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Beginner’s Guide to Optimizing Websites for Better Rankings

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Beginner's Guide to Optimizing Websites for Better Rankings

You want to rank on the #1 spot in Google. I get it. Everyone wants that spot but how come you’ve never been able to get your keywords there consistently?

I wrote this guide for you to get some of your keywords there in 30 days or less.

Just like a car needs regular tune-ups to keep it running smoothly, your website needs periodic SEO maintenance to help it maintain a high ranking.

Here are some routine tasks that me and my team in SEO Hacker do for our client’s website upkeep.

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Publish fresh or update old content regularly

One crucial element to maintaining your website rankings is your content. Without content, search engines can’t take into account that your website is authoritative and trustworthy.

With that said, do you consistently create original and satisfying content? Have you also backtracked some of your old content and looked to see if there are articles that needs updating?

With Google’s recent helpful content update, it’s important to consider how you create content.

Below are some guide questions to help you re-evaluate previously published content and how you create new content:

  • Does your content demonstrate your expertise and depth of knowledge from using a product or service?
  • Does your content primarily summarize what others have to say without adding much value of your own?
  • What impression will your content leave on a reader? Will they learn something new or experience something satisfying?
  • Do you create valuable content while keeping Google’s guidelines and core algorithm updates in mind?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question without a clear, confirmed answer yet, or one that hasn’t been confirmed?
  • Does your visual content follow Google’s image SEO best practices?
  • Is your content and web design and interface mobile-friendly?
  • Is your content likely to receive backlinks because of its resourcefulness and value?

These questions will help you plan and create substantial content for your website that’s aligned with your audience and Google’s recommendations.

Check your internal and external links periodically

Did you know that backlinks help to establish the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of your website? Links are an active and powerful ranking signal to this day.

When other websites cite your website or web page via links, it shows Google that you’re authoritative and trustworthy.

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To maintain your website’s rankings, you will need to check your internal and external links periodically. Internal links or interlinks are hyperlinks that point from a page in your site to another page on your site.

Internal links help users navigate your site and find the content they are searching for.

What internal links do for SEO is that it helps search engines find and understand the value, relevance, and relationship between your web pages.

On the other hand, external links or outbound links are hyperlinks that point from your website to an article on a third-party website. Every time you link to another website altogether, it is an external link.

I’m guessing your next question here is, does creating outbound links matter in SEO?

Some SEO specialists agree it matters in SEO, while some don’t. In any case, how I decide is if it helps the reader know more about the topic or the content that I wrote, I will link out for sure. Every external link included in our content is meant to cite relevant and authoritative sources.

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Consequently, these links let my readers learn more about the topic deeply. In addition, it also gives me the opportunity to build some expertise and authority to the content I wrote as well.

An experiment done by Reboot Online showed how external links can help improve your website’s ranking. Their study concludes that “outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites are considered in the algorithms and do have a positive impact on rankings.” To learn more about their updated study in-depth, you can read about it here.

What this study and my personal experience concludes is that linking to sites with good contextual authority has a positive impact on your content’s rankings when done correctly. It helps send trust signals to Google.

But why do you need to occasionally check your hyperlinks?

Remember, we create content for people. If someone clicks on a link and receives an error message, they are more likely to leave the site. Links that no longer work or are inaccessible are called broken links. While broken links do not directly affect your website’s rankings, inaccessible links directly affect user experience – which I could argue is a ranking factor.

Optimize your titles, meta descriptions, and alt text for images

You shouldn’t neglect the small details like titles and meta descriptions that contribute to your website’s organic traffic and ranking. Titles and meta descriptions play a major role in making your website visible in the search results.

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These elements aren’t considered on-page ranking factors per se, but what they do is they help searchers see and understand what your website or your webpage is about straight from the search results page.

meta description screenshot
A lot of people click on titles and meta descriptions on search engine results pages (SERP) that contain relevant summaries. When searchers click on your website’s title and meta description related to their query, your click-through rate (CTR) increases.

On the other hand, adding alternative text (alt-text) to your images plays a role in making your websites rank because of its importance on Google Image Search. If an image doesn’t load or is inaccessible to a web browser, an alternative text provides a helpful description of the image to users.

In essence, adding alternative text to images is like hitting two birds with one stone: it helps searchers who may have images or scripts turned off in their web browser understand what your image is about. Similarly, it helps Google bots crawl and index your website better.

So, if you haven’t optimized your website’s titles, meta descriptions, or your images’ alt-texts yet, now’s the time to do so. If you don’t know how to optimize your meta description, here’s a helpful post where we share some useful tips on how to do it.

Key Takeaway

In SEO, nothing is sacred. This is why SEO is never a one-time fix. Rankings in search results aren’t permanent. Search engines like Google constantly update their algorithms. Plus the fact that your competitors can catch up and get ahead if they employ better SEO strategies. Whatever tactic or strategy you have in place now for your website to rank may not work tomorrow.

This is why SEO maintenance is important. By regularly performing these and other web maintenance tasks, you can help your website earn high rankings in search results and keep it there.

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Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments below.

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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Featured Image:Ismael Juan/Shutterstock

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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Google Unplugs “Notes on Search” Experiment

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Google unplugs Notes On Search Experiment

Google is shutting down it’s Google Notes Search Labs experiment that allowed users to see and leave notes on Google’s search results and many in the search community aren’t too surprised.

Google Search Notes

Availability of the feature was limited to Android and Apple devices and there was never a clearly defined practical purpose or usefulness of the Notes experiment. Search marketers reaction throughout has consistently been that would become a spam-magnet.

The Search Labs page for the experiment touts it as mode of self-expression, to help other users and as a way for users to collect their own notes within their Google profiles.

The official Notes page in Search Labs has a simple notice:

Notes on Search Ends May 2024

That’s it.

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Screenshot Of Notice

Reaction From Search Community

Kevin Indig tweeted his thoughts that anything Google makes with a user generated content aspect was doomed to attract spam.

He tweeted:

“I’m gonna assume Google retires notes because of spam.

It’s crazy how spammy the web has become. Google can’t launch anything UGC without being bombarded.”

Cindy Krum (@Suzzicks) tweeted that it was author Purna Virji (LinkedIn profile) who predicted that it would be shut down once Google received enough data.

She shared:

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“It was actually @purnavirji who predicted it when we were at @BarbadosSeo – while I was talking. Everyone agreed that it would be spammed, but she said it would just be a test to collect a certain type of information until they got what they needed, and then it would be retired.”

Purna herself responded with a tweet:

“My personal (non-employer) opinion is that everyone wants all the UGC to train the AI models. Eg Reddit deal also could potentially help with that.”

Google’s Notes for Search seemed destined to never take off, it was met with skepticism and a shrug when it came out and nobody’s really mourning that it’s on the way out, either.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Jamesbin



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