It’s hard enough as it is to explain to non-SEOs how to rank a webpage. In an increasingly complicated field, to do well you’ve got to have a good handle on a wide variety of detailed subjects. This edition of Whiteboard Friday covers a nine-point checklist of the major items you’ve got to cross off to rank in the new year — and maybe get some hints on how to explain it to others, too.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special New Year’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to run through how to rank in 2018 in a brief checklist format.
So I know that many of you sometimes wonder, “Gosh, it feels overwhelming to try and explain to someone outside the SEO profession how to get a web page ranked.” Well, you know what? Let’s explore that a little bit this week on Whiteboard Friday. I sent out a tweet asking folks, “Send me a brief checklist in 280 characters or less,” and I got back some amazing responses. I have credited some folks here when they’ve contributed. There is a ton of detail to ranking in the SEO world, to try and rank in Google’s results. But when we pull out, when we go broad, I think that just a few items, in fact just the nine we’ve got here can basically take you through the majority of what’s required to rank in the year ahead. So let’s dive into that.
1. Crawlable, accessible URLs
So we want Googlebot’s spiders to be able to come to this page, to understand the content that’s on there in a text readable format, to understand images and visuals or video or embeds or anything else that you’ve got on the page in a way that they are going to be able to put into their web index. That is crucial. Without it, none of the rest of this stuff even matters.
2. Keyword research
We need to know and to uncover the words and phrases that searchers are actually using to solve or to get answers to the problem that they are having in your world. Those should be problems that your organization, your website is actually working to solve, that your content will help them to solve.
What you want here is a primary keyword and hopefully a set of related secondary keywords that share the searcher’s intent. So the intent behind of all of these terms and phrases should be the same so that the same content can serve it. When you do that, we now have a primary and a secondary set of keywords that we can target in our optimization efforts.
3. Investigate the SERP to find what Google believes to be relevant to the searcher
I want you to do some SERP investigation, meaning perform a search query in Google, see what comes back to you, and then figure out from there what Google believes to be relevant to the keywords searches. What does Google think is the content that will answer this searcher’s query? You’re trying to figure out intent, the type of content that’s required, and whatever missing pieces might be there. If you can find holes where, hey, no one is serving this, but I know that people want the answer to it, you might be able to fill that gap and take over that ranking position. Thanks to Gaetano, @gaetano_nyc, for the great suggestion on this one.
4. Have the most authoritative person create content that will serve the searcher’s goal
There are three elements here. First, we want an actually credible, worthy of amplification person or persons to create the content. Why is that? Well, because if we do that, we make amplification, we make link building, we make social sharing way more likely to happen, and our content becomes more credible, both in the eyes of searchers and visitors as well as in Google’s eyes too. So to the degree that that is possible, I would certainly urge you to do it.
Next, we’re trying to serve the searcher’s goal and solve their task, and we want to do that better than anyone else does it on page one, because if we don’t, even if we’ve optimized a lot of these other things, over time Google will realize, you know what? Searchers are frustrated with your result compared to other results, and they’re going to rank those other people higher. Huge credit to Dan Kern, @kernmedia on Twitter, for the great suggestion on this one.
5. Publish compelling title tags and meta descriptions
Yes, Google still does use the meta description quite frequently. I know it seems like sometimes they don’t. But, in fact, there’s a high percent of the time when the actual meta description from the page is used. There’s an even higher percentage where the title is used. The URL, while Google sometimes truncates those, also used in the snippet as well as other elements. We’ll talk about schema and other kinds of markup later on. But the snippet is something that is crucial to your SEO efforts, because that determines how it displays in the search result. How Google displays your result determines whether people want to click on your listing or someone else’s. The snippet is your opportunity to say, “Come click me instead of those other guys.” If you can optimize this, both from a keyword perspective using the words and phrases that people want, as well as from a relevancy and a pure drawing the click perspective, you can really win.
6. Intelligently employ primary, secondary, and related keywords
Related keywords meaning those that are semantically connected that Google is going to view as critical to proving to them that your content is relevant to the searcher’s query — in the page’s text content. Why am I saying text content here? Because if you put it purely in visuals or in video or some other embeddable format that Google can’t necessarily easily parse out, eeh, they might not count it. They might not treat it as that’s actually content on the page, and you need to prove to Google that you have the relevant keywords on the page.
7. Use rich snippets and schema markup to enhance content
This is not possible for everyone. But in some cases, in the case that you’re getting into Google news, or in the case that you’re in the recipe world and you can get visuals and images, or in the case where you have a featured snippet opportunity and you can get the visual for that featured snippet along with that credit, or in the case where you can get rich snippets around travel or around flights, other verticals that schema is supporting right now, well, that’s great. You should take advantage of those opportunities.
8. Optimize for page speed
I mean look great from a visual, UI perspective and look great from a user experience perspective, letting someone go all the way through and accomplish their task in an easy, fulfilling way on every device, at every speed, and make it secure too. Security critically important. HTTPS is not the only thing, but it is a big part of what Google cares about right now, and HTTPS was a big focus in 2016 and 2017. It will certainly continue to be a focus for Google in 2018.
9. Who will help amplify this and why?
When you have that great answer, I mean a specific list of people and SEO publications who are going to help you amplify it, you’ve got to execute to earn solid links and mentions and word of mouth across the web and across social media so that your content can be seen by Google’s crawlers and by human beings, by people as highly relevant and high quality.
You do all this stuff, you’re going to rank very well in 2018. Look forward to your comments, your additions, your contributions, and feel free to look through the tweet thread as well.
Thanks to all of you who contributed via Twitter and to all of you who followed us here at Moz and Whiteboard Friday in 2017. We hope you have a great year ahead. Thanks for watching. Take care.