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/A Short (But Exhaustive) Guide to SEO – Montreal
A Short (But Exhaustive) Guide to SEO – Montreal 2020-09-26T06:55:09+00:00

A Short (But Exhaustive) Guide to SEO – Montreal

TL;DR:

  1. Publish quality content that is based on user intent
  2. Improve crawlability
  3. Improve page-speed
  4. Make your website mobile-friendly
  5. Add Schema markup
  6. Get back-links and improve website’s authority

Why SEO Matters?

92.96% of global traffic comes from Google search, Google Images, and Google Maps.

53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic search.

The first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks

What is on-site SEO?

On-site SEO is the practice of optimizing both the content and the code of a page in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic from search engines.

What is off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO involves improving  site’s popularity, relevance, trustworthiness, and authority by linking or promoting website’s content.

How SEO works?

Google uses more than 200 ranking factors to show the best, most relevant result to their users. SEO works by demonstrating to search engines that your web-page is the most relevant content for the searched topic.

1. Content based on user intent

Content is still king. If you’d like to rank you should be producing original, specific and thorough content that satisfies user intent. If you can produce videos please do it. You will quickly climb at the top of the search food chain. If you can’t, then start a podcast. 

For written content finding a keyword or keywords that you want to rank for is easy. Just paste a topic into a keyword research tool and look for relevant keyword ideas with search volume.

Always keep in mind user intent, and the questions that your content should be answering. 

You can start by asking yourself questions to identify the “3 C’s of content.” and looking at the top ranking search results.

  • Content type: Are most of the results blog posts, product pages, category pages, landing pages, or something else?
  • Content format: Is Google mainly ranking how-to guides, list-style articles, tutorials, comparisons, opinion pieces etc.? (Note. This one applies mainly to informational topics.)
  • Content angle: Is there a common theme or unique selling point across the top-ranking pages? If so, this gives you some insight into what might be important to search.

You also have the option of looking at Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) features to get ideas.

Recommended reading:

1. Crawlability

Rush Media internet map

Before search engines can even consider ranking your content, they first needs to know that it exists. 

The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, discover new content with a web crawler, sometimes called a spider. A spider  systematically browses the web, by following href and SRC links, typically for the purpose of web indexing. The crawler processes both the text as well as the title tags, meta tags, and alt attributes for images.

You can see which pages are indexed by Google by using the search operator “site:yourdomain.com” (e.g., site:rushmediaagency.com) You can see how often Google is crawling your pages by looking at the Search Console. How often web crawler will crawl a site depends on the crawl budget. Crawl budget is an estimation of how often a website is updated.

You can submit a XML Sitemap to Google to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not crawled through other links on the web. A sitemap is a list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content. One of the easiest ways to ensure Google is finding your highest priority pages is to create a file that meets Google’s standards and submit it through Google Search Console.

You can use Screaming Frog to create an XML sitemap. Screaming frog is free if you are crawling a website that has less then 500 pages.

For WordPress users you can create an XML sitemap using Yoast.

Once you created your XML sitemap you can submit it in the search console.

Here is a great how-to article by Neil Patel on how to create and submit a sitemap.

Keep in mind that frequent indexing improves your search results.

That said, some things can block Google’s crawlers:

  • Poor internal linking: Google relies on internal links to crawl all the pages on your site. Pages without internal links often won’t get crawled.
  • Nofollowed internal links: Internal links with nofollow tags won’t get crawled by Google.
  • Noindexed pages: You can exclude pages from Google’s index using a noindex meta tag or HTTP header. If other pages on your site only have internal links from noindexed pages, there’s a chance that Google won’t find them.
  • Robots.txt: Robots.txt is a text file that tells Google where it can and can’t go on your website. If pages are blocked Robots.txt Google won’t crawl them.

Recommended reading:

3. Page speed

quick silver run

Pagespeed is how fast your page loads and is a ranking factor on both mobile and desktop.

To check the speed of your web pages, use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool, or Ahrefs Site Audit to check for slow-loading pages across your site.

  • Compress images. Images usually take up to 50-80% of a page.
  • Clean and compress the code, including HTML,CSS, JavaScript or any other code found on your page.
  • Upgrade your hosting plan. If you’re serious about improving your site’s loading speed, it might be time to upgrade to a premium host or to a dedicated server.
  • Activate Browser caching. Browser caching is a method of enabling browsers to save website data such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS, images and other files to improve the re-visit site performance. This won’t help your page load any faster for first-time visitors. But it’s great for improving your loading speed for people that have visited your site before.
  • Implement a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN refers to a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide faster delivery of Internet content. A CDN allows for the quick transfer of HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, and videos. Today the majority of web traffic is served through CDNs, including traffic from major sites like Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon.

2. Mobile-friendliness

63% of Google searches come from mobile devices, and that number is growing every year. 

Sidenote: Recently however due to the COVID 19 pandemic this has dropped substantially in favour of PC and laptop searches.

Nevertheless it was no surprise that in 2016, Google announced a ranking boost for mobile-friendly websites in its mobile search results.

On top of this, Google shifted to mobile-first indexing in 2018. This essentially means that it uses the mobile version of your page for indexing and ranking.

And for a good reason too. Look at this statistic from Adobe:

Nearly 8 in 10 of consumers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device

In other words, most people will likely hit the back button when a desktop version of a site loads on mobile.

Remember, Google’s prerogative is to keep its users satisfied. Pages that aren’t optimized for mobile simply don’t do that. And even if you do rank and get people clicking on your link, most of them won’t stick around to consume your content.

You can check if your web pages are mobile-friendly with Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.

5. Schema Markup: talking to robots

12.29% of search queries have featured snippets in their search results.

40.7% of all voice search answers come from a featured snippet.

5. Backlinks and Authority

In order to properly hack Google’s ranking algorithm its essential that you familiarize yourself with PageRank – what it is based upon.

Put simply it interprets backlinks as votes and pages with more votes tend to rank higher.

How do we know? Analysts have studied almost one billion web pages and found a clear correlation between referring domains (links from unique websites) and organic search traffic.

Essentially backlinks matter if you want to rank for anything worthwhile.

Don’t be mistaken, though, links can be challenging to build, especially to certain types of content like product pages.

There are tons of link building tactics but if you’re new to the game, aim to build links to your best informational content (e.g., a blog post or a free tool).

We will show you one effective way to do that:

Search for your target keyword on Google. Look for pages that aren’t as good as yours and then paste the URL of that page into our free backlink checker to see its top 100 links.

Consider reaching out to these people and explaining why your content is better. Ask if they’d be willing to remove the link and put in yours.

This is known as the Skyscraper Technique.

Learn more about this technique, and other backlink building tactics, in the articles and videos below.

According to Google, “PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

Currently, PageRank is not the only algorithm used by Google to order search results, but it is the first and the best known.

Unfortunately, Google discontinued their display of public PageRank scores in 2016. Meaning there’s no longer any way to see how much “authority” a web page has in its eyes.

Luckily, this is the internet we’re talking about. There are numerous, similar metrics around, one of which is Ahrefs URL Rating (UR).

URL Rating uses a 0–100 rating scale. Taking into account both the quantity and quality of backlinks to a web page.

Luckily for you we observed the relationship between UR and organic search traffic, and found a clear positive correlation.

For this reason when you are building backlinks to your content, prioritize building links from strong pages rather than weak ones.

The best way to analyze competing pages for backlink opportunities in Ahrefs Site Explorer, is to look at the UR column in the “Backlinks” report.

Of course, backlinks aren’t the only way to boost the “authority” of a web page.

URL Rating (UR) also considers internal links. These are links from other pages on your site which contribute to the authority of a page.

For this reason if you want to boost the “authority” of a particular page and are struggling to build backlinks to it, consider adding some relevant internal links from other high-authority pages.

To see your most authoritative pages, check the “Best by Links” report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

You have to remember here NOT to shoehorn links where they don’t belong. Always link contextually.

This is a particularly good way to boost the “authority” of product pages (for example) with commercial value. Because of their nature you will often find it difficult building backlinks to those pages directly.

FURTHER READINGS

Content quality

Yet another way in which Google ranks the most reliable and useful results is by looking at content-related signals like expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Collectively, these indicators are known as EAT.

(Learn more about EAT in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.)

Other things you can do to elevate the perceived quality of the content on your webpage might be:

  • Stick to a 7th or 8th-grade reading level. Most Americans read at this level.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs. Nobody likes to read essays on webpages.
  • Link to useful resources where appropriate. Don’t be concerned about “hoarding PageRank.” Aim to make your content as valuable to visitors as possible.
  • Avoid big blocks of text. Break things up with images, quotes, etc. Make your content skimmable and easy to understand.

Simply put, the more accessible your content is to the majority of searchers, the better.

You should also consider Freshness as another important factor for some searches.

For example, if you Google “best router,” you’ll note that almost all of the results were published or republished recently.

Technology moves fast. So it isn’t useful to know what the best WiFi routers were in 2016.

But for other queries, freshness is less of a deciding factor.

Take a look at this top-ranking result for “how to tie a tie”:

Nobody has updated the page for over six years, but it doesn’t matter because the way you tie a tie is the same now as it was then. The same way if you were searching how to fix a tire.

The best way to know whether it applies to you is to look at the search results for your target keyword to see whether freshness is seemingly an important ranking factor. And adjust accordingly.

But ranking’s overrated… kind of

Why?

Well, Google looks at factors like past search history, search settings and location to “tailor your results to what is most useful and relevant for you in that moment.”

So even if you see your site ranking at #1 for your target keyword, that might not be the case for everyone at all times.

For example, if you search for “flapjack recipe” in the UK vs in the US, the results will be different.

Why? Because flapjacks mean two different things in the UK and the US. In the UK they’re oat bars but in the US their pancakes.

If you want to check the “real” rankings, use the incognito option to offset any personalization from your search history. 

On the other hand, if you wish to offset location factors, use a VPN. Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs Rank Tracker (a common rank tracking tool) to track keywords for a specific location. This comes in handy particularly with local SEO.

Nevertheless, rankings still fluctuate

Here are our rankings for “SEO audit” over the past year:

It’s therefore often better to focus on organic traffic over rankings.

This is possible using analytics tools like Google Analytics, or you can get an estimate with Ahrefs Site Explorer.

It’s simple: paste in a URL, click on the “Organic traffic” tab on the “Overview” report and you’re done.

For important pages on your site, what you want to see is a graph like this:

Or this:

Not this:

Many pages rank for thousands of keywords. This is the real reason why it’s more effective to focus on traffic rather than keyword rankings. Remember the pages get more traffic from many of these keywords not just one

Final words

Knowing how search engines work and the factors they’re looking for when ranking content is a sure-fire way to create content that ranks and drive viewers to your page like moths to a flame.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that search engine algorithms change all the time. There’s no guarantee that what is effective today will be so tomorrow.

Don’t let that panic you. As long as you’re consistent and dedicated you can stay ahead of the curve relatively easily.

Factors like backlinks, “authority,” and matching search intent have been critical factors for many years—and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.