Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the improvement of websites to rank higher on search result pages. SEO is vital to online presence since it sets you apart.
In the ever-changing SEO landscape, it is crucial to supplement engaging content with strategies that ensure search engines recommend your websites more to internet users. Some of these strategies include optimizing on-page elements, images, and backlinks.
In this article, we will explain the top ten SEO techniques of 2023 to ensure you gain traffic and increase your website’s visibility. We will also go over various metrics to keep in mind to track the performance of your SEO efforts.
How do search engines work?
To understand SEO, you must understand how search engines rank websites. There are over 1.5 billion websites on the internet. Search engines must decide how to organize them based on their relevance to search queries. These bots scour websites to index them.
Search engine indexes include discovered URLs and critical content signals in these links. Some of these signals include keywords and website metrics.
SEO techniques to use in 2023
The best SEO techniques to use in 2023 are extensive keyword research, link building, and a focus on user experience. Additionally, optimizing website elements and images to reduce load time is a great way to keep users on your website for longer and encourage search engines to rank you higher.
Finally, using social media to push your website to your audience will help you gain organic traffic.
1. Conduct keyword research
A keyword is a phrase or word people use in search engines to get specific results. Keyword research is vital to any SEO strategy because it determines how relevant your content is to search queries. The more relevant the keyword, the higher your content appears in search results.
In 2013, Google introduced the ability of its search model to understand context and intent instead of individual words. Google named the update “‘Hummingbird.” For example, Google now understands “shirt dress” is a query for female clothing while “dress shirt” is a query for male clothing.
Keyword research is a skill you can muster using these steps.
Brainstorm keyword ideas
How do you find keyword ideas?
- Define themes related to your content. For example, fitness content has themes such as weight loss and nutrition.
- Search your themes on Google to see related keywords.
- Read your competitors’ content to see their keywords.
- Ask your audience what words they commonly use when searching the internet.
Use keyword research tools
Keyword research tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs give you keyword ideas based on search volume, competition, and the relevance of your initial thoughts. These tools also inform you how difficult it will be for specific keywords to rank on search engines.
Analyze your target audience’s intent
Analyzing search intent involves knowing what your audience is looking for. The goal of a search query can fall under these types.
This intent refers to searchers wanting to find a specific site. For this intent, your keyword should contain your site’s name and sections of your blog.
This intent refers to searchers seeking an answer to specific questions or finding out about a product or service. For this intent, your keyword should contain these phrases.
- What is
- How to
- Why is
- How does
This intent refers to searchers who intend to make a purchase. They include words such as “buy,” “discount,” and “for sale.”
Refine your keywords
After analyzing your keywords, select the most relevant ones in your list. A good rule to follow is to prioritize long-tail keywords.
What are long-tail keywords?
Long-tail keywords contain more than three words, such as “best couches for German Shepherd owners.” These keywords are specific and consider your buyer persona. Because of this, they will appear higher on search engines.
Update your keyword list regularly
Every industry experiences trends and changes that change what your audience is interested in. Monitor your keywords and update them based on these changes. Doing so ensures your content is always relevant. We will touch on updating older content based on newer keywords later in the article.
2. Optimize on-page elements
On-page elements are components that contribute to a website’s structure and optimization. These elements tell search engines how you provide value to readers. Writing great content is insufficient; you must optimize the behind-the-scenes parts to rank and get new traffic.
Here are some elements to focus on when optimizing your site and content.
A page title is a headline that appears on search results. A captivating title intrigues users and makes them click your link. A good title also assures Google that your content answers a search query, ranking higher.
Here are some tips for creating page titles that lure anyone who reads them.
- Include relevant keywords without stuffing them. Place these keywords at the beginning of the title to catch the attention of users scanning the SERP.
- Keep them brief. Google truncates title tags at 60 characters on the SERP.
- Use simple language and avoid technical words.
- Avoid putting your brand name in the title tag. Only include your website’s name if relevant to the intended search results.
Meta descriptions are the snippets of your content Google displays on the SERP. Your meta description should summarize the information in your content. There is no limit to the length of these descriptions, but Google only displays up to 160 characters.
Ensure your meta descriptions are specific and contain relevant keywords. A good practice is to use an exciting snippet from your content.
Header tags are elements used to format different headings and subheadings on your webpage. You know them as H1, H2, H3, and so on. They help break content into sections, making it easier to scan your page.
How do header tags help SEO? These tags show search engines the hierarchy of information. Instead of crawlers reading one large block of text, they can use headers to identify different ideas presented on a webpage.
A URL is an identifier used to locate content on the internet. It displays on the SERP above every title. To improve your SEO strategy, make them brief and include relevant keywords. That’s it!
Backlinko has an excellent guide on how to create SEO-friendly URLs.
3. Build your backlinks
Backlinks are links on other websites that direct internet users to your website. Google’s algorithm relies on backlinks to confirm authority. In other words, the more backlinks your site has, the more Google trusts it as a source of information. As a result, it will rank higher on the SERP.
Some backlinks influence the algorithm more than others. Typically, these quality backlinks share similar traits.
- They come from authoritative websites.
- They have your keywords in their anchor texts.
- They come from sites targeting the same audience as your website.
- They are “Dofollow” links.
- They come from websites that link your content infrequently.
How to build backlinks
Building backlinks is a skill that involves adding value and promoting your links aggressively. Let’s look at five ways you can earn backlinks.
Ask for backlinks
Asking for backlinks is delicate because it relies on your relationship with the other party. You can build this relationship by interacting with and connecting with their content on social media. Offer to create content on their website or share their content with your audience in exchange for backlinks.
Create linkable assets
Linkable assets are high-quality, interactive content that other websites would love to refer their users to read. Often, linkable assets support a point or offer a different perspective. The effort doesn’t end with creating them; you must promote them for others to discover them.
Linkable assets fall under different types according to their format and content. Here are some of them:
- Infographics such as this one from Wine Folly.
- Templates and tools such as this color generator from Coolors.
- Research and case studies.
- Tutorials and definitive guides.
- Videos such as product demonstrations.
Consider guest blogging
Guest blogging is a strategy for writing content on another website or blog. How does this benefit you? In addition to gaining exposure to a new audience, you can link back to content on your website.
Remember to guest on a website that has related themes to yours. Strive to provide high-quality content and include a short author bio with a link back to your website.
Track broken links
Simply put, find broken links on other websites and ask the owners to replace them with yours. It is an excellent strategy, as your content will provide value while earning a backlink. According to a study by Aira, it is the fifth most preferred method of building backlinks.
Apply the Skyscraper Technique
Brian Dean from Backlinko coined the term “Skyscraper Technique” about a method you can use to earn high-quality backlinks.
The first step involves finding and improving popular content by including visual aid, extensive research, and updating outdated information. Afterward, it’s time to promote your content. Reach out to websites asking them to use your links instead.
4. Improve the user experience
The goal of your SEO content is to encourage readers to engage with it. A slow or cluttered website hinders that goal and discourages users from returning to it.
How to improve user experience
Here are some ways to make your website pleasant to scroll through
Make use of white space
White space refers to blank areas between different elements on your website. These empty spaces go a long way in improving readability and user engagement. They can direct attention toward specific aspects like the CTA button. White space also offers visual hierarchy, indicating the path your audience should follow when reading content.
The New Yorker makes excellent use of negative space to keep readers on their site longer.
Consider creating blank areas around your website’s margins, header, page sections, and CTA buttons. Be careful not to use too much negative space because that will make your website look sparse or sloppy.
Focus on accessibility
Web accessibility refers to designing a website that allows readers with disabilities to consume content. An excellent user experience considers possible physical and cognitive limitations the audience may have.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide recommendations to make your content accessible. Some recommendations include
- Captions for video and audio media.
- Pre-recorded sign language.
- Enhanced contrast for text.
- Image descriptions using alt texts (more on this later on)
An accessible website increases user experience and builds brand sentiment and loyalty.
Use appealing calls to action
We know a CTA encourages users to act on a website. However, its design is a crucial element in ensuring this. Keep these tips in mind when designing your CTA.
- Use action-oriented words such as “Download” and “Join.”
- Create a sense of urgency using phrases such as “Act now” and “Offer expires in…”
- Highlight the benefits users will receive, such as “Save 10%.”
- Use contrasting colors to make your CTA stand out against your website’s color scheme.
- Make your CTA easy to find by surrounding it with negative space.
An appealing CTA drives up conversion rates and dwell time. These metrics show search engines that users enjoy your website and rank them higher in search results.
Utilize bullet points
Bullet points make your content easy to read and understand. They offer “breaks” and allow readers to scan your website at a glance. Here are some benefits of using bullets.
- They increase readability by breaking up long blocks of text and emphasizing key points.
- They improve the organization by segmenting content and making it easier for readers to find what they want.
- They make your content scannable by readers in a hurry or with short attention spans.
- They improve accessibility, especially to readers with visual impairments.
- They increase engagement by encouraging users to stay on your website longer.
Remember to keep bullet points short and focused on a single idea. You should use a similar format for these points throughout your content to keep them symmetrical. Finally, test the appearance of your bullet points on different devices to ensure they stay in your desired format.
Differentiate your hyperlinks
Hyperlinks are valuable resources in SEO. They direct your readers to other website sections or additional information supporting yours. However, they can be useless if your readers can’t find them in the first place.
Here are a few common ways to differentiate them from other texts in your content.
- Display them in a different text color, such as blue.
- Underline them.
- Use bold text.
- Use an icon such as an arrow or chain next to the link.
- Use a hover effect that displays an excerpt of the destination when a cursor floats on top of them.
Request minimal information from readers
Have you come across websites asking you to disclose irrelevant personal information as a way to engage with their content? Did that make you abandon the site altogether? The same goes for your website. Many readers bounce from websites that request irrelevant information such as birth and gender.
Websites requesting too much information also raise brows about privacy issues. Users will hesitate to engage with your content if they question why you ask for so much. Request minimal data to gain their trust and keep them on your website longer.
Look out for 404 errors
A 404 error is a code that indicates a search engine could not find a webpage. These errors discourage users from returning to your website and increase bounce rates. They also make it more challenging for search engines like Google to crawl your website and rank you high on search results. Finding and fixing them is a crucial step in your SEO.
A free way to find these pesky errors is by using Google’s Search Console. Log in to the console and click “Coverage” then the “Excluded” tab. You will see a list of hard and soft 404 errors on your website. Click each 404 to get a detailed summary.
Now to fix the found errors. There are multiple ways to do this. Here’s how.
- Redirect the error to a different relevant page on your website.
- Restore the page.
- Edit and correct the link to point to the right URL.
- Create a custom 404 page.
5. Optimize images
Images catch readers’ attention and support your content’s points. In SEO, images increase traffic, thus making your website rank better. Googlebot (Google’s crawler name) also looks for pictures when scouting sites, thus making it essential to know which ones to use and how to include them in your content.
Stock photos are the most common images available to include. However, ensure they are unique and relevant to your content. Use original images as they are more personal; your readers will notice that.
If you prefer stock photos, here are some great places to source high-quality images.
Now let’s optimize your images.
How to optimize images
Image optimization for SEO involves using the correct format, compressing, using alt text, and using descriptive file names.
Use the right format
You can use several image formats depending on your image content and size. We recommend you use the following:
- JPEG for large photos with a lot of detail. These image files are typically smaller in size, thus making them faster to load on your website.
- PNG for images with transparent backgrounds. They preserve transparency but are larger.
- GIFs for simple animations. Use them sparingly because they may slow down your website’s load speed.
- SVG for logos and icons. You can rescale these images without losing quality.
Use descriptive file names
Google uses your images’ file names to get context about what the image is about. A good rule to follow is to use your keywords when describing pictures.
For example, the description of an image of a mahogany bed frame should read “mahogany-hardwood-bedframe.jpg” instead of “img_123.jpg.”
Compress your images
Images have a significant impact on website load speeds. The bigger the picture, the slower your web page loads. Compress your images to prevent your users from getting frustrated and bouncing from your website because it takes too long to open.
However, keep in mind that high compression rates result in poor-quality images. Several image compression tools have a preset rate to ensure the output still looks good on your website without sacrificing speed.
Including alt texts
Alt text is a brief description of what an image contains. Search engines crawl alt texts to find context for images. Similarly, your readers use alt texts to get meaning if they are visually impaired or unable to see the image for some reason. What does this mean? It means alt texts make your content rank better.
Since alt texts aim to provide accessibility, they should be brief and descriptive. They should also sound natural as if you were describing the image in person. A great way to achieve this is by using keywords sparingly.
Let’s review some practices to remember when writing alt texts.
- Keep these texts under 125 characters.
- Use plain language and avoid technical words.
- Include one of your keywords to provide context.
- Don’t include alt texts for decorative images such as icons and page breaks.
- Don’t include the phrases “image of” and “picture of” before the texts.
- Don’t repeat what’s already in an image’s caption.
Use responsive images
Responsive images can scale to adapt to any screen size or resolution. Using these images gives readers a consistent experience on your website regardless of their device. They also ensure your website loads quicker, thus reducing bounce rates.
There are several ways to make responsive images. Here are some techniques.
- Specify multiple image sources using the HTML “srcset” attribute. The user’s device will select the best one to display.
- Define the size of the image container using the HTML “sizes” attribute. A device will determine the image source to use to fill that size.
Read this comprehensive guide on responsive images to create yours.
6. Keep track of the metrics
SEO is a never-ending process that carries on long after you publish content. You need to track how users interact with various pages on your website. These metrics allow you to make data-driven decisions to improve performance.
Here are some important metrics to keep an eye on.
1. Organic traffic
Organic traffic refers to non-paid visitors to your website. High organic traffic tells you that your SEO strategy is paying off. However, these visitors only translate into sales if you display ads to monetize the traffic.
These methods will help you track organic traffic.
Google Analytics shows how many internet users arrived at your website through organic searches. Go to the “Acquisition” tab, then “All Traffic,” and select “Channels.” You will find all traffic sources, including organic traffic.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console displays organic traffic and details which of your content generated this traffic. This tool records people’s search queries to get to your website and the landing page. The console compiles these results and displays them to you.
Third-party analytics tools
Several analytics tools, such as Moz, display your pages’ organic traffic. These results guide you on whether to increase SEO efforts or focus on other areas.
2. Keyword ranking
Keyword ranking lets you see how your website ranks when people search specific keywords. Search for your main keywords on search engines and see where your website lies in the results.
For detailed breakdowns, third-party analytics tools like SEMRush let you see how keywords perform. They also show you related keywords that rank better.
3. Click-through rate (CTR)
Click-through rate is the percentage of people who see and click your website’s link in search results. You want this rate to stay high because that shows search engines that your content is relevant to many searches. It is an essential tool for evaluating how effective your SEO efforts are.
A low CTR may mean your title or meta description could be more intriguing. It may also indicate that your website needs to be more relevant to your intended audience. You can measure your CTR in the Google Search Console under the “Performance” tab.
4. Bounce rate
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of people who click your link and leave without acting. Search engines take high bounce rates as a sign that users are unsatisfied with your content. As a result, your website will rank lower.
A high bounce rate may mean improving your website’s user experience or refining your content to answer specific search queries.
5. Exit rate
An exit page is the last page people view before leaving your website altogether. A high exit rate means a particular page causes users to abandon your website. You can identify the pages to improve by keeping track of this metric.
Remember that checkouts and confirmation pages have high exit rates because they signal the end of your user’s journey.
6. Page load speed
Page load speed refers to how fast content displays on screens. Many users will abandon your page if it takes more time to load. A long load time can increase bounce rates by 123%! Google suggests that the best practice is to keep it under 3 seconds. You can achieve this by keeping your website under 500KB.
Track your page load speed using Google PageSpeed. Paste your URL and view the load speed data of your website on mobile and desktop.
7. Optimize for a mobile experience
Over 60% of the internet’s population, including your audience, uses a mobile phone to go online. That makes it crucial to make your website perform perfectly on phones while providing an enjoyable user experience. Here are ways you can optimize your website for mobile.
- Use responsive design elements that adjust according to a user’s screen size.
- Simplify navigation by making menus and links easy to notice and access. A great way to achieve this is by using hamburger menus.
- Improve readability by using different fonts and white space.
- Optimize images for mobile.
- Minimize pop ups on your website.
8. Write original, relevant content
Search engines like Google demand that you provide valuable information. In addition to hitting the right keywords, your content must be original.
We’re not telling you to write brand-new content every time. Original content builds upon existing information and provides new insight into them.
Another standard error is writing content with search bots in mind. Google recognizes stuffing keywords to rank higher as spam. The search company states, “Sites that violate our policies may rank lower in results or not appear in results at all.”
Thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update, you no longer need to force a keyword into every sentence. Write your content with humans in mind. Google will use contextual clues to determine if your content is relevant to them.
9. Update old content
Updating old content is a great way to call the attention of Google’s crawlers. Search engines often rank fresh content higher because they are up-to-date. Updates to your website make these crawlers index your website again. Frequent indexing increases your chances of ranking higher.
In addition to triggering an index, you should replace old keywords with new ones that rank better.
10. Use social media
The main aim of using social media in SEO is to promote content. Social media alone does not directly affect how your content ranks, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help you. There are four significant ways social media impacts SEO. These are:
- Increased traffic.
- Increased brand awareness.
- Link building.
- Increased credibility.
SEO is an art form that requires strategic planning and constant monitoring to perfect. The best web pages utilize keyword research, backlinks, and original content to rank higher on search engines. Similarly, they optimize their on-page elements and images to ensure web crawlers can easily index their content.
Finally, don’t underestimate social media’s power in reaching new audiences. Remember these SEO techniques the next time you create a post for your website to rank higher.