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Amanda Milligan

10 Ways to Improve SEO in 2021 (That Will Boost Ranking)

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Amanda Milligan
Ways to Improve SEO

With more than 3.5 billion Google searches per day, to rank high enough for potential visitors to come across your content, you will need to play by Google’s rules. One of the best ways to ensure that you are making full use of your content is by improving your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

In today’s data-driven world, organizations need a way to analyze and interpret their SEO efforts to stay ahead. To achieve this, 73% of marketers use SEO tools to refine their content and enhance content ratings on Google. By making small modifications to your website content, you can improve the likelihood of receiving organic website traffic. 

This article will focus on how to produce better SEO in 2021 and rank higher on Google. It will break down and explain 10 tactics to improve SEO in the new year:

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1. Use a Program That Integrates With Google Analytics to Track Metrics

The best step that you can take in improving your SEO in 2021 is to understand Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a helpful tool for understanding your website, so you can make intelligent data-based decisions. Metrics will not only help you understand how you are ranking but also your audience, so you can better curate content for them. 

Over time, Google Analytics can be a great tool to better target your customers. Some of the metrics you can learn about your site visitors include: 

  • What browsers they’re using: Google Analytics can provide you with powerful data about which browsers your customers are using. This will allow you to improve their experience by focusing web design on the most-used browsers. 

  • The most popular devices used to visit your site: Similarly to knowing the browsers that your customers use, knowing what devices they use can be helpful. Certain sites have more mobile users than desktop users or vice versa. Understanding your website’s metrics will allow you to create content tailored to the most commonly used screen size, enhancing user experience. 

  • Referral traffic: Google Analytics also provides you with data about where your website viewers are coming from. You can use this data to see which social media platforms your viewers are using to get to your site. This information is helpful when you pay for social media advertising campaigns. 

  • Understand your competition: Google Analytics also offers insights into competitor traffic. This data can be useful when deciding how to improve your content and outrank competitors. 

SEMrush integrates with Google Analytics and Google Search Console so that you can analyze and run reports in one central location. 

2. Identify Low-Performing Pages and Refresh Them With New Content People Want to Read

Content marketers who develop high-ranking content have one thing in common: They deliver engaging content topics to readers. Successful content marketers follow trends and conversations to brainstorm content ideas, meaning that you’re bound to have to revisit low-performing content at some point. 

We offer a Content Audit Tool that can help you identify low-performing content quickly through a variety of data points, including:

  • Minimal backlinks 

  • The low number of social shares 

  • Oldest pages

  • Light content (meaning low word count) 

  • Low organic search traffic 

Once you identify pages that could use a face-lift, think about new keywords to target. Using our Topic Research Tool, we’ll provide “content cards” that can help you identify which content ideas see the most search volume. 

SEMrush content cards screenshot

Ultimately, this can decrease the amount of time you will need to spend developing content and ensure that the work you put into it will reward you. Developing an effective content plan based on your audience’s interests helps improve audience engagement.

While creating your content marketing plan, consider what kind of content will resonate with your audience. From there, you can examine what headlines would do well with that topic and if there are any spinoff topics that you can create. 

Some content marketers find mind maps to be helpful. For visual people, using a mind map can help you present all of your potential topic ideas. It can assist you in creating larger topics that can be developed into smaller, complementary pieces. Sometimes, visualizing your content plan can help you fully understand it. 

SEMrush Mind Map screenshot

3. Ensure Your Content Is Created Around a Primary Keyword and Relevant Secondary Keywords

Researching keywords for your content not only helps to develop the framework of your piece; it also enables you to understand what your audience wants to read. Understanding what keywords are best for your target audience and content type can help you build a content strategy to boost SEO.

Google-friendly writing is dependent on demonstrating a balance between keywords and everyday language. This means that your content should be written in such a way that it flows naturally. Keywords should naturally come up in your content so that you don’t have to stuff your content at the last minute. One way to do this is by identifying semantically related keywords to your primary keyword target. 

Our Keyword Magic Tool has an option where you can look up related keywords to your primary keyword. You’ll see how closely related a keyword is and its search volume to help you identify whether it is something you’ll want to add to your content. 

Keyword Magic Tool

We also offer a look at questions related to your primary keyword. Many marketers have found success in using question keywords because they tend to mimic how humans use search engines. Today, many users ask a question using the voice search feature with the hopes of getting an answer. For this reason, you might have asked, “how to improve website SEO” and found this page. 

Content marketers have found that they can target question keywords to boost SEO. This means that keywords will include question indicators such as who, what, where, when, why, and how. For this reason, you should list keywords or key phrases that include these question indicators and create content that is more conversational in tone. 

4. Diversify Your Backlink Portfolio

Even if you follow all of the tips related to on-page technical SEO, it still won’t guarantee to make the front page of Google. A big part of SEO deals with backlinks and whether you’re generating backlinks from high-authority sites. 

Backlink diversity come can come from two sources, specifically:

  • The type of backlink: Generally, your backlink will be a dofollow or nofollow, with a dofollow carrying more weight.

  • A site where the backlink originates: If you’re promoting your content, for instance, and targeting publishers to run a story, the site that links back to your content would be the source of your backlink. 

A diverse backlink portfolio signals to Google that your site is an authoritative source and that you’re generating links in a natural way versus relying on outdated black hat or other spam tactics. 

Need help finding the right backlinks? The Backlinks Analytics Tool can identify your referring domains and total backlinks. We offer the ability to compare up to four competing URLs to get a sense of where there might be an opportunity.

SEMrush Backlinks Analytics Tool screenshot

Some ways to grow your backlink portfolio include:

  • Look for directories or “best of” lists in your niche: Reach out to sites curating lists in your niche and offer yourself as an expert along with any high-quality content you’ve created. 

  • Ensure your content is shareable: Social media shares are another quick way to generate more backlinks, so ensure any content you create is easily shareable on multiple platforms. 

  • Create newsworthy content and reach out to publishers: A successful content strategy should include creating data-driven content that tells a story. Whether through an original survey, public data, or your own internal data, create content around your results and share this with publishers. If you’re able to tie it to a trending news story, there is a high likelihood that the publisher will want to feature your data — and credit you back with a link. 

5. Use Effective Header Tags to Target Google Featured Snippets

When developing content, you want to be mindful of how you structure your content on the page. Every page should have content organized logically, with the most important information at the top of the page. In fact, studies have found that 80% of readers spend most of their time looking at the content at the top of the page. 

However, Google doesn’t necessarily index context solely on what’s at the top of the page. They look at the article as a whole to see whether it’s comprehensive, so with that in mind, you’ll need to put some thought into how your page is laid out. 

To get the most out of the keywords you’re targeting, consider adding jump links to the top of your page. This not only makes for a more enjoyable user experience, but it also allows you to use your header tags in more creative ways to go after Google Featured Snippets. 

Jump links example screenshot

Consider the query “top 10 boat brands.” The result is an actual list that users can view quickly or visit to find out more information. If you look at the source code for the article that generates the Featured Snippet, you can see that all of the boat brands are nested within H2s instead of a simple bullet list in the article. 

Best Boat Brands Featured Snippet screenshot

Strategically using header tags helps search engines understand your content better. Identifying headers when writing your content helps search engines when analyzing your content. Headers let search engines know what your content is about, and if you insert keywords into headers, the search engines will have an even better understanding of your content.

Headers also help your content to be skimmable for readers, which keeps them engaged. They are a great way to break up your content and help with your site's overall user experience. Websites with walls of text are unappealing and intimidating for many readers. If readers click away quickly, your SEO ranking could suffer. 

6. Remember to Optimize Images

Often, image optimization is overlooked in terms of boosting SEO. However, when done properly, it can drive a great deal of traffic to your website

There are also a ton of benefits to using visual content, including: 

  • Helps break up a wall of text 

  • Aligns with Google’s future goal of visual searching 

  • Gives better context to your webpage’s content 

  • Allows readers to better comprehend written content 

Like written content, visual content can leverage better SEO. Image optimization helps your content rank higher on Google Image Search while also improving your site’s visibility. However, when you are optimizing images, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. 

For instance, when images are poorly optimized, you may have slow webpages and end up ranking badly. Ultimately, the problem may not have been the images or the accompanying alt text. The slow loading speed would be enough to affect the overall rating. 

One of the best ways to improve your SEO is by optimizing your alt text. The best way to tackle writing alt text is not to overthink it too much. Alternatively, you should consider the content of the image. Writing good alt text is essentially being able to describe what the image shows. 

When using alt text, follow these rules: 

  • Descriptive: All alt text should describe the image in as much detail as you can. Information should describe the image itself and provide context as to how it relates to the content. When you add specific details regarding the image, this will help the image rank in Google Image Search. 

  • Distinctive: One important rule to follow is that you should not use your content keywords as the alt tag for every image on the page. Instead, the alt text should describe the contents of the image and how it relates to the content; however, it should not repeat the contents of the page overall. 

  • Relevant: Just like keywords, the alt text should be used sparingly. This means that you should only use alt tags to explain the image and its relation to the content. 

7. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

Recent studies indicate that over 60% of Google searches come from mobile devices. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for them. Google rewards websites that are mobile-optimized.

Similarly to desktop optimization, you will want to focus on developing mobile SEO. Today, you can research and compare mobile and desktop keywords separately. Using an SEO tool can help you discover helpful insights into mobile analytics. This helps you decide which content you will gear toward which audience and keywords to include in your content. 

Some believe that developing a website with a mobile-first approach can ultimately help your desktop account. This is because you can initially remove your website's unimportant aspects when working on the mobile interface. Taking this approach will help you prioritize your content so that you create great quality content from the start. 

When you are producing mobile-optimized content, you should consider: 

  • Creating concise content that can bridge the gap between small mobile screens and desktop monitors

  • Placing the most engaging and helpful material toward the front of the page so that it will load first 

  • Targeting readers with mobile-optimized keywords 

8. Use Clean URLs and Meta Descriptions

Your URL and meta description are key factors in helping Google understand what your content is about. Although there is no hard and fast rule about the length of either of these to improve your rankings, the goal should be to make them both as concise and clear as possible while including your target keywords.

Below are some best practices for keeping your URL and meta description as clean as possible:

  • Use a consistent structure that keeps future posts in mind: Whether you’re organizing specific content to one area of your site or creating similar content down the road, you’ll want to keep your URL and meta description structure somewhat similar for related content. 

  • Avoid superfluous language: For both, avoid fluffy language. Each should be short and to the point. 

  • Make them keyword-rich: Again, be sure that your URL and meta description include the keyword or keywords you’re targeting.

9. Decrease Load Times on Top-Performing Pages

Slow loading times are one of the primary causes of high bounce rates. According to Google, “speed equals revenue,” which essentially means that slow loading times increase the odds that your site visitors are going to leave your website page. For this reason, your SEO ranking is dependent on the speed of your website. 

An auditing tool can be a valuable resource to gain an understanding of your website’s speed. With a page speed auditing tool, you can learn about what might be slowing your website down and how you can better address that. It can also scan for common SEO mistakes so that you can improve your website content for an SEO boost. 

10. Continually Learn From Your Analytics

Tracking your website’s performance can help you understand what works for your audience and what doesn’t. This way, you can create more content with their likes and dislikes in mind. There are many metrics that you can focus on and see which ways to improve. Below is a breakdown of common metrics that you should consider referencing. 

  • Average time spent on a page: Looking at the amount of time visitors spend on a page provides you with valuable insight into their reading habits. For instance, if the time that your users spend on a page is lower than others, it can show you what content is liked by your audience. 

  • Bounce rate: This percentage indicates how many site visitors leave the page without visiting another page on the website. High bounce rates are a telltale sign that something with the page should be improved. In some cases, a long load speed or even a lack of call to action could cause a high bounce rate.

  • Traffic sources: Gaining insight into which sources bring traffic to your website can be very valuable. This metric can show you where you should focus your efforts for the best results. For instance, if your website gets the most traffic from Instagram, something about your audience or even the type of brand you have could be the cause. 

We offer an On Page SEO Checker that can help you track much of what was discussed in this article and offer actionable solutions. For specific pages, you can learn more about:

  • Strategy: Specifically, which keywords you should target and ways to improve your rankings

  • SERP Features: Whether there’s a likelihood of you ranking for a Featured Snippet

  • Content: Suggestions for your content based on the top 10 ranking pages 

  • Semantics: Any semantically related keywords your content should also target

  • Backlinks: Specific domains where you’ll want to earn backlinks

  • Technical issues: Technical SEO issues, including whether there is duplicate content and if you’ve used an effective meta tag

  • User experience: How to improve the experience for visitors

On Page SEO Checker screenshot

Get Better SEO Results

Because of content being produced and published rapidly, search engines are working overtime to rank the billions of websites on the internet. Even though you can’t drastically change your SEO ranking overnight, you can make minor adjustments to gradually improve your SEO ranking. By using tools to look at essential factors that impact it, such as loading speed, content issue, meta tags, linking, and crawlability, you can boost SEO on your site and start ranking higher on Google.

Get Strategy and Content Ideas

with On Page SEO Checker

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Amanda Milligan
Master

A veteran community member.

Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses alike. Throughout her content marketing career, she's managed the creation of 200+ content campaigns and led the strategy for 20+ clients. She spoke at 2019 SMX Advanced and 2019 Pubcon Pro Las Vegas. Her content marketing advice has appeared in Forbes, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs’ Marketing Smarts Podcast, CMO and more. She also currently hosts the Fractl podcast Cashing In On Content Marketing.
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