior user experience by adding value to your content.
With that said, the first order of business is to evaluate your site for opportunities to reduce image size as much as possible without detracting from the presentation quality so as to improve speed and performance.
This is a very important activity to do since page speed doesn’t just correlate to SEO success but also lowers bounce rates, improves engagement, and increases conversions.
Additionally, images can be a huge driver of SEO traffic in and of themselves.
For a great overview of image optimization best practices, check out this article from Romain Damery over at SearchEngineLand.com:
Also if you haven’t checked out the Squoosh.app from Google Chrome Labs for easy image optimization, I would recommend giving it a look:
This is another topic that is way too broad to go into specifics on, but I always tell people that there are two ways to double your site’s current performance. You can double your traffic or double your conversion rate.
For a site that has implemented a fair degree of search engine optimization best practices, it is much easier to double the conversion rate. Of course, things rarely double in the real world but it illustrates the point that sometimes the low hanging fruit is clearly improving the conversion rate.
The kicker is that improving your conversions is correlated to SEO performance.
Improving the user experience of your site and prioritizing that effort around conversion testing not only improves ROI in and of itself, but it maps to other metrics that can be correlated to how Google is using data to understand engagement.
Ultimately Google is trying to ensure that people have the best experience possible and can find what they are looking for quickly.
To get a better sense of why engagement matters, check out this amazing article by Carolyn Lyden on the subject:
Also, Bruce Clay has an excellent article on why engagement matters so much in the current world of SEO.
If you are interested in getting started with A/B testing for conversion rate optimization using Google Optimizer, this article from SEO Hacker is a good case study and walk through.
And lastly, I would be remiss when talking about conversion optimization if I didn’t point you to the foremost expert that I personally know about the subject, Tim Ash. Here is a recent Webinar from Tim and Site Tuners on increasing revenue through A/B testing.
In my mind, there is no bigger opportunity from an SEO standpoint than in the video optimization space right now. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
So, by extension, video is worth more than that if you can get people engaged. It not only communicates the substance of your content, but it communicates personality, style, and brand image in a much more personal way than Web page content alone.
But there seems to be a disconnect in this perceived value because a lot of people focus much more attention on-page analytics and optimizing for those KPIs than they do video views and engagement.
This is a huge oversight in my opinion.
The other interesting part about video is that many of the same SEO techniques in terms of titles and tags can be applied to both video and text which means that many folks are already in a position to be able to optimize video content with their existing SEO skill set.
However, when we talk about optimizing video content, we aren’t just talking about maximizing YouTube views or views on a 3rd party provider video platform that is being used for embedded videos on your site although certainly, that is a big part of video optimization.
To get video thumbnails ranked in regular search results for embedded videos, we are talking about optimizing rankings in Google, Bing, YouTube, and other engines but we are also talking about optimizing all referral channels on the YouTube network including visits from other videos.
This is a long and complex tactic to explore and one of the best articles I have found is over at Hubspot by Braden Becker who goes through a checklist of items that you should be focused on.
Now to be clear, these tactics aren’t necessarily the exhaustive list of things you can do but a very solid list of must does to be congruent with best practices.
Another article that is very popular about video optimization you might find valuable is from none other than Brian Dean at Backlinko who also produces some pretty compelling stuff on the topic.
But before you invest a lot of time and resources into video optimization, be sure to make the case to management and ensure they agree that they are going to treat video KPIs with the same regard as Web page KPIs.
Without that acknowledgment, you put yourself at risk of falling short of expectations.
In this era of search, keyword rankings are almost to the point where each term is ranked on a unique set of criteria specific to what type of term it is, what topic the term falls under, and what the user behavior around the term is.
In many cases, Google has what I refer to as an “informational bias” for some terms.
This means that Google knows that most people who search for the keyword in question are looking for informational content as opposed to transactional content.
It is really important to manually review all high priority target keyword listings on a regular basis, and see what kind of content is ranking in the “top 10”, both in terms of Web pages, as well as other universal search results like video, images, Featured Snippets, news, etc.
Understanding target keyword opportunities and the type of content needed is critical to your SEO strategy and setting correct expectations for your program.
Many site publishers and businesses have found value in creating a customer education hub on their site that includes an industry glossary, white papers, and primary research.
“How To” content including videos as well as any number of other resources that meet the users beyond just customers.
That’s important to understand from an SEO perspective. Your site must serve more than your customers to be relevant to any given topic or keyword phrase.
In fact, it should be noted that in order for a webpage to rank in the top 10 in Google or other search engines for a particular keyword, it needs to be one of the ten best resources on the Internet for that topic.
If the content on a particular page doesn’t lend itself to that distinction, expectations of search rankings for related keywords should be tempered regardless if the content is informational, transactional, or navigational.
Ultimately the quality of the content of a given page, as it relates to answering the needs of the average person doing a search for the targeted keyword, needs to be relatively exceptional.
If it is not, any optimization will have a limited effect, especially over the long term.
There is a lot to do just within these 10 SEO strategy tips. But if you read each of these references you should be well equipped to grab a lot of the low hanging fruit that might be available to you and in a position to better prioritize your SEO activities during this strange time in our lives. I think this is especially true for Enterprise B2B SEO programs with long sales cycles.
Hopefully, like me, you will feel confident in immersing yourself into these activities knowing that they will eventually result in a stronger SEO footprint and one that is more profitable.
Business Online has the expertise you need to stay ahead of the ever-changing landscape of SEO. Reach out today regarding your SEO questions!