Improve SEO: 11 Steps to Improve Your Rankings

Kelly Lyons

Aug 12, 202212 min read
Ways to Improve SEO


Here are 11 ways to improve SEO on your site:

1. Review Existing Content Before Creating New Content

Generally, it’s a good idea to improve existing content before creating new content. 

Because it allows you to:

  • Remove unhelpful content that can harm your entire site’s SEO
  • Maximize your content’s untapped potential
  • Avoid overlapping content that can confuse Google and users
  • Reduce content creation costs

Here are three tasks to prioritize:

Check Your Outdated Content

First, find pages that haven’t been updated in the last 12+ months.

Then, review the page to see if any of the content is outdated. Or just needs improvement.

For example, this post from our blog was first published in 2020:

a blog post with the publication date, July 23, 2020, highlighted

During our review, we identified changes that needed to be made, sent them to someone from our editing team, and then pushed them live.

If your updates are significant, your pages can get a “freshness boost” (almost like the page was just published.)

Plus, because your content is objectively better, it should perform better in search.

To ensure that Google crawls and indexes your page (i.e., shows the new version in search results) as quickly as possible, use Google Search Console.

Just enter your URL into the top field:

inspect URL bar in Google Search Console

And hit “Request Indexing”:

"Request Indexing" button highlighted in Google Search Console

This will send Google crawlers to your webpage ASAP.

Improve High-Potential Pages

High-potential pages are pages on your site that have some traction. But could use a boost to get them into the top three organic (unpaid) results.

The higher you rank, the more clicks you should get. As our State of Search 2023 research demonstrates:

Average CTRs for organic search

Which is why ranking on the first page of Google isn’t always enough.

Your first step is to find pages that have the most potential to crack the top three.

If you track your Google rankings with Semrush’s Position Tracking tool, filter for keywords in positions 4-10. 

Like this:

Filtering keywords in Position Tracking tool

Those are pages that you want to focus on improving. 

How you improve those pages depends a lot on the existing content.

But in general, here are some ways that you can make quality content:

  • Optimize your content to better meet search intent
  • Format your content so it’s easier to skim
  • Add more graphics, visuals, and illustrations
  • Add internal links to and from each page
  • Remove fluff and focus on actionable strategies

Use Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker

Import your pages and their target keywords into Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker.

The tool will provide recommendations based on your top-ranking competitors and on-page SEO best practices.

For each page, you can get ideas relating to:

  • Strategy: Suggests keywords you should target and helps identify keyword cannibalization issues 
  • SERP features: Highlights opportunities for earning a SERP feature, which can make your result more prominent in search results
  • Content: Provides suggestions for your content based on the top 10 ranking pages
  • Semantics: Reveals semantically related keywords that your content should also include
  • Backlinks: Shows you specific domains you may want to earn backlinks from
  • Technical issues: Identifies technical SEO issues, including whether there is duplicate content
  • User experience: Integrate Google Analytics to better understand how users engage with the page
An "Overview" dashboard in On Page SEO Checker

Featured snippets are prominent search results that contain an “instant answer” to the user’s query. Either in the form of a paragraph, list, table, or video.

Here’s an example of a paragraph snippet:

Featured snippet for "digital marketing"

The content inside of featured snippets is typically pulled from one of the top-ranking results.

Here are a few quick tips that can help you snag one:

  • Use Keyword Magic Tool to see which queries trigger featured snippets
  • Analyze the search engine results page (SERP) in Keyword Overview to get inspiration from the current snippet
  • Structure your content with the appropriate HTML tags (H2s, H3s, etc.)
  • Apply BLUF (bottom line up front)—i.e., start with the most important point before going into detail

3. Create New Content Based on Low-Competition Keywords

Many sites struggle with SEO because they target keywords that are too competitive.

Here’s how to find untapped keywords with little-to-no competition.

Target Question Keywords

Question keywords are great for SEO for two main reasons:

  • They’re highly specific questions your target audience needs answers to
  • They’re generally not super competitive

For example, take the keyword “housing market.”

This keyword has a keyword difficulty (KD) of 66%:

Regular keyword with keyword difficulty of 66%

On the other hand, a question keyword containing that same term has a KD of only 21%

question-type keyword with keyword difficulty of 21%

You can easily find question keywords by checking out the “People also ask” sections of Google search results.

Just search for a keyword. And scroll down until you see a set of “People also ask” questions.

People also ask section of the SERP

If you click one of the results, it will expand the section and show more related questions.

Expanded people also ask section

You can also find questions in the Keyword Magic Tool. This allows you to collect useful keyword data, such as the search volume (average number of monthly searches).

Enter a term related to your topic. Then, choose your country and click “Search.”

"housing market" entered into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar

The tool provides a list of “Broad Match” keywords by default. These contain your starting keyword or a close variation.

Use the “Questions” filter to focus on question keywords.

Button to filter by "Questions" highlighted

Optimize Around Long-Tail Keywords 

Long-tail keywords are highly specific terms that don’t get that many searches individually. But make up a high percentage of the total number of terms that people search for.

chart that illustrates short-, medium-, and long-tail keywords

In general, newer sites or sites struggling with SEO should focus heavily on long-tail keywords. 

For example, the keyword “hiking boots” sounds like a great fit for a new shoe store.

Keyword with search volume of 90.5K

After all, it gets 90,500 searches per month. And sounds like a keyword that a potential customer would search for.

But if you look at the keyword difficulty rating for that keyword, it’s out of reach for most small businesses.

Keyword difficulty of 81%

On the other hand, a similar long-tail keyword (hiking boots with red laces) has a KD of only 29%:

1.3K monthly search volume and 29% keyword difficulty

Granted, this long-tail version gets 98% fewer searches. But that’s the trade-off you’re making with long-tail terms.

In the Keyword Magic Tool, you can filter results based on the number of words, their KD score, and much more.

"KD%" "Word count," and "Advanced filters" highlighted in Keyword Magic Tool

Google treats certain kinds of backlinks (links from other sites) like votes of confidence, so link building can improve your SEO.

Especially if the links come from relevant, highly regarded sites.

You just have to familiarize yourself with Google’s spam policies. Or you could build harmful backlinks that put your search engine rankings at risk.

Here are some of the link building strategies you can use:

  • Create highly shareable content: Publish link bait that’s specifically designed to generate backlinks from blogs and news sites in your niche
  • Test out data-driven content: Data-driven content that tells a story is one of the best ways to build more links to your website. Whether through an original survey, public data, or internal data, create content around your results and share this with publishers. 
  • Help a Reporter Out: A service that allows you to contribute quotes and insights to journalists looking for sources

With Semrush’s Link Building Tool, you can streamline the entire process.

It finds link building prospects based on your competitors and target keywords, helps you create and track outreach emails, and much more.

Prospects in Link Building Tool

5. Insert Useful Images and Optimize Them Effectively

Image optimization is usually considered an afterthought in terms of boosting SEO. However, optimized images can help drive traffic to your website when done correctly.

Benefits of Using Visual Content

Besides directly sending people to your site via Google Images, visual content can help enhance your text-based content.

Benefits of using visual elements

That’s because high-quality visual content:

  • Breaks up large walls of text 
  • Allows readers to understand written content better (and makes it easy to follow specific steps)
  • Provides mini content assets that people can link to or share on social media
  • Helps your content stand out from the competition (especially when using 100% unique graphics)

Tips for Optimizing Images

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when optimizing images on your site:

  • Image file size and format: Use image formats designed for fast-loading (like WebP
  • Descriptions and names: Optimize alt tags, image file names, and image titles
  • Copyright: Make sure the images can be legally used in your content
  • Relevancy: Ensure the images are relevant to the content
  • Mobile-friendliness: View the images to ensure they appear correctly on mobile devices
  • Unique: Try to limit the use of stock photos that have been used on lots of other sites already 

How to Write Effective Alt Text

Image alt text is something search engines like Google use to understand what an image is. It also improves accessibility for people using screen readers.

Alt text code for a bunny eating

Here’s how to write effective alt text:

  • Be descriptive: Describe the image in as much detail as you can. Imagine you are describing it to someone who can't see it. In addition to being helpful for search engines, this also helps those who use screen readers better understand images.
  • Be unique: Every image on each page should have unique alt text. 
  • Be relevant: Just like keywords in your content itself, you want to write natural-sounding alt text. This means you don’t need to stuff keywords into your alt text.

6. Track SEO Metrics with Google Analytics

To see exactly how your SEO is improving, it’s important to know which metrics to pay attention to in Google Analytics

(Or another website analytics tool.)

Here are some of the most important SEO metrics:



Organic search traffic

The number of unpaid website visits that come from search engines

Bounce rate

The percentage of visitors who leave your site without performing a desired action (e.g., visiting another page)

Average session duration

How long users typically spend on a page before leaving

Pages per session

The average number of pages viewed each time someone visits your site

Note that there are no “good” or “bad” benchmarks here. These are more metrics to pay attention to as you make changes to your page.

If those metrics improve, your changes are likely having a positive impact on your site’s UX.

7. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means it checks the mobile version of your site when deciding on rankings. 

So, if you want to improve your SEO, it’s crucial to improve your mobile SEO. In other words, to deliver a great experience to users on mobile devices, like smartphones.

Google Search Console can help you identify issues with the mobile experience.

For example, the Core Web Vitals report shows whether your site passes various mobile speed checks.

Core Web Vitals report

Alternatively, find the most pressing issues with Semrush’s Site Audit tool.

It performs over 140 checks, including many related to mobile SEO. And categorizes each issue as an error, warning, or notice.

You can even get advice on fixing each problem.

"Issues" tab in the Site Audit tool

8. Optimize Pages for Relevant Keywords

While you should focus on creating content for users first, using keywords strategically can help you rank higher.

Here are some of our top keyword optimization tips:

Use Your Keyword in Your Title Tag and H1

It’s important that your primary keyword (the main search term you want to rank for) appears in your title tag. This is the title that can appear in search results, like this:

"Keyword strategy" highlighted in Google search and title tag of the first result

This should be very similar to your H1 tag (the main heading that appears on your page).

"Keyword strategy" highlighted in the H1 tag on Semrush blog

Incorporate Keywords into Your Body Content

Generally, you should try to include the primary keyword in the first paragraph of body content. 

You can also repeat this keyword, or use other relevant keywords, throughout your content. Where it’s natural to do so.

For example:

Keyword in body

Use Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant

For help incorporating keywords appropriately, use Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant.

Simply input your target keywords and start writing.

SEO Writing Assistant empty text box

The tool will let you know, among other things:

  • Which keywords you’ve missed
  • Semantic keywords to incorporate
  • Whether you’ve overused a particular keyword
Content added to the SEO Writing Assistant

It will also provide a score for your overall SEO, readability, originality, and tone of voice.

If you get stuck, use the Smart Writer to rephrase or compose text.

SEO Writing Assistant proves content score and recommendations in the right-hand panel

9. Increase Page Load Speeds

Page speed plays an important role in user experience. And is a confirmed Google ranking factor.

To see how fast your website is on desktop and mobile, enter your domain into Google’s PageSpeed Insights page.

PageSpeed Insights analyze bar

This report will show you how quickly your site loads. And specific areas for improvement. 

For example, we entered one of our blog posts into this tool.

Fortunately, we passed.

PageSpeed Insights test results (passed)

But as with almost any webpage, there were areas to improve.

PageSpeed Insights diagnostics report

If you’ve passed the test, it might not be worth investing the time and money into making further updates. It’ll all depend on the task, the resources available, and how competitive your industry is.

PageSpeed Insights opportunities report

10. Target Local Searchers, Where Relevant

If your business (or branch) serves people in a nearby location, local SEO is super important. Perhaps even more important than “regular” SEO.

It helps your business appear when people search for relevant products, services, or amenities in their local area.

For example, it can help your Google Business Profile appear in the local pack. Which looks something like this:

Google's local pack results

Here are some of our top recommendations for optimizing for local search:

When done right, internal linking (i.e., linking between related pages on your site) can make a significant dent in your search engine rankings.

internal link in an article

Internal links send some authority from one page to another. 

They also help Google and users to explore your site effectively. 

For example, this internal link uses the anchor text “Technical SEO.” This helps search engines understand that the linked page (not the current page) is the most relevant result for this keyword.

Internal link with anchor text "Technical SEO"

Improve Your SEO with Semrush

Semrush has all the tools you need to improve your SEO.

We recommend starting with Site Audit. Because it identifies major errors that could hold your site’s rankings back. 

You can then explore tools like:

Create your free account to get started.

Author Photo
Writer, editor, SEO strategist, and supporter of the Oxford comma. There‘s little I enjoy more than lounging on my couch playing video games and snuggling with my dog.
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