Tag Archives: SEO

Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 23, 2022

These expert insights can boost your podcast’s SEO rankings, one ep at a time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why more digital marketers are exploring podcast creation
  • The latest podcast facts and stats
  • What podcast SEO is all about
  • Tips for optimizing your podcast

I know there was a time when I could do tasks like washing dishes, folding laundry, and walking the dog without a podcast in my ear, but it seems like a lifetime ago. 

Recently, a coworker recently mentioned she has trouble falling asleep without a podcast playing in her ear. I’m sure she’s not alone. 

Podcasts are quickly becoming a pillar of content marketing for many brands, businesses, and creators. It makes sense: this form of audio content can help support brand awareness, conversion, and retention strategies.

Whether you’ve already started a podcast or are currently in the planning stages, keeping search engine optimization (SEO) in mind will ensure your strategy is well-rounded. What’s more: it’s easier than you might think.

Let’s take a closer look at the importance of podcasts and how they can fit into your SEO strategy.

women discussing podcast seo

Around 155 million Americans over age 12 listen to podcasts. (Image: Unsplash)

The growing trend of podcasts

While the term “podcast” was reportedly created back in 2004, this medium has exploded in popularity over the last 5-10 years. 

One of the main reasons is that more and more of us find ourselves multitasking and pressed for time. Podcasts are a way to be educated, informed, or just entertained while we drive and complete menial to-dos. 

A big part of SEO is keeping your target audience’s wants and needs in mind. So, as a podcast creator, keeping these factors in mind can help inform how you structure or build your podcast.

The latest podcast facts & figures

Here’s a look at a handful of recent podcast statistics:

  • More than 82% of podcast listeners spend 7+ hours a week listening to podcasts.
  • Around 155 million Americans over age 12 listen to podcasts.
  • 48% of monthly podcast listeners in the United States are between 12 and 34 years of age, while 32% are between 35 and 55.
  • In 2021, there were over 2 million active podcasts.
  • 62% of American consumers listen to podcasts.
  • Over the past decade, the percentage of consumers who listen to podcasts nearly doubled.

Podcasts don’t just create an extra touchpoint for your audience. They can help you build brand awareness, credibility, and trustworthiness.

person recording a podcast with a microphone and laptop

The easiest way to improve your podcast SEO is to create a landing page for your podcast. (Image: Unsplash)

What is podcast SEO?

Podcasts fall under the category of audio SEO. Since a podcast is a piece of content, it can contribute to your website’s rankings in the same way a blog can.

Podcasts can help your SEO efforts by:

  • Building relationships 
  • Establishing authority
  • Contributing to keyword implementation
  • Increasing brand awareness

Podcasts can help your ranking more so than something like a webinar because Google now features a podcasts section on the search engine results page (SERP).

Now, let’s dig into a few simple ways to enhance your podcast SEO.

1. Leverage the Google Podcast Manager

Besides allowing you to analyze your podcast’s success through a variety of metrics, Google Podcast Manager can help with your ‘cast SEO. 

Your series may already be on Google Podcasts. Make sure to claim it to gain access to Google Podcast Manager. If it isn’t on Google Podcasts, your podcasts can’t be crawled and indexed.

With this handy tool in your arsenal, you can learn:

  • Which keywords your podcast ranks for
  • When listeners drop off from an episode
  • Which devices your audience listens on
  • What your target audience searches for
  • The relevance of your episodes to your audience’s queries

By using Google Podcast Manager, you’re also submitting your podcast to Google’s directory. This can help it appear across all the available Google platforms, including Search, Assistant, and Home.

2. Create a dedicated podcast landing page

Creating a podcast landing page is one of the most effective ways to improve your podcast SEO. This will make it easier for searchers to find you online, and it gives them a place to land to find out more info.

Having a dedicated podcast webpage (or an entire site, if applicable) also helps crawlers identify this type of content. Meanwhile, you can use the landing page for internal and external linking to boost SEO as well. 

Just make sure the page includes all the necessary info about your podcast, such as the show title, description, available listening/streaming platforms, and ways to share. 

3. Include written content with each ep

To maximize the effect of your podcast SEO, you can create a write-up or blog post that summarizes or dives deeper into each episode. It can revolve around the same subject and contain a link to the audio.

Since podcast episodes are long-form content, adding a synopsis or helpful links (also called “show notes”) to go with each of them can also be helpful to both listeners and searchers.

This is likely to be more beneficial than merely publishing a transcript of each episode. While transcripts are a great accessibility tool, our experience tells us they don’t generally rank super high.

Also, most searchers are unlikely to take the time to read the whole thing vs. searching for a few key takeaways or interesting tidbits.

Pro tip: To further optimize your podcast, include podcast series and episode Schema markup to your landing pages.

two men at a table recording a podcast

Treat your podcast like any piece of valuable content on your website. (Image: Unsplash)

4. Weave in keywords where you can

Ideally, each podcast episode you create should revolve around its own keyword. Your favorite keyword research tools can help you plan for what terms or phrases to focus on in your episodes.

You can implement this keyword in few areas, such as the:

Because of Google’s sophisticated algorithm, when you mention a keyword during your podcast, the episode is more likely to rank for that keyword or phrase. But, as always with content, avoid keyword stuffing.

5. Prioritize promotion

No surprise here: The more effort you put into podcast promotion through different marketing channels, the more likely it is to gain visibility and help your SEO strategy. 

With that in mind, treat your podcast like any piece of valuable content on your website. Some ways to promote it include:

  • Social media
  • Including links in your relevant blog posts
  • In your newsletters or other email marketing
  • Paid ads

As far as where to distribute your podcast, you have a handful of third-party options. Some of the most popular platforms are:

  • YouTube’s video player
  • iTunes
  • Stitcher
  • Soundcloud
  • Spotify
  • Google Play
  • BrightCove
  • Overcast

Pro tip: Request that podcast guests share links to your podcast’s landing page. It never hurts to ask, and they’ll likely want to promote their episode to their friends and followers.

6. Encourage listeners to subscribe and leave reviews

If you’re an avid podcast player, you’ve likely heard hosts ask listeners to rate, review, and subscribe to shows. There’s a good reason for this.

This feedback doesn’t just boost your ‘casts reach, but it can boost your SEO too. Plus, you can leverage these reviews elsewhere, including the homepage, blogs, and social media posts.

The takeaway

The podcast boom doesn’t appear to be turning the volume down anytime soon.

That’s why now’s as good a time as any to throw your hat in the ring by creating your own podcast. They can be an effective method to reach your target audience, improve customer relationships, boost brand awareness, educate, build credibility, and much more.

By implementing the simple tactics above, you can turn each podcast episode into a powerful SEO tool.

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 31, 2022

Here’s what you need to know about this popular search engine optimization (SEO) practice.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How backlinking is defined
  • Why it’s an important part of SEO
  • The latest backlinking best practices
  • Key mistakes to avoid

When it comes to a solid SEO strategy, most digital marketing pros consider high-quality backlinks a key component.

Besides helping to bring your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), backlinks can defend your rankings against Google algorithm updates.

It’s possible to create a robust backlinking portfolio by putting an effective backlinking strategy into place. But what does that look like, exactly? Let’s explore.

chain links

With the right backlinking strategy, it’s possible to obtain significant links from trustworthy websites, and rise through the ranks as a result. (Image: Unsplash)

What is backlinking?

Backlinking is the practice of earning links to your site from other high-quality websites. The more backlinks you have from authoritative, legit websites, the better your site looks to search engines as a result.

Not all backlinks are created equal. Links from popular, high-ranking, and trustworthy websites are valuable. On the other hand, links from low-quality or spammy websites can negatively impact your rankings.

When a high-authority website links back to one of your pages, the authority of your own website goes up. By adding a link to one of your pages, a website essentially vouches for your site. 

The more high-quality backlinks you can obtain, the better your website is likely to rank.

Pro tip: Highly effective backlinks can be tough to earn. However, with the right backlinking strategy, you can score impressive links from trustworthy websites, which will help you rise through the ranks.

Backlinking best practices

While building a backlink strategy can be intimidating, it can pay off in a big way once you put your plan into action. The earlier you start working on it, the faster you can potentially see results. 

Focus on high-quality content

Besides being the foundation of your SEO efforts, top-notch content is also a great backlink generator. By coming up with valuable, accurate, and unique content for your website, you encourage other companies to link to it. 

Search Engine Journal puts it this way: “Without content, there is no reason for a website to be sourcing you (i.e., giving you a backlink).”

Content that attracts links often include things like:

  • Data-driven studies
  • Visual content (infographics, how-to videos)
  • Long-form guides
  • Trend pieces
  • Market research studies

It’s like Kevin Costner’s character says in the ‘80s movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.” Basically, if you create good content, you’ll likely get more traffic organically. 

After all, as Marketing Inside Group explains, “Quality content gives other websites a reason to link to yours and gives visitors a reason to click the links.”

Key elements high-quality link baits often have in common include:

  • An appeal to a wide audience
  • Citation potential (meaning others can link back to your studies, quotes, and stats)
  • The ability to create a strong emotional response
  • Problem-solving and question-answering ability

High-quality articles, blogs, and other content pieces designed for your audience can generate links as well. As long as the content brings value, it has backlinking potential.

Pro tip: Guest posting on high-authority websites allows you to bring your own valuable insight to that site’s target audience. When you establish a relationship with the site’s managers, ensure audiences are aligned, and have something truly beneficial to share, it can be a successful tactic.

two trusting people holding hands outside

Not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. (Image: Unsplash)

Make sure you’re getting the right backlinks

As mentioned above, not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. Backlinks that work the best often:

  • Come from a trustworthy website with high domain authority
  • Contain your target keyword in the anchor text
  • Come from a website that’s at least somehow related to your products, services, or industry
  • Don’t have a “nofollow” tag (when ranking websites, search engines ignore nofollow links)

Pro tip: Keep tabs on your backlink portfolio. Not-so-good links don’t generate the desired results, and their presence can create a false appearance of a good strategy.

Run a backlink analysis

While you may think you have plenty of backlinks, some of them could be hurting your reputation instead of improving it. That’s why it’s wise to take the time to run a backlink analysis of your website. 

Poor links usually come from low-authority sites and link networks. A backlinking analysis can help you identify bad links. 

Once you find them, you can contact the website’s webmaster and ask them to remove the link. If they don’t respond, you can disavow the link.

Want to learn more about backlinking strategies? Let’s chat.

Find “link roundup” opportunities

Link roundups are lists that bloggers compile to give their readers links to the best content related to a certain subject. 

These roundups can be published daily, weekly, or monthly. Up your chances of appearing in one of these roundups by:

  • Creating high-quality content
  • Finding a website in your niche that creates roundups
  • Sourcing exclusive industry data, research, or other findings
  • Pitching your inclusion to the blogger

Often, roundups are the easiest backlink types to acquire.

Pro tip: Looking for more backlink-attracting inspiration? Search Engine Journal recommends creating “statistics content.” These post types can position your brand as a thought leader, encourage sharing, and even perform well on the SERP.

Backlinking mistakes to avoid

Just like all backlinks aren’t created equal, neither are backlink-generating tactics. 

Consider keeping these practices out of your backlinking strategy:

  • Don’t try to generate backlinks by using “black hat” SEO tactics (such as creating numerous profiles specifically to add links to forum signatures or blog comments). 
  • Never try to buy or sell a link. Authority websites don’t sell links, though some websites may charge you for guest posting.
  • Avoid nofollow links.
  • Don’t spend time trying to acquire backlinks from websites that aren’t relevant to your niche.
  • Don’t forget to keep an eye on your existing backlinks. If you suddenly earn dozens of links, for example, it could look suspicious.

Pro tip: Auditing your backlinks is a process that should be part of your regular SEO routine,” according to Search Engine Land.

The takeaway  

If you want to create a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy, backlinking deserves your full attention. 

However, the first step is excellent content, along with off-site optimization opportunities like YouTube, social channels, and local citations

By attracting links from trustworthy websites, you are working towards building your website’s authority and getting closer to the top of the SERPs. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2021.

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 Apr 26, 2022

Want to make sure your site is accessible to all? Keep reading.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What ADA compliance is
  • How ADA compliance relates to SEO
  • Ways to make your site as accessible as possible
  • Which disabilities to consider when looking at your site

Everyone deserves to move freely in the world, both physically and online. 

But the reality is, many spaces in both of these realms simply aren’t accessible to everyone.

Business owners and digital marketers should want every customer and target audience member to feel seen and included. One way to do that is by making your website compliant with guidelines and  accessible by everyone, regardless of ability.

Want to make sure your site meets those standards? We’ll tell you how, with help from HawkSEM SEO Manager Julie Kalita.

woman using wheelchair on a sidewalk

Websites are considered places of public accommodation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. (Image: Unsplash)

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that was passed in 1990. Essentially, it prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability.

There are five sections related to different areas of public life. But “Title III: Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities” states that businesses must make “reasonable modifications” in order to better serve people with disabilities.

Places of public accommodation, as defined by the ADA national network, include:

  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • medical facilities
  • Libraries
  • Public parks
  • Any other place outside of home, school, or work intended for public use

How does the ADA affect websites?

You might be wondering how websites factor in here. After all, each of places above is a physical location. 

Websites are considered places of public accommodation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

This has been the interpretation of the ADA for more than two decades. And it’s become a topic of interest as of late. That’s because ADA lawsuits against websites have gained notoriety in recent years.

For example, the 2019 case of Robles v. Domino’s Pizza Inc. called out the failure of the Domino’s website to be fully accessible to blind and visually-impaired people.

That same year, Connor v. Parkwood Entertainment brought to light beyonce.com’s noncompliance with certain ADA guidelines. These included lack of image alt text, inaccessible menus and navigation, and denial of keyboard access.

The Web Accessibility Initiative organization has laid out a standard for making web content accessible. They’ve dubbed this the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG.

What disabilities should I consider when it comes to my website?

Creative director for Havas Germany’s creative director Michael Schoepf created the app called Staybl. It adjusts browsers for people with tremors due to conditions like Parkinson’s. (Shortly after, his mother was diagnosed with the disease.)

And in late 2021, Mastercard debuted a new design “meant to make life easier for visually impaired users,” according to NPR.

Of course, there are myriad disabilities that affect people in different ways. This includes how they navigate online spaces.

Some of the main disabilities to keep in mind when you’re ensuring your site is ADA compliant are:

  • Visual impairment – including total blindness, tunnel vision, central loss vision, low vision, and color blindness
  • Hearing impairment – including deafness and hard of hearing
  • Physical impairments – differently-abled people may need to use different devices to type
  • Cognitive impairments – people who have seizures and other forms of cognitive disabilities 
woman wearing glasses and using laptop

Google’s algorithm update history shows the search engine is prioritizing access and the user experience more and more. (Image: Unsplash)

Why do ADA-compliant websites matter for SEO?

The answer here should be obvious. Brands should want their websites to be fully accessible to all users.

Not only that, but ensuring your site is accessible helps you avoid legal issues related to lack of compliance, such as the cases mentioned above. Fortunately, following the latest SEO best practices will help you cover most bases in terms of compliance. This includes:

  • Title tags
  • Image alt text and captions
  • headings
  • Linked anchor text
  • Schema markup
  • Responsive design
  • Video captions and transcriptions
  • Intuitive navigation
  • Easy readability 

Lastly, Google’s algorithm update history shows the search engine is prioritizing access and the user experience more and more. This implies that these two factors will continue to grow in importance as new updates continue to be released.

Pro tip: Making sites available on all devices, more stable and accessible, and faster loading is the way to win with Google. While ADA compliance isn’t technically a current ranking factor, it stands to reason that Google will continue favoring compliant websites. 

ADA-compliant website best practices

It’s always a good time to ensure your website is as accessible as possible. But it’s natural for the prospect to feel overwhelming. It can also be hard to know where to begin.

Luckily, the WCAG principles are organized into four main guidelines. These are: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, or POUR. 

  • Perceivable – all information on a website should be presented in a way that all users can perceive by at least one of their senses 
  • Operable – all users must be able to interact with and navigate each component of a site successfully
  • Understandable – all of the information and interfaces on a website should be understandable for any user
  • Robust – websites should able to be accessed and interpreted by a variety of technologies and platforms

While the full guidelines are extensive, they can basically be broken out into two groups. One is adding a website accessibility interface. Two is tagging images and elements for assistive devices, such as screen readers and keyword navigation compatibility.

Features that will make a site more accessible include:

  • ADHD-friendly functions that reduce distractions and allow individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders to ingest website content more easily
  • Visually impaired functions that allow for larger text, contrast, and careful use of colors
  • Cognitive disability functions that help users with cognitive disabilities like autism and dyslexia focus and understand important website elements

You can use a free tool like Accessibility Checker to see where your site currently stands.

Prop tip: There are three different levels of compliance: Level A (some users can access), Level AA (almost all users can access), and Level AAA (all users can access). It’s recommended that most organizations meet at least Level AA for compliance.

The takeaway

Having company values around diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility is one thing. Acting on them is another.

By taking the time to prioritize ADA compliance and accessibility when it comes to your website, you’re ensuring your company is inclusive, while also making those with various abilities feel seen and heard. 

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 Mar 23, 2022

An SEO audit can help you rank high on search engine results pages, which could mean increased traffic, brand awareness, conversions & more.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The steps to conducting an SEO audit
  • Why an SEO audit is important for your site
  • The tools that’ll help you audit your site
  • Common SEO missteps to avoid

Google and other search engines are a huge source of opportunity for businesses.

By understanding SEO best practices, how search engines work, and the ways your customers use them, you can use search engine optimization to attract, engage, and convert your audience. 

Having a site with strong SEO is key, since 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines. The core of an effective SEO strategy is about improving your rankings and trying to appear on page one.

Conducting an SEO audit helps you pinpoint missing parts or areas of improvement in your current strategy. It also gives you a helpful framework you can refer to down the line to ensure you’re doing everything you can to rank as highly as possible in organic search results.

The three pillars of an effective SEO audit strategy are on-site structure, content, and your link profile. What do all of those terms mean? Keep reading to find out.

two people discussing an SEO audit

Semrush gives users a high-level overview of errors (which are more serious issues), warnings (which should be addressed but aren’t as pressing), and notices (which are mostly for awareness). (Image: Rawpixel)

On-site structure

Because Google crawls millions of web pages per day, a clean on-site structure is crucial to any SEO strategy. On-site structure refers to:

  • Technical issues
  • Mobile performance
  • Page speed
  • User behavior

Not having the proper structure in place can seriously hinder your ability to rank on page one. For example, users will get frustrated and leave your site without taking action if it doesn’t load fast enough. Let’s dig into the elements of on-site structure.

Perform a technical audit

There are a handful of different tools out there to help audit your site and uncover any technical issues that might be going on during your SEO audit. 

For example, Semrush gives users a high-level overview of errors (which are more serious issues), warnings (which should be addressed but aren’t as pressing), and notices (which are mostly for awareness).

When you run a site crawl, there are dozens of technical issues these tools are looking for, such as:

SEO audit - technical errors

But don’t be alarmed! If the technical jargon overwhelms or confuses you, working with an SEO expert and a web development team can do wonders to ease your mind. After all, they use this type of language every day and know how to address and correct these issues.

Pro tip: Crawling your site for technical issues isn’t a one-and-done exercise. This is something that you should do regularly (ideally once a month or more depending on the size of your site). After all, new issues can pop up anytime.

Check indexed pages

Once you run a technical crawl, a good next step is to check and see what pages are indexed in search engines. As Google explains, a page is “indexed” if it has been visited by the search engine’s crawler, analyzed for content and meaning, and stored in the search engine’s index. 

To check indexed pages, head to the search engine, then type “site:” and your domain into the query box. The below example shows this for our site, hawksem.com

hawksem on google serp

This allows you to see if there are pages that shouldn’t be indexed because you don’t want users visiting them. For example, development or staging pages from a site redesign should be removed immediately.

You also most likely don’t want landing pages solely used for paid efforts to be indexed. (To “deindex” a page quickly, you can leverage a tool like Google’s Remove URLs Tool.) 

You should also ensure these pages contain a “noindex” tag, so Google crawlers know not to index that page in the future.

On the other hand, you could have pages that are missing from the index and miss out on a huge portion of traffic. If for some reason the crawlers aren’t getting to your blog content, you want to look into why it’s not crawling and indexing as it should be.

Review mobile-friendliness

Mobile accounts for more than 60% of all Google searches. This means more than half of us search on our phones. 

Not only are people using mobile more frequently but, as of 2018, Google crawls the mobile version of a site first. 

You’ll have a hard time ranking well if your mobile site isn’t fast and easy to navigate. Even if most of your website traffic is currently coming from desktop users, it’s still extremely important to pay attention to your mobile site and mobile experience.

To know if your site is mobile-friendly, you can use a tool like the Google Mobile Friendly Test. If results show your site has issues, the tool will give you suggestions for how to fix them and improve the mobile experience.

Pro tip: It used to be a best practice to have your regular site and your mobile site be separate, perhaps with a different or modified URL. That’s not the case anymore. Ideally, you want a website that’s responsive to all devices and sizes (since device sizes can vary).

Test page speed

Some people think mobile-friendliness and page speed are tied together. But though they’re closely related, page speed is a separate (but equally important) ranking factor. 

And if a site seems sluggish, visitors are more likely to bounce and seek out another site that will give them the information they’re looking for in a flash. A 2020 study found that even a small fraction of a second has an impact on users.

Resources like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and HubSpot’s Website Grader will tell you your average load speed. They also offer recommendations and more information to help improve this metric.

Analyze on-site user behavior

Google Analytics is one of the most important tools to measure your organic traffic and engagement during an SEO audit. It can reveal huge amounts of data to measure things like user behavior, site flow, and more. 

analyze user behavior in google analytics

In the Audience Overview section of Google Analytics, you can segment traffic by organic only. Then, you can see how many users and sessions organic traffic drove over a certain time period. It’s also possible to segment all organic traffic, which includes other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and more, vs. just Google traffic. 

You can also view engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. This can help determine how engaging your content and website design are for users.

Don’t panic if the bounce rate looks high or your average session duration looks low! It’s all about looking at this in context. If users are bouncing but spending two minutes on your page, it means they’re likely reading the content but not taking further action like clicking to another page. 

The homepage is usually the top driver of traffic. It typically has the most backlinks and ranks for branded terms, so this is to be expected. 

Your goal should be to get more traffic to some of these internal pages instead. This way, users get to the content they’re searching for as quickly as possible and don’t have to land on your homepage and navigate to it.

Focus your content strategy

Once you’ve identified crawling or technical issues and reviewed how users are behaving on your site, you can move on to content strategy

Your site’s content has a huge impact on your ability to rank well in search engines. It also affects how your users navigate your site.

Determine your personas & audience

When defining your content strategy, the first step is to understand who your audiences are through personas. Ideal client personas help you understand your audience in-depth: their goals, pain points, and what they’re looking for. 

Once you understand your audience, you can appropriately write content that meets their needs.

The No. 1 rule of content writing for the web is to write for the user, not search engines. Google’s goal when ranking pages is to give the user the most informative results that will answer their question or query. Satisfying that requirement is what’s going to help you rank. 

Pro tip: When developing a content strategy, don’t forget about video and images. These types of content are super engaging and can be shared on social media as well. 

Conduct keyword research

Keyword research is crucial to understanding what keywords your target audience is typing into search engines. Ideally, you want to use your content to answer these queries as thoroughly as possible. 

organic keywords trend report

The Semrush example graph above illustrates how a website has ranked over time. Semrush is a great tool to use for this part of your SEO audit because it also shows where Google algorithm updates happened, which may have affected performance. 

You can also add notes in Google Analytics (called annotations) to be able to quickly reference historical changes, like a site redesign, and identify patterns. 

Next, you want to dig into which keywords you’re currently ranking for and which pages are ranking for those queries. Perhaps the most important place to check your current keyword rankings is Google Search Console

You can also view how many impressions you’re getting for certain keywords, the average position, and what your click-through rate (CTR) is for those keywords.

After analyzing your list of keywords you’re ranking for, tools like Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs can show you the search volume, competition, and related keywords for the terms that are worth targeting. 

One of the best ways to find keywords and related questions is by doing your own search engine query and seeing what comes up. You can review SERP features like “People also ask,” Featured Snippets, and the related searches at the bottom of the results page as well.

Pro tip: Don’t forget long-tail keywords. There can be significant volume on keywords with four or more words. Plus, competition is generally lower for these terms vs. more broad terms.

Audit your content strategy

Once you’ve done the keyword research and determined what pages are ranking and which are not, the next step is to conduct a content marketing SEO audit. 

A content audit can help uncover pages that could be hindering your performance and opportunities to revitalize and improve existing content.

  • Pull a list of all blog URLs on your website into a spreadsheet (Hint: you can use the site search method discussed earlier, or your sitemap)
  • Use Google Analytics to see how many site visits each page has had over the past six months, and use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to see how many backlinks it has (this process will take quite a bit of time, depending on the number of pages on your site)
  • Identify pages with “thin content” that don’t satisfy user intent — the exception to this would be press releases or event pages, which are naturally going to be shorter pages
  • Look for any posts that have duplicate content or topics and decide if they should be combined into one long-form pillar post or removed from your site
  • Identify posts with outdated content and make a plan to update that content as needed — it helps to keep a running list if posts need to be updated on a regular basis
  • Repeat! (Ideally, on an annual or bi-annual basis)

For more on this topic, check out our webinar recording, SEO Audit 101: Take Your SEO from So-So to Stellar

Analyze your link profile

When you’re reviewing your link profile during an SEO audit, you want to focus on backlink analysis, disavowing spam links, and internal linking. 

Many digital marketers have a love-hate relationship with backlinks, because getting quality backlinks (which are links to your site that originate on another credible website) can be a difficult and tedious process. But it’s an important part of your SEO.

The first step in a backlink audit is to use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to download a list of your existing backlinks. From there, you should review and assess each individual link to determine its quality. Depending on how many links you have, this could be a long process, but we promise it’s worthwhile. 

While each tool has a different way to assess link equity, like Domain Authority vs. Domain Rating, it’s worth noting that Google has its own proprietary way to measure link equity.

Remember, these metrics don’t mean anything in a bubble. They’re mostly helpful when comparing your site to competitors and others ranking for your keywords. Pick whichever tool you feel comfortable with and use those metrics to measure the quality of a specific link or website.

Consider if you need to disavow any backlinks

Don’t immediately disavow a link just because one of these tools says it has lower Domain Authority or Domain Rating than yours. Relevancy is more important than these metrics.

To assess link quality during your SEO audit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site seem completely irrelevant to your industry? 
  • Are there a significant amount of ads? 
  • Does the website feature “unsavory” content? 
  • Is the anchor text clearly spamming to get keywords into the link? 

If there’s a link you don’t actually want associated with your site, you can disavow it, which tells Google to ignore that link. This tool should only be used if you’re highly confident the links could be hurting your ability to rank, otherwise you can drastically harm your SEO efforts.

Pro tip: Don’t pay to have your site listed somewhere for the purposes of increasing backlinks. You’ll almost definitely get caught and penalized. It’s not worth the short-term gains it might bring, so focus on links gained naturally by creating valuable content.

Review your internal linking strategy

Internal links (links on your site that link to other pages on your site) are often overlooked but are just as important as your backlinks. It’s difficult to control which sites are linking to you and what anchor text they use, but you have full control over internal links.

Make sure the internal links you add to your content are relevant. Links higher up on the page are crawled first and are therefore considered most important to Google.

You should also use external links to relevant, authoritative sources to help Google understand your website is legitimate. However, you want to use an internal link over an external link as much as possible.

There are some common mistakes you want to avoid when it comes to internal linking, such as:

  • Using generic phrases in anchor text like “click here” or “learn more”
  • Excessive linking via images instead of text (though it’s OK to link via images occasionally, text links are preferred)
  • Linking to your homepage — this is almost certainly your highest authority page already and doesn’t provide any use for the user, who could just click on your logo to go back to the homepage

The takeaway

A deep-dive SEO audit like the one described above takes time, effort, and dedication, but the knowledge and insight you’ll get in return are immeasurable. 

By getting familiar with these tools, following these best practices, and committing to regular SEO audits, you’ll start to see your organic rankings climb — and what’s a better feeling than that?

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 Mar 2, 2022

Search engine optimization is a key part of a well-rounded digital marketing program — but most of the time, SEO takes time to show significant results.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why proper SEO is a long game
  • Ways to manage expectations when it comes to SEO
  • Why SEO is still key for a well-rounded marketing strategy
  • The “quick wins” that may boost your SEO faster

Instagram, Instacart, Instant Pot – we all want things to happen ASAP.

But, as it turns out, “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” isn’t exactly a realistic expectation — particularly for search engine optimization (SEO). 

When done right, SEO takes time to build. And any team or agency that tells you differently is probably setting you up for disappointment. 

Here, our Client Success Manager Taylor Wills and Lead Strategist Charlotte Soto break down why, even though proper SEO takes time and often doesn’t bring instant results, it’s still well worth the investment.

People renovating the house concept

Proper SEO is like proper home construction — you need a strong foundation to build on. (Image: Rawpixel)

Starting to invest in SEO

If you’re at the beginning of your journey investing in SEO, chances are your site’s UX and SEO functionalities need to be built. 

Think of it the way a new home is constructed: before the bells and whistles can be added (like doors and a roof), the home’s foundation needs to be sturdy. 

Creating a sturdy foundation is often a multi-step process that includes:

  • Disavowing toxic links
  • Assessing Core Web Vitals and site speed
  • Laying out an SEO strategy
  • Trying to build trust in the eyes of Google

Even if you’ve worked with an SEO agency in the past, it’s still a good idea to have an in-depth competitor insight audit conducted. Before a new agency or team can tackle technical items or content audits, they first have to look “under the hood,” so to speak, to make informed decisions. 

Before things like revamping meta descriptions and title tags, creating content, links, and other tasks, they’ll likely want to see what’s trending for your industry, what competitors are showing for, and understand the alignment of your brand’s target persona. 

All these elements work together to create slow but steady growth. Especially when organic search gets the lion’s share of clicks, the approach has to be well-thought out and represent the brand accurately. 

SEO vs. PPC timelines

When it comes to pay-per-click (also called PPC or paid search) marketing, you can more easily convince Google to surface your ad for certain keywords. You can do this through your ad copy, bidding strategy, and keyword choice. 

With SEO, it’s more of a waiting game — with constantly changing rules. Essentially, with SEO you have to wait for Google to notice that your content is relevant to a certain keyword. With PPC, you can pay to be relevant.

Think of it like a school dance: two people have equal dancing skills. PPC is cutting a rug out on the floor to prove they’ve got talent, while SEO is sitting on the bleachers, waiting to be chosen. 

Pro tip: SEO isn’t just about the elements of your actual website — off-site SEO matters too.

How to manage SEO timetable expectations

Once your agency or in-house team has decided to start an SEO project, it’s key to manage expectations. Experience tells us that it usually takes at least two-to-three months to see any significant progress with SEO. 

The good news: Once you have a strong SEO presence, it’s easier to maintain. Not only that, but it can benefit your overall digital marketing efforts in a huge way. 

These benefits include:

Another way to manage expectations is by having your marketing team assess competitor profiles to see what’s achievable. This process can answer questions like:

  • How much are other companies investing in backlink profiles? 
  • What are their average monthly content outputs? 
  • What’s the history of the domain? 
  • What’s the keyword difficulty of desired terms? 
  • Is your monthly budget realistic to meet your goals?

Need more help improving your SEO? You’ve come to the right place.

African american female empowering other colleagues in workplace

Even if you’re outsourcing the content on your site, it’s important to work with your marketing team to keep the lines of communication open. (Image: Rawpixel)

SEO “quick wins”

There’s no secret trick to skyrocket your content to the first page of Google results. However, there is certain low-hanging fruit that SEO pros can go after right off the bat. 

Things like improving site speed, website experience, and gaining rankings for keywords just out of reach are all examples of immediate short-term gains. It’s possible to see these results within a few months.

It’s also wise to go after local SEO wins. If you’ve got a physical business location, make sure you’ve claimed your Google Business Profile and publish posts on your profile when you can. Google tends to reward companies that use their platforms. 

It can also help to tackle low-competition keywords first before going after those highly sought-after industry terms. This way, Google can start understanding that you’re an authority in your respective space. 

And don’t forget to share your content on social media platforms. There’s a strong correlation between social engagement and organic rankings

Pro tip: Don’t have Schema markup on your site? Implementing it could result in a few fast wins.

Collaboration aids in SEO

Content is collaborative. Even if you’re outsourcing the content on your site, it’s important to work with your marketing team to keep the lines of communication open. 

You know your business best, and marketers know what it takes to get content to perform on the SERP. By working together, you can publish content that speaks to your audience, is high-quality, and that’s primed for maximum search engine success.

The takeaway

No matter how you slice it, SEO takes time to build. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and, as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. (The race to the top of the SERP, that is.) 

Create a strong foundation, have realistic expectations, and set up a well-rounded SEO strategy that takes onsite and off-site factors into account. From there, you’ll be ready to see long-term SEO success for months and years to come.

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 Feb 21, 2022

Is your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy primed for success in 2022 and beyond?

Here, you’ll find:

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

It’s like the classic 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 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 a top-notch site and add value to your overall brand. They’ll also show prospects and users that your company is one they can trust.

A well-rounded SEO plan includes both on-site (elements on your own website) and off-site (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 are factors as well.

A content audit can also help identify topic gaps to fill. Which themes related to your business have you not covered? Which related keywords 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 use a website grader tool that’ll instantly tell you how your site’s SEO stacks up.

2. Create (or update) your content strategy

The more content you create, the more data you can gather, the more topics you can cover, and the more opportunities 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

Pro tip: Stay organized with a content marketing calendar that includes details about published pieces and those you want to publish in the future.

3. Embrace video marketing

There are plenty of reasons why video belongs in your marketing strategy. It’s fast becoming a highly effective content tool. Plus, it serves as a great way to increase page time and boost engagement. 

HubSpot reports that 87% of marketers say 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 maximize your video success with SEO best practices including:

  • Choose an engaging thumbnail image
  • Create a thoughtful title and meta description
  • Optimize the page itself that the video is hosted on
  • Explore paid ad options for promotion
  • Include captions or subtitles within your video

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to create a YouTube channel to host your videos. YouTube is a (free) Google product, which means these videos often perform well in the search engine’s algorithm.

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.

If your website was published after July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing is enabled by default, according to Search Engine Journal.

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.

You can 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 recently released Core Web Vitals ranking metrics, but a slow-loading page can lead to a high bounce rate.

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 also 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 better.

7. Monitor your reviews

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

Types of featured snippets include:

  • Video 
  • Table
  • List
  • Paragraph

In recent years, Google has made some tweaks to featured snippets. These include, 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

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

voice search - seo 2021

The algorithm’s goal is to help people find answers and resources they need. (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 Schema’s biggest benefits 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.

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.

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.

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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Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 11, 2022

Is your YouTube channel optimized for search engines? Follow these steps to get your video marketing the maximum reach possible.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to build out your YouTube channel
  • Why YouTube SEO matters
  • Ways to improve your videos’ accessibility
  • Tips for growing your YouTube subscribers

Videos can be a highly beneficial component to add to your digital marketing arsenal. 

Not only is this type of content an effective way to engage your audience, but it allows you to get your brand’s message across in a way that’s widely accessible.

Video marketing has exploded in popularity in the last few years, and it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.

If you’re going to take the time and energy to invest in video creation, it makes sense that you’d want them to get as many views as possible. That’s where having a YouTube channel comes in. 

Because YouTube is a (free) Google product, it tends to perform well in the search engine’s algorithm. This means your videos have a better chance of showing up in search results — especially if you’ve got the right search engine optimization (SEO) practices in place.

Here are a few easy ways to prime your YouTube SEO for search engine results page (SERP) success.

YouTube SEO tips

Create and upload a 30-60 second channel trailer as an added way to make a great first impression when someone lands on your YouTube page. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Customize your URL

Customizing your YouTube URL is a great way to more easily share your page while also adding legitimacy to your channel. Per Google, to be eligible for a custom URL, your channel must have:

  • At least 100 subscribers
  • Been created at least 30 days ago
  • A proper profile picture
  • A banner image

Once you’re eligible, you can create your custom URL via your basic info setting, an email notification, or a notification in your channel’s dashboard. For best results, make sure the URL accurately reflects your business and is easy to remember. 

Once created, your URL will render as youtube.com/yourcustomizedname or youtube.com/c/yourcustomizedname.

Pro tip: Create and upload a 30-60 second channel trailer as an added way to make a great first impression when someone lands on your YouTube page.

2. Complete your About section

When it comes to solid YouTube SEO, it’s crucial to use every available feature to provide added context about your page. To do that, be sure to complete the About page on your YouTube channel and add in essential info about your business. 

Only the first 48 characters of your About section will show in search results, so describing yourself in concise detail with relevant keywords can increase on-page search visibility. 

Pro tip: Select a thumbnail and main banner for your channel that feels like an extension of your website through elements like the images or color scheme.

3. Give videos keyword-rich titles and descriptions

Once your page is set up, ensure that your uploading process always includes adding in keyword-rich titles and descriptions for each video. It’s also wise to rename your raw video files using a target keyword before uploading to the platform. 

Keeping your title at 60 characters or less will prevent it from getting cut off in results pages.

While descriptions can be up to 5,000 characters, only about 100 will display under the video before a “Read more…” option is prompted. Because of this, it’s important to get the main points across at the beginning of the description, along with a call to action (CTA) if applicable.

You can also create transcriptions for all of your videos and add them to the description section. Text transcriptions will likely target keywords naturally. This can be helpful for crawlers to better understand the content of the video. 

Pro tip: Tagging videos with relevant keywords is another way to tell YouTube what your content is all about.

4. Customize video thumbnails

Customizing your video thumbnails will help your videos stand out. It’s also a way to make your overall page look professional and thorough. You can customize thumbnails with elements such as:

  • Banners
  • Dynamic, on-brand colors
  • Optimized thumbnail text
  • Unique title cards

If you don’t customize thumbnails, the YouTube platform will often randomly select a still from your video, which could potentially make your channel look less cohesive.

Need more SEO help? You’ve come to the right place.

mobile video for YouTube

If you do add videos to your website, make sure they’re marked up with Schema tags for video. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Create playlists to enhance watch time

When someone chooses to watch a video from a playlist, the videos in the playlist will auto-play one after the other, rather than the viewer having to select each video individually. 

Threading together multiple videos on similar subjects into playlists drives up watch time, which is YouTube’s top-ranking factor. 

Search Engine Journal reports that YouTube ranking factors fall under the categories of:

  • Relevance
  • Engagement
  • Quality
  • Personalization

Depending on your videos and industry, you could create playlists for your webinars, client testimonials, how-tos, or frequently asked questions.

Pro tip: In January 2021, YouTube launched new hashtag search results pages. This means that, when viewers search for a specific hashtag on YouTube via desktop or the mobile app, they’ll see a dedicated page containing videos with that hashtag.

6. Grow your subscribers

You can work towards improved YouTube SEO by focusing on growing your channel’s subscriber base. Embedding videos in emails and onto your website (such as on landing pages and your blog) is a great way to start getting your channel more exposure.

You can create a blog post for each video to help promote it, or cross-promote your videos and channel through e-books, webinars, presentations, and lead magnets.

If you do add videos to your website, make sure they’re marked up with Schema tags for video. This can also help videos perform better in search results. Google Search Console reports on video Schema, which can be helpful for gathering insights.

Pro tip: Encouraging viewers to interact with you is another way to strengthen your SEO. Embed “share” and “like” buttons, incentivize subscriptions, and invite viewers to leave comments. The more positive interactions you have, the better.

7. Leverage captions or subtitles

Adding captions or subtitles to your videos opens them up to a whole additional audience. That’s because this makes your videos more ADA compliant, inclusive, and accessible to those who are hearing impaired or deaf.

More than that, you can get your message across to viewers who may not want to turn on sound because they’re in a quiet place or don’t have headphones. 

These days, there are multiple options for creating captions or subtitles. While auto-generated captions might be easier or more cost-effective, they’re more prone to errors since the audio isn’t being transcribed by a person.

While it’s important to keep budget in mind, experience tells us it’s worth seeking out an affordable paid service (such as Rev) to ensure clarity, especially for complex subjects. Alternatively, you can read over the transcript and make edits yourself.

The takeaway

Creating a YouTube channel is a great way to increase exposure for your video content and overall business. But creating videos is just half the battle. 

By following YouTube SEO best practices, you can better position your content to appear in search engine results and reach as many viewers as possible.

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2021.

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 Jan 31, 2022

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Good organic site traffic isn’t either.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Content tips to improve your traffic
  • How to make SERPs work for you
  • What keyword types to leverage for traffic
  • Ideas for growing your reach both online and offline

From one-click shopping to social media likes, we’re living in a world accustomed to instant gratification. 

“Waiting” isn’t a concept with too many fans — particularly in the business world. So it’s no surprise that, when it comes to improving organic web traffic, you want to see results yesterday.

While it’s possible to see dramatic increases in a relatively short amount of time, the truth is that maintaining a steady traffic increase takes work. The trick: knowing what steps to take to get you there. 

These 13 tips explain what to do to see your traffic continue to climb.

traffic on a highway

Having a sitemap will keep things organized and, as a result, help you rank higher on SERPs. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Optimize your website

When you’re looking to increase organic site traffic, ensuring you’re working with a fully optimized website is a great place to start. 

We’ve talked before about the importance of doing a website “wellness check.” For this, you’re checking for things like proper titles, meta descriptions, and keywords across your pages.

Depending on your website platform, you can add a plugin like Yoast that’ll provide you with optimization and readability tips when you’re uploading or editing a web page or blog.

Having a sitemap will also keep things organized and, as a result, help you rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

If this seems like a lot to keep track of, you can always create a website checklist to tick off to make sure each page is optimized before you hit “publish.”

2. Make sure each page has its own target keyword

Pages on your site with the same target keyword will compete in search engine results — not a good look for your business.

Each page and blog post should have its own primary target keyword (or set of keywords) when possible. This essentially makes that page the go-to resource for the term on your site. You can use a program like SEMrush to determine whether or not you have any keyword duplications within your site pages.

If you do, don’t panic! You can consolidate these pages. 

For the pages with no traffic or conversions tied to them, you can simply move that content to the better-performing page. Then, you can redirect the old URL to the new one-stop-shop page.

Of course, you can use similar keywords throughout your website and blog. But it’s a good idea not to have two pages focusing too much on one keyword. That can trigger Google to ding the pages for duplicate content. 

Pro tip: You can overlap target keywords if the content is unique enough not to be flagged as duplicate, but you should aim for your targeted keyword page to rank highest on your site for that specific keyword.

3. Leverage analytics

You’ve got access to your site data — don’t forget to leverage it! 

Free platforms like Google Analytics will show you insightful organic metrics such as bounce rate, traffic sources, and time on page.

Once you see patterns in your traffic metrics, you can create a plan for optimizing accordingly. For example: Got a page with a high bounce rate? Revisit it and ask yourself things like:

  • Does the page title match its content?
  • Visually, is it laid out well?
  • Is it easy to read?
  • Does the page load too slowly?
  • Is there a clear next step for the reader?

4. Focus on quality over quantity

Plenty of sites are guilty of “keyword stuffing.” This is a black-hat SEO tactic that involves repeating the same keyword multiple times on a page. 

Not only does this type of content come off as inauthentic, Google knows what you’re doing — and they don’t like it either.

Flooding your site with keywords isn’t going to get you the organic traffic you’re seeking. It’s a better use of your time to focus on creating quality content that will lead to unique ranking improvements, such as content that follows E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) standards.

Pro tip: When you focus more on generating relevant, valuable pages that educate and help your target audience rather than what you think the algorithm wants, you can start to see your organic traffic grow steadily over time.

people walking on a busy outdoor crosswalk

Having quality backlinks shows the algorithm that your website is credible. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Make content work for you

Landing pages should be minimalist and have a clear call to action (CTA). Too much text can distract visitors from taking that next desired action. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to move some of your keywords and phrases into blogs. These pages help improve your rankings without inundating every website visitor with too much info at once.

When creating content, be sure to link internally to your own content as well as authoritative external websites. This can establish partner relationships and encourage others to give you quality backlinks that direct to your site, which is another way to boost your traffic numbers.

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

6. Have a consistent backlink outreach plan

Speaking of backlinks, we know Google values these kinds of links (that link to your site from another authoritative site) when relevant. They show the algorithm that your website is credible.

Sadly, there’s no shortcut to getting them. You can, however, work smarter vs. harder and set your site up for easy backlinking if and when the opportunities arise.

A platform like Ahrefs can show you which sites and pages are linking to your competitors, but not to you, via its Link Intersect tool. From there, you can plan your outreach strategy. Consider requesting backlinks in situations like:

  • Someone is linking to competitor content that you have a similar, newer (and ideally better) version of
  • You’ve linked to someone’s content and given them a relevant backlink already
  • Someone has created an industry directory you’d like to be included in
  • Someone has given you backlinks before and is likely to do it again

7. Focus on building relationships

As humans, the need for community is at our core — and it’s crucial for businesses, too. While it can be easy to fall into the habit of working in a silo or with your small team, branching out can have lots of benefits, including site traffic.

Quoting an industry expert or having them pen a guest blog on your site adds credibility while allowing your brand (and audience) to benefit from the person’s knowledge. Alternatively, getting your own content published on high domain authority sites can potentially bring you traffic for years to come.

Pro tip: When you’re brainstorming topics to write up for other sites, it’s a good idea to pitch content in line with keywords that are relevant to your business but also highly competitive. The more established website may rank better for those terms and send a ton of traffic your way.

8. Become a thought leader

Depending on how saturated your industry is, you may have stiff competition when it comes to garnering traffic. So it’s no surprise that sometimes, you’ve got to go above and beyond to stand out.

You can begin to position your brand as a thought leader by:

  • Applying for someone from your company to speak at conferences
  • Consistently posting high-quality content that’s fresh and relevant
  • Reaching out about opportunities to be a guest on an industry podcast
  • Being available as an expert source to be quoted in media interviews

9. Be active on social media

Having an active social media presence is another useful way for companies to get the word out about their products or offerings. It’s also a great place to take part in industry conversations.

Along with your website, many people will check out a brand’s social media accounts to see how they present themselves. You can have an edge over less-active competitors by posting on a consistent basis, whatever that means for your and your bandwidth.

Check hashtags for relevant industry conversations that could benefit from your insights. It’s also worth noting that different industries leverage social media in different ways. Moreover, different audience demographics gravitate towards different platforms, like LinkedIn for more B2B brands and Instagram for e-commerce.

Pro tip: Think outside of the Big Four (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn) by posting visual content on Pinterest, such as an exclusive infographic, with a concise description and a link back to your site. You may be surprised at the traffic that results.

10. Explore Quora

In case you’re unfamiliar, Quora is a popular Q&A forum site. Users pose questions about everything under the sun and others (ideally, topic experts) respond with answers.

Quora is a great place to search for questions related to your industry, then provide your insights along with a bit about what makes you qualified to add a response. 

You can then link to your site and boom, you’ve just connected with someone (or a few someones) who may not have known about your company otherwise.

Atlanta skyline and traffic in the evening

Like SEO, solid organic traffic takes time to cultivate. (Image via Unsplash)

11. Use the SERP to inform new content

A high results-page ranking can be huge for your company’s traffic. One way to improve your ranking is by going straight to the search engine itself.

Type in some common search engine questions related to your keywords and check out the “People also asked” SERP feature section. What other common questions are popping up, and how can you answer those through your own content?

Next, look at the featured snippets (a box of selected search results that appear above Google’s organic results to provide a concise answer to a posed question) that show up.

Check out the results: How is the featured content formatted? This insight can help inform how you approach future content ideas so you can work towards your business appearing in those sections instead.

12. Look into long-tail terms

When it comes to key phrases, the more specific you can get, the less competition you’ll likely be up against.

Long-tail keywords are generally three- to four-word phrases on a specific topic, rather than something more generic like “paid search.”

They can help you rank for industry terms over your competitors because you have more room to find a unique angle that hasn’t been thoroughly explored yet. See what gaps there are, then determine how you can best fill them.

When you compare long-tail phrases built around specific keywords to keywords with the best search traffic, you’ll find that conversion rates with the former are typically higher. While these keywords may have a lower monthly search volume, they can have a higher probability of conversion.

Want to know more about improving your organic traffic and your overall digital marketing ROI? Let’s chat.

13. Implement secondary keywords

Again, keyword stuffing is a no-no. At the same time, repeating your keyword phrase helps Google and others understand what your page or piece of content is about.

That’s where secondary keywords come in. These are keywords similar to the main one you’re trying to rank for, with slightly tweaked phrasing. This also helps break up your copy and makes it sound more authentic.

An easy way to determine helpful secondary keywords is by searching for your primary keyword on Google, then referencing the resulting list of related searches.

The takeaway

Like SEO, solid organic traffic takes time to cultivate. Don’t get discouraged if you put effort into the above strategies without seeing immediate results.

Over time, if you monitor your site performance, you’ll start seeing those lines move up. At the end of the day, the process of improving your traffic is a marathon, not a sprint.

It can be as simple as picking the strategies that work for you, creating a plan to implement them, consistent tracking, and iterating based on the data you gather.

This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2014.

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 Jan 20, 2022

Most searches happen on smartphones. Here’s how to ensure your site is mobile-friendly so you don’t get left behind. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Tips for making your website mobile-friendly
  • Why a mobile-friendly site is key
  • Basic SEO best practices for mobile
  • A breakdown of mobile site solutions

Mobile users reached 56% of global online traffic in 2021.

Not only that, but m-commerce (AKA mobile e-commerce) is predicted to reach $488 billion by 2024. 

But despite the popularity of mobile search, about 20% of the top-rated websites are not mobile-friendly. Even worse: when it comes to small business sites, only 9% are optimized for mobile.

A mobile-friendly site used to be a convenient, competitive advantage. Now, it’s a necessity if you want to stay relevant and competitive with others in your industry. 

mobile friendly site audit

Audits help identify problems or shortcomings with the current version of your website, including mobile-friendliness. (Image via Unsplash)

Why having a mobile-friendly site matters

Google’s been talking about mobile-first indexing – meaning the search engine bots crawl the mobile version of a site first – since 2016. (Many sites are already being indexed mobile-first.) 

In spring 2020, Google announced it would launch mobile-first indexing for the entire web starting that fall. Due to the pandemic, they extended this to March 2021, but many websites had what Google called “unexpected challenges.” This prompted them to put a hold on any more hard deadlines until issues can be resolved.  

This extra bit of time is a great opportunity to make sure your mobile site is optimized and ready to go by the time Google fully rolls out mobile-first indexing. To find out how, read on.

1. Perform a comprehensive audit

Audits help identify problems or shortcomings with the current version of your website, including mobile-friendliness. You can use the results to come up with a plan for optimizing your site. 

An audit will also generate a broad range of important and insightful metrics, including the number of mobile users visiting your site.

You can use Google Analytics to audit your website by following this command path: Google Analytics > Audience > Mobile > Overview/Devices. Google Search Console will notify you of Mobile Usability errors, and Google has its own Mobile-Friendly Test tool as well.

Additionally, you can opt for premium third-party tools. If you don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on an audit, you could look into partnering with an agency that can recommend customized solutions based on the results.

Audit steps include:

  • Review your mobile experience with a device simulator on your desktop, or just use your actual phone.
  • Start with the homepage then move to top landing pages and follow your website’s hierarchy and structure.
  • Take screenshots and notes of any broken images or links, and consider the user’s experience. Can they find info fast? Is the page too long? What action do you want them to take on this small screen?
  • Prioritize universal fixes, then dig into smaller errors to gauge the extent of the work that needs to be done.

Once you complete the audit, it’s wise to plan on performing regular audits at least once a year. This way, you can ensure everything is still optimized and operating accordingly. Regular audits will also be helpful when it comes to keeping up with Google’s dynamic updates.

Pro tip: In Google Analytics, you can view data like bounce rate per device category and type, pages per session, and average session duration. These KPIs will let you know if users are engaging well via mobile.

2. Choose an ideal mobile-friendly solution

There are four main solutions to choose from when making your website mobile-friendly. Here’s a brief overview of each solution, including what they have to offer:

Responsive web design 

Responsive web design is the most popular solution, primarily because of convenience. It entails embedding a code that automatically adjusts the site’s contents to fit individual users’ devices. This includes rearranging content and resizing fonts to fit small screens. 

Nothing else changes, including the original URL, and this solution is easy to maintain. However, the site’s response may be somewhat limited compared to other solutions.

Dynamic serving 

Dynamic serving involves detecting a user agent (mobile, tablet, or desktop) and generating a customized page with HTML and CSS optimized for use with that particular device. 

This solution’s main advantage is that you can display heavy content (such as videos or high-resolution images) on your mobile pages. But this solution can be costly to implement. Additionally, accuracy in detecting the user agent depends on your solution provider’s competence and quality.

Mobile version 

This solution involves creating a separate mobile website with separate content independent of the main desktop website. Mobile users are automatically redirected to the mobile version using a separate mobile domain name.

This solution isn’t recommended much anymore, as a separate mobile site is a no-no for mobile-first indexing. Another mobile version shortcoming is its limited content. It’s difficult to incorporate all content from the main desktop website. Plus, these sites are often harder to manage compared to other solutions.

App

When it comes to choosing an app, the type is key. There are web apps that operate like regular sites to reach users on any device through their browser. However, you lose the option to include push notifications, which are often a huge part of a business app’s success.  

A native or mobile app offers a lot of benefits, such as unparalleled user engagement. Mobile apps are also excellent for branding, as the design is customized specifically for mobile users. And advanced algorithms offer customization for individual users.

Lastly, you can use device features like push notifications, offline browsing, GPS, cameras, and more.

The downside: A mobile app is generally more expensive than other mobile solutions. And more than half of smartphone users don’t bother downloading their favorite store’s app. For these reasons, mobile apps are often used as a complementary solution for these other mobile solutions.

Pro tip: Progressive web apps (PWAs) are a hybrid solution that manages to incorporate all the advantages of both app types without falling prey to their flaws. They allow users to navigate to the PWA from their browser like a web app but also save it to their device like a native mobile app.

mobile friendly website

Making your website mobile-friendly has gone from a nice-to-have to a necessary marketing component. (Image via Unsplash)

3. Follow mobile SEO best practices

A mobile site’s success depends on how well it stands out to crawlers and Google’s ranking algorithms. The most effective way to compete is to adhere to Google’s recommended mobile search engine optimization (SEO) practices:

  • Code in HTML5
  • Minimize your site’s loading time
  • Compress your multimedia content (images, videos, etc.) to the lowest size possible without sacrificing resolution
  • Enable image files, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Avoid using IFrames
  • Highlight navigation buttons and make them easy to access
  • Ensure you use the correct minimum font size (16px)
  • Optimize the page content to fit different screen sizes
  • Ensure your content’s font is easily readable
  • Make links easier to tap by placing them far apart
  • Make jump links available and avoid irrelevant cross-links
  • Use image alt tags
  • Enable automatic login
  • Highlight call-to-action buttons, including a click-to-call tab

These are just some basic mobile SEO best practices. Additionally, remember to watch out for Google’s periodic mobile-friendly site updates and adopt all recommended SEO practices.

Pro tip: More ways to optimize your site for mobile include leveraging accelerated mobile pages (AMP), using Schema markup, and removing pop-ups from your site’s mobile version.

The takeaway

Making your website mobile-friendly has gone from nice-to-have to a necessary marketing component. 

Between mobile-first indexing and the majority of searches happening via smartphones, those who provide a sub-par mobile user experience simply won’t see the success of sites that do. All the more reason to take the time to make sure your site is mobile-friendly – sooner rather than later.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 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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