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10 Advanced SEO Skills To Level Up Your Career

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10 Advanced SEO Skills To Level Up Your Career

Many of us get to a stage in our careers as SEO professionals where we feel a little bit stagnant.

We’ve been optimizing sites for a while and feel pretty confident that we can do it well.. but there’s that nagging thought there’s more we could be doing.

That there is another layer of expertise that would make us more efficient, employable, and confident.

In this article, you’ll find 10 skills that can level up your SEO competency.

These aren’t necessarily essential skills for all SEO experts (you’ll find those here).

But developing these advanced SEO skills could help you go deeper within your specialism, become a more well-rounded marketer, and bump you into a new salary or freelance rate, too.

1. Intent Analysis

Intent analysis is the decoding of a user’s intention behind the keyword they enter into a search engine.

When someone types [pizza restaurant] into a search engine, what is the end result they are hoping for?

Do they want to know what pizza restaurants are nearby?

Are they in the market to open a pizza restaurant?

Are they looking for a job in a pizza restaurant?

Developing your understanding of the psychology behind what searchers want is a critical skill for those wishing to go further in their SEO competency.

This will help you both satisfy a user’s need when they land on a page and also increase your page’s likelihood of being ranked in their search.

It can’t just stop there, however.

You must also understand what the search engines perceive users to want from the content they are searching for.

For instance, from my location in the U.K., if I search for [pizza restaurants] in Google from my desktop device, I get a mixture of results.

I get the option to click through to search on other websites:

Screenshot from search for [pizza restaurants], Google, January 2022

This is followed by the Map Pack and then a mix of review and editorial sites and restaurants’ websites.

If I am trying to rank a website all about the history of pizza restaurants in my country, I might struggle.

Google has identified the user intent as being either navigation – wanting to go to a local restaurant – or comparative, as in wanting to compare options in the local area.

Resources To Learn More

2. Coding

There is no question that understanding HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can help you to ensure your websites are set up in a bot-friendly manner.

Although SEO experts do not need to be fully-fledged developers, having an understanding of code can help you to identify issues with rendering, indexation, and crawlability.

There are times when knowing the basics of how code is created, or being able to read code that already exists, can help your SEO.

It can aid your communication with the developers who may need to change it.

It can assist you in pinpointing incremental improvements to your site’s performance.

Learning to code is not a prerequisite for SEO, but it is arguable that knowing the fundamentals of these three commonly used languages is going to set you up well for your career.

Understanding the syntax of code, how it is formed, and being able to see how elements relate to each other can also help you get better at writing and debugging schema.

Learning Python and SQL can also help you to streamline your SEO processes by enabling you to automate labor-intensive activities such as mapping URL redirects and keyword research.

Resources To Learn More

3. Understanding Server Management

No SEO professional should really be the one responsible for ensuring that a server can handle a load of visitors to a site.

However, understanding the basics of how servers can impact the crawlability, load speed and reliability of a website can propel your technical SEO understanding forwards.

The use of CDNs instead of static servers can aid in speeding up content loading, but without understanding the limitations of fixed location servers it will be difficult for you to argue the need for a CDN.

A better understanding of how web hosting can affect a user’s experience of your site and also Google’s ability to access it is necessary for strong technical SEO foundations.

You need to understand how aspects like uptime and location can impact your site’s performance in the search engines.

This is only the beginning of how knowledge of servers can aid your SEO efforts.

Better knowledge of server codes beyond the standard 404 and 301 can help you to communicate to those in charge of your servers where there are critical issues.

Know what a 502 error is?

Encountered a 504 status code before?

If not, this might be a quick and easy area for you to brush up your knowledge.

A 5XX status usually means there is something wrong with the server that is preventing the processing of a request from the client.

A simple way to find out what status codes mean is to look at httpstatuses.com.

From here, you can identify whether it is an issue with the client or the server and find a fix accordingly.

Resources To Learn More

4. Content Writing

Understanding the process of content writing is an important element of advanced SEO.

You may not be a great wordsmith yourself.

However, in order for you to better brief in copywriting for your colleagues who are, you need to understand what goes into a good piece of writing.

It isn’t enough to know that copy needs to be compelling and have sufficient relevancy to search terms used to discover it.

Get familiar with the process your copywriters go through in researching, writing, and editing their work.

This will help you to better ideate your own requests for copy.

Editing

Editing is another good skill to develop when working with content.

In many organizations, it is the job of the SEO specialist to take content created by others and optimize it further for the search engines.

In practice, this sadly can often result in well-written copy being butchered.

Adding keywords into the first couple of paragraphs to make them more keyword-rich might help you a bit with your rankings, but it could destroy your conversion and brand loyalty.

Learn how to take well-written copy and enhance it, not ruin it.

You may also benefit from having a conversation or two with your SEO copywriters and asking them for details of their process.

Better understanding how they go about copywriting could improve your abilities.

It could also streamline your processes when working together.

Resources To Learn More

5. Reporting

Being able to expertly communicate your progress, results, and reasoning behind your SEO work is crucial to being successful in the industry.

As an SEO expert, you are always juggling the needs and expectations of stakeholders, whether you’re working in-house, agency-side or freelance.

You will find gaining buy-in and budgets considerably easier if you know how to demonstrate the impact of the work you do.

Reporting isn’t just a case of adding labels to a graph or even noting down the cause of increases and decreases.

Truly good SEO reports allow readers to understand the context of the results, draw conclusions and make business decisions from them.

SEO professionals need to get really good at helping stakeholders understand the priorities and limitations of the work they recommend (as well as mistakes to avoid when reporting).

They also need to help their interested parties recognize how the work will benefit them via data visualizations and their objectives in the long run.

All of this can be achieved through well-constructed, clear, and truthful reports.

Resources To Learn More

6. SEO Forecasting

Similar to the need to be good at explaining past results, experienced SEOs need to develop the ability to calculate likely outcomes.

SEO forecasting is a complicated science.

There are a lot of external factors that are hard to isolate and predict.

A change in competition, the market, or political situations could all cause well-thought-out estimations to go awry.

We should not be putting pressure on ourselves to accurately predict the exact volume of traffic, or visibility, our work might gain.

However, being able to put reasonable estimates and likely ranges into our recommendations can make the budget-holders a lot more reassured by the work we are proposing.

It isn’t enough to shrug our shoulders and cross our fingers when asked about outcomes.

We’re often requesting a lot of time, money and resources go into the activity were recommending.

SEO forecasting is a skill that will not only set you apart when looking for new roles or opportunities, it will also significantly improve the quality and reliability of your work.

Resources To Learn More

7. Log File Analysis

Log file analysis is the process of understanding the records of who or what has accessed your website.

They can tell you when people have visited a page as well as what device they were using to do so.

They can also tell you when bots access your website.

This is particularly helpful in understanding Googlebot and other search engine crawlers’ behavior on your site.

By analyzing log files you can better understand what pages search engine bots can or can’t access.

You can identify where there may be spider traps on your site or the frequency at which certain sections of your site are being crawled.

Log files can appear daunting if you have not spent much time around them.

Thankfully there are some great tools available that make analyzing them a lot simpler than just wading through the naked log files.

Understanding what to do with the information once you have it is the real skill. If you know that a certain area of your site is rarely crawled by Google that should inform your technical SEO next steps.

It should raise questions about your internal linking structure.

Getting familiar with log files is a great first step but to improve your skills make sure you are analyzing the files and drawing actionable conclusions from them.

Resources To Learn More

8. Website Migrations

Getting good at planning and executing website migrations is not easy. It really does take experience.

Many SEO professionals who have worked exclusively brand-side may find they simply have not had the opportunity to carry out that many website migrations.

If you face a particularly complicated one, such as multiple websites merging, it can be very daunting.

Chances are if you have spent any length of time in an SEO agency, you will have migrated a website or two.

It may have been a smooth process but more likely there were unforeseen complications that made the processing time and resource consuming.

There are not really just one or two skills involved in website migrations.

They are usually a complicated mix of stakeholder management, communication, planning, processes-driving, technical understanding, and knowing when to say no.

But the skills you develop during website migrations will help you enormously with the rest of your SEO career.

Participate in one if you get the chance.

It can give you a great (albeit high-pressured) opportunity to see multiple moving SEO parts in play at once.

Resources to learn more:

9. Optimizing For Other Search Engines

If you truly want to advance your SEO skills, you might want to look further afield than Google.

We can often fall into the trap of thinking only about the traditional search engines when discussing SEO skills.

If we limit our training and experience to just these then we could be missing out on a much larger opportunity.

Traditional International Websites

Many search engines work on similar principles, but with their own specific nuances.

Traditional search engines more prevalent outside of your home region may be unfamiliar to you.

There are some great resources available to get you started in understanding the differences between them and the search engines you’re more familiar with optimizing for.

Nothing beats practice, however.

If you want to refine your knowledge and understanding of unfamiliar search engines then you need to try to rank a site in them and see what works and what doesn’t.

YouTube

For search engines like YouTube, the mechanics may be more familiar to you.

You will, however, still need to learn more about the algorithms in play to ensure you are carrying out the right activity to optimize your video content for the platform.

Other Non-traditional Search Engines

Don’t just stop at YouTube if you’re really wanting to advance your SEO skill set.

Take a look at some other search engines, like Pinterest and TripAdvisor.

These sites may not fit into your current remit as an SEO expert.

They are however still search engines that you can influence the success of your content in.

Resources to learn more:

10. International SEO

One of the most complicated projects an SEO might be involved in usually includes international elements.

It’s a complicated task because there are a lot of factors at play.

To optimize your website for international audiences you will need to employ technical SEO, digital PR, and on-page optimization skills.

There will be a range of questions you’ll need to ask yourself when you are considering expanding a website to international audiences.

These will include questions around the structure of the site – separate sites, sub-folders, or sub-directories?

Do you want to translate or localize the content? Do you want to target geography at the site or page level?

There are a lot of strategies and technical knowledge required to get international SEO right.

You may also need specific language skills or local knowledge resources.

Google has helpfully created an introduction to managing a multi-region website. It is a good place to start to identify the sorts of questions you should be asking.

You can also use it as a jumping-off point for further training or research.

This can help deepen your knowledge of the subject and sharpen your skills.

Resources to learn more:

Conclusion

These are just a few of the skills you can develop to become a more pragmatic SEO professional.

Even if you don’t want to learn all of them, it helps to have an understanding of what they all are.

Even more so, how they can help round out your skill-set as an SEO expert.

More resources:


Featured Image: Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock




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Gen Z Ditches Google, Turns To Reddit For Product Searches

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In this photo illustration, the Reddit logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

A new report from Reddit, in collaboration with GWI and AmbassCo, sheds light on the evolving search behaviors of Generation Z consumers.

The study surveyed over 3,000 internet users across the UK, US, and Germany, highlighting significant changes in how young people discover and research products online.

Here’s an overview of key findings and the implications for marketers.

Decline In Traditional Search

The study found that Gen Z uses search engines to find new brands and products less often.

That’s because they shop online differently. They’re less interested in looking for expert reviews or spending much time searching for products.

There are also frustrations with mobile-friendliness and complex interfaces on traditional search platforms.

Because of this, traditional SEO strategies might not work well for reaching younger customers.

Takeaway

Companies trying to reach Gen Z might need to try new methods instead of just focusing on being visible on Google and other search engines.

Rise Of Social Media Discovery

Screenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Gen Z is increasingly using social media to find new brands and products.

The study shows that Gen Z has used social media for product discovery 36% more frequently since 2018.

This change is affecting how young people shop online. Instead of searching for products, they expect brands to appear in their social media feeds.

1719123963 547 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Because of this, companies trying to reach young customers need to pay more attention to how they present themselves on social media.

Takeaway

To succeed at marketing to Gen Z, businesses will likely need to focus on two main things:

  1. Ensure that your content appears more often in social media feeds.
  2. Create posts people want to share and interact with.

Trust Issues With Influencer Marketing

Even though more people are finding products through social media, the report shows that Gen Z is less likely to trust what social media influencers recommend.

These young shoppers often don’t believe in posts that influencers are paid to make or products they promote.

Instead, they prefer to get information from sources that feel more real and are driven by regular people in online communities.

Takeaway

Because of this lack of trust, companies must focus on being genuine and building trust when they try to get their websites to appear in search results or create ads.

Some good ways to connect with these young consumers might be to use content created by regular users, encourage honest product reviews, and create authentic conversations within online communities.

Challenges With Current Search Experiences

The research shows that many people are unhappy with how search engines work right now.

More than 60% of those surveyed want search results to be more trustworthy. Almost half of users don’t like looking through many search result pages.

Gen Z is particularly bothered by inaccurate information and unreliable reviews.

1719123963 785 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Takeaway

Given the frustration with search quality, marketers should prioritize creating accurate, trustworthy content.

This can help build brand credibility, leading to more direct visits.

Reddit: A Trusted Alternative

The report suggests that Gen Z trusts Reddit when looking up products—it’s their third most trusted source, after friends and family and review websites.

1719123963 403 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Young users like Reddit because it’s community-based and provides specific answers to users’ questions, making it feel more real.

It’s worth noting that this report comes from Reddit itself, which probably influenced why it’s suggesting its own platform.

Takeaway

Companies should focus more on being part of smaller, specific online groups frequented by Gen Z.

That could include Reddit or any other forum.

Why SEJ Cares

As young people change how they look for information online, this study gives businesses important clues about connecting with future customers.

Here’s what to remember:

  • Traditional search engine use is declining among Gen Z.
  • Social media is increasingly vital for product discovery.
  • There’s growing skepticism towards influencer marketing.
  • Current search experiences often fail to meet user expectations.
  • Community-based platforms like Reddit are gaining trust.

Featured Image: rafapress/Shutterstock

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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

Featured Image by Shutterstock/sutlafk

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

More resources: 


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