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15 Tactics to Boost Your Rankings (That Don’t Require New Content)

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15 Tactics to Boost Your Rankings (That Don't Require New Content)

SEO is a long-term game.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any low-hanging opportunities to improve your SEO. Not only will the tactics below improve your rankings, but they also don’t need you to create new content.

Let’s go through them.

List of tactics to boost your rankings; their efficiency is rated according to three criteria: impact, confidence, and ease

1. Get more clicks on your top-ranking pages

The title tag is one of the first things a searcher sees:

Title tag in Google search

Making it attractive can entice them to choose your page over the others on the SERPs.

However, there is no point in optimizing the title tags of pages that won’t be seen by searchers. So we want to focus on pages that are already ranking high, specifically those in positions #2–5.

Here’s how to find them:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Go to the Top pages report
  4. Set the Position filter to 2–5
Finding pages to optimize title tags, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We can then use ChatGPT as inspiration to create compelling title tags. For example, let’s ask it to create 10 click-worthy titles for this blog post. For best results, I’ll give it a working title and ask it to limit these titles to a maximum of 60 characters (since Google cuts off title tags beyond that).

ChatGPT's suggestions for 10 click-worthy titles

Pretty decent. And we can make it even better, using the strategies in the articles below.

2. Refresh content with diminishing traffic

At Ahrefs, we perform a content audit every quarter. In one such audit, I discovered that organic traffic to our post on free SEO tools was declining. 

So I updated it. And traffic shot up.

Boost in traffic after a post was updated

The easiest way to find content worth updating is to install our free WordPress SEO plugin and run a content audit. This will tell you which articles to update. 

Content audit report, via Ahrefs' free WordPress SEO plugin

Then follow the steps in the resource below to update these posts.

3. Fill content gaps in existing content

If the top-ranking pages cover similar subtopics, they’re likely important and what searchers expect to see.

We can find these subtopics by looking at the common keywords the top-ranking pages rank for. Here’s how to find these “content gaps”:

  1. Enter your target keyword into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Scroll to the SERP Overview
  3. Check up to five relevant competing pages
  4. Click Open in and choose Content gap
Finding content gap opportunities in top-ranking pages, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This opens up the Content Gap report, where you’ll see the common keyword rankings among these pages. Look through the results to see if there are any subtopics you can cover. 

Potential subtopics to cover

For example, if we wanted to update our post on earned media, we might consider including subtopics like these:

  • Owned media examples
  • Paid media examples
  • Paid vs. earned media

4. Boost important pages with internal links

Internal links are links from one page on the same domain to another. Internal links aid the flow of PageRank around your site (which is a confirmed Google ranking factor). 

When used correctly, they can boost the performance of your pages in Google.

Here’s how to find pages to add internal links to:

  1. Sign up for the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT)
  2. Run a crawl using Ahrefs’ Site Audit
  3. When the crawl is done, go to the Internal link opportunities report
Internal link opportunities report, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

This report shows you relevant internal link opportunities on your site. Search for your “money” pages by setting the filter to “Target page.” 

Finding important pages to add internal links to

Look through the recommended suggestions. Where relevant, add your internal links. 

5. Fix broken backlinks coming to your site

Broken backlinks occur naturally because websites often remove or redirect pages. 

But if you have broken pages that many sites are linking to, you’re losing potential referral traffic and “link equity.”

Here’s how to find these pages:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Go to the Best by links report
  4. Set the “HTTP code” filter to 404 not found
  5. Sort the results by Referring domains
Finding broken pages to fix, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Then follow this flowchart to decide how to “fix” them:

How to deal with broken links

6. Go after featured snippets

Google often shows a full or partial answer to a query directly on the SERPs.

Example of a featured snippet

This is known as a featured snippet, and you can often jump ahead of everyone else by grabbing it. But how do you win the snippet?

First things first: From our knowledge, you’d have to be already ranking on the first page. Which means to optimize for featured snippets, you’ll have to find keywords:

  • That are showing featured snippets.
  • Where you’re ranking in the top 10.
  • With decent traffic potential.
Venn diagram showing the three requirements that indicate a featured snippet opportunity

Here’s how to find them:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report
  4. Set the Position filter to 2–10
  5. Use the SERP features filter to find keywords that trigger featured snippets “where target doesn’t rank”
Finding featured snippet opportunities, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Look through the list to see if there are opportunities where you can grab the snippet. 

For example, we currently rank #3 for “seo content strategy”:

Featured snippet for "seo content strategy"

Looks like the snippet demands a definition for “seo strategy,” which we didn’t have on our page. We could include that definition and, hopefully, win the snippet for ourselves. 

FAQ sections answer popular questions about a topic. Adding them to your page can help you rank higher for long-tail keywords

Example of an FAQ section

Because we answered a common question related to H1 tags—the length—we now rank on Google when people are searching for this answer:

Ranking for a featured snippet with FAQ section

Here’s how to find frequently asked questions to answer:

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter your topic
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Toggle to “Questions”
How to find questions to answer, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

8. Claim unlinked mentions

Unlinked mentions are online mentions of your brand or product that don’t link back to your site. For example, this page mentions us but doesn’t link back:

Example of an unlinked mention

Here’s how to find unlinked mentions for your brand:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Web Explorer
  2. Search using these parameters: [brand] -outlinkdomain:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com
How to find unlinked mentions with Ahrefs' Web Explorer

In this example, there are millions of pages to look through, so it’s worth filtering the report by Domain Rating (DR) or referring domains to exclude “low-value” opportunities. 

Here’s an example of an unlinked mention we found for our brand:

Example of an unlinked mention found via Ahrefs' Web Explorer

Rather than just reaching out and asking the author to add a link or make the link “clickable,” think about how you can help improve the content and make it beneficial for the author.

In our example, since it’s a product review and there was no mention of our free SEO tools or AWT, we could reach out and let the author know.

9. Improve your Core Web Vitals

Part of Google’s Page Experience signals, Core Web Vitals (CWV) consist of these:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  • First Input Delay (FID)

They are Google ranking factors.

You can check your CWV data using PageSpeed Insights, a free tool provided by Google that analyzes a page’s performance and provides suggestions for improving its speed and user experience.

Core Web Vitals assessment in PageSpeed Insights

You can also connect PageSpeed Insights’ API to Site Audit and see your Core Web Vitals together with other technical SEO issues:

PageSpeed Insights connected to Ahrefs' Site Audit, showing Core Web Vitals

Google uses alternative text (alt text) to understand the subject matter of an image. They can also help your images rank in Google Images and get traffic too.

Run a crawl with Site Audit (via Ahrefs Webmaster Tools) to find images on your site without alt text:

Missing alt text issue, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

It’s then just a matter of going through them and adding alt text. Keep it descriptive and concise, but don’t stuff keywords (e.g., “black kitten”).

11. Repurpose existing content into multiple formats

If you’ve already created a piece of content, you can go the extra mile by repurposing it into different formats. For example, we turned our SEO checklist into a video:

I also turned my post on the Skyscraper Technique into a Twitter thread:

But why do this if your goal is to improve your Google rankings? Well, YouTube videos rank on Google search results too:

YouTube video ranking on Google

Google also introduced Perspectives in 2023. This is a tab on the SERPs that allows users to see results from TikTok, YouTube, Quora, Reddit, tweets, and more. 

Essentially, Google will begin showing results from other channels too, not just websites. So there could be a possibility that “improving SEO” in the future means creating content on other channels too.

Sitelinks are links to other pages (or sections of a page) that appear under some Google search results. They give you more visibility on the SERPs.

Example of sitelinks

Sitelinks are often jump links on the page:

Example of jump links as sitelinks

So a good way to influence them is to create a table of contents for your pages. This is what we do for every blog post:

Example of a table of contents

If you’re using WordPress, you can do this via a plugin, like Easy Table of Contents.

If you’re a business serving customers locally, you’ll want to appear on local map pack search results too.

Local search results

The easiest way to begin boosting your local rankings is to claim and optimize your Google Business Profile (GBP). 

Once claimed, the information you add to your business profile can show up in Google’s web search results and in Google Maps.

Follow the guide below to learn how to optimize your GBP.

14. Replicate your competitors’ directory links

Local citations are mentions of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) online. In all, 7% of SEOs think these citations are the most important ranking factor.

A poll for how many SEOs think citations are the most important ranking factor

The easiest way to build these citations is via directories. Here’s how to find industry and local directories:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Go to the Link Intersect report
  4. Add your competitors to the top section
  5. Hit Show link opportunities
Link Intersect report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This will show you the websites linking to one or more of your competitors’ homepages, but not to yours. Look through the list to find sites that are niche and local directories.

Finding directories using Ahrefs' Link Intersect tool

If you’re not sure whether a site is a directory, click the caret in one of the competing page columns to see the referring page, anchor, and backlink. It’s usually quite obvious from these:

Example of a directory

15. Make sure your pages can be indexed by Google

If Google can’t index your pages, you won’t be able to rank in the search results at all. Make sure this doesn’t happen by running a crawl with Site Audit, via Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

If any of your pages have a noindex tag—which prevents Google from indexing the page—it’ll show up as an issue:

Noindex issue in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Unless they’re inserted deliberately, you’ll want to remove those tags.

Final thoughts

These tactics have the potential to boost your rankings in search engines. But don’t expect your rankings to jump overnight. 

Our research suggests that only 5.7% of all newly published pages reach the first page of Google within a year. That’s no surprise. SEO is a long-term game. 

So while it makes sense to implement these “low-hanging fruit” tactics, they’re no replacement for a long-term SEO strategy

Have questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter or Threads.



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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.

Sidenote.

This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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How To Use The Google Ads Search Terms Report

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How To Use The Google Ads Search Terms Report

One of the most essential aspects of a profitable Google Ads strategy is reaching the right people, with the right message, while they’re searching.

To do this correctly, you need to know exactly how your ads are doing and what words potential customers are using to search.

This is where the Google Ads search terms report comes in handy.

This report is a goldmine and an invaluable asset to every Google Ads account.

With insights into exact phrases being used to trigger your ads, the search terms report can help:

  • Significantly refine your keyword strategy.
  • Enhance your targeting.
  • Boost your return on investment (ROI).

Let’s get into why the Google Ads search terms report is not only helpful but essential for maximizing Google Ads profitability.

What Is The Google Ads Search Terms Report?

The search terms report is a performance tool that shows how your ad performed when triggered by actual searches on the Google Search Network.

The report shows specific terms and phrases that triggered your ad to show, which helps determine if you’re bidding on the right keywords or using the right match types.

If you find search terms that aren’t relevant for your business, you can easily add them to your negative keyword list repository.

This helps you spend your budget more effectively by ensuring your ads are only triggered for relevant, useful searches by potential customers.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a search term and a keyword:

  • Search term: Shows the exact word or phrase a customer enters on the Google Search Network to trigger an ad.
  • Keyword: The word or phrase that Google Ads advertisers target and bid on to show their ads to customers.

How To Create A Search Terms Report

Creating a search terms report in your Google Ads account is simple, and better yet – it can be automated!

To view your search terms report, you’ll need to:

  • Log into your Google Ads account.
  • Navigate to “Campaigns” >> “Insights & reports” >> “Search terms”

Below is an example of where to navigate in your Google Ads account to find the search terms report.

Screenshot taken by author, April 2024

After running this report, there are multiple actions you can take as a marketer:

  • Add top-performing searches to corresponding ad groups as keywords.
  • Select the desired match type (e.g. broad, phrase, exact) if adding new keywords.
  • Add irrelevant search terms to a negative keyword list.

3 Ways To Use Search Terms Report Data

As mentioned above, there are numerous ways you can use the search terms report data to optimize campaign performance.

Let’s take a look at three examples of how to use this report to get the best bang for your buck.

1. Refine Existing Keyword Lists

The first area the search terms report can help with is refining existing keyword lists.

By combing through the search terms report, you can find areas of opportunities, including:

  • What searches are leading to conversions.
  • What searches are irrelevant to the product or service.
  • What searches have high impressions but low clicks.
  • How searches are being mapped to existing keywords and ad groups.

For searches leading to conversions, it likely makes sense to add those as keywords to an existing ad group or create a new ad group.

If you’re finding some searches to be irrelevant to what you’re selling, it’s best to add them as negative keywords. That prevents your ad from showing up for that search moving forward.

If some searches have a high volume of impressions, but very few clicks, these will take further consideration. If it’s a keyword worth bidding on, it may indicate that the bid strategy isn’t competitive enough – meaning you’ll have to take action on your bid strategy.

If a search term is being triggered by multiple keywords and ad groups, this is a case of cross-pollution of keywords. This can lead to lower ROI because it’s essentially having multiple keywords bid on that search term, which can drive up the cost. If this happens, you have a few options:

  • Review and update existing keyword match types as necessary.
  • Add negative keywords where appropriate at the ad group or campaign level to avoid cross-pollution.

Ultimately, using the search terms report in this way allows you to determine what is performing well and eliminate poor performers.

2. Understand How Your Audience Is Actually Searching For Your Product

Something I often see is a mismatch of how a company talks about its product or service vs. how a customer is actually searching for it in the real world.

If you’re bidding on keywords you think describe your product or service but are not getting any traction, you could be misaligning expectations.

Oftentimes, searches that lead to conversions are from terms you wouldn’t have thought to bid on without looking at the search terms report.

One of this report’s most underutilized use cases is finding lesser-known ways customers are searching for and finding your product.

Finding these types of keywords may result in the creation of a new campaign, especially if the search terms don’t fit existing ad group structures.

Building out campaigns by different search themes allows for appropriate bidding strategies for each because not all keyword values are created equal!

Understanding how a customer is describing their need for a product or service not only helps your keyword strategy but can lead to better-aligned product positioning.

This leads us to a third way the search term report can help your campaigns.

3. Optimize Ad Copy and Landing Pages

As discussed in #2, customers’ language and phrases can provide valuable insights into their needs and preferences.

Marketers can use the search terms report to better tailor ad copy, making it more relevant and appealing to prospective customers.

And let’s not forget about the corresponding landing page!

Once a user clicks on an ad, they expect to see an alignment of what they searched for and what is presented on a website.

Make sure that landing page content is updated regularly to better match the searcher’s intent.

This can result in a better user experience and an improvement in conversion rates.

How Using The Search Terms Report Can Help ROI

All three examples above are ways that the search terms report can improve campaign ROI.

How so?

Let’s take a look at each example further.

How Refining Keywords Helps ROI

Part of refining existing keywords is negating any irrelevant search terms that trigger an ad.

Having a solid negative keyword strategy gets rid of “unwanted” spending on keywords that don’t make sense.

That previously “wasted” spend then gets redirected to campaigns that regularly drive higher ROI.

Additionally, adding top-performing search terms gives you better control from a bid strategy perspective.

Being able to pull the appropriate levers and setting proper bid strategies by search theme ultimately leads to better ROI.

How Understanding Audience Intent Helps ROI

By understanding the exact language and search terms that potential customers use, marketers can update ad copy and landing pages to better match those searches.

This can increase ad relevance and Ad Rank within Google Ads.

These items help with keyword Quality Score, which can help reduce CPCs as your Quality Score increases.

More relevant ads likely lead to higher click-through rates, which leads to a higher likelihood of converting those users!

How Updating Ad Copy And Landing Pages Helps ROI

This example goes hand-in-hand with the above recommendation.

As you start to better understand the audience’s search intent, updating ad copy and landing pages to reflect their search indicates better ad relevance.

Once a user clicks on that relevant ad, they find the content of the landing page matches better to what they’re looking for.

This enhanced relevance can significantly increase the likelihood of conversion, which ultimately boosts ROI.

Use This Report To Make Data-Driven Decisions

Google Ads is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy, often accounting for a large portion of your marketing budget.

By regularly reviewing the search terms report, you can refine your marketing budget to make your Google Ads campaigns more effective.

Using this report to make data-driven decisions that fine-tune multiple facets of campaign management leads to more effective ad spending, higher conversions, and ultimately higher ROI.

More resources: 


Featured Image: FGC/Shutterstock

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