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8 White Hat SEO Techniques To Double Your Search Traffic

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Stuck in a cycle of optimizations that don’t move the needle?

This post reveals white hat techniques that can potentially double, triple, or even 10x your traffic from organic search.

The Google system for ranking websites incorporates a series of algorithms designed to give the “best” results.

These algorithms take into consideration many factors, including the words in a query, relevance, page usability, source expertise, geo-location, and settings.

Furthermore, the weighting of these factors is dependent on the nature of a query.

For current topics, freshness carries a lot of weight.

For a dictionary type definition, the page trust and authority play a larger role.

To ensure the algorithms are functioning as intended, Google employs an army of Quality Raters.

They follow strict guidelines developed by Google to ensure the algorithm output matches the standards established for Page Quality and Needs Met. These guidelines are a must-read for anyone serious about building a top-performing website.

According to Google, their search algorithm looks at five key factors in determining which results appear at the top of their search results:

  • Meaning of your query.
  • Relevance of webpages.
  • Quality of content.
  • Usability of webpages.
  • Context and settings.

By addressing these five factors, you will be putting yourself in a position to outperform the competition. Here are some specific tips on how to do it:

1. Mobile First

I first began promoting a “mobile-first” approach to SEO back in March of 2015, after dubbing Google’s pending mobile update “mobilegeddon.”

The name caught on, but on April 21, 2015, the update didn’t create as big an upheaval as expected at the time.

It did, however, put everyone on notice, that mobile was here and no longer “the future.” Those who did not heed the warning to go mobile later paid the price.

Today, Google is all-in on mobile.

If you aren’t certain as to whether your website meets the criteria for being mobile-friendly, log in to your Search Console account and view the Mobile Usability Report.

Google will report mobile issues there, so you can take the appropriate actions to come into compliance.

2. Claim Your Business Listing

Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, is a free business listing.

Business Profiles show up in Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Shopping. If your business has a physical location or travels to customers, you can create a Business Profile on Google.

Top 5 Google Business Profile Benefits

  1. It’s FREE advertising – cheaper than paid search and faster than SEO.
  2. Google Maps/3-Pack favors geographically relevant businesses.
  3. An optimized profile makes a good first impression.
  4. A good star rating builds trust and provides social proof.
  5. The ability to check profile performance & gain insights.

As Google continues to improve its ability to deliver hyper-local results, it is critically important to have complete and accurate data in one’s Google Business Profile.

This continues to be an easy win, as many businesses have yet to even claim their listing.

3. Improve Your Page Experience

Google’s page experience is defined by a set of signals which are designed to measure how users react to a webpage. This measurement goes beyond basic information value.

It utilizes  Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure page loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability, as well as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

How Does Page Experience Affect Rankings?

In cases where several pages may satisfy the search criteria for relevance, page experience carries more weight.

A page that delivers sought-after information still trumps a page with less relevance, but a better page experience.

In short, page experience can be the SERP tiebreaker.

4. Focus On User Experience (UX)

Google has always encouraged webmasters to make their primary focus one of providing a good user experience.

As the algorithm gets “smarter,” websites that do so are positioned to benefit the most. A good user experience goes much deeper than writing clean code.

According to this study from the Oxford Journal, “The goal of UX design in business is to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”

For our purposes, your website is the product. The objective is to first determine a user’s intent, then develop a methodology for smooth navigation – a methodology that evokes a positive emotion and leads to an overall good experience.

Incorporating UX best practices is easy. The web is filled with templates and advice.

What separates the pros from the amateurs is A/B testing.

Each one of us has our own biases that will influence how a webpage is constructed.

By running a series of experiments, you will be able to quantify what is working, and what isn’t, and continue testing until you get it right.

5. Do Your Keyword Research

That’s right – keyword research is still important.

With Google providing less keyword data, third parties like Ahrefs and Semrush have developed their own keyword tools to fill the void.

However, the way that one goes about performing and using the results from keyword research has changed, thanks to RankBrain and BERT.

At its core, RankBrain is machine learning. This allows Google to put things in context rather than rely solely on strings of metadata. Google now understands language nuances like stemming, synonyms, and answers.

BERT is an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

The primary goal is to deliver better search results for longer and more conversational searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” affect the context of a query.

At the time of launch in October 2019, Google projected that BERT would impact 10% of all searches in the United States.

The new generation of keyword tools takes this into consideration by generating relevant data like Parent Topics, Keyword Groups, and Search Intent.

Armed with this information, users can develop contextually relevant content.

6. Have A Well-Rounded Content Marketing Plan

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 51% of all respondents report that it’s more difficult to capture the audience’s attention today than it was just a year ago.

Since content is one of the top Google ranking factors, it’s important to get it right. Once again, this presents a huge opportunity for those willing to invest the time to make that happen.

Everyone talks about creating “great content,” but what does that even mean?

It really comes down to having useful content, finding the right audience, and then reaching that audience.

This doesn’t have to be a difficult exercise. It boils down to having empathy with your prospects and customers. Ann Handley created the following formula to sum it up:

Useful x Enjoyable x Inspired = Innovative Content

Great content comes in many different forms. A well-rounded content marketing plan will include a combination of the following:

  • Blogs.
  • Data-driven visuals (Original Research).
  • Images.
  • Infographics.
  • SlideShare presentations.
  • Videos.

7. Pay Attention To On-Page Optimization

Did you know that Google publishes its own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide? You do now.

Despite its name, this guide is a great resource for everyone looking to maximize their chances of appearing in Google search results.

The guide covers key on-page basics, including the best practices for optimizing:

  1. Page Titles.
  2. Headers.
  3. Meta Descriptions.
  4. Image Alt-text.
  5. Structured Markup.
  6. Page URLs.
  7. Internal Linking.

Additional resources for improving on-page optimization:

8. Link Building Supercharges All Other Efforts

The day may come when links are less important to rankings, but that day hasn’t arrived yet. The key is to get the right kinds of links.

Links that have relevance to your site. Links that require a human editorial review. The kinds of links that are earned.

My favorite approach to earning relevant links is to build a resource center. A resource center can work on just about any kind of website. In addition to attracting links, a good resource center helps to build trust and authority.

Learn about this approach and more by downloading  Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide.

The Bottom Line

Organic search is a game of inches. There is no single best way to dominate the SERPs. But it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

If you just focus on the eight areas presented above, you can double, triple, or even 10x your traffic.

More Resources:


Featured Image: goodbishop/Shutterstock

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Google Updating Cryptocurrency Advertising Policy For 2024

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Google Updating Cryptocurrency Advertising Policy For 2024

Google published an announcement of upcoming changes to their cryptocurrency advertising policies and advises advertisers to make themselves aware of the changes and prepare to be in compliance with the new requirements.

The upcoming updates are to Google’s Cryptocurrencies and related products policy for the advertisement of Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts. The changes are set to take effect on January 29th, 2024.

Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts are financial products that enable investors to trade shares in trusts holding substantial amounts of digital currency. These trusts provide investors with equity in cryptocurrencies without having direct ownership. They are also an option for creating a more diversified portfolio.

The policy updates by Google that are coming in 2024 aim to describe the scope and requirements for the advertisement of Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts. Advertisers targeting the United States will be able to promote these products and services as long as they abide by specific policies outlined in the updated requirements and that they also obtain certification from Google.

The updated policy changes are not limited to the United States. They will apply globally to all accounts advertising Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts.

Google’s announcement also reminded advertisers of their obligation for compliance to local laws in the areas where the ads are targeted.

Google’s approach for violations of the new policy will be to first give a warning before imposing an account suspension.

Advertisers that fail to comply with the updated policy will receive a warning at least seven days before a potential account suspension. This time period provides advertisers with an opportunity to fix non-compliance issues and to get back into compliance with the revised guidelines.

Advertisers are encouraged to refer to Google’s documentation on “About restricted financial products certification.”

The deadline for the change in policy is January 29th, 2024. Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts advertisers will need to pay close attention to the updated policies in order to ensure compliance.

Read Google’s announcement:

Updates to Cryptocurrencies and related products policy (December 2023)

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SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2024

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SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2024

Most SEO trends fade quickly. But some of them stick and deserve your attention.

Let’s explore what those are and how to take advantage of them.

If you give ChatGPT a title and ask it to write a blog post, it will—in seconds.

This is super impressive, but there are a couple of issues:

  • Everyone else using ChatGPT is creating the same content. It’s the same for users of other GPT-powered AI writing tools, too—which is basically all of them.
  • The content is extremely dull. Sure, you can ask ChatGPT to “make it more entertaining,” but it usually overcompensates and hands back a cringe version of the same boring content.

In the words of Gael Breton:

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t use AI to write entire articles. They’ll be boring as heck. Instead, use it as a creative sparring partner to help you write better content and automate monotonous tasks.

For example, you can ask ChatGPT To write an outline from a working title and a list of keywords (which you can pull from Ahrefs)—and it does a pretty decent job.

Prompt:

Create an outline for a post entitled “[working title]” based on these keywords: [list]

Result:

ChatGPT's outline for a blog post. Pretty good!ChatGPT's outline for a blog post. Pretty good!

When you’ve written your draft, you can ask to polish it in seconds by asking ChatGPT to proofread it.

ChatGPT proofreading my content and making it betterChatGPT proofreading my content and making it better

Then you can automate the boring stuff, like creating more enticing title tags…

ChatGPT writing enticing title tagsChatGPT writing enticing title tags

… and writing a meta description:

ChatGPT writing a meta descriptionChatGPT writing a meta description

If you notice a few months down the line that your content ranks well but hasn’t won the featured snippet, ChatGPT can help with that, too.

For example, Ahrefs tells us we rank in position 3 for “affiliate marketing” but don’t own the snippet.

Ahrefs showing featured snippets that we don't own, despite ranking in the top 3Ahrefs showing featured snippets that we don't own, despite ranking in the top 3

If we check Google, the snippet is a definition. Asking ChatGPT to simplify our definition may solve this problem.

ChatGPT rewriting a definition and making it betterChatGPT rewriting a definition and making it better

In short, there are a near-infinite number of ways to use ChatGPT (and other AI writing tools) to create better content. And all of them buck the trend of asking it to write boring, boilerplate articles from scratch.

Programmatic SEO refers to the creation of keyword-targeted pages in an automatic (or near automatic) way.

Nomadlist’s location pages are a perfect example:

Example of a page from NomadListExample of a page from NomadList

Each page focuses on a specific city and shares the same core information—internet speeds, cost, temperature, etc. All of this information is pulled programmatically from a database and the site gets an estimated 46k monthly search visits in total.

Estimated monthly search traffic to NomadListEstimated monthly search traffic to NomadList

Programmatic SEO is nothing new. It’s been around forever. It’s just the hot thing right now because AI tools like ChatGPT make it easier and more accessible than ever before.

The problem? As John Mueller pointed out on Twitter X, much of it is spam:

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t use programmatic SEO to publish insane amounts of spam that’ll probably get hit in the next Google update. Use it to scale valuable content that will stand the test of time.

For example, Wise’s currency conversion pages currently get an estimated 31.7M monthly search visits:

Estimated monthly search traffic to Wise's currently conversion pages (insane!)Estimated monthly search traffic to Wise's currently conversion pages (insane!)

This is because the content is actually useful. Each page features an interactive tool showing the live exchange rate for any amount…

The interactive currently conversion tool on Wise's pagesThe interactive currently conversion tool on Wise's pages

… the exchange rate over time…

The exchange rate over time graph on Wise's pagesThe exchange rate over time graph on Wise's pages

… a handy email notification option when the exchange rates exceed a certain amount…

The email notification option on Wise's pagesThe email notification option on Wise's pages

… handy conversion charts for popular amounts…

The handy conversion charts on Wise's pagesThe handy conversion charts on Wise's pages

… and a comparison of the cheapest ways to send money abroad in your chosen currency:

The useful comparison table on Wise's pagesThe useful comparison table on Wise's pages

It doesn’t matter that all of these pages use the same template. The data is exactly what you want to see when you search [currency 1] to [currency 2].

That’s probably why Wise ranks in the top 10 for over 66,000 of these keywords:

Wise's keyword rankings for currency conversion pagesWise's keyword rankings for currency conversion pages

Looking to take advantage of programmatic content in 2024 like Wise? Check out the guide below.

People love ChatGPT because it answers questions fast and succinctly, so it’s no surprise that generative AI is already making its way into search.

For example, if you ask Bing for a definition or how to do something basic, AI will generate an answer on the fly right there in the search results.

Bing's search results for "definition of mental health"Bing's search results for "definition of mental health"
Bing's search results for "how to add drop down list in google sheets"Bing's search results for "how to add drop down list in google sheets"

In other words, thanks to AI, users no longer have to click on a search result for answers to simple questions. It’s like featured snippets on steroids.

This might not be a huge deal right now, but when Google’s version of this (Search Generative Experience) comes out of beta, many websites will see clicks fall off a cliff.

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t invest too much in topics that generative AI can easily answer. You’ll only lose clicks like crazy to AI in the long run. Instead, start prioritizing topics that AI will struggle to answer.

How do you know which topics it will struggle to answer? Try asking ChatGPT. If it gives a good and concise answer, it’s clearly an easy question.

For example, there are hundreds of searches for how to calculate a percentage in Google Sheets every month in the US:

Estimated monthly search volume for "google sheets percentage formula" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerEstimated monthly search volume for "google sheets percentage formula" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If you ask ChatGPT for the solution, it gives you a perfect answer in about fifty words.

ChatGPT's answer to the Google Sheets percentage calculation formulaChatGPT's answer to the Google Sheets percentage calculation formula

This is the perfect example of a topic where generative AI will remove the need to click on a search result for many.

That’s probably not going to be the case for a topic like this:

Example of a topic that AI shouldn't impact too muchExample of a topic that AI shouldn't impact too much

Sure. Generative AI might be able to tell you how to create a template—but it can’t make one for you. And even if it can in the future, it will never be a personal finance expert with experience. You’ll always have to click on a search result for a template created by that person.

These are the kinds of topics to prioritize in 2024 and beyond.

Sidenote.

None of this means you should stop targeting “simple” topics altogether. You’ll always be able to get some traffic from them. My point is not to be obsessed with ranking for keywords whose days are numbered. Prioritize topics with long-term value instead.

Bonus: 3 SEO trends to ignore in 2024

Not all SEO trends move the needle. Here are just a few of those trends and why you should ignore them.

People are using voice search more than ever

In 2014, Google revealed that 41% of Americans use voice search daily. According to research by UpCity, that number was up to 50% as of 2022. I haven’t seen any data for 2023 yet, but I’d imagine it’s above 50%.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

75% of voice search results come from a page ranking in the top 3, and 40.7% come from a featured snippet. If you’re already optimizing for those things, there’s not much more you can do.

People are using visual search for shopping more than ever

In 2022, Insider Intelligence reported that 22% of US adults have shopped with visual search (Google Lens, Bing Visual Search, etc.). That number is up from just 15% in 2021.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

Much like voice search, there’s no real way to optimize for visual search. Sure, it helps to have good quality product images, optimized filenames and alt text, and product schema markup on your pages—but you should be doing this stuff anyway as it’s been a best practice since forever.

People are using Bing more than ever before

Bing’s Yusuf Mehdi announced in March 2023 that the search engine had surpassed 100M daily active users for the first time ever. This came just one month after the launch of AI-powered Bing.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

Bing might be more popular than ever, but its market share still only stands at around ~3% according to estimates by Statcounter. Google’s market share stands at roughly 92%, so that’s the one you should be optimizing for.

Plus, it’s often the case that if you rank in Google, you also rank in Bing—so it really doesn’t deserve any focus.

Final thoughts

Keeping your finger on the pulse and taking advantage of trends makes sense, but don’t let them distract you from the boring stuff that’s always worked: find what people are searching for > create content about it > build backlinks > repeat.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter X.



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Mozilla VPN Security Risks Discovered

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Mozilla VPN Security Risks Discovered

Mozilla published the results of a recent third-party security audit of its VPN services as part of it’s commitment to user privacy and security. The survey revealed security issues which were presented to Mozilla to be addressed with fixes to ensure user privacy and security.

Many search marketers use VPNs during the course of their business especially when using a Wi-Fi connection in order to protect sensitive data, so the  trustworthiness of a VNP is essential.

Mozilla VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), is a service that hides (encrypts) a user’s Internet traffic so that no third party (like an ISP) can snoop and see what sites a user is visiting.

VPNs also add a layer of security from malicious activities such as session hijacking which can give an attacker full access to the websites a user is visiting.

There is a high expectation from users that the VPN will protect their privacy when they are browsing on the Internet.

Mozilla thus employs the services of a third party to conduct a security audit to make sure their VPN is thoroughly locked down.

Security Risks Discovered

The audit revealed vulnerabilities of medium or higher severity, ranging from Denial of Service (DoS). risks to keychain access leaks (related to encryption) and the lack of access controls.

Cure53, the third party security firm, discovered and addressed several risks. Among the issues were potential VPN leaks to the vulnerability of a rogue extension that disabled the VPN.

The scope of the audit encompassed the following products:

  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for macOS
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Linux
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Windows
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for iOS
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Androi

These are the risks identified by the security audit:

  • FVP-03-003: DoS via serialized intent
  • FVP-03-008: Keychain access level leaks WG private key to iCloud
  • VP-03-010: VPN leak via captive portal detection
  • FVP-03-011: Lack of local TCP server access controls
  • FVP-03-012: Rogue extension can disable VPN using mozillavpnnp (High)

The rogue extension issue was rated as high severity. Each risk was subsequently addressed by Mozilla.

Mozilla presented the results of the security audit as part of their commitment to transparency and to maintain the trust and security of their users. Conducting a third party security audit is a best practice for a VPN provider that helps assure that the VPN is trustworthy and reliable.

Read Mozilla’s announcement:
Mozilla VPN Security Audit 2023

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Meilun

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