If you're willing to stick with the right tools and improve your ranking factors step-by-step, higher rankings will soon be a reality for you. But the number of optimizations you'll need to do can get overwhelming. You might find yourself tool-hopping from Google Search Console to Google Analytics and other tools.
Want the best of both analytical worlds in a single place? Just connect your Google accounts to SiteGuru, and track your whole website’s performance in one overview.
fasterIn this article, I’ll go over the steps you can take to reach higher rankings, faster. But make it realistic.
Let’s dive in!
You could have the best recipe in the world. But if you use bad ingredients, you're unlikely to succeed in the long term.
The recipe is your content strategy. The ingredients are your keywords.
Here are the factors involved in identifying the best keywords to target for ranking on Google:
- Volume: How many searches the keyword gets a month
- Competition: How difficult the keyword is to rank for
- Your website's Domain Authority (DA): The higher your DA, the easier it’ll be to rank for competitive keywords
- Quality/relevance: The goal is to rank for keywords that are more likely to bring high-quality traffic to your site.
Which terms does your ideal audience search for when looking for products/services like yours?
Let's say you've just started an SEO agency. Trying to organically rank for a keyword like "SEO agency" would be borderline impossible for a new business.
Take a look at the SERPs for this query:
The first 4 results are ads. Plus, if I plug it into tools like SEMRush, I'll find that it's hard to rank for.
So, how can you identify keywords you should target, even if you have no idea where to start?
Start with a seed list of keywords based on the products and services you already offer. You can use your own website as a guide. Initially, just brain-dump every single term that comes to mind. Later, use the tools I've mentioned to generate even more related terms.
Pro tip: Find keywords in unusual sources, like Twitter, Quora, and Reddit. If you want to dive even deeper, interview subject matter experts to grab original data and quotes.
Weed out the keywords you can't compete with, e.g., ridiculously high-volume keywords. Also, dismiss keywords that wouldn't fit naturally into your content or bring qualified traffic to your site.
You might know search intent by four words: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Recently, you might have also heard about local intent.
The search intent is why a user performs a search:
- What led them to that result?
- Do they want to learn about a topic?
- Do they want to buy?
- Do they want quick information on the go?
- Do they need directions?
You need to find the deeper meaning behind the search before you create any content.
For example, if I were to create informational “how to” content to rank for the term "SEO agency," I'd have big trouble ranking on the first page. That's because the SERPs mostly list the best SEO agencies out there – not exactly how to start one.
Now, if I wanted to rank for the long-tail term "how to start an SEO agency," that would be a different story.
What keywords are your competitors ranking for? Which ones are they targeting? You can use this knowledge to drive your own SEO content strategy.
Before I start writing any content for a given keyword, I always look at search trends. This helps me understand whether the term's popularity is steady and consistent or if it's been declining. If a keyword's popularity is plummeting, targeting it may not be a good idea.
Or, if you notice any seasonal trends, you may only want to publish content or update your site during a keyword's "peak" season.
An example of a seasonal keyword is "best Christmas gifts." As you can see, searches start mounting around the end of October and peak – you guessed it – right before Christmas.
Both can drive plenty of organic traffic to your site.
A branded search term is a search term that includes a brand name. For example, "SiteGuru" is a branded search term.
When people search for branded search terms, that means searchers already know the brand by name. These people are the closest to becoming potential customers.
On the other hand, non-branded or unbranded search terms don't include any brand names. Instead, they focus on product and service names, as well as "what," "why," and "how" queries. Examples include keywords like "SEO tools" or "how to build backlinks."
Including both branded and non-branded terms into your content will nurture traffic coming from all stages of the conversion funnel – whether you’re dealing with unaware visitors or eager window shoppers.
If you'd like to understand your branded vs. non-branded traffic shares, SiteGuru will generate a search report for you in only 1 minute. No account or email is necessary, and it's 100% free!
You shouldn't neglect the keywords you're already ranking for. This can help you see what real keywords people use to find your site, which can help brainstorm new content ideas and generate even more traffic.
If you're a SiteGuru user, Insights > Keywords shows all of the keywords you rank for and categorizes them by:
- Keywords that have improved on the SERPs
- Keywords that have declined on the SERPs
- Keywords where the page gets one of the Top 3 spots (congrats!)
- Keywords where the page ranks on page 1 (Top 10 spots)
- Keywords where your pages aren’t in the Top 10 spots but are still ranking for that term
Some keywords may be more important to you than others –which is why SiteGuru allows you to track them. Plus, by comparing your target keywords to those you're already ranking for, you can assess whether your SEO strategy is paying off or if it’s time for a detour.
If there are any particular keywords you're tracking, you'll see them in the "Tracked keywords" tabs of the Keywords report.
Need to stay accountable? SiteGuru also helps you set goals for keywords and provides tailored optimization suggestions to reach your desired SERP spot (yes, even if it's #1)! We track their current position, letting you know if you're moving closer to that goal.
All you have to do is go to the "Goals" tab. You'll see:
- The keywords you're trying to rank for
- Your progress
- Your target position
- Your current positions
- The status of your goal.
Click the "open actions" link to see instant optimization and content suggestions specifically tied to your goal.
Ranking starts with content. But that doesn't necessarily mean long-form content.
We often relate high-quality content to “long-form” because longer blog posts, for example, allow us to go in-depth into a certain topic. And depth is one of the pillars of topical authority. But, as Lana Rafaela shared in our article about Google's Helpful Content Updates:
"In some cases, (helpful content) means creating a short, 500-word blog post that directly addresses their questions. In others, you may need a full field guide. But no matter what, keep the intent in mind. Will someone really want to go through 4,000 words just to get a straightforward answer? In this day and age, that’s unlikely."
With that in mind, better practices for high-quality content include:
- Naturally include your target keyword (and relevant variations thereof) in your content. No keyword-stuffing!
- Don't just respin what's already out there! Whenever possible, conduct proprietary research for access to original perspectives and content.
- Answer readers’ questions based on their search intent.
- Create content focused on Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).
- Include bookmarkable elements that add to written content, such as checklists, templates, videos, and screenshots.
- Keep your content fresh. Google loves it. Update your content whenever new information rolls out.
The great news: you’re ready to start creating. The bad news: your work isn't done once you start publishing content.
Could it be that two or more pages on your website rank for the same term? This is called keyword cannibalization, often resulting in diluted link juice, thinner content, and overall lower rankings.
Think about it: if you merge two pages that contain different – yet complementary – content, that'll make for a much stronger page.
You can view any potential competing pages in Insights > Content by clicking the "Competing content" tab.
Now, what should you do about content that used to rank well but no longer does?
First, you catch the culprits. Go to the “Content requiring attention” tab to see your declining pages.
Next, click on Page score, and you’ll see an SEO audit pop-up with quick tweaks you can make to improve your rankings.
Note that, in some cases, you might need to refresh and flesh out your content to regain top spots. Competition is still a factor.
Is your page already ranking on page 1? Let's move it up to the Top 3 spots!
The Low-hanging fruit report (Insights > Low-hanging fruit) shows you the pages that have high top-ranking potential. The fact that they’re one of the top 10 search results is already a great sign.
By clicking on the “Checklist” link, you’ll get a handy list of quick fixes to apply right away. Here's a sneak peek:
These tweaks are a great starting point towards better SEO-friendly content.
A title tag is the blue clickable title you click on the SERP. To better understand a page, Google recommends writing unique, to-the-point, and “brief but descriptive” titles on all of your pages. This way, it can better categorize pages and decide which queries they’re most suitable to answer.
Each of your titles should be original and contain 50-70 characters at most. Ideally, they should also include your target keyword and basically "sell" the click.
For example, all of the following title tags check all of those boxes. Which one would you click?
I’m guessing you don’t have time to check each and every title tag on your website. With SiteGuru, you can easily see which page titles look good and which ones need editing.
Just navigate to Content > Page titles to open a report like this one:
You can click “SERP” to see how the title will appear in the search results. You can also use “AI Suggest” to instantly come up with SEO-friendly title ideas for you. Pretty cool, huh?
Meta descriptions are the descriptive text that shows up right below the title tags. Their goal is to further describe the content of the page you’re about to click – kind of fleshing out the title tag.
It should also be original, and it should be around 120 and 170 characters.
“But why should I bother writing a meta description if Google will rewrite it?”
Yes, Google often rewrites meta descriptions. But it does that for several reasons:
- You haven’t summarized the web page
- You haven’t matched the search query correctly
- You’re more focused on adding keywords than on accurately and succinctly describing the page
- Google is trying to match the query to the content, but it can’t find the match in the meta description.
John Mueller's words. Not mine.
So, are your meta descriptions too short? Too long? Too bland?
You can check that by navigating to Content > Meta descriptions. Just like on the Titles report, you can also preview your tags and have AI rewrite them from scratch.
No, headings and title tags are not the same thing! You've already seen what a title tag looks like. This is what a heading looks like:
The main job of headings is to create a hierarchy on the page, helping Google and other search engines understand the structure of your written content. That's why, when writing a blog post, for example, you see tags like H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6.
Using headings also makes for better readability – which is great for users and great for SEO.
People who don't understand the importance of hierarchy often use headings arbitrarily, making the mistake of adding more than one H1 (the most important heading) on each page.
Not a single page on your website should have multiple H1s. If you think that could be an issue, go to Content > Headings to find which of your pages have more than a single H1. Fix it ASAP!
Also called alt tags and alt descriptions, an image's ALT text is an HTML attribute used to contextualize and describe the appearance of images on a page.
In short, it’s used to understand what an image is about. If an image fails to load on a user's screen, an image ALT text will appear instead.
Firstly, this text helps visually impaired readers understand images. Secondly, it also helps search engines navigate and rank your website effectively, potentially becoming a meaningful traffic source.
For those of you who have been ignoring ALT texts: it can help you rank for image search. Optimizing your images for search is especially important now that Search Generative Experience (SGE) and AI-powered images are coming around.
Here's an example of an alt attribute applied to an Unsplash image:
<img src="/images/beach.jpg" alt="Sandy beach with palm trees under a blue sky">
Here are some quick, better practices for writing ALT texts:
- Be specific in your descriptions.
- There's no need to start your description with "picture of." Get straight to the point!
- Keep it under 125 characters.
- Only include the keywords that make sense in the ALT text.
To see every single image that’s missing an ALT text in your website, go to Content > Image alt texts in SiteGuru to get a full report.
You need to know which pages are affected to prevent a low text-to-HTML ratio from creating a bad user experience and messing with your SEO efforts.
Use the Content > Word count report in SiteGuru to find pages that could either benefit from extra content or code changes.
I geek out over technical SEO. But I'm well aware that some people get very frustrated when they read the word "technical."
So, here's a simple breakdown of how to use technical SEO in your favor.
To rank higher on Google, it first needs to know your website exists. And if it isn't indexed, it's basically non-existent.
If one of your important pages isn't ranking on Google, it could be that it's failed to be indexed.
Indexing issues can range from:
- Meta tags blocking Google from crawling/indexing your page.
- A page containing no internal or external links (orphan page).
- A page is a duplicate.
- Or worse, the content on the page isn’t relevant enough.
Does your website have any indexing issues? Check your status at Technical > Indexation.
If sitemaps could talk, they'd tell search engines: "This page matters to me. So index it faster!"
Especially if your website has hundreds of pages, submitting a sitemap can help your most important pages "jump the queue" in the indexing process. This way, Google knows which pages to crawl and index first.
Which of your pages contain sitemaps?
The Technical > Sitemaps report will tell you the number of pages a sitemap contains and whether you've submitted it to Google Search Console.
If you'd like, you can also view your sitemap report straight from Google Search Console (GSC) by clicking "View in Search Console."
Want to avoid duplicate content? Canonical URLs are your new best friend.
Canonical URLs guide search engines to your preferred version of a page, avoiding confusion and potentially improving search rankings.
Let's say you have a new type of coffee called "Mocha Delight" available in your online coffee shop. It's sourced from Ethiopia, and you want to ensure that search engines don't see duplicate content for the same product available under different URLs (one for coffees, another for the country of origin).
Your URLs are as follows:
While both URLs display the same coffee product, you want to indicate the preferred URL using the canonical tag. If the first URL is your preferred one, you should add the following canonical tag:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.mycoffeeshop.com/coffees/mocha-delight">
You can check your full website for canonical URLs by going to the Technical > Canonical URLs report:
Your page speed will dictate whether a visitor sticks around to learn more about what you offer...or bounces before they even get a chance to learn what you're all about.
That's why page speed is at the top of the list of ranking factors.
You can directly check and diagnose your page's performance (on both mobile and desktop) in PageSpeed Insights. Or, if you want a complete overview of page performance and web vitals for each page, go to Technical > Pagespeed in SiteGuru.
If you've ever come across search results like these:
Then you've come across what Google calls "rich results" or "rich snippets." These are results generated by Structured Data, which enhance SERP results with elements like images, star ratings, availability details, topics, and more.
It also helps search engines better understand and make sense of the content on your page.
So, if you want to improve the visibility of your results, adding Structured Data to your pages is non-negotiable.
Plugins like Yoast help you automatically add structured data to your pages. Tools like SiteGuru can help you view, at a glance, which of your pages contain or are missing Structured Data.
To instantly view which of your pages feature Structured Data and which types, navigate to the Technical > Structured Data report in SiteGuru.
Broken links are called “link rot” because they ruin the user experience, which consequently ruins your rankings. It's like a rotten apple that spoils the whole bunch.
So, if a link is no longer working, you should either fix it or get rid of it. But first, you need to identify it.
You can use Google Analytics custom reports to both find and fix broken links.
If you use Google Search Console, you can check for broken links after you run a command to crawl your website. If there are any issues with broken links, you'll find them on the Crawl Errors page under "URL Errors."
However, if you're in a rush, that isn't the best method as it can take a bit longer for Google to crawl your site. To find any broken links on a page immediately, you can use SiteGuru's free broken link checker.
If you're a SiteGuru user and your website has any broken links, you'll find them at Links > Broken links. In the following report, there aren’t any.
Backlinks this, backlinks that...but what about your internal links?
For example, this is an internal link to our internal links guide. You've probably noticed that this post links to our related content – that's because we're letting Google know which pages matter to us.
Essentially, internal linking guides Google and your visitors towards important and topically related pages on your website. They're crucial when helping search engines crawl the web. Plus, a stronger internal linking strategy is also a pillar of topical authority.
The longer visitors go from one link to another, dwelling on your website, the more they signal your site's topical importance to Google.
You don't want to be poring through each of your pages in search of internal links. Just go to Links > Internal links to see which of your pages have internal links (and how many), as well as which pages are orphaned (have no internal links).
In short, redirects send search engine crawlers and website visitors from one URL to another.
If your website has too many internal redirects (like 301 and 302 responses), it's harder for Google to index your pages. And therefore, it'll be harder for your pages to rank.
The only time when redirects should be used is when you're moving your site or changing things up internally. Otherwise, they can hurt your ranking efforts.
Is your website serving any redirects that you don't know about? You can find out by going to Links > Internal redirects and seeing which responses your redirected pages are getting.
If you follow this article's tips, you stand a higher chance of ranking for a desired search term.
But just because you've ranked doesn't mean people will click on your page in the SERPs.
So, are people clicking on your search results? Your click-through rate (CTR) will tell you!
While there's no "ideal" CTR, there is an "expected" CTR for each of your pages based on the keyword it ranks for. In Insights > Click-through rates, you can view the average position of your pages on the SERP, as well as their expected vs. actual CTRs.
As with everything in SEO, several factors will influence the CTR of a page. Check out our guide on how to improve your search CTR!
But it can always be easier.
This is why we’ve created a handy SEO to-do list. You'll love it if you’re the kind of person who prefers thorough, step-by-step guidance.
It’s an SEO tool that tells you how to get more traffic. Plain and simple. Here’s how it works:
SiteGuru runs a weekly audit on your website (takes just 15 minutes!). Once it’s done, it gives you a custom, prioritized to-do list to help you quickly improve your website, get you more traffic, and get more rankings.
It looks something like this:
So, are you ready to improve your rankings?
Give SiteGuru a whirl to get your custom SEO to-do list!