Tag Archives: search engine optimization

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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 13 , 2021

There’s no shortcut to good search engine optimization (SEO) — but the right agency can help create a strategy that will have a lasting positive impact on your brand.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What questions to ask a prospective SEO agency
  • How to set realistic expectations
  • A few agency red flags to look for
  • Why aligning on core values is key

Rubik’s Cubes. The Saturday New York Times crossword. Creating a viral TikTok when you’re over 30 years old. These are all things that can be hard to master. 

If you’re stuck on page 20 of search engine results pages (SERPs), maybe the same can be said for your company’s SEO.

The good news: Partnering with an SEO agency can change all that by helping increase your visibility in search results, boost your credibility, and more. But before you sign on the (virtual) dotted line, keep these success secrets in mind.

1. Know your SEO goals

First things first: before you go through the process of connecting and vetting SEO agencies, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re up to speed on where SEO practices stand today. 

The industry is evolving rapidly, so even if you’re familiar with the concept of SEO, there could be a development or two you’ve missed.

Having a firm grasp on the latest SEO methods that are most used today will help you be better prepared to set proper goals, ask all the right questions, and know what to focus on when optimizing your site and content.

person writing and working at laptop

Multiple factors determine good SEO, and search engine algorithms constantly change with little to no warning.  (Image via Unsplash)

2. Prepare for a full site and strategy audit

Before a consultation, many agencies will perform a brief SEO audit of your website. This gives them a clearer idea of where your company currently stands. A typical SEO audit will pinpoint things like:

  • Site structure issues
  • User experience (UX) issues
  • Content gaps
  • On-page and off-site issues

The depth of the audit will depend on a few things, including the size of your business and how much content you have. As a result, depending on how familiar you are with your site’s SEO, you may want to discuss internally with your team ahead of a consultation. 

This way, you can determine things like:

  • How SEO is currently being implemented
  • What SEO processes are currently in place (if any)
  • How SEO is currently being tracked and measured
  • If an SEO audit has ever been conducted in the past

3. Set realistic expectations

Alright: this success secret is a big one:

If an agency tells you they can get you from page 42 of Google to page 1 quickly, run

Sure, best practices can be implemented relatively swiftly, but to see real results? That takes time. The reasons mainly boil down to the fact that multiple factors determine good SEO, and search engine algorithms constantly change with little to no warning. 

As SEMrush reports, SEO often takes anywhere from 6-12 months or so to start showing real results.

There’s no shortcut to building an authoritative brand with high-quality content. You can set measurable goals, but it’s a consistent practice, not a one-and-done task. A good agency will be upfront about that.

Pro tip: While building up SEO takes time, a seasoned SEO agency should be able to offer you a few quick wins right off the bat unless you’re doing everything absolutely right. (In which case, pat yourself on the back!)

4. Ask to see case studies, stats, or testimonials

A good agency will tell you how amazing they are. A great agency will show you, with stats and testimonials to back them up. 

During the vetting process, don’t be afraid to ask about references, case studies, or stats garnered through past SEO work. You can also do your own independent research and check out any public reviews the company has on review sites or its social media pages, for added context.

Interested in how HawkSEM can take your SEO to the next level? Request a consultation here.

open sign

You can get a sense of a company’s values by posing questions like, “What would past clients say about you?” (Image via Unsplash)

5. Understand their values and process

This success secret may not seem as important as the others, but it’s on this list for a reason. Finding an agency with core values that are similar to your own can be a helpful indicator in determining if a partnership will be successful.

In addition to straight-up asking them, you can get a sense of a company’s culture or values by seeing how they talk about themselves on their website and posing questions like, “How do you describe your company in one sentence?” or “What would past clients say about you?”

But just because SEO takes time doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a clear, actionable plan in place. Don’t be afraid to ask for details when it comes to their SEO process. They should have a good roster of specific steps they take. 

Looking to up your SEO game? Check out our guide: 10 Quick Tips to Improve Your SEO Today.

6. Make sure pricing is clear

When partnering with an SEO agency, as in most other business cases, you get what you pay for. That means that if a company promises the moon and stars for a rock-bottom price, it may be too good to be true. 

These agencies often employ “black hat” or shady tactics, which can actually end up hurting your SEO rankings.

When looking at pricing, you want to be clear on what’s included in the SEO agency’s rate. Some may simply optimize your site and content or provide recommendations for your developer and marketing team to carry out. 

Others will take the time to understand your goals, help you create a targeted keyword list, and write optimized content for you. Ideally, they’ll also work closely with you to implement their recommendations.

Pro tip: Communication style is another key thing on which both of your teams should be aligned. Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to how you’ll be communicating (via emails, video calls, Slack, etc.) and how often you’ll be doing check-ins or status updates.

7. Remember: It’s a partnership

Sure, you’re partnering with SEO experts because you want them to take the reins and ensure your business is performing the best it can in search engine rankings. But it’s still a partnership.

The most effective SEO agency partnership will include plenty of involvement on your side — to the benefit of your overall brand.

Once you figure out a solid communication style and cadence, align on goals, and put a strong plan in place, regularly scheduled calls or check-ins are a great way to keep everyone on the same page.

The takeaway

A well-rounded SEO agency can be a game-changer when it comes to growing awareness and exposure for your business. The above tips will help you feel confident when entering into a partnership with an agency.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 18 , 2021

Because the most effective marketing videos keep search engine optimization in mind.

Here you’ll learn:

  • How to SEO factors into video marketing
  • Ways to prime your videos for search engine optimization
  • What technical elements to pay attention to
  • The importance of schema markup and sitemaps for videos

The results are in: Video is one of the top forms of media used in effective content strategies these days.

The rising popularity of videos makes them an integral tool for your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. 

It may seem harder to apply standard SEO tactics to video content. In reality, the approach is simply different. Let’s take a closer look at actionable ways to inject SEO into your video marketing strategy to take full advantage of its benefits.  

women videotaping a group of women

YouTube has an advantage for video SEO since videos uploaded to YouTube are automatically, and almost instantly, indexed in Google search. (Image via Unplash)

1. Add a video transcript

A video transcript is the text version of the words spoken in your video. Adding a transcript to your video allows you to implement standard SEO tactics like keyword placement.

Since search engines can’t crawl videos, transcripts give them an opportunity to index and rank this type of content. Additionally, a video transcript improves user experience (UX), thus keeping visitors on your website longer.

Transcripts also improve accessibility. Even though Google says that accessibility isn’t a ranking factor yet, it may become one in the future (and it’s just good to keep accessibility in mind in the name of equality). 

While creating transcripts, you can break them up and add captions to your video. This way you create extra text for the search engines to crawl.

Pro tip: Don’t have time to type up transcripts yourself? There are softwares and services that can do it for you. Just make sure to double-check the results to make sure everything was transcribed properly.

2. Choose the right hosting option

As a platform, YouTube has an advantage since videos uploaded to YouTube are automatically, and almost instantly, indexed in Google search. However, it’s worth noting that YouTube videos often rank for their instance on YouTube.com instead of the location on your website.

If you decide to host videos on paid platforms (Vimeo, Wistia), you gain more control of your videos like inserting links or CTAs.

Generally, YouTube is the most popular hosting option for SEO efforts. However, if the budget allows, it could also be worth it to at least explore other platforms with potentially higher video quality and more customization options.

Pro tip: If you decide to use different hosting platforms, don’t copy-paste all the metadata. Rather, take this opportunity to diversify the text to improve your chances of ranking for different keywords.

3. Optimize titles and descriptions

Similar to a blog post, videos need title and meta description optimization. If you want the video to rank higher, pay attention to these two elements. They should include keywords that your target audience is searching for. Oh, and as with any content you publish, avoid the black-hat tactic of keyword stuffing.

After all, SEO shouldn’t be your only goal when creating titles and descriptions. While you should aim to put keywords as close to the beginning as possible, focus on how engaging and clickable the text is — that’s going to be what gets you the results you want.  

4. Create a video sitemap

A video sitemap includes information about the video hosted on your webpage. Creating such a sitemap helps Google find, understand, and index video content on your website. It’s especially useful for new video content Google hasn’t had the chance to crawl yet.

Creating a video sitemap allows you to provide a variety of details and create an additional presence on a video.google.com search. You can submit a video sitemap through the Google Search Console the same way you would for any other XML sitemap.

Confused about sitemaps, videos, or digital marketing in general? Let us help.

video editing software on desktop computer

When a thumbnail appears in search results, it’s your best chance to catch the attention of your target audience. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Explore rich snippet SEO for videos

When your website is marked up in such a way that it lets Google know you want to promote a video, the search result appears with a thumbnail of a video. Thumbnails can increase your clickthrough rate (CTR).

To increase the chances of a rich snippet video appearing next to the search results, you need to add the schema markup to the HTML code of your video page. The schema markup is an additional map that helps search engines crawl your page and display it in search results with a video rich snippet.

6. Be strategic about thumbnail quality

When a thumbnail appears in search results, it’s your best chance to catch the attention of your target audience. The best ones are eye-catching, high-quality, and informative. Think of the thumbnail as an ad for your video. 

As a reminder, the thumbnail doesn’t need to be a frame from the video. It can be a separate image designed to attract the searcher.

7. Focus on video quality

While the video quality isn’t necessarily a ranking factor, it does affect the way users interact with your website. If visitors leave after a few seconds of watching your low-quality video, your bounce rate goes up. 

Creating a high-quality video doesn’t mean you have to invest thousands into professional equipment and a production team. It’s more about ensuring the video is easy to watch, carries value, and speaks to your audience.

Pro tip: If you want the search engine to see your video, keep it closer to the top of the page, or “above the fold.”

8. Keep it short

If you want videos to contribute to your SEO efforts, consider keeping them on the shorter side. If your potential audience is pressed for time, they may not be able to watch a long video.

Many people look at the video length before starting to watch it. If they see something longer than 5-10 minutes, they may be more likely to abandon it before clicking the play button.

Of course, if your video is truly valuable, it’s likely to rank high anyway.  However, you may want to consider breaking it down into several short videos. This will also give you an opportunity to use more keywords in titles and descriptions.

The takeaway

Videos continue to rise in popularity for businesses trying to target their audience and grow their reach. It’s easy to see why: They help companies achieve marketing goals from lead generation and conversion to brand awareness. 

Optimizing your video marketing with SEO can boost your marketing efforts and bring more people to your website. As long as you keep rankings in mind when creating videos, implementing SEO into your video marketing strategy shouldn’t be complicated.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 22 , 2021

You want your business to have the best possible reputation online — here’s how to make sure yours is in good standing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What brand reputation management is
  • Why managing your online rep is important
  • How reputation management factors into SEO
  • Expert tips for managing your reputation online

What people say about your business directly affects its success. From online reviews and word of mouth to social media comments, having your business discussed in a positive light is key for maximum lead generation, conversions, and retention.

When people look into your company online for whatever reason, what they find can impact their perception of your business. But while it’s impossible to retain full control over your brand reputation, you can take a consistent approach to managing it.  

Let’s take a closer look at brand reputation management and its importance for search engine optimization (SEO).

businesswomen discussing reputation management

Managing the perception of your company as it appears on SERPs should be part of your overall SEO efforts. (Image via Unsplash)

What is brand reputation management?

Brand reputation management involves monitoring users’ reactions to your business activity online and taking action whenever your brand image needs improvement.

As mentioned above, it’s important to understand that brand reputation is never fully under your control. However, it’s possible to work out a maintenance strategy that keeps your reputation in the best shape possible.

In the digital realm, brand image maintenance revolves around your brand’s reputation on search engines, on social media, and in online reviews. After all, 89% percent of consumers worldwide make the effort to read reviews before buying products. Since online reputation is highly volatile, this strategy requires your consistent attention. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a huge undertaking or take up a significant amount of time.

Reputation management and SEO

Managing the perception of your company as it appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) should be part of your overall SEO efforts.

More than 50% of shoppers go online before making a purchase. The first thing they see when skimming search results can affect their decision. (As a side note, this also goes for potential hires.)

That’s why reviews, links, and content that appear on SERPs or on social media need regular maintenance. Otherwise, no matter how well you design and implement your SEO tactics, you may still get negative results, such as:  

  • Lost organic traffic – Negative reviews often have a direct effect on your organic search traffic. If a poor review comes up when someone searches for your brand or products, they’re bound to keep looking elsewhere.
  • Lost paid search traffic – Even if your ads appear on top of the SERPs, negative reviews can offset their effect. No matter how much time and money you spend on ad design, you won’t get the number of clicks you otherwise would.

Even the most excellent SEO strategy can falter if it constantly has to fight against poor online brand reputation. Focusing on reputation management first can allow you to maximize the efficiency of your SEO campaign.

Reputation management for SEO: Best practices

Here are a few practices you can include in your reputation management strategy for SEO purposes.

1. Respond to reviews and comments

Reputation management involves responding to both positive and negative reviews and comments.

For positive reviews, you thank the customer and express your desire to work with them again. Consider using data you’ve collected while interacting with the consumer to add something personal to the review.

Standard reply: “Thank you! We are so happy to hear from you. Can’t wait to see you again.”

Personalized reply: “Dear Leslie, we are so happy you found the time to leave a review. We hope your dog is enjoying her new leash. Thank you!”

Negative reviews are more complicated, but are just as deserving of a response, if not more so. The key is acknowledging the problem, apologizing professionally, and expressing your willingness to solve the issue.

Ideally, you continue the conversation offline. Once it’s successfully resolved, you can always ask the customer to change or update their review.

Pro tip: When responding to comments or reviews, try to use keywords in your replies when it makes sense.

2. Claim and maintain social media profiles

When a customer looks for a brand, social media profiles often show up in search results. Since social media pages have high domain authority, they’re likely to pop up in top 10 results.

If you still haven’t claimed your social media profiles, now’s the time to do it. Social media profile maintenance is the key to online reputation management. If you don’t monitor them regularly, you could miss the opportunity to address negative feedback. Not only that, but you could lose access to valuable information about your target audience.

pointing to a printed out marketing strategy

The more valuable content you post, the more likely you are to improve your brand reputation online while gaining benefits for your SEO strategy. (Image via Rawpixel)

3. Use Google Alerts

Knowing when your brand is discussed on the web can be highly useful for your reputation management efforts.

Google Alerts notify you every time your brand is mentioned somewhere online. You can also use this tool to track mentions of your competition for competitor analysis.

4. Audit your content

Content marketing stimulates consumer interest in your brand. You need to audit your content to see if any of it is generating negative discussions, comments, or reviews. By analyzing this information, you can make changes to your content marketing plan.

The more valuable content you post, the more likely you are to improve your brand reputation online while gaining benefits for your SEO strategy.

Client testimonials on the HawkSEM homepage

Client testimonials featured on the HawkSEM homepage.

5. Put reviews on your website

Once you’ve shared a glowing review with your team via email or Slack, don’t just let it languish. Use the review to your advantage by including it somewhere on your company website (with permission from the reviewer if you use their name or company). 

Consumers who interact with reviews are 115% more likely to convert, and the more reviews you have, the higher your conversion rates, according to Power Reviews.

The takeaway

Brand reputation management allows you to monitor your company’s online reputation regularly and make appropriate changes in a timely manner. As a result, you could see boosted sales, an improved brand image, client trust, and more.

Your SEO efforts are dependent on your online reputation. By implementing the right management tactics, you can know that your SEO strategy is well-rounded and thorough to boot.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jul 16 , 2021

When paired with strong on-site SEO, off-site SEO can help strengthen your brand’s authority and credibility online. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define off-site SEO
  • What elements fall under this SEO umbrella
  • Red flags to look out for
  • Expert tips on maintaining healthy off-site SEO

There are three main pieces that make up a complete search engine optimization (SEO) strategy: on-site, technical, and off-site. On-site SEO includes things like content. Technical SEO includes alt text, meta descriptions, and site architecture. Then there’s off-site SEO.

Below, HawkSEM Director of Marketing Strategy Maria Smart helps explain everything you need to know about this vital SEO pillar.

What off-site SEO is

Also called off-page SEO, off-site SEO covers all the SEO tactics that take place outside of your own website. (Tactics on your own site are considered on-site SEO, for obvious reasons.) 

As Moz explains, optimizing for off-site ranking factors involves improving search engine and user perception of a site’s popularity, relevance, trustworthiness, and authority.

woman at computer with coffee

There are strategic steps you can take to maintain healthy off-site search engine optimization that shouldn’t consume too much of your time. (Image via Rawpixel)

What elements factor into off-site SEO

Some elements of off-site SEO are things you have a degree of control over. Others may be out of your hands, though you can attempt to influence them. 

As HubSpot explains, this includes but is not limited to things such as:

  • Backlinks
  • Brand building
  • Citation building
  • Content marketing
  • Video marketing (YouTube)
  • Forums
  • Local SEO
  • Review management

How can you help influence good off-site SEO? Maria says that optimizing your citations is a great start. You can’t exactly control reviews published about your company, other than trying to offer the best customer experience possible. But what you can do, particularly with negative reviews, is mitigate, respond, and try to take the conversation offline.

The same goes for social profiles like YouTube and Google My Business pages. It’ll benefit your off-site SEO to clean up any duplicate efforts and know how your profiles look on the search engine results page (SERP).

Pro tip: Consider creating a recurring reminder or calendar alert to stay on top of profiles and check in on them at regular intervals if possible. This way, you can be sure all of your pages have the most up-to-date images, contact info, operating hours, and more.

How off-site SEO benefits your brand

Off-site SEO is an important component of a well-rounded SEO plan. It addresses a host of important ranking factors that Google considers when evaluating your website’s trustworthiness beyond authoritative content and having a technically healthy site. 

Social media signals such as likes and followers can also be considered off-site SEO, as well as guest posting, link building, press releases and the like, Maria adds. Basically, all of these elements come together to help paint a picture of your business in online spaces outside of your website.

Effective ways to maintain good off-site SEO

Luckily, there are strategic steps you can take to maintain healthy off-site search engine optimization that shouldn’t consume too much of your time. 

Here are some ways to keep yours in good standing:

  • Monitor your social presence – Respond to reviews, update profiles, and add new photos when applicable.
  • Join and participate in forums and relevant communities – Find out where consumers in your field are gathering online and having discussions so you can add your own thoughts and connect with potential new customers.
  • Guest post on relevant websites and attempt to garner backlinks in the process – While some experts argue that simply guest-blogging to get a link isn’t efficient, we say it can be worth it in certain circumstances. Just make sure you’re creating highly relevant content that provides actual value for the reader.
  • Link building – Reach out as often as you can to relevant sources to get the placement you want in their articles or on their website.
  • Create and syndicate press releases – Press releases help you promote new solutions, business changes, and industry insights. (They also include a backlink when possible.)
  • Local presence – Be sure to maintain related citations in places like Google My Business and Bing Places.
  • Consider creating infographics – This type of content can be a source of engagement that can be easily shared on social media. To get good links, you need good engaging content, including graphics.

Pro tip: According to Ahrefs, “Google takes into account many off-page factors when deciding if and where to rank web pages. Links are one of those factors, but there are many others. For that reason, it’s challenging to rank on the merit of your content alone.”

woman searching with binoculars in the woods

Off-site SEO is just as important as its on-site and technical counterparts. (Image via Unsplash)

Red flags to keep an eye on

When you’re assessing the current health of your SEO, Maria says there are a few things in particular to look out for. 

These include:

  • Not ranking well for branded terms 
  • A backlink profile that is small and not authoritative or relevant
  • No local presence online
  • Poor social engagement
  • A website with low domain authority
  • Online reviews that are poor, non-existent, or even just unanswered

Off-site SEO is affected by all of these things. Working to take care of these issues can make your business look more authoritative to search engines, since all of these “signals” get calculated into your overall domain authority, whether your company is new or established.

The takeaway

It’s clear that off-site SEO is just as important as its on-site and technical counterparts. The tricky thing is that off-site elements are a bit harder to control. 

However, when you know the best practices and what common missteps to look out for, you can include off-site SEO maintenance in your overall SEO plan and know that you’re being intentional about keeping yours in a good place.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 28 , 2021

Competition is stiff for e-commerce — these SEO strategies can help you rise through the ranks.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The elements of a good e-commerce SEO strategy
  • How to set up your site for SEO success
  • Common e-commerce SEO missteps to avoid
  • The importance of proper tracking and reporting

It comes as no surprise that 2020 was a big year for e-commerce. With people sheltering in place across the globe, they turned to online shopping more than ever before. In fact, more than 2 billion people purchased goods or services online. Not only that, but e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide, according to Statista.

And with an influx of businesses moving and expanding their operations to the digital space, competition also became more fierce. Whether you’re selling a hyper-specific luxury boat motor, a plain white t-shirt, or any of the billions of products in between, good SEO is key when it comes to e-commerce.

Ads can get you in front of the right prospective customers at the right time. And having strong SEO will ensure you also have a steady stream of organic traffic coming your way. Not sure what steps to take? Keep reading.

Start with standard SEO practices

It should come as no surprise that the standard SEO rules also play a big role on e-commerce sites.

These practices include making sure your site is well organized with a sitemap. You also want your site to be easy to navigate and interact with across devices, and secure like any other site. (Google has confirmed that there’s a slight rankings boost for sites serving content over HTTPs vs. HTTP, according to Ahrefs — yet another reason to follow suit.)

Implementing these basic SEO practices into your marketing strategy will help you start your e-commerce SEO off on the right foot and ensure you’ve got the proper framework (literally and figuratively) to build on. 

Find the right keywords

Just as with any other business, digital marketers won’t be surprised to know that the right keyword research strategy is table stakes for strong e-commerce SEO. Focusing on long-tail keywords (along with site performance) is likely going to be the best way to see early wins when it comes to your SEO.

SpyFu explains that you can also conduct keyword research through:

  • starting with Google Keyword Planner
  • using Google Search to see what’s currently ranking organically
  • leveraging a tool (like theirs) for competitor research
  • playing around with Amazon Suggest
  • entering target keywords into Wikipedia to find more related words and phrases

Once you conduct your keyword research (with an eye on things like search volume, relevance, and competition), aim to use it just 3-5 times per page. This will give you the juice you need to start building up page credibility without looking like keyword stuffing. 

It’s also wise to have a few different content silos on your site. With product pages, having content such as blog posts that complement your offerings will help you rank for topical information about the products you’re selling.

woman on e-commerce website

About half of online shoppers start their purchase journeys on search engines. (Image via Rawpixel)

Use relevant product titles & descriptions

Leveraging the proper keywords in your product titles and descriptions should also be a standard practice across your site. Instead of just keyword stuffing (which Google frowns upon), tag your items by categories, accurately title your images, and make sure those images are fast-loading. 

About half of online shoppers start their purchase journeys on search engines, according to a recent Marketing Charts survey. This is all the more reason why you should be thoughtful about your titles and descriptions. 

Don’t just say what a product is — describe what it’s made of, what its purpose is, and how it’ll benefit the buyer. And now that Google Shopping allows products to rank organically, it’s more important than ever to write detailed, thorough product descriptions.

Pro tip: Ensure all of your products have a product schema markup that’s thoroughly filled out for maximum discoverability. Schema is a type of structured data that helps search engines better understand what a page is about. 

Create a Merchant Center account

Something we recommend all online sales brands do is to create a Google Merchant Center account with proper data feeds for the search engine to leverage in its shopping tab on the search engine results page (SERP). 

This is a free feature that helps you organize your content in a way Google favors — and it gives great exposure to new customers with images (unlike search results). 

With the Merchant Center, e-commerce brands can:

  • upload accurate product information
  • reach customers through paid and unpaid channels
  • view reports for your programs linked to Merchant Center

This is also a good feature to take advantage of if you create Google Shopping ads or might want to in the future. 

Pro tip: When creating your Merchant Center account, don’t forget to also opt in to the organic free listings as well.

Ensure your site is properly set up & reported

Many online brands carry tons of products. Because of this, implementing all of these various SEO strategies into each of them can be a timely undertaking. 

Plus, product SEO can be a bit trickier than standard website SEO. For example, you may offer one shirt in four different sizes and 10 colors all on the same product detail page, or PDP. 

You have many more possibilities for canonical URLS (also called canonical tags), which help search engines understand that some pages will have very similar information on them and points to which ones should be given the most value or weight. 

Making sure your site architecture and canonical info are set up properly helps ensure that your monitoring and reporting will be accurate. This is also a good way to set yourself apart from the competition and boost your bottom line. 

Pro tip: We recommend relying on search strings in your URLs, such as “/german-chocolate,” to keep your sitemap organized and easy for search engine bots to understand what a page is about when crawling it. Once you’ve optimized your XML sitemap, you can submit it through Google Search Console to show which URLs are the main ones and pages will have a canonical tag. 

Stay consistent to avoid common errors

When adding new products is a frequent task, making sure they align with the same strategy as your others is key. This is because you want to set things up so each product has a fair chance at performing its best online. 

Consider creating a checklist for adding new products to your site so nothing slips through the cracks. This can include everything from the optimal image sizes and product name formats to the tone of descriptions, URL parameters, and more. This will also make it clearer which items are performing better than others.

Other common SEO missteps that e-commerce brands should avoid include:

  • Poorly organized content that makes navigation or filtering products difficult
  • Out-of-stock items showing up in lists without being able to be filtered out 
  • Not having individual images for different variations offered
  • Not properly making use of IMG tags or metadata at a product level
  • Inconsistent image or video sizes
  • Slow-loading sites
  • Non-responsive sites or limited options by device
  • Unclear return policies

Pro tip: Search Engine Land recently reported that Google Merchant Center’s new “Inaccurate availability” policy may suspend sites that show invalid product availability. The policy is slated to go into effect in September 2021. 

HawkSEM: The E-Commerce SEO Strategy Your Website Needs

It’s key to keep CRO in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. (Image via Rawpixel)

Remember that CRO is part of SEO

Because of the high competition that surrounds many e-commerce brands, your site’s ease of use can really be a make-or-break factor in its success. 

That’s why it’s so key to keep conversation rate optimization (CRO) in mind and consistently test elements like layouts, filters, and images for products, to see which ones result in better performance. 

Ready to take your e-commerce ads to the next level? We can help.

Pop-ups, for example, may not be as effective as banners and may even turn off some users. You can also analyze your site’s performance through the use of heatmap, scrollmap and confetti reports. These reports track your site visitors’ behavior to illustrate where people are gravitating, where they’re bouncing, and more. 

As we’ve discussed before, you can set your site up for maximum CRO by optimizing your checkout process and being mindful of not overwhelming your shoppers with too many options.

The takeaway

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for e-commerce brands to stand out in the saturated online space — that’s why SEO can be such a game-changer. 

The brands that climb the SEO ladder successfully follow best practices like making use of the right keywords, taking note of what audiences do and don’t respond to, and having a consistent listing process. While solid SEO takes time, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for e-commerce businesses that aim to be around (and thriving) for the long haul.

This post has been updated and was originally published in February 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 26 , 2021

Everything you need to know about search engine optimization (SEO)

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define search engine optimization
  • Why SEO is an important part of digital marketing
  • What makes up a good SEO strategy
  • SEO trends worth keeping an eye on

It’s no secret that, in today’s digital marketing landscape, it’s all about the search engine. Whether you rely on organic reach or leverage paid ads, getting on page 1 of the search engine results page (SERP) is always the goal.

But it doesn’t come easy. The algorithm changes often, and new competitors can crop up anytime. Having a site that’s optimized for search engines can be the game-changing factor that helps your brand stand out.

For the full 411 on SEO, let’s dive in.

What is SEO?

The point of SEO is to rank organically for relevant searches to your website without having to pay for ads. As we’ve mentioned before, following SEO best practices helps ensure your site is set up for success. These strategies also add value to your overall brand while showing prospects and users that your company is one they can trust.

One of the most effective SEO methods is to publish well-written, original content that can inform people or answer their questions. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t quite as simple as that. And just having quality content is only scratching the surface. 

What is “the algorithm” and how does it affect SEO?

Google (along with all other search platforms such as Bing) has a search engine algorithm that takes hundreds to thousands of different aspects into consideration when a user enters keywords or a query. 

That’s why, when we say “search engine optimization,” we’re talking about setting up your site to show search engines that your brand is relevant, trustworthy, and legitimate in relation to your industry. 

Paid and organic search results on the SERP for a query about creating a gallery wall

Here’s a look at paid and organic search results on the SERP for a query about creating a gallery wall.

You can learn about the process and guidelines Google adheres to make sure their algorithm “meet high standards of relevance and quality” here. However, search engines keep marketers on their toes by regularly rolling out tweaks and updates without much (or any) advanced notice. 

Since it launched, Google has gone from making only a handful of algorithm updates every now and then to rolling out thousands of changes each year. These updates come with varying levels of impact on the search engine results page, or SERP, according to Search Engine Journal.

Because of this, it’s worth your time to focus on white-hat, long-game SEO techniques rather than trying to game the system through black-hat “quick wins.” The latter may get your site penalized down the line (more on that below). 

Key factors that help determine which results will appear for your query are:

  • Meaning of your query
  • Relevance of web pages
  • Content quality
  • Usability of web pages
  • Context and settings

How Core Web Vitals affect your SEO

In 2021, Google officially rolled out Core Web Vitals. Basically, this is a new set of ranking metrics that take things like speed, responsiveness and visual stability of pages on your site into account. 

As the search engine itself explains, “the Core Web Vitals report shows how your pages perform, based on real world usage data (sometimes called field data).” Core Web Vitals are made up of three specific measurements: Largest Contentful Paint (loading), First Input Delay (interactivity), and Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability). 

Core Web Vitals are graded on a scale of pass, needs improvement, or fail. The way your site scores can impact how you’ll rank on the SERP.

Pro tip: As Google enhances its machine learning capabilities, Search Engine Journal advises marketers to keep “semantic SEO” in mind in 2021. Basically, this means choosing topics relevant to your audience, discerning searcher intent, and making your resource as rich and in-depth as possible.

How to start your SEO off on a clean slate

Whether your site is brand-now or has been around for a decade or more, it’s never too late to put good SEO practices in place. Even if everything looks fine and dandy, websites can have hidden technical SEO errors. These may not appear or be visible to the end user, but Google’s crawlers can detect it in the website’s code. Depending on the issue, this could cause your site to get penalized. 

Put simply: If too many “red flags” exist on a site, Google will value it less than a competitor’s site. Because of this, your site may not rank well despite having original, informative, and high-quality content.

Other issues Google dings your site for include:

  • 404 error pages (aka broken links)
  • Missing or duplicate meta tags
  • Pagination issues (such as too many indexable URLs)
  • Thin content
A 404 error page from Mailchimp

A 404 error page from Mailchimp.

To avoid Google undervaluing your site, making sure it’s “clean” is an important first step. Once you have a solid base to build off of, you can focus on content strategy and creation, links, schema markup, and other optimizations.

This stage can be time-consuming. You may want to look into having your developer crawl the site and conduct a wellness check or getting an SEO audit from a marketing agency.

Pro tip: Use this SEO-friendly website checklist for a quick-and-easy way to see how well your site is set up for organic search engine success.

Building an SEO-friendly website

A website with good SEO tactics in place often starts with proper site architecture. This refers to the way your site is structured, how users navigate it, and the ways pages are reached. The quicker and more straightforward your site navigation, the easier it’ll be for visitors to get the information they’re looking for. 

Whether you’re launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, here are some SEO best practices to keep in mind:

  • Test out new site elements on a staging site before pushing them live
  • Implement redirects along with meta tags to avoid losing any SEO rankings you’ve already built up
  • Update all buttons, logos, and forms 
  • Make sure there’s no duplicate content

SEO through quality content

Whether your business is e-commerce, financial services, or something in between, having well-written content on your site is beneficial for so many reasons. Not only does it strengthen your SEO, but it can educate your audience, show that you’re a thought leader in your industry, and help attract more visitors to your brand. 

When you’re crafting a quality content marketing strategy, key steps include:

  • Fleshing out your personas
  • Defining your voice and tone
  • Determining the keywords you want to cover through content
  • Deciding the best brainstorming, writing, and editing process
  • Prioritizing promotion
  • Regularly analyzing performance

If you want your content to help boost your SEO, it’s important to pay attention to grammar and spelling. One way to think of it is: If an English teacher were to grade your website like a paper, would they give you an A, C, or an F? Google’s algorithm will read your content like an English teacher, and will also grade it (to a degree).

Tips for creating quality content

Once you’ve determined your relevant keywords and search terms, it’s time to work on creating the content. At the beginning of the writing process, think about how your content can answer questions of:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
A content calendar example from a SaaS company

A content calendar example from a SaaS company.

Pro tip: When creating content, avoid keyword stuffing. This practice of over-inserting the keyword you’re trying to rank for is frowned upon. Plus, Google can recognize when someone is clearly mentioning a search term repeatedly and downgrade your ranking.  

Once you feel confident about your content output and strategy, it’s wise to plan on regular content audits. This will allow you to identify old posts, high-performing pieces, and other content-related factors that will impact SEO. 

Search engines favor new, robust content. By continuing to optimize pages, you can benefit from the long history attached to a URL while making sure the info on your site is timely, accurate, and up to date.

What are some stats on SEO?

  • More than 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product via a search on their smartphone.
  • 72% of consumers say search is their first choice to find information on local merchants.
  • Today, more people use search engines to find products or services than any other marketing channel.
  • On average, B2B buyers conduct up to 12 searches before engaging with a brand.
  • Google has more than 92% of the search engine market share worldwide. 
  • 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
  • 50% of search queries are four words or longer.

Metadata

As Moz explains, meta tags provide information about the webpage in its HTML. This info is dubbed “metadata.” While it’s not visible to your readers, it’s key nonetheless. Meta tags live in a page’s source code, and it’s used to tell search engines what a page is all about.

How meta titles and meta descriptions look when creating content in WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin

Here’s how meta titles and meta descriptions look when creating content about performing a site migration in WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin.

Having pages with proper meta tags (which includes a title and description that accurately represent the page’s content) can impact not only the ranking of your page, but your clickthrough rate (CTR) and bounce rates as well. 

When the preview for a page is accurate and lines up with the page’s content, those in search of what you’re offering already have a good idea of what they’re going to get from that particular page.

Pro tip: Make sure your site features an SEO-friendly blog by leveraging internal and external links, posting in an easily readable format, including a descriptive URL, and having designated keywords.

Header tags

No matter how high quality the content or well designed the page, if your site features large blocks of plain text, you’re in danger of having eyes glaze over and people bouncing from your page. Much like the metadata, header tags (the most common being H1, H2, and H3) serve as a kind of outline or table of contents for each page. See that “Header tags” line above? It’s an H3 header tag.

These tags also serve to emphasize what a paragraph or section will be about. This makes it easy for readers to scroll to the parts of your page that particularly interest them. Header tags are also tied to SEO. Search engines can weigh these headings and subheadings more than the paragraph copy in terms of importance. 

If your blog title is H1, your headings are H2, and your subheadings are H3, they’ll be prioritized in that same order when it comes to the search engine. Also worth noting: While header tags extend to H6, most sites stick with H1-H3. 

Pro tip: Another way to get an edge over your competition? Conduct a competitor analysis for SEO. Identify their ranking keywords, analyze their content and website, and check out their Google My Business page. This can help you pinpoint areas of weakness you may be able to capitalize on and more. 

Backlinking

Linking is an incredibly important aspect to cultivating SEO that ranks you well. Having high-quality, highly relevant backlinks (links from another domain to yours) tells search engines that other sites trust yours, so end users probably can as well.

We’ve talked before about how more backlinks (also called inbound links) from credible sites help you rank higher on the SERP. Think of backlinks like endorsements. They’re used to let Google know your site is valuable and legitimate.

You can encourage backlinks to your site by: 

  • Publishing unique statistics, survey data, or other exclusive info
  • Writing guest blogs or being quoted on other credible websites
  • Partnering with influencers in your industry
  • Reaching out directly to sites you want backlinks on

When it comes to reaching out, there’s no magic formula. And, like SEO itself, it takes time. Your best bet, when cold-emailing another brand to request a backlink, is to keep the message short, make it personalized, and highlight the benefit for their site, not yours.

For example, if you find a well-known industry site is using outdated stats or content that you happen to have an up-to-date version of, send it to them and see if they’ll replace the older link.

Disavowing links

Not all backlinks are good, however. Spammy or “toxic” backlinks can lower your site’s domain authority and your rating. In turn, this lowers how trustworthy your site appears. If there are a bunch of spammy sites linking to yours, Google will treat your site as a terrible one as well. Consider it a “guilty by association” mindset.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent low-quality sites from tanking your SEO rep. Disavowing these toxic sites (which tells Google not to associate these links with your website) is key to maintaining a higher standing with Google.

While external linking is important, internal linking shouldn’t be overlooked. Linking from your own pages to other pages on your site is beneficial in Google’s eyes. It can also be helpful to the end user as well (which, really, is a big reason why search engines value internal links).

Pro tip: When it comes to disavowing backlinks, Google warns that this advanced feature should be used with caution. You only want to disavow links that are sure to reflect negatively on your site. “If used incorrectly,” Google explains, “this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results.”

Schema markup, structured data & rich snippets

Schema is a structured data vocabulary created by the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex). Structured data is what helps these search engines better understand and define what a post or page is about. 

This special language can be added to an HTML markup as code to enhance the snippets that appear below your content on the SERP. With schema markup, you can add elements like a publish date, event schedule, or product rating. It can improve your SEO and CTR by adding context to your pages, thus helping you rank better.

Google’s structured data markup helper tool

Google’s structured data markup helper tool.

This additional content is referred to as “rich snippets.” If a normal snippet merely includes the URL, title tag, and meta description, any additional info is considered a rich snippet. 

You can add schema markup to your pages by visiting schema.org, selecting the type of markup that you want to use, and adding the code to your page. If you publish on a site like WordPress, you can add this data via plugins in a snap. Once added, you can test that the structured data was set up properly via Google’s structured data testing tool.

Pro tip: While adding structured data to your pages can boost SEO, adding it doesn’t guarantee that they will show up on the SERP, even if you’ve followed all of the steps correctly. 

What is local SEO?

Local SEO leverages content to answer locally relevant or location-based searches. HubSpot defines local SEO as a way to help businesses “promote their products and services to local prospects and customers. 

To gather information for local search, search engines rely on signals such as local content, social profile pages, links, and citations to provide the most relevant local results to the user.” 

“Near me” searches, or searches based around a local city or region, are extremely popular these days. In fact, 80% of consumers use search for local information. However, location-based searches are treated slightly differently than a standard search. If you own a local business, have a local blog, et cetera, then you’ll want to keep local SEO in mind.

Optimize for Google My Business

One way to do this is by making sure your site is optimized for Google My Business (GMB). This search engine feature aims to show that a business is relevant and authentic. As a bonus, GMB-optimized businesses may show up as a pullout sidebar on the SERP, giving your biz that much more exposure.

How HawkSEM’s Google My Business page looks on the SERP

How HawkSEM’s Google My Business page looks on the SERP.

Optimizing for Google My Business entails:

  • Creating a verified GMB page for your company
  • Garnering authentic online reviews from customers
  • Responding to these reviews using location-based info
  • Using Google Posts in your account (which allow you to share news and messages on your GMB page)

Other ways to optimize for local SEO include publishing location-specific content, adding separate location pages to your site (if your brand has locations in multiple cities), and making sure your NAP (name, address, and phone number) info is consistent and accurate across the web.

Accelerated mobile pages

The majority of searches are now done on mobile devices. In fact, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in the spring of 2018 to take precedence over its traditional desktop index. Because of this, it’s crucial for your SEO to make sure your entire site is mobile friendly

Created by Google and Twitter, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are a critical part of Google’s mobile approach. AMPs feature a more minimalist, stripped-down HTML version of a webpage for quick loading and easy access on mobile devices. 

It’s up to you whether or not AMPs are worth it for your business. While they may receive a favorable ranking on the SERP, these pages often don’t have as many elements or designs as regular pages. 

AMPs don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. That’s why it’s worth it to explore your options when it comes to enhancing your AMP content for Google Search and customizing these pages to fit your needs.

Important metrics

We often get asked what types of metrics or KPIs are most important to keep track of when it comes to SEO. In terms of core KPIs, we generally look at:

  • Organic sessions
  • Organic bounce rate
  • Average page views per session
  • Domain authority/rating
  • The number of keywords or search terms ranking in the top 3 results (above the fold, first page)
  • Keywords or search terms ranking on page 1 (in spaces 1-10)
  • Keywords or search terms ranking in spaces 11-50

The metrics you look at and prioritize will depend on factors like your goals and how long you’ve been actively implementing your SEO strategy.

White hat vs. black hat SEO

“White hat” and “black hat” are SEO techniques marketers can leverage when optimizing a site. Basically, white hat SEO techniques are ethical, Google-approved methods that are looked favorably upon by search engines. White-hat techniques include publishing high-quality content that speaks to a human audience, implementing a long-term SEO strategy, and including alt tags with your images.

Black hat, on the other hand, refers to methods that attempt to trick search engines by making a site appear more legitimate than it is. These common SEO mistakes include keyword stuffing, creating blogs for the sole purpose of generating links to other sites, and hiding “invisible text” in the code of your website in an attempt to game the algorithm.

Black hat methods are frowned upon by search engines. While it’s not against the law to use them, they can get your site flagged for violating guidelines or prevented from appearing in search results entirely. Plus, black hat techniques often result in a poor user experience with your website.

Then there’s “grey hat” SEO. These are SEO methods that, while not currently against search engine guidelines, could become viewed as black hat in the future. This includes posting fake reviews, offering incentives for online reviews, and purchasing expired domains for the sole purpose of linking or redirecting to your site.

Pro tip: Looking for strategies to grow your organic traffic? We’ve got 14 right here. 

How visuals enhance SEO

Speaking of alt tags, visuals are another important part of good site SEO. According to TechCrunch, 82% of all consumer IP traffic will be video in 2021. Not only that, but Search Engine Watch reports that video content has a 41% higher click-through rate than plain text.

If you have the bandwidth and budget, experimenting with video content could end up being what sets you apart from your competition on the SERP. Pages with videos are often visited for longer periods of time, and a longer visiting period can only mean good things when it comes to SEO.

In terms of photos, graphics, and other static imagery, Yoast explains that well-chosen images can complement your content and get you a good ranking in image search results.

“Alt tags” are alternative attributes on an image’s img tag. The purpose of this tag is to describe what the image is portraying, which not only helps the search engine understand the image, but it’s used as context for the visually impaired.

Depending on your website platform, it should be easy to add SEO-enhancing alt tags to your images as well as a title and meta description for your videos.

Pro tip: Videos can also be optimized by choosing an eye-catching thumbnail image, investing in paid ads for promotion, and adding captions.

HawkSEM: Why SEO Should Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Speed doesn’t just matter to users — it also matters to search engines.

Leverage SEO tools

Your search engine optimization maintenance doesn’t have to be a totally do-it-yourself process. Tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools help easily monitor how your site is currently performing on the respective search engines. 

Once you set your site up on these platforms, you can view reports that’ll show you how your search performance is trending and more. They can also illuminate any issues that need fixing, like technical errors on your site that you may not be aware of. 

Why is site speed important for SEO?

Site speed, especially on mobile, is another highly important aspect with regards to SEO. That’s partially because a site that takes even a few seconds to load can cause a significant number of visitors to immediately bounce.

But speed doesn’t just matter to users — it also matters to search engines. Google has been upfront for years about how page speed is a ranking factor for them (though, admittedly, not a hugely significant one). You can test out how speedy your pages are with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. 

The takeaway

Search engine optimization is important when it comes to ranking on the SERP and growing your reach. But, at the end of the day, the goal of a search engine is to connect users with the answers they seek.

As long as you (or your chosen SEO agency) follow the above tips — and have a fast website with high-quality content that’s engaging, unique, current, and helpful — you’ll be well on your way to boasting successful, strong SEO. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Apr 23 , 2021

Want to get more likes, comments and follows? When it comes to your social media, keep SEO tactics in mind. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How SEO translates to better social media profiles
  • Expert tips for optimizing your brand’s social media
  • How keywords play a part in organic social posts
  • Why analyzing your social content is key

As social media becomes more sophisticated (and popular), new features are added to help improve discoverability. For brands and organizations, these add-ons are particularly beneficial.

Whether you post a few times a month or multiple times a day, you want your social profiles to serve as a way to spread the word about your brand, grow your reach, and connect with your target audience. Employing a few common search engine optimization (SEO) principles can help you do just that.

Read on for a few social media SEO principles worth applying to your accounts to grow your reach and improve engagement.

1. Keep keywords in mind

While reports show that social media rarely impacts brand visibility in search engines directly, it’s still a good idea to leverage keywords when you can. Adding certain keywords to your posts can be a game changer when it comes to your discoverability on these platforms.

Instagram recently added their own keyword search tool which, according to Social Media Today, allows you to search posts that use certain words or phrases even if they’re not hashtagged. You can do this through Twitter’s search function as well.

girl outside smiling at phone

There are no end-all be-all rules for how often you should post on each platform. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Make sure all profiles are consistent

If possible, it’s a good idea to have the exact same handle across all of your profiles. This makes your brand look professional and makes it easy for people to find you. If your business name is a common term or the handle is already taken, you can consider adding your business type or city to the end (like @HawkSEMagency or @HawkSEMLosAngeles). 

From there, try to have your profiles follow a similar look and feel, ideally one that also matches your website. Any logos, URLs, addresses, and contact info should be consistent and up to date as well. 

3. Create a social content plan

Don’t have a full-time social media manager? Fear not! You don’t have to build out a super intense social media plan. However, it’s a good idea to at least create a high-level outline for how you plan to post on a regular basis, whether that’s daily, weekly, or a different frequency. As mentioned above, consistency is key.

This can be especially helpful if you’re running multiple social media accounts, as most brands do. There are no end-all be-all rules for how often you should post on each platform. It’ll likely depend on your industry, audience, and bandwidth. However, experts generally suggest posting the most frequently on Twitter (a few times a day, if you can swing it), followed by Facebook (one or two times a day), and then LinkedIn (once every day or two). 

Again, find what works best for you and your team, then keep an eye on engagement rates to see how your audience responds. The last thing you want is to overdo it by posting too much, which can lead to unfollows.

Need more help with your social media or SEO? Let’s make it happen.

4. Leverage tags on social posts when possible

Just like keywords and tagging your content help people and search engines alike understand what your posts are about before reading them, social media tags serve a similar purpose.

While you don’t want to go overboard on the hashtags, they’re a useful tool when people are searching for a certain topic or phrase on all the major social media platforms. When you add a hashtag, either to the post itself or in the comments, it becomes hyperlinked and searchable, which is an easy way to boost your post’s reach. 

5. Optimize your profiles

As we’ve mentioned before, one of the most important things you can do as a business on social media is to fully fill out your profile. The more information you provide, the more context your followers get about what you offer, and the more likely you’ll be found by the right people. 

Take advantage of options like the ability to add a brief bio, URL, and a cover photo. From there, you may be able to optimize further, depending on the platform. For example, Instagram gives users the option to add alt text to their posts. Not only is this a solid SEO tactic, but it makes your post more inclusive to those who are visually impaired. 

casual guy working on social media SEO on computer

Knowing how you’re tracking will help you reach your social media goals faster. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Analyze your social media performance

Don’t waste your time tweeting and hashtagging into the void. Just like with content and other SEO principles, the best way to make use of your profiles (and your social media manager’s time) is by analyzing your posts’ performance. 

Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, take the time to visit the analytics section of your profiles. If you use a third-party posting service like HubSpot, you can see a certain amount of data, but you’ll get the clearest picture by going into each profile directly. From there, you can see how quickly you’re gaining followers, which posts are resonating most, and which platforms are seeing the most engagement.

This is a great opportunity to pivot your strategy. Do you need to pay more attention to your Facebook audience? Interact more in your Twitter replies? Boost a well-performing Instagram photo to get it even more exposure? Knowing how you’re tracking will help you reach your social media goals faster. 

The takeaway

SEO is an integral part of modern digital marketing programs. Social media, it could be argued, is integral as well. 

By being mindful of social media SEO best practices that can translate from your website to your profiles, you can continue to grow your reach, create better posts, keep up with industry trends, and stay ahead of the competition. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Don’t fall for these common misunderstandings surrounding SEO.

Here you’ll find:

  • The most common SEO myths
  • The truth behind these myths
  • How to avoid falling for these misconceptions
  • Expert tips for boosting your SEO

A digital marketing strategy without search engine optimization (SEO) is like trying to kayak with a paddle that only has one fin.

Sure, you may be moving — but you’re probably not going to get where you’re going in a timely, efficient manner.

Experienced marketers know it takes both paid search and strong SEO for your digital marketing plan to function at full capacity. And while there’s plenty of information to be learned about both, there are also plenty of myths, particularly when it comes to SEO. 

Let’s debunk a few of them to get a good idea of what SEO is — and what it isn’t.  

HawkSEM: seo myths blog

The moment you stop implementing SEO tactics, everything you’ve achieved so far starts evaporating. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #1: SEO guarantees top search engine rankings

Truth: While SEO tactics can help you get to the top of organic search engine page results, guarantees simply don’t exist. SEO is only one part of an overall search engine marketing strategy. Without other components like pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, it can be difficult to beat out the competition for the top spots — and even harder to stay there.

On top of that, we know that SEO is an ongoing process. This means it often takes months to show any significant results. Even then, you may not get to the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). However, with the right approach and a well-thought-out strategy, it is certainly possible to achieve high rankings and increase traffic as a result.

Myth #2: Once you achieve desired results, SEO is complete

Truth: The SEO process is a project with no end in sight. What’s more, the moment you stop implementing SEO tactics, everything you’ve achieved so far starts evaporating.

Think of your SEO practice like a muscle you’re exercising. As long as you keep working at it consistently, it stays strong. But once you stop, the muscle mass begins losing strength — often faster than it was gained.

New SEO trends and search engine algorithm updates crop up all the time. Without following them and adjusting your efforts accordingly, it’s nearly impossible to maintain high rankings.

Myth #3: SEO is a “cheating” tactic

Truth: One of the most pervasive SEO myths is that search engine optimization is just a way to cheat Google and get your website on the first page of Google results.

While the practice of SEO is by no means unethical, there are certain “quick-win” tactics people will use to try to leapfrog into higher results. These methods are referred to as black hat SEO, and their efficiency is quickly approaching zero.

Search algorithms are becoming increasingly better at identifying black-hat techniques like keyword stuffing, low-quality content, shady link-building practices, and much more. What’s worse, employing these tricks may get your site penalized or have your pages disappear from results altogether. Basically, it’s not worth the risk. 

Remember, search engine optimization isn’t just about rising through the ranks. It’s more important to make your website a highly valuable resource for your audience through ethical, white hat tactics. These include:

  • Targeting a human audience with content, not search bots
  • Publishing images with alt tags
  • Creating easy navigation through site architecture
  • Following all other suggested search engine guidelines

Myth #4: SEO is cheap

Truth: Scoring big returns with little investment of budget or time is no easy feat in most niches. SEO is no exception. 

Effective search engine optimization requires dedicated, continuous investment. Any solutions offering a high-impact return at a low price point (whether that means dollars or effort) are likely short-lived, ineffective, and often against guidelines.

As mentioned above, it often takes time to see the true effects of your SEO efforts. But by investing the time and money to ensure your site is optimized, your content is high-quality, and your website can be viewed as trustworthy, you’ll be poised to see results that will be worth it.

HawkSEM: seo myths article

Remember the muscle comparison: It’s impossible to get a huge bicep after two workouts — time and consistency are key. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #5: It takes forever to see SEO results

Truth: The time it takes for SEO to start working depends on how you begin. If you already have a well-designed website, a top-notch content plan, and a smart backlink strategy, the effects may become visible in as little as a few weeks.

If you’re starting from scratch, that’s fine! Just manage expectations and understand results won’t be immediate. Remember the muscle comparison: It’s impossible to get a huge bicep after two workouts. Time and consistency are key.

Pro tip: Leveraging low-competition keywords and optimizing your site’s metadata are just a few tactics that can help you see relatively swift SEO results.

Myth #6: SEO is all about keyword search  

Truth: Some people believe SEO boils down to doing a high-quality keyword search and sticking these keywords into the content on their websites.

While keywords and content are important pillars of SEO, they’re hardly the only components of the strategy. Search engine optimization also factors in things like website speed and design, backlinks, mobile-first indexing, social media, security, and much more.

Myth #7: Link schemes boost your ranking

Truth: Engaging in link schemes is another black hat SEO technique. It’s also a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The search engine defines this practice as excessive cross-linking or “requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.”

Sure, this tactic may boost your rankings for a while. But eventually, the search engine will catch on and slap your website with a penalty. Recovering from such a punishment may take months and can negatively impact other parts of your marketing strategy.

It’s worth noting that several legal ways to “buy” links exist. For example, paying a website for posting your content (guest post) with a link inside is perfectly within regulations. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a respectable website that will post poor content, so focus on keeping the quality high, whether the content is published on your site or elsewhere.

Need help creating a myth-free SEO strategy? Let’s chat.

Myth #8: The more backlinks you have, the better

Truth: With backlinks, ignore SEO myths that say that quantity matters more than quality. Google focuses on the authority of the page that links to your website. Links from well-respected websites are much more powerful than links from no-name or spammy sources. The backlink should, of course, also be relevant to the content you’re posting.

SEO experts can devise strategies for garnering high-quality backlinks. While getting them might take time, one high-quality backlink can be more powerful than its 50 low-quality counterparts. 

Myth #9: High-volume keywords are all you need to achieve high rankings

Truth: Of course, you want to snag rankings for those high-volume keywords… and so does everyone else in your industry or niche. That’s why the competition for them is fierce.

If you focus solely on these keywords, you’re more likely to get frustrated and have difficulty rising through the ranks.

Using high-volume keywords is an essential part of a solid SEO strategy, but it’s hardly the only one. Low competition and long-tail keywords could bring you impressive results as well, so try focusing on those. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

hawksem blog: seo myths

Know how to spot SEO myths and misinformation so you know you’re on the right track. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #10: Long content ranks better

Truth: Long content ranks better if it’s valuable. Google doesn’t draw a hard line when it comes to the length of your content — the algorithm cares more about providing search results that are relevant and valuable to searchers.

Aiming for a higher word count just for the sake of it could lead to adding fluff and making your articles downright boring, which may result in a higher bounce rate. 

Pro tip: Though there’s no magic SEO word count you want to hit, it’s wise to avoid publishing thin content. This is defined as “content that has little or no value to the user,” according to Yoast. Google also considers low-quality affiliate pages and those very little or no content as thin content pages.

The takeaway

The practice of search engine optimization is as crucial as it is complex. To understand how it works, you need to be able to see through the common myths.

If you’re trying to implement SEO tactics on your own, you want to be careful with the information you use as guidelines so you know you’re on the right track.

Many SEO myths stem from the lack of knowledge about the latest updates. Staying on top of the current trends and algorithm news can help put you on the path to achieving the results you seek.

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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New website, who dis?

Here, you’ll find:

  • Different types of site migrations
  • Tips for planning a site migration
  • Steps to take during the migration process
  • Common migration missteps to avoid

Whether you’re opting for a more secure site, getting a design refresh, or moving to a new CMS, there are plenty of reasons to take on a site migration. But this project is one that shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

Migrating your site is a technical, multi-step process. A misstep can result in broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant website SEO you’ve worked hard to build.

But before you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry. Jessica Weber, one of our senior SEO & SEM managers, is here to help break down just a few of the big steps to take for a successful site migration.

Different types of site migrations

First things first: It’s important to know that site migration comes in many different forms. For example, a migration from an “http” to “https” URL is completely different from a redesign, which is different from a domain migration. 

The nature of a site migration is often a complicated and technical process. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a detailed plan for how to tackle this project before, during, and after the migration itself.

Other types of site migrations include:

  • Moving to a new domain
  • Changing URLs
  • Updating navigation or architecture
  • Adding mobile functionality  
  • Migrating part of a website
  • Moving to a new host or server
  • Moving to a new CMS or framework
  • Website redesign or template change
HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. (Image via Unsplash)

Before the site migration

Jessica says the “before” stage is the most important phase of a site migration. That’s why our #1 piece of advice for site migration is to plan ahead

One of the first steps you take should be to create a site mapping document. This includes a list of your URL redirects. It works from the old site to the new site to make sure you’re passing all of your site equity onto the new site so you don’t lose it.

Site equity refers to the fact that your old URLS have been around longer and thus have had more time to drum up page authority and traffic. You don’t want to lose that when you migrate your site. Essentially, you want to make sure your new URLs (if applicable) reroute from your old URLs so no pages are lost or dead-end with a 404 error. 

Pro tip: When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. Sites like WordPress can walk you through the creation of production, staging and development environments.

During the site migration

As you migrate your site, be sure to implement your comprehensive list of 301 redirects. Moz explains that, when the new site URLs are different from the old site URLs, 301 redirects “tell search engines to index the new URLs as well as forward any ranking signals from the old URLs to the new ones.”

You need to use permanent 301 redirects if your site migration entails:

  • Moving to or from another domain or subdomain
  • Switching from “http” to “https”
  • Parts of the site being restructured in some way

Next, you’ll want to update all of the canonical tags on your new, old, and other sites, if applicable. If your site has a page that can be accessed via multiple URLs, Google will view this as duplicate content — that’s where canonical tags come in. 

According to Google, the search engine’s bots “will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.” So make sure the canonical URL you’re directing to is the one that already has the most site equity.

Pro tip: Google offers a Change of Address Tool for sites migrating from one domain or subdomain to another. However, this isn’t the tool to use for changing from “http” to “https,” redirecting pages on your site, removing “www” from your domain, or moving without making user-visible URL changes.

Additional steps to take during the migration process

Along with the above, don’t forget to complete this site migration checklist:

  • Update all of the internal links on your sites so that they point to the new URLs.
  • Update all of your tracking codes.
  • Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for your new site (if applicable).
  • Update your XML sitemap (if you don’t have a plug-in that will create it automatically) and submit the sitemap to Google and Bing.
  • Reach out to the owners or editors of any high-value backlinks and ask them to update the link.
  • Update outside links you control, such as Google My Business, social profiles, analytics, and anywhere there are citations, NAP (name, address, phone number) listings, or links back to your site, so they point to the new URLs.

Pro tip: Launch your new site during an “off” or slow period of time, if you can. That way, your team can test out all the live links and address any issues quickly before customers and prospects see them.

HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

There are endless reasons why site owners may see SEO changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. (Image via Unsplash)

After the site migration

Finally, the finish line! Once you’ve successfully moved over your site content, tweaked it all in a staging environment, and followed the steps above, it’s time to launch. 

After your new site is up and running, it’s a good idea to continue monitoring 404s and Google Search Console to make sure everything is tracking properly. You also want to monitor your rankings. If you migrated and, after a few weeks, your rankings aren’t where they were (or better), it’s time to conduct an SEO audit and see what might’ve gone awry.

Looking to up your SEO game? Check out our guide: 10 Quick Tips to Improve Your SEO Today.

How to avoid a drop in SEO after a migration

No matter how thorough you are with your site migration, it’s still possible to see a dip in your SEO performance. Jessica explains that there are endless reasons why site owners may see changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. 

A big part of this is because the Google algorithm is wary of big site changes, so you’ll almost always see a dip after migrating while Google reassesses. If you’re migrating to new URLs, you may also lose some equity through redirection. 

To ensure your SEO suffers as little as possible, avoid these common site migration mistakes:

  • Waiting too long to start the site migration process
  • Launching before you’re ready
  • Not comprehensively redirecting the proper way
  • Not updating canonical tags
  • Deciding to launch new sites that are not as optimized as the old sites
  • Not making a copy of the old site
  • Failing to transfer your disavow file that tells Google which of your backlinks should be ignored
  • Not completing and saving a crawl for reference (you can crawl your site with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb)

Website crawler tools allow you to crawl your websites’ URLs to better analyze and audit your technical and onsite SEO.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional

It’s natural to be overwhelmed by the idea of a site migration. After all, it’s an involved project with a lot of moving parts. While we’ve laid out the main elements of a site migration, much more goes into it along with the above.

If it seems like too much to take on, we suggest consulting an experienced professional who can ensure your migration goes smoothly.

The takeaway

Planning and preparation are the most important phases of a successful site migration. Along with this, it’s key to remember that SEO is part of every page, and it should be one of the first things you consider during a migration. 

Give yourself peace of mind during a site migration by following every step necessary to ensure you don’t lose site equity, and keep a record of everything you do and need to do during the process. (Better yet, consider giving the job to a pro who can work with you to ensure the migration is a success.) Happy launching!

HawkSEM site migration checklist

Want more? Click to download our easy-to-follow site migration checklist.

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 8 , 2020

Make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is primed for success in 2021 and beyond.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Quick wins for optimizing your website
  • The must-have elements of quality content
  • The latest Google developments to leverage
  • SEO best practices & trends to keep an eye on

It’s like the age-old saying goes: An SEO pro’s work is never done. 

…OK, so maybe I made that up, but the sentiment holds true. With the ever-changing algorithm and constant advances in technology, optimizing your website for search engine results is (and should be) an ongoing process.

The good news? Putting these SEO best practices into place now can set you up for success months and years down the road. 

These tactics will ensure you’ve got top-notch SEO and add value to your overall brand while showing prospects and users that your company is one they can trust.

SEO includes both on-page (elements on your own website) and off-page (things like backlinks and social media) optimization. While you have more control over your on-page SEO, there are things you can do for both categories to get your site as much exposure as possible.

Let’s dive in.

HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Think of an SEO audit like a wellness check for your website. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Plan regular SEO audits

Multiple factors go into making sure your site is optimized for the search engine results page (SERP). That’s why it’s a good idea to conduct an SEO audit at least once a year. This process will give you a holistic view of where your SEO currently stands. 

The steps to conducting a thorough SEO audit are:

  • Perform a technical audit using a site-crawler tool
  • See what pages are indexed in search engines
  • Review mobile friendliness
  • Test page speed
  • Analyze on-site user behavior
  • Revisit your personas and audience
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Audit your content strategy
  • Analyze your link profile
  • Review backlink and internal linking strategies

There are other elements of your site that can affect SEO. Things like your domain’s security (especially if people log in or are asked to submit their info on places like landing pages), long-tail keywords, and compressed media files all go into creating top-notch SEO.

A content audit can also help identify topic gaps to fill via new content. Which themes related to your business have you not covered? Which related topics are your competitors outranking you for? 

Often, these chosen topics relate to the products or services your business offers. Narrow them down, then use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to determine the popularity and competition for these keywords.

Pro tip: Want an idea of where you stand before conducting a full SEO audit? You can leverage a website grader tool that’ll instantly tell you how your site’s SEO stacks up.

2. Create (or update) your content strategy

Speaking of content: The best content strategy is one that’s not set in stone. That’s because the more you create content, the more data you can gather, the more topics you can cover, and the more opportunity you have to optimize your site for search engines.

Your content strategy serves as a high-level look at your content goals and how you plan to achieve them. Plus, it’s one of the most effective SEO best practices you can adopt.

Whether you create a doc, a slideshow, or go old-school with pen and paper, your content strategy should include:

  • Goals
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Target personas
  • Tactics
  • Creation process
  • Projects

Your strategy should also include how often you plan to publish content. It’s also wise to have a content creation checklist to ensure each published piece is optimized and consistent before it goes live. 

Optimized content generally features elements like:

  • Subheadings
  • Title tags
  • Internal and external links
  • Meta descriptions
  • Sentences and paragraphs that are easy to digest
  • Images with alt text

3. Embrace video marketing

There are multiple reasons why video marketing belongs in your 2021 strategy. It’s fast becoming a highly effective content too, while serving as a great way to increase page time and boost engagement. HubSpot reports that 88% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI.

Once you’ve mapped out a strategy and created your first video, don’t forget to optimize it. You can optimize your videos by following SEO best practices such as:

  • Choosing an engaging thumbnail image
  • Creating a thoughtful title and meta description
  • Optimizing the page itself that the video is hosted on
  • Investing in paid ads for promotion
  • Including captions or subtitles within your video

4. Prioritize mobile-first indexing

The masterminds at Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in the spring of 2018. Before this, Google was crawling and ranking the desktop version of a website.

Then, in the summer of 2020, Google announced it would enable mobile-first indexing for all sites in search by April 2021. 

So, what does this mean for you? Your site has to look sharp on mobile to rank well. That means no wonky formatting, no slow page loads, and no weird margins that make reading or scrolling nearly impossible.

Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool or do a spot check on your pages by pulling them up on your mobile device to see how they’re responding and rendering. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, it will continue to pull your desktop version, but this leaves you more prone to a sub-par user experience and search engine results page (SERP) ranking.

HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Data also shows that images with descriptive captions perform even better — like, ahem, this one. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Get your site up to speed

Speed remains a vital part of following SEO best practices. Not only is it a factor in Google’s slated 2021 Core Web Vitals ranking rollout, but “a slow-to-load page can be a huge problem for bounce rate,” according to Search Engine Journal.

Images and video are two features that can affect page speed since these tend to be larger files. More — and larger — files mean more HTTP requests, which means more load time. 

Make sure the files you’re uploading aren’t bigger than necessary (they don’t need to be magazine-quality high-res photos to look good on your site). And consider enabling compression, so your files are compressed (aka smaller) and take less time to load.

Enabling browser caching can also help, as this means the page isn’t loading completely from scratch each time it’s visited.

6. Don’t underestimate good visuals

Visuals don’t just catch the reader’s eye — they help bring your content to life. Our in-house experts recommend using at least two images per blog post, whether that means photographs, well-designed graphics, or something else.

But don’t just slap a couple of photos into your copy and call it a day. The images you choose should make sense for the topic you’re covering, and the look should feel in line with your brand, even if you’re using stock imagery.

By now, you probably know what’s coming next: optimizing!

Once you’ve found some high-quality photos and compressed them to the proper size to keep your page speed and formatting on point, make sure to include proper alt text that corresponds to the image. This is what will show up if someone has images disabled on their device, or potentially if they hover their mouse over the image. Data also shows that images with descriptive captions perform even better.

7. Monitor your reviews

Brand sentiment is part of what the algorithm takes into consideration. Because of this, it’s important to keep a close eye on your reviews across your Google My Business profile, Facebook page, and other various sites. 

Negative reviews should be publicly addressed, if possible, as long as the comment seems authentic and not like spam (you should be able to tell the difference). Do what you can to turn this disgruntled customer’s opinion around — it could be as easy as:

  • Offering a refund
  • Getting them on the phone with a customer service rep to sort out an issue
  • Appealing to their emotions and making them feel heard
  • Apologizing for a miscommunication, misunderstanding or mixup (which could result in the person deleting their negative review entirely)

But don’t just respond to the negative reviews — SEO best practices suggest acknowledging and thanking someone for a positive review makes your happy client feel seen and valued. And, as we know, word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools around.

8. Keep featured snippets in mind

Featured snippets are a SERP feature that often show up when someone asks a question in the search box. The snippet result usually includes what the algorithm deems the most relevant answer.

Featured snippets are usually found in the space between paid search ads and ranked results, sometimes accompanied by an image or video. In 2020, Google made a few tweaks to featured snippets. These included testing multiple contextual links (which they later said was unintentional) and, in some cases, taking users straight to the blurb being referenced in the snippet when they click the link (sometimes with the featured text highlighted).  

While there’s no “one weird trick” to snagging a featured snippet, there are a few ways to prime your content for this spot on the SERP, such as:

  • Dating your content
  • Avoiding first-person language
  • Thoroughly answering a “why”-based query
  • Following the format of existing featured snippets
voice search - seo 2021

More than 4 billion voice search devices were used in 2020, and the figure is slated to double by 2024. (Image via Unsplash)

9. Examine your structured data

Structured data, also called Schema markup, is one way search engine bots crawling your site can understand your website content. This is an important part of healthy technical SEO: the better bots understand your content, the better your chances are of ranking in search results.

Schema is a type of vocabulary with tags you can add to the HTML markup of your web pages and emails. One of the biggest benefits to Schema is that it can enhance the snippets that appear below your page title on the SERP. It allows you to add enriching content like a publish date or rating, rather than simply the meta description.

In August 2020, Google announced that its rich results test tool would now support article structured data. According to Search Engine Land, this can help you better pinpoint structured data issues and potentially drive more traffic to your pages.

Pro tip: There are hundreds of Schema types. Those unfamiliar can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to add structured data to their sites.

10. Own and manage your backlinks

Oh, backlinks — one of those SEO best practices that’s as valuable as it is elusive. While there’s no real shortcut to getting quality backlinks, by putting in the work, it’s still possible to begin seeing SEO-boosting results. The first step is to measure up your site’s current backlinks, then compare the results with those of your competitors. 

Sites that will link to your competitors are likely to link to you as well — if your content is optimized, high-quality, and relevant (it’s also a good idea to link to relevant, high-authority sites). When reaching out about backlink opportunities, it’s key to prioritize personalization, show the value you’re offering, and focus on building a relationship with this business vs. asking for a favor out of the blue.

Some ways you can encourage backlinks to your site include:

  • Publishing unique stats, research, or findings
  • Guest blogging on other sites
  • Leveraging industry influencers
  • Reaching out to sites with directories (like a site’s resources page)

While backlinks are important, it’s worth noting that — as SEO experts point out — it’s not necessarily a numbers game. Quality will win over quantity, and backlinks are just one of many ranking factors that search engines take into account.

Pro tip: A study from fall 2020 found that shorter content earns the most backlinks, so keep that in mind when crafting your link-building strategy. 

11. Keep an eye on voice search

The appeal of being able to search without using a screen is understandable — you can get answers and find information while doing other activities like cooking or driving.

The concept isn’t new, but smart-home technology devices have taken the trend to a new level. More than 4 billion voice search devices were used in 2020, and the figure is slated to double by 2024.

Optimizing your site for voice search is a whole ‘nother ball game — but it can be done. Along with ensuring it loads quickly, you can optimize for voice search by:

  • Making sure your site is mobile responsive
  • Including long-tail, natural-sounding keywords
  • Prioritizing featured snippets
  • Keeping copy concise and digestible
  • Having strong local SEO (like a thorough and accurate Google My Business Page)

The takeaway

The algorithm’s goal is to help people find answers and resources they need. By implementing the above SEO best practices, not only will your site become easier to find, but you’ll be able to better connect with users and customers who can benefit from what you have to offer. 

Whether you’re fine-tuning your current strategy or starting from scratch, now is a great time to assess your goals, evaluate your current practices, and implement a stellar SEO plan.

Want even more expert tips to up your SEO game? Let’s chat.

This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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