Search engine positioning is the art of maximizing search engine rankings for individual web pages.
In this article, I show you 17 search engine positioning tactics with step-by-step instructions on how to implement them.
This is a long article but please read it to the end because it contains every search engine positioning strategy I use to get my blog posts on Page #1 of Google.
Are you ready?
1. Optimize for Mobile Search
Did you know that in October 2016 mobile browsing overtook desktop browsing?
That’s right – according to Tech Spot mobile and tablet now makes up 51.3 per cent of all browsing.
In November of 2016 Google introduced the ‘mobile first index’. This means that the mobile version of your website is now the starting point for what Google indexes.
Earlier that same year Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to reflect the fact that most of the world’s Internet browsing was now happening on mobile devices.
AMP pages use a stripped down version of HTML so that content loads lightning fast and with only the bare essentials.
Setting up your WordPress site for Accelerated Mobile Pages is a key search engine positioning strategy.
How to get started with AMP pages?
2. Optimize for Voice Search
2.1 Voice Search Is Growing Fast
In May 2016 Google announced that 20% of all searches are now voice search.
Jody Nimetz reports that by 2020 a whopping 50% of all searches will be voice search.
The rapid growth in voice search between 2008 and 2016 tells you all you need to know.
In voice search, people use digital assistants such as Siri, Teneo, Braina, Hound, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant to find information.
In text search we all became adept at using very abbreviated search terms such as ‘best cms 2018’. But in voice search people are much more conversational: they’re more likely to ay “what is the best content management system in 2018?”
2.2 How to Optimize for Voice Search
Here are some of the ways you can optimize for voice search:
- Use more conversational phrases in your writing
- Include a FAQ page from which simple answers that can easily be extracted
- Use Structured Data Markup to give voice search devices quick clues as to what your content is about
- Use even longer tail keywords - voice search usually contains many more words than text search
For more tips on how to optimize for voice search read these two articles:
3. Optimize for ‘Rich Answers’
Rich Answers are when Google gives you the answer to your search query directly in the search results – you don’t even need to click on the listing.
Let’s say you typed in: “what is pageless design”.
Google gives you an Answer Box (which is a type of Rich Answer):
Optimizing for 'Rich Answers' is a search engine positioning strategy that not many bloggers are using, so do this and you'll be ahead of the pack!
So how do you get your web pages to show up as Rich Answers in the search results?
Here are some tips:
3.1 Use Schema Markup
This allows Google to easily extract relevant data from within your source code to be used in the Answer Box.
This is what a SERP snippet can look like when Schema Markup has been enabled:
In the example above, Google has pulled out some of the experts I interviewed in the article and placed them in the SERP snippet. This helps my search result to stand out from the others.
Here’s another example:
In this instance, Google has pulled two of the plugins I reviewed and placed them directly in the SERP snippet. Again, it makes my SERP snippet stand out and therefore it attracts more clicks.
3.2 Pose a Question and Then Answer It
If your content is in a format that Google can readily understand, it’s more likely that your definition or answer will end up in an Answer Box.
3.3 Create a FAQ Page
It’s likely that Google looks for content for its Answer Boxes from within FAQ pages. So this is another way of increasing the chances of your content ending up in an Answer Box.
3.4 Turn Your Headline into a Question
To get Google’s attention, turn your headline into a question that includes your keyword phrase, and then answer the question in the text beneath the headline
Here's a way to find questions you might be able to answer:
- Type a ‘seed phrase’ into Google using an asterisk as a ‘wildcard’
In the example below I typed in ‘how do you * in wordpress’
That gives me a list of popular queries about how to do things in WordPress.
To get even more ideas, click on one of them and then look at the ‘related searches’ below. These are often in the form of questions that searchers frequently ask:
4. Write Longer Content
Most people know this by now, but it’s still worth repeating…
The evidence is overwhelming: longer content ranks higher in the search results.
Going back to Brian Dean’s study of over 1 million search results, here is the correlation between length of content and ranking:
One of the reasons long form content ranks higher is simply that it takes longer to read:
- more time on page = higher rankings
If you only implement one search engine positioning strategy from this article, make it this one!
Aim for about 2000 words or more and you’ll be on the right side of the data.
5. Write Blog Posts with High Topical Authority
Before the Hummingbird algorithm, Google measured the authority and the relevance of a site by the number and type of external links pointing to the site.
Incoming links with particular keywords as anchor text were the main factor in how Google measured the relevance and authority of a website.
5.1 Topical Authority Replaces Keyword Density
But that all changed with Hummingbird.
The Google algorithm now uses latent semantic indexing to understand meaning and context.
Google can now measure the relevance and authority of a website without relying on incoming links and anchor text.
With topical authority single keywords become much less important. What matters now is how well your content covers the topic as a whole.
Instead of single keywords, the algorithm is now looking for semantically related keywords - it’s looking for patterns and context.
5.2 How You Can Increase Topical Authority
So, how do you increase topical authority?
- Be very clear about the 6 to 10 topics that make up your niche focus
- When you write on those topics, make sure you cover all the related sub-topics
- Create pillar pages, each one acting as a hub for a cluster of related blog posts
- Create internal links between posts or pages on your site that deal with related topics
- Include LSI keywords in your blog posts
- Use the ‘Related searches’ feature in the Google results to find semantically related keywords
- Make sure you understand ‘user intent’ – in other words ensure that your page answers the searcher’s query
For more tips on how to increase topical authority, see my article How To Find Seed Keywords In Your Niche & Increase Topical Authority
6. Speed Up Your Website
Page speed is itself a ranking factor.
And so also is bounce rate.
If your page takes too long to load, people hit the back button and go back to the search results.
And that pushes up your bounce rate.
So, how do you speed up your website?
6.1 Check Your Site Speed
The first thing to do is check your site speed.
Here are two of the best places to check your site speed:
If your page loads in 1.5 – 2 seconds, that’s considered a good site speed.
Speeding up your website has two sides to it:
- The way your webhost has configured their servers
- The content you put on your web pages
You don’t have much control over the first item (except to change web host).
But fortunately the second item you do control.
6.2 How To Improve Site Speed
The main areas where you can speed up your website are:
- Reduce image size
- Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Reduce the number of
- HTTP requests
- Reduce the number of plugins
- Enable HTTP/2
For more information on this topic, visit Crazy Egg’s 20 Ways to Speed Up Your Website and Improve Conversion.
Useful Tip: I recently increased the speed of my website from a load time of approx. 7-9 seconds to a load-time of 2-3 seconds. This is how I did it:
Watch This Video: 'SEO For Beginners: 3 Powerful SEO Tips to Rank #1 on Google in 2019' (09 mins 20 secs)
7. Reduce Bounce Rate
Google defines bounce rate as “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page”.
Simply put, the content on your page was not what your visitor was looking for or expecting.
Since Google is in the business of matching search queries to search results, a high bounce rate sends a bad signal to Google. The algorithm will start moving you down the search results.
Remember Brian Dean’s study over one million search results?
He found that low bounce rates are strongly associated with higher Google rankings:
7.1 Find Your Bounce Rate
To find your bounce rate, log into Google Analytics and then go to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages:
So what is an acceptable bounce rate?
It depends on what industry or niche you’re in. So it’s hard to come up with a single figure for everyone.
But here are some ‘ballpark’ figures for bounce rates provided by Go Rocket Fuel
- Bounce rate of 26 to 40 per cent is excellent
- 41 to 55 per cent is about average
- 56 to 70 per cent is higher than average, but still no cause for panic
- Bounce rate over 70 per cent is usually cause for alarm
7.2 How to Reduce Your Bounce Rate
Here are seven ways to reduce your bounce rate:
- Make your content more readable by using shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, plenty of headings, narrow column width, lots of white space, plenty of images, bullet points, and a large font.
- Speed up your web page loading time – according to Kissmetrics 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- Make sure (a) you understand the searcher intent behind the keyword that you are targeting, and (b) that your page answers the question behind that keyword
- Have a clear message and a clear Call To Action – your reader needs to know immediately what your page is about and what you want them to do.
- Create valuable content that matches the targeted keyword and helps people who use that keyword in their search query
- Use transitional phrases in your writing to keep people moving down the page
- Use Internal Linking to take your visitor to other posts on related topics
8. Improve Your Click Through Rate (CTR)
It’s one thing to get your article listed on Page #1 of the SERPs but it’s quite another to get people to click on your listing.
Click Through Rate (CTR) is a key SEO factor in Google’s algorithm – the higher your CTR, the higher your position in the search results.
This graphic from Neil Patel shows the relationship between CTR and Google Position:
Improving your Click Through Rate from the SERPs is another vital search engine positioning strategy.
Google watches this metric very closely and it directly affects your ranking in the search results!
Here are five tips for increasing your Click Through Rate:
- Use this formula for your meta title: Number + [powerful adjective] + keyword:
2. Use numbers and symbols in your meta title – they stand out in the SERPs:
3. End your meta description with a teaser: place an ellipsis (…) at the end of the meta description – people click on the link because they want to know what comes next:
4. Include your keyword(s) in the URL:
5. Use your keywords in the meta title and the meta description - Google will put them in bold:
9. Improve ‘Dwell Time’
Dwell time, also called ‘time on page’, is one of the metrics that Google uses to rank pages.
The reason dwell time is so important for Google is quite simple: the more time a person spends on your page the more likely it is that your content answered their search query.
For some great tips on how to increase time on page have a look at my article Seven Best Ways To Increase Time On Page & Get Higher Rankings.
10. Make Your Page Easy to Scan
It’s hard to get the average visitor to go below the fold, as the following graphic shows:
Dr. Jakob Nielson’s research shows that people spend a whopping 57% of their time above the “fold” (i.e. on the first screen of content).
How do you get visitors to keep scanning down your page?
Make your page easy to scan by breaking up walls of text using short paragraphs, headings and sub-headings, images, and large font size (16 px and over).
Here are some tips from Susan Greene on how to Make Your Web Content More Readable.
You can also make your pages much more scannable by using good visual hierarchy as UX Planet explains in the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Web Design’.
People scan when they first arrive at a web page: they quickly want to see what the page has that’s relevant to them.
Here’s an example of how to draw in the visitor’s eye using visual hierarchy:
11. Use a Featured Image
A featured image is the image that’s associated with your WordPress bog post. It usually contains a graphic plus the title of your blog post:
You can find the option to associate a featured image with your blog post in the right column of the blog post edit screen:
Why does a featured image help with search engine positioning?
For starters, when you post a link to your blog post on Twitter your featured image will be included in the post.
And according to Buffer, tweets with images get 87% more clicks, re-tweets, and favourites:
To get your featured image to display in Twitter and Facebook, go to the Yoast panel in the edit screen for your blog post and click on the ‘Share’ icon.
You’ll find a tab for Twitter and a tab for Facebook:
Here are some of the benefits of using a featured image in your blog post, as listed by wpmudev:
- It gets your visitors’ attention
- It tells your visitors what your content is about without forcing them to read anything
- Featured images indirectly improve SEO.
- A featured image gives your readers’ eyes a break from the text
- It reinforces website branding
12. Link Out To Authority Sites
You might be surprised to hear that linking out will improve your search engine positioning.
After all, most blog owners worry about linking out to other sites. They fear it will damage their search engine rankings, reduce their page rank, or simply create exit points for their visitors to leave.
But the truth is actually the opposite. Linking out to authority website will strengthen your search engine positioning.
Here are some of the reasons external linking is SEO positive:
- It makes your resource more valuable to your readers, and therefore more likely to be shared
- It provides an opportunity to build relationships with other bloggers
- It creates an incentive for other sites to link to you (reciprocity is a driving principle in human behaviour)
- According to Moz, linking to relevant authority websites is likely rewarded by the search engines in their algorithms.
But there's another reason to link to other sites:
You may have noticed that in nearly all my blog posts I link to top-ranking articles for more information on a particular topic.
Immediately after I publish my post I send a tweet to those other sites letting them know that I just mentioned them in my latest post.
They nearly always respond by sharing may article on Twitter.
Within an hour of going live each new blog post of mine has 10 to 20 social media shares. Agreed, it’s not much. But it’s a nice boost for a brand new article.
13. Target Long Tail Keywords
This is really the essence of search engine positioning!
The biggest mistake I see bloggers making is not doing keyword research before writing blog posts. And the second biggest mistake I see is when bloggers target head keywords instead of long tail keywords.
A head keyword is a keyword that contains only one or two words. An example would be ‘WordPress editor’.
Head keywords typically have a monthly search volume in the thousands. But they also have massive competition.
As a beginning blogger you simply have no chance of ranking on Page #1 of Google for a head keyword.
So what’s the solution?
Go for long tail keywords.
These are keywords that contain three or more words. They typically have a monthly search volume in the hundreds. Because their search volume is much lower, the competition to rank for these words is also much lower.
Going back to our example, a long tail keyword would be ‘alternatives to the WordPress editor’ or ‘WordPress editor tips’.
But where do you find long tail keywords?
Here are my four favourite methods for finding long tail keywords.
12.1 Google Auto Suggest
You’ve probably noticed that when you type in a search query, Google gives you a handful of popular queries that other searchers have typed in:
These are fantastic long tail keywords!
And you know people are searching on these terms because that’s where Google got them – from previous searches.
12.2 Google’s ‘Related Searches’
You may have noticed when you do a search that Google gives you a list of related keywords at the bottom of the page:
Google’s ‘related searches’ are a goldmine for long tail keywords!
Useful Tip: Take the process a step further: pick one of the ‘related searches’ and type it into Google and then look at the ‘related searches’ for that keyword.
If people are discussing something on Reddit you can be sure they’re searching for it on Google. So this is another great place to find long tail keywords.
Simply go to reddit and type in your seed keyword:
I can immediately see 5 possible long tail keywords:
- ‘annotate text in wordpress editor’
- ‘edit wordpress from MAMP’
- ‘remove HTML tags from wordpress’
- ‘create a custom category page in wordpress’
- ‘edit PHP files in wordpress editor’
Ubersuggest pulls its data in from Google Suggest. It takes your seed word and then goes through the alphabet looking for variations.
You may have noticed that if you type your seed word into Google, followed by the letter ‘a’, Google will auto suggest keyword variations where the third word begins with the letter ‘a’:
Of course, it would take you hours to go through the whole alphabet like that.
But Ubersuggest does it in a matter of seconds. And that’s what makes this such is why its such a powerful tool for long tail keyword research.
Head over to Ubersuggest and type in your seed keyword:
For the seed word ‘WordPress editor’, Ubersuggest gives me 728 long tail keywords, together with search volume and level of competition:
You can order the results by search volume, CPC, or competition:
You can also filter the results so that they include a particular word or exclude a particular word:
14. Use LSI Keywords
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are simply keywords that are semantically related to your main keyword.
LSI keywords are not necessarily synonyms of your main keyword but they are words that are often found in the same context as your main keyword.
Here are some LSI keywords for the keyword ‘coffee machine’:
With the Hummingbird algorithm (introduced in September of 2013) Google is no longer focusing on single keywords.
Instead, Google now understands context and patterns of words. It also understands the breadth and depth of the whole topic you’re writing about.
One of the factors that Google is now using to rank web pages is topical authority – how well you have covered the particular topic you’re writing about.
How does Google measure topical authority?
Latent Semantic Indexing:
Google knows, through machine learning and vector analysis, that certain words cluster together in predictable patterns, depending on what the topic is. Those word clusters are made up of LSI keywords.
So if you want your article to rank well in the search results, you need to use as many of the LSI keywords associated with your main keyword as you can.
Here are some online tools for finding LSI keywords:
15. Turn Your Blog Posts Into YouTube Videos
Did you know that YouTube is actually a search engine?
In fact, it’s the second largest search engine on the web.
YouTube delivers massive amounts of free, targeted traffic to bloggers who are savvy enough to tap into this river of traffic.
And the best part?
Because relatively few people are making videos (compared with writing blog posts) the competition to get ranked on YouTube is far less than the competition to get on Page #1 of Google.
16. Use Images
It’s been proven time and again that including images in your blog posts results in more shares.
In a study of over one million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the amount of shares of articles with fewer images:
They also found that Facebook posts containing images get 2.3 times as much engagement as posts without.
But getting good quality images for free can be a headache!
Unless you use Embedded Twitter Posts…
Just head over to Twitter’s Advanced Search: https://twitter.com/search-advanced and type in the focus keyword of your article or blog post in the “exact phrase” field:
Then just browse through the results until you find a tweet with a catchy image:
To embed it in your blog post just click on the downward arrow at the top right of the tweet and then click on ‘Embed Tweet’:
Then just copy and paste the code into a ‘raw text’ field in your WordPress editor:
You could include an embedded tweet for every sub-topic within your blog post.
What I like about this technique is you not only get an image for your blog post, you also get an opportunity to reach out to a fellow blogger.
Once your post is live, send them a tweet letting them know that your mentioned them in your article. Chances are they’ll share out your post to their Twitter followers.
17. Use Shorter URLs
SEO whizz Brian Dean analyzed over one million URLs and found overwhelming evidence that shorter URLs rank better on Google:
And here’s Google's John Mueller himself making the same point:
...when we have two URLs that have the same content, and we try to pick one to show in the search results, we will pick the short one…It doesn’t mean it is a ranking factor, but it means if we have two URLs and one is really short and sweet and this other one has this long parameter attached to it and we know they show exactly the same content we will try to pick the shorter one.
George Mueller, Google
It always amazes me to see experienced bloggers with URLs like this:
‘Time on page’ is the keyword and so that’s all you need in the slug:
The 2nd URL will rank higher in Google than the first.
So shorten your URLs - this is an easy search engine positioning strategy to implement.
To sum up, here are 17 search engine positioning strategies that will boost your organic traffic:
- Optimize for mobile search
- Optimize for voice search
- Optimize for ‘rich answers’
- Write longer content
- Write blog posts with high topical authority
- Speed up your site’s loading time
- Reduce bounce rate
- Improve your Click Through Rate (CTR)
- Improve ‘dwell time’
- Make your page easy to scan
- Use a featured image
- Link out to authority sites
- Target long tail keywords
- Use LSI keywords
- Turn your blog posts into YouTube videos
- Use images
- Use shorter URLs
Even if you only implement 2 or 3 of them, you’ll see results as your pages start climbing through the SERPs.
- What Are LSI Keywords – 7 Things You Need To Know
- How To Get Your Blog Post on the First Page of Google in 2019
- What Is Google RankBrain and Will It Replace Backlinks?
- How To Find a Blogging Niche in 2019 – The Beginner's Guide
- How To Find Seed Keywords In Your Niche & Increase Topical Authority
- SEO for Blog Posts – 21 Tips for Getting on Page #1 of Google
- What is the Google BERT Algorithm and How Will it Affect SEO?
This post was most recently updated on May 26th, 2020