17 Actionable SEO Tips To Help Increase Your Rankings
SEO tips are easy to find online. However, finding actionable SEO tips is difficult!
There’s a lot of SEO theory online, but not much actionable content. Often it’s not easy to follow or digest.
Today we aim to change that.
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Here’s the deal:
At Canny, we don’t like business jargon, or technical terms. Although SEO is quite the technical subject, we want to give you actionable SEO tips using as little jargon as possible.
So, you’ve built an amazing website. Now what?
If you want to increase your website traffic, you have to understand the basics of SEO (search engine optimisation) – it’s just that simple.
What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
Before we dive into our SEO tips, let’s take a step back and make sure everyone understands what SEO is and how it can impact your website.
Search Engine Optimisation is, for want of a better phrase; a mystical beast.
You can study SEO, but if Google, Bing or Yahoo go ahead and change their algorithim, everything can change in a flash and your website can slip down the rankings in a heartbeat.
Here’s the technical definition of SEO:
Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.
Essentially, it’s all about making the most of your website, in an effort to get it to the top of Google’s search results.
It’s not a magic bullet. A lot of people get “sold” on the promise of easy first page SEO rankings – but believe me, that never happens. Not without a lot of hard work and dedication.
Good SEO practises takes a long time to implement and is a long term strategy rather than a quick fix.
And more than that, SEO isn’t a service that can be bought. It’s a collective term for a set of services that includes;
- On page website optimisation
- Link or backlink building
- Content strategy, creation, and marketing
- Analytics monitoring, tracking, and reaction
Link building is very different to on page website optimisation, which is different to content strategy. But together, they all band together to form an SEO plan or strategy.
Anyone selling SEO services should be able to break their content down into actual services. So be aware of that before you dive in and hire an SEO expert or agency.
Something else to be aware of, is that if you have the time, patience, and willingness to learn, you can perform a lot of SEO work yourself.
Getting Started with SEO
If you’re looking to get started with SEO and increase your own rankings yourself, then there are two fantastic resources that I can’t recommend to you highly enough.
The Google SEO Starter Documentation (can’t beat the words from the horse’s mouth) and SEOMoz’s brilliant Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Reading these is where my interest in search engine optimisation began and I can’t think of a better place to get such a well rounded background to SEO as a beginner.
Some of the advice in this post will contradict the linked documentation, but you learn to make your own mind up and you develop strategies that work for your business and website.
As nobody has all of the answers, SEO is all about experimentation, sharing what you find, and implementing ideas from others. There’s no “rulebook” or “complete guidebook” that has everything right.
Different things work for different people, so once you have the basics down, break the mould and try something different.
Anyway, without further ado, here are our….
Top Actionable SEO Tips
While there are many SEO tips, tricks, and promises out there, we thought we’d narrow our list down to several actionable SEO tips and tricks that you can actually use – and that seriously work.
Don’t be bogged down by all the promise-makers (aka – the shady SEO firms) that guarantee top ranking in Google. We promise you that nobody can make that promise!
Instead, what we believe is that you can use SEO strategies that work, build traffic, and get your content ahead of your competition. Just a few key tweaks here and there and you’ll be off to the races!
I promise you, SEO doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing either. So, let’s dive into this topic again.
A Little About the Benefits of SEO
SEO, when done well, can give you great results.
The cost? If you do it yourself, the cost is time. It does wonders for both your brand’s credibility and traffic.
You also get to benefit from user intent. This means that if someone wants to buy something, and your site ranks for buyer keywords, there are high chances they’ll buy from you (or using your affiliate link) because their primary intent was to buy.
That’s quality traffic, especially if you have an e-commerce site, or affiliate marketing site both of which depend on this kind of “user intent” traffic to drive numbers.
Remember, it’s not just about the number of people who visit your site, it’s about the number of people who convert – or buy something! That’s the kind of traffic we all want, right?
However, it is not easy to rank a website.
In fact, search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing only have 10 slots each on the first search engine result page (SERP).
And not everyone can fit into one of those coveted top 10 spaces. To do so, it’s important you increase SEO efforts.
There are also so many myths and outdated SEO tips all over the internet. Some SEO myths include the fact that SEO is dead, link building is dead or that hiring an SEO agency can make you rank top instantly.
Outdated tips include keyword stuffing, content spamming, buying links, exact match domains, and use of SEO directories.
So, what are the legitimate and actionable SEO tips that will shoot up your rankings?
1. Learn How to Use Keywords the Right Way
Keywords are one of the most important things to understand when it comes to using SEO techniques to increase website traffic.
Yes – they still matter.
This is one of the basics of SEO. You must make sure each page is properly keyword optimised.
Make sure you have your keywords in your:
- Title tag: This shows search engines the topic of your page. If you have an SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO for WordPress, it’s easy to optimize your SEO title to increase ranking and click-through rates (CTRs).
- Meta Description: This is important for CTR. It does not impact your search ranking but may help a searcher decide whether or not to click on your page.
- URL: Your URL should be short, readable and contain your target keyword.
- Headings: This will affect your search ranking. Make sure you have a keyword in at least one of your headings.
- Image title and ALT text: Including keywords here will show search engines and screen readers what your image is about.
- Your content: Your website visitors are more likely to stay on a page that has their search terms used a couple of times. This is also a SEO ranking factor, but only if you don’t overdo it.
To find out which keywords you should use, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner or my personal favourite, Keyword Tool.
Whilst not the be all and end of keyword research and checking how many specific searches your keywords get every month, the Google Keyword Tool is a solid starting point.
Both of these keyword tools allow you to check monthly search volume for specific phrases. One of the best things about this, is there’s no limit (that I’ve come across) to the number of keyword ideas that you can check with it.
In Google’s Keyword Tool, you can also check monthly searches by location giving you a great insight to help making targeting specific areas and countries with your campaigns much easier.
Both Keyword Tools give you a huge range of keyword suggestions. So if you’re burned out thinking about unique and different keywords to drive traffic to your site have a look at some of the suggestions and see if any of them will work for you.
Both of these tools will give you a great list of keywords and information that will help form your decisions.
If you’re still struggling with keyword research, we have a guest post about finding great keywords from unpopular search teams from the awesome team over at AHREFs.
2. Create Dedicated Long-Form Content
Yes, sometimes bigger can be better.
Google does not disclose how exactly it determines which pages go to page 1 for specific search terms. But experts usually test and experiment to gain credible insights on what tends to rank better.
Moz conducted an SEO ranking factor study back in 2015, but lots of the information is still relevant. You can check that out here.
SerpIQ once conducted a study that showed that the average length for the first result in SERPs had 2,416 words.
Google’s take on this was that they were rolling out features to make it easier to find in-depth and relevant articles.
In this article, Neil Patel features six different studies that prove that long-form content gets better search and SEO rankings.
Here are some clear SEO benefits of long-form, well planned, strategised content:
- They get more backlinks
- It’s easier to naturally use more keywords, LSIs and image ALT tags
- They get more social shares
And that’s just three benefits of writing longer blog content. Writing blog filler just isn’t worth it. You need to provide value to your website’s visitors every time.
3. Change Your URL Structure
Most blog posts display the date they were published. Users love this since they can easily get more updated info.
Sadly, even if you update a 5-year old blog today, it will still show as if the post was published 5 years ago.
Yes, you can do a content relaunch and edit the date of your post. But if you’ve edited so many posts in a day, it may look spammy if you relaunch them all.
The better option is to change your URL date structure to show last updated date instead of the published date. This will get picked up by Google really quick and will improve your organic search traffic.
Google (and web visitors) love updated content. So, make sure you update your old posts at least once a year.
One issue with this is that if people have linked to your blog posts, when you update them, the URL will change, causing the link to break.
You have two options:
- Use a redirect plugin (or SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO) to redirect your old post URL to the new one.
- Use a link structure that doesn’t include the date at all.
At Canny, we use both options. That way we’re free to update our blog posts whenever we like, without breaking links to our website!
Then, what we do is make sure we put (Updated in XXXX) at the end of the title – so our visitors know the post contains up to date information!
Half the battle is remembering to optimise for people, not just for search engines and increasing your rankings.
4. Use Modifiers in Your Page Titles. Google and Everyone Else Loves Them!
Page title modifiers can make a difference when it comes to your SEO efforts and can also help increase your website traffic.
Which one sounds better between these two?
- Running shoes
- Best running shoes
The second one, right?
The word “best” there acts as a modifier to the keyword “running shoes”. If used in a title tag, it will increase your chances of getting ranked for the long tail search term, “best running shoes”.
Some common modifiers that you can use include:
- Current year
Using modifiers gives you a better chance of ranking for your chosen keywords. Essentially you’re taking short tail keywords and making them long tail.
And it’s always easier to rank for the long tail!
5. Create Amazing Infographics
Infographics make it easier for people to visually process the information you’re trying to tell them.
When done well, they can help you get lots of backlinks and social shares. This is great for SEO. Brian Dean from Backlinko has a great infographic and backlink strategy.
However, Google can’t read infographics. Therefore, make sure you also add text before and/or after the infographics as well to increase your chances of getting ranked.
If you’re not a designer, how can you create an infographic?
If you’re working with a tiny budget, you could always try using Canva or Design Pickle. But people want to see something exciting that they’ve never seen before.
But the best option is to choose a graphic design agency or freelance designer to help you!
6. Vary Your Anchor Text
Google zoomed in on anchor texts in the Penguin algorithm update.
Too many inbound links containing the same anchor text are considered spammy and will hurt your rankings. Vary your anchor text to avoid this.
Since you don’t have much control over how other people link to you, this is very important to the way you link to other posts within your own website.
Below are the forms of anchor text variations that you can use:
- Exact match: This matches the keyword of the page being linked to. For example, “tennis shoes” linking to a tennis shoes page.
- Partial match: This is a variation of the keyword e.g. “best tennis shoes”.
- Branded: Use of your brand name e.g. “Apple” or “Canny Creative”.
- Naked link: Here a URL is used e.g. example.com – these don’t look great and I’ve rarely seen them used well!
- Generic: A generic word or phrase such as “click here”, “study”, “blog post” etc.
- Author: The name of the author who wrote the blog post.
- Page title: This matches the exact page or post title as anchor text.
- Image links: Here the alt text is viewed by search engines as the anchor text.
Yes, you might want to rank top in the world for “design agency” but by only having “design agency” text anchor links, you could be hurting your website’s ranking. Mixing up your inbound link keywords will help your website blaze through the rankings to the very top.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout swears by the philosophy “you can be rich, but not filthy rich” when it comes to inbound anchor text.
In his blog post 5 SEO Mistakes That Even Experts Miss talks about the success of Doctor650 building 13 links using different anchor links.
“Within 54 days of the site launching, it started to rank in the top 4 for the keyword 650 credit score”
This shows you can rank for any term, but it’s important to rotate the anchor text in your links.
In your anchor text, try adding local place names or do a little outside of the box thinking to see what other terms you can use to link in.
On the Canny Creative home page, I’m actively trying to rank top for the keywords “design agency Newcastle”. However, I have a range of anchor text links directed at my home page, including:
- design agency Newcastle
- graphic design Newcastle
- graphic design agency
- Newcastle design agency
If the keywords you use as anchors are relevant to the page you’re linking to, they don’t need to be exactly the same as each other. By varying your anchor text, you’re keeping things natural and organic and that’s what Google likes to see.
Recently, we wrote a new blog post about SEO for hotels. However, there are a lot of handy tips and advice in that post that could also apply here, so check it out!
7. Reduce Site Load Time by Increasing Website Performance
According to Google, site load speed affects your rankings.
Slow pages will not only hurt your SEO, they’ll also hurt your time on page, bounce rate and conversions.
Essentially if your website’s visitors find your site to be slow, they’ll leave in a heartbeat.
Analyze your site load speed and if you find that it’s too slow, take measures to increase it.
Of course, we’ve already given you our top tips in our blog post How to Speed Up Your Website.
Yes, there are things you can do to get a faster load speed and that will most certainly help your increase SEO rankings.
8. Write Awesome and Actionable Content That People Love
You should first write for people before you write for search engines.
Great content solves the needs of your target audience – whether they came to learn or just to be entertained. If you are giving them tips, they should be useful, relevant, timely and actionable.
This will help you in SEO in many ways since great content is easier to promote, get backlinks and social shares. It will also remain evergreen, meaning it stays relevant, and be less likely to get hurt by search engine algorithm updates.
No matter what connections you have, you can’t really go far with boring, old, rehashed, and regurgitated content. To rank number 1 for your keyword, create content that deserves that spot.
Creating great content takes time and effort, but it’s worth every bit of time that you invest into it!
At Canny, the only active marketing that we do is content creation. And it’s been the constant driving force behind the growth of our business.
9. Reclaim Brand Name Mentions with No Links
As your brand grows, you’re likely to get multiple mentions all over the internet. But some people will just mention your brand without linking to you.
You can reclaim these mentions by reaching out and asking for a link.
Most will agree to do it since they had already mentioned you anyway. This can be a time-consuming task, much like reaching out to get backlinks (see below) but it can payoff.
10. Reach out For Backlinks via Email
This is how many great relationships are made online. This simply involves emailing people who can help you in your online marketing and SEO campaigns.
It is a skill that when well understood can help you boost your SEO efforts.
You can use email outreach to:
- Get link building opportunities by asking other bloggers to link to your content
- Build relationships with other bloggers so that you can co-create content such as infographics and case studies
- Ask influencers to share your post on social media
There are many more things that you can do with email outreach, so invest some time to learn how to do it effectively.
Neil Patel has a great guide called The Advanced Guide to Link Building. But it’s not for advanced users only! Check it out, it’s great for beginners and link building wizards alike.
11. Add Internal Links To Your Own Content
On the subject of link building, it’s important to build links within your own website.
Search engines crawl the web to find content. They then use different factors to rank the best pages on specific topics.
For these bots to properly crawl your website, you need to link each post to another post on your blog. This will make the process faster.
So remember to link old blog posts to new blog posts, and vice versa.
If you’ve not done internal linking on some posts, this may negatively affect your SEO. Go back and look for old posts and pages, update them and link them to other relevant posts on your blog.
As a rule of thumb, we try to incorporate one or two links per 1000 words we write. Give it a try.
12. Use Heading (‘H’) Tags
H tags (heading tags) are pieces of HTML code that show search engines your important headings.
In this post, the title is an h1 tag – because it’s the most important heading on the page. Subtitles are then h2 tags, and section titles inside the h2 tags are h3 tags.
It’s essential that you use your chosen keyword in your heading tags – especially in the H1 tag. This is so search engines know what your page or post is about, and can help you improve your SEO rankings.
We also recommend that you use your keyword oar a variation of your keyword in the other H tags on your page too.
The more you put in to help the robots that decide where you rank, the more chance you’ll have of ranking in the right place.
Remember headlines are great ways for you to show Google and readers exactly what this content is about.
I happen to love a good headline in a blog. I also like it when there are several subtitles. It helps users navigate through your content quickly so they can decide if you are covering all the bases on any particular topic.
This is also where smart, useful keyword research comes into play.
13. Use LSI Keywords
In case you feel like your page is over-optimized, use LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing). So, if your keyword is “link building strategies”, you can use “how to build backlinks” as one of your H tags.
LSI keywords are easy to find because Google does most of the work for you.
If you’re targeting the keyword “Car Finance” – then you’re in a difficult space to win at SEO. However, you can utilise LSI keywords to open up gaps.
First of all type “Car Finance” into Google, and then scroll to the bottom of the browser.
This is what you’ll find:
From this image alone, you can identify several new keywords and opportunities.
If you’re writing high-quality content, try and sprinkle some of your LSI keywords into it. It’ll help Google identify what your content is about and give you a better chance of finding success in the search engines.
14. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
Google rolled out its mobile friendly boost in May 2016. This was an expected change since mobile had already overtaken desktop as the device used most to access websites.
Google was also getting more searches from mobile than any other type of device.
Use this tool to confirm whether Google considers your site mobile friendly. If it’s not, make the necessary changes and you’ll see a significant increase in rankings.
We’ve talked about this already here at the Canny blog, but we’ll keep mentioning it. If you haven’t made your site mobile friendly – or responsive, now is the time to do so!
15. Build Your Social Signals and Online Brand
Case studies show that social signals actually impact search engine rankings in the short and long-term. For example, a Google+ from a reputable account can bring about a significant SEO boost. Facebook likes/shares and retweets can help boost rankings for low competition keywords too.
Social signals also give your site an indirect SEO boost as follows:
- You may get more organic links as people get to know and love your brand
li>It may improve some important on-site metrics such as lower bounce rate and increased time on site.
If you are not sure how much clout or social signals you have online, you can always evaluate your Klout score here: Check My Klout Score. Klout is an online app that evaluates your use of social media, your influence, etc. This can be a great starting point.
Building your brand online using social media may not directly help your SEO, but it can help your business.
You should ideally be building both things – SEO and Social Media – at the same time. It really shouldn’t be one or the other.
16. Follow Updates on Those Tricky Google Algorithms
Generally, a site with brilliant and engaging content should be awesome in Google’s eyes, right? That’s not always the case.
As we’ve seen above, you may have an incredible site but if it’s not mobile optimized, your rankings will go down. There are many things that can change where you rank in the SERPs.
To maintain and increase your rankings, you need to constantly know what Google wants and optimize for it. Always make sure you don’t over-optimize or do anything spammy.
Some of the famous Google updates include:
Learn more about these updates before you start your SEO campaign so that you don’t build something that you or Google will have to destroy.
17. Optimize for RankBrain
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning program that was announced in 2015. It brought about the aspect of artificial intelligence (AI) in SEO. Google stated that it is their third most important ranking factor, next to content and links.
RankBrain interprets search queries to find relevant pages that may still be useful, but not containing the exact query entered. It is, therefore, more focused on giving people results based on search intent.
We’ve already mentioned here how you can optimize for content and links. But how do you optimize for RankBrain?
- Think of the user who’s getting to your content and try to answer all the questions they may have. This will make you focus on tackling a specific topic instead of just ranking for a keyword.
- Create in-depth content whose purpose or intent can be easily interpreted by search engines.
- Update your existing content to ensure that all your pages are properly optimized for RankBrain.
- Optimize for CTR (Clickthrough rate). If your page ranks number one but doesn’t get as many clicks as the other nine posts on the same page, it may indicate that your page doesn’t deserve the number one ranking.
- Use multimedia in your pages to increase time on page
- Reduce the focus on trying to game Google’s system, but rather focus more on what’s important for your site’s visitors.
- Increase engagement on your site.
- Keep updating and posting fresh content.
- Check out websites that rank and see what you can learn from them.
Remember These SEO Tips
Although we’ve finished with our list of actionable SEO tips, we have some additional tips we want to share with you.
This is not a list of actionable tips, but it doesn’t make them worth any less.
Here’s the deal:
Avoid Buying Backlinks
There are so many bad SEO techniques, but this one has to be up there with the worst of them.
Buying links of any kind doesn’t just cost a pretty packet, it’ll cost your site it’s ranking too, as Google is now wise to people purchasing links.
Link farms and spammy SEO directory sites are being shut down left, right,, and centre and people that are associated with link farms, much like spam, are finding their site is slipping down the rankings.
This technique is labelled as black hat SEO, a term used within the industry to describe techniques which are sometimes illegal, immoral and punished by search engines.
Rather than wasting money and time buying backlinks to your website, you’d be better off investing the time in creating unique and original content and getting it in front of the right pair of eyes.
Buying backlinks just doesn’t work in this day and age. So don’t do it.
Natural and Organic Is Better Than Robotic and Mechanical
Google likes things to be natural and organic. Even if they aren’t, they should appear that way.
When it comes to SEO, it’s best not to automate everything or become a keyword churning, content recycling factory. Take things at a normal pace and build over time rather than zooming off into the distance, burning out and slowing to a stop.
If you begin building thousands of links over a short period, search engines will get suspicious. You will be much better off building less, high quality, relevant links in the same timeframe.
The same goes for blog posts. If you’re recycling content from elsewhere on the internet and doing it over and over again, you’re going to get penalised.
Your time will be much better invested creating high quality, original content and thoughts pieces, and publishing blog posts less frequently. Then, spend the rest of your time marketing your content!
Keyword stuffing, content cramming, and automating human processes will destroy your page rankings.
There’s no substitute for the human touch. And remember, your job is to create good content for humans, before you make content that ranks well. You just need your good human content, to also do well in search engines.
Treat your website like a marathon without a finish line.
Keep on building, keep writing content, keep updating it, keep your website nice and fresh and relevant and Google will become your friend.
It’s Not All About Your Home Page
A lot of businesses and websites try to optimise their site to appear on the first page of Google which is completely understandable.
The first several positions on Google’s first page can bring in a high amount of organic search traffic.
Recent studies have shown that you’re better off being top of the second page than bottom of the first.
With the Canny Creative website I noticed a dramatic drop in web traffic when the site broke through from the top of the second page onto the bottom of the first. My visitor count dropped and only started picking back up when my page made it’s way above the fold into the fifth to first positions of Google.
So if you’re struggling to break onto the first page, don’t worry about it. You might just be in the best position at the top of the second page.
Even “Nofollow” Links Work Wonders For Your Site
First things first: what is a nofollow link?
A nofollow link is a hyperlink on a web page that is set by the website’s owner in a way to prevent search engines from crawling it. People do it to keep web crawlers on their page, maintaining control over what content is and isn’t being crawled and indexed.
A dofollow link (links Googlebot is allowed to crawl) helps boost up page ranking a significant amount as they tend to be placed within content and relevant.
However, they’re much harder to obtain as bloggers and other influential websites only link out to reliable, relevant and safe sources.
When you’re working on your link building strategy, dofollow links are what you need, however, nofollow links are not to be ignored!
Popular blogs, bulletin boards, and forums tend to have all of their links set to nofollow as spam leaks through the filter quite often with them. However, this should not stop you posting on them, if nothing else, it can encourage more traffic to your site.
If you only have dofollow links coming to your website, search engines get suspicious and it can do as much harm as good.
What you need to remember is that Google prefers things to appear organic and natural. If you only have dofollow links to your site, you could be penalised as that looks too staged and mechanical.
Mix your backlink strategy up, it will serve you well.
Linking Out Helps Too! (It’s Not All About Inbound Traffic)
There are many benefits to links going out from your page.
Here is how it works:
If your site is linking out to other reputable sites within the context of your content, your SEO ranking can benefit from being associated with other reputable names.
Linking to the home pages of sites probably isn’t the best technique. But if you quoted someone as reputable as Neil Patel talking about personal branding and marketing, then if you link to a relevant page over on his site, there’s a chance the search engines will see that as a positive.
Don’t go too heavy or crazy on outbound links as you still need to keep your readers attention and keep them on your own site, rather than getting sidetracked by others.
However, if there’s something valuable you think your readers might find useful, share it!
If you’re linking out, drop the person a link to your site. Tell them why you’re linking out to them and ask them to share it. You could also ask them if they’d see any SEO benefit from specific keywords linking to them, which would help them out.
Get people on your side and maybe in the future they’ll link back to you. It’s all swings and roundabouts.
Traffic Isn’t Everything, Conversions Are
It’s no good having massive amounts of website traffic if you’re not managing to turn visitors into customers.
Once your website has started driving traffic, you need to find a way to convert your visitors in to paying customers.
There are a number of different ways to convert your visitors which should probably be saved for a different blog post.
I find that it helps to have your contact details easily located at both the top and bottom of every single page, that way potential clients don’t have to look hard at all for your details. Making yourself easily contactable will help bring your customers directly to your doorstep.
Landing page videos can also help convert customers.
There a number of ways to convert traffic into customers, and we promise we’ll write about it in the future.
But for now… let’s wrap things up.
Conclusion: 17 Actionable SEO Tips To Help Increase Your Rankings
Search engines are getting smarter every day. With the amount of money Google are pumping into their own products and eco-system, they’re going to continue to get better and better.
They want to ensure that they only display top-notch, highly relevant results. They also want to push out and remove spammy content that adds no value to users.
Therefore, you should only follow SEO tips that work, and avoid wasting time with outdated myths.
Implement the tips above and you’ll be glad to see the SEO boost that you very well deserve. If you’ve been using our tips on SEO, branding, website creation – we’d love to hear from you!
What’s working for your website’s SEO? What isn’t? Let us know in the comments below.