Advanced SEO refers to a set of techniques that require a deep understanding of SEO, search engine algorithms, and marketing technology.
These tactics go beyond SEO basics and can give you an edge over your competitors.
Here are 13 of the most effective advanced SEO techniques marketers can incorporate into their strategies in 2024.
1. Improve Your Content’s Time to Value
In SEO, time to value is the time it takes for a user to gain value from a piece of content.
And your content’s time to value should be short.
Short time to value lets your users get what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
But with hero images, author bios, and long-winded intros, many websites have poor time to value.
In the example below, there’s a hero image and more than 700 words before the first tip.
The time to value is even worse on mobile. Because of how much scrolling is required.
Poor time to value can negatively affect your bounce rate (the percentage of website visits with no engagement before the user leaves), dwell time (the average time a user spends on a page before returning to the search results), and average session duration (how long a typical session lasts).
And this could affect your traffic and rankings.
So, how do you improve time to value?
By putting the most important information and elements at the top of the page.
Ideally, above the fold.
Use the (bottom line up front (BLUF) approach—also called the inverted pyramid approach. In other words, put the information users are looking for at the top.
Keep your introductions short and get to the point.
Don’t waste anyone’s time.
For example, Investopedia’s laissez-faire economics article does a great job with time to value.
In the image below, you can see they hit on a definition of the term in the image. And then provide a summary of the article in the “Key Takeaways” section. Right at the top.
Users can get exactly what they’re looking for immediately—without really having to scroll.
It’s no surprise that this page consistently ranks in the top few positions for relevant keywords on Google.
2. Build Out Topic Clusters
A topic cluster is a group of articles or pieces of content that share a central topic and strategically link to and from one another.
Topic clusters provide comprehensive coverage of a topic. Which improves topical authority and enables your readers to have their queries (as well as any follow-up queries) satisfied on your site.
Typically, topic clusters revolve around a pillar page. Which is a page that targets a broad topic.
The cluster is made of content that covers related topics. And they all link to and from the pillar page.
Using topic clusters is an effective SEO tactic because it helps you create content that demonstrates topical authority, relevance, and expertise.
Think of it this way:
If a website only had a single piece of content on a topic, you probably wouldn’t consider them an expert on it.
But if it had a whole cluster of related content that used internal linking to demonstrate the topical relevance between them?
You’d probably think the site knew what it was talking about.
Your users (and Google) feel the same way.
Migrating your site's content into a topic cluster structure may not be the simplest of tasks—it’s something that’s mostly used by businesses implementing advanced SEO strategies.
But it's one that will pay dividends and can contribute to your site’s long-term success.
In 2024, you should be thinking about how to rank for topics (not just individual keywords) and satisfying your users’ queries before they even search for them.
Building out topic clusters is a great way to get into this mindset.
3. Leverage Strategic Internal Linking
Internal linking (linking from one page on your site to other pages on your site) is one of the most underrated SEO tactics.
Adding internal links to your pages is beginner SEO stuff. But using internal links strategically to boost relevance and authority requires nuance and advanced SEO knowledge.
Good internal links help search engines better understand your content and site structure.
They also help users navigate your website.
The strategic part comes from knowing how to best incorporate links. And where to do it.
You should be linking to your most important pages from other semantically and topically relevant pages.
And you should also be using descriptive anchor text (the text the link falls on) that has the same search intent (the reason behind a searcher’s query) as the primary keyword of the page it points to.
One impactful way to start improving internal linking is to leverage your site's most linked-to pages.
To do this, analyze your site with Backlink Analytics.
Enter your domain in the tool, head to the “Indexed Pages” tab, and sort by “Domains.”
The pages with the highest number of referring domains are your website's most powerful pages.
You can use these pages to pass link authority (i.e., PageRank) to other relevant pages on your site.
Look for opportunities to link from these pages to topically related pages that need a push in organic visibility.
And think carefully about the anchor text you use.
You should also use this technique when you launch new content. So, look for opportunities to link to it internally.
4. Maximize Your SERP Real Estate
You can increase search visibility and take traffic away from your competitors without even improving your ranking in search.
By increasing your search engine results page (SERP) real estate to make your site stand out more in Google’s search results.
First, you need to use structured data as part of your advanced on-page SEO—improvements to your pages that satisfy both search engines and users.
Structured data (or schema markup) is a type of code that helps Google understand your content better.
And when you use structured data, Google can show rich snippets in the search results.
Rich snippets are when Google shows extra information from your site. Like ratings, prices, or images.
For example, this page from Amazon has a rich snippet that shows the product rating and return policy.
To use structured data, you need to follow the guidelines from Google and use the right format for your content type.
In addition to adding schema markup, you should create multimedia content. Which is any type of content that’s not text—like videos, images, or podcasts.
And multimedia content can help you rank for different types of search queries and features.
For example, this video from Semrush’s YouTube channel ranks in the video carousel for “SEO content.”
And this image from our blog ranks in the image pack for “marketing funnel.”
Another way to maximize your SERP real estate (that’s specific to local businesses) is to create a Google Business Profile.
It can influence how your business appears on Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Shopping.
By doing these things to grow your SERP real estate, you can improve your click-through rate, brand awareness, and user experience.
Which are all super important for advanced SEO.
Further reading: Winning Google SERP Features: How to Optimize for Visibility
5. Leverage Paid Ads for Link Building
Link building is one of the most difficult, time-consuming aspects of SEO.
Yet even in 2024, it’s still one of the most important.
But what if there were a safe way to get backlinks without spending a ton of time?
Fortunately, there is. And it’s Google-approved (and encouraged).
Results at the top of Google’s first page typically get more backlinks than other results.
Because they get more clicks and traffic than other results.
Generally speaking, more people reading your content means a higher chance of getting links.
And if you have a budget for link building, you can take advantage of this by using Google Ads.
First, find keywords in your niche that have informational intent and show search ads in the SERPs.
You can do this by opening the Keyword Magic Tool and searching for broad industry terms.
Then, use the filters to display only keywords with informational intent that serve up Google Ads at the top of the SERPs.
First, select the “Intent” drop-down and set it to “Informational.” Then, select the “Advanced filters” drop-down, go to the “SERP Features” drop-down, and select the checkbox next to “Ads top.”
In the example below, we used the keyword “SEO.”
Choose a keyword from the list that you have great content for (or create a piece around that word). It should align with the search intent and not already rank at the top of the SERP for that keyword. You’ll also want to choose a keyword that’s likely to get backlinks.
Think definitions, statistics, facts, and tips. These types of keywords often display results that get linked to in other articles.
Then, create and launch search ads that direct to your content. And run your ads for at least one or two months at a budget that makes sense for you.
You’ll probably need to try different keywords and bids to find what works for your business.
This technique can be effective on Google, Bing, and even Facebook (though it won’t be a search ad on Facebook).
Further reading: Link Building Strategies: 8 Ways to Build Links
6. Steal Featured Snippets
Getting featured snippets is another way to maximize your SERP real estate and ensure you’re getting as much organic traffic to your content as possible.
Featured snippets appear in position zero. Meaning they’re above all other organic results in the SERP.
They also take up much more space than a normal organic result.
Your SERP competitors might already be bringing in traffic with snippets. But often, their snippets are bits of text from their content that was never meant to be a featured snippet.
You can seize this opportunity. By tailoring your content for this format and stealing their snippets.
Start by finding the keywords your site ranks for that trigger a featured snippet you don’t own.
To do that, open Organic Research, enter your domain, and click “Search.”
Then, head to the “Positions” tab and use the filters to show keywords you rank well for but not #1. Say 2-10, for example.
Now select the “SERP features” filter and choose “Domain doesn’t rank” > “Featured snippet.”
The resulting list shows all keywords you rank for in position 2 through position 10 with a snippet you don’t have. These keywords are opportunities to get featured snippets.
Create a list of these keywords and evaluate the actual featured snippets they serve up.
Then, go back to your own content targeting these keywords to ensure you have a heading for the featured snippet keyword.
Under the heading, update your content to cover points similar to those that are in the featured snippet. But improve on whatever your competitors have written. And be direct and concise.
Monitor results, iterate, and repeat until you get the results you want.
7. Start A/B Testing
A/B testing enables you to test different variations of elements within your content to find what’s most effective.
Not only can A/B testing lead to better SEO performance, but it can also help you achieve other goals like increased conversions, leads, or session durations.
Identify pages on your website that are important to your business.
Then, determine the specific metrics you’d like to improve on those pages. And consider what changes might have a positive impact on those metrics and the business.
Even things as simple as button color, text size, and heading text can have significant impacts on how your users interact with your website. Use tools like SplitSignal, Optimizely, or VWO to start testing your hypotheses.
These tools are built for A/B testing. And enable you to painlessly test what you want to test.
They have visual editors that allow you to make aesthetic changes to your site without coding knowledge. And built-in reporting to help you understand whether your results are statistically significant.
Here are some ideas of things to test to get you started:
- Button text
- Button copy
- H1 text
- Content length
- Table of contents
- Text size
- Button color
- Hero images
- Other images
- Sidebar CTA
- Header CTA
- Sales copy
A/B testing is how you get the most out of your website.
Further reading: What Is A/B Testing? A Comprehensive Beginners’ Guide
8. Diversify Your Visuals
Visual elements attract the eye and engage your users.
Engaged users stay on your site longer and are less likely to bounce. Which can help you rank higher.
But in 2024, almost all webpages have images and graphics.
And if nearly every webpage has images, images stand out less. They’re less compelling and less likely to keep users engaged.
So, how do you make your images compelling again? And how do you keep users engaged?
By diversifying your visuals.
This means adding GIFs, animated images, and videos to your content. Because they can relay a lot more information than static images do.
They can also autoplay and repeat automatically. This draws the eye and compels users to watch.
So, add GIFs and animated images like animated SVGs to your content.
They can prevent users from bouncing and keep them on your site longer. To help you rank higher and bring in more traffic.
The same is true of videos.
And they can also rank independently in SERPs, giving you added SEO benefit.
9. Leverage Unlinked Mentions for Link Building
Unlinked brand mentions are opportunities to painlessly and ethically build valuable backlinks.
An unlinked brand mention is whenever someone mentions your brand online without providing a link.
This can be in content like forums, news articles, and blog posts (even comments sections).
Wherever it happens, it’s an opportunity to get a backlink.
Backlinks like these can help your ranking in the SERPs and bring in referral traffic.
This means more SEO value and more potential customers.
Tools like Brand Monitoring can help you keep track of when and where your brand is being talked about.
Once you’re aware of the brand mentions, you can reach out to the authors and ask them to provide links.
Authors are usually open to adding links. Especially within the first few days of the mention.
Brand Monitoring also allows you to track the brand mentions of your competitors. So you can keep track of how your competitors are being discussed online.
You can also reach out to the authors of competitor mentions to see if they’re open to mentioning your brand (with a link) as well.
10. Remove or Repurpose Underperforming Content
Every piece of quality content on your website should serve a purpose: to rank and bring in traffic, convert leads, acquire backlinks, boost your authority, etc.
To ensure your content is serving a purpose, you should continually evaluate its performance.
Content that isn’t serving a purpose should be removed or repurposed.
Otherwise, it’s just using resources (and may be holding your site back).
Use the method outlined in our article on SEO content pruning to audit the content on your site.
Following the guide, you’ll build out a spreadsheet that helps you identify exactly which URLs aren't performing.
And once you've audited all of your content, you’ll have a clear view of how it’s performing.
Then, you can take the following actions based on your evaluation of a piece of content:
- Keep: the page is performing, no actions needed
- Improve: make edits and improvements to see if the page performs better
- Repurpose: consolidate two or more pages into a single page, with any removals being 301 (permanently) redirected
- Remove: the content serves no purpose and can’t be repurposed elsewhere
This is a task that most sites should be running once or twice a year, depending on how much content they have.
- Repurposing Content: How to Get More Out of Every Piece
- The Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit
11. Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues
Keyword cannibalization (when multiple pages compete and harm each other’s SEO potential) isn’t about keywords. It happens when you have two or more pages that target the same intent.
The reality is that you can have more than one page optimized for the same keyword (or a highly similar one). As long as they're targeting different intents.
And some keywords have fractured intents.
This means that the top 10 results for this type of keyword may indicate a mix of different types of intent. Like by containing both informational and commercial pages.
For example, the keyword “youtube keyword research” yields results with both commercial and informational intents.
Two of the top three results are YouTube keyword research tools. While our result is an informational guide on how to perform keyword research for YouTube.
This is common. And you could conceivably rank for both intents.
But it becomes a problem when you have two pages trying to rank for the same intent (whether or not the keyword is the same).
Here are some common signs that your site might have these issues:
- Ranked URLs keep changing in the SERPs
- Your rankings keep fluctuating
- You're struggling to increase a keyword's ranking position
- The wrong URL ranks for a given keyword
And you can find specific keyword cannibalization issues using the keyword cannibalization feature in the Position Tracking tool.
Which you can see here:
You can use this report to view cannibalization issues either by keyword or by page. And take note of fluctuating URLs or positions:
Once you've found the issues, you can do the following to fix them:
- Remove and 301 redirect cannibalized pages
- Canonicalize cannibalized pages (which involves adding a snippet of code that identifies the primary page to your HTML)
- Re-optimize pages
- Merge and consolidate pages
- Rework internal linking structures
12. Build Out Q&A Pages Based on People Also Ask Questions
People also ask (PAA) sections are Google SERP features that allow users to get direct answers to questions they may have related to their initial queries.
You typically see PAA features in SERPs with broad or fractured intent.
These questions are valuable because they‘re questions people commonly search on Google.
They’re typically long-tail keywords with low monthly search volumes.
But they also only require a few sentences to be comprehensively answered.
This makes crafting content around them relatively low-effort.
And while each of them typically has low search volume, they can really add up when combined.
So, farm these questions using SERP analysis or a tool like AlsoAsked.
Then, create a dedicated page for each question.
Your titles and H1s should be the questions from the PAA section.
And the copy directly under the H1 should answer these questions directly and concisely.
Use lists when applicable.
And make sure to add an internal link to a pillar page for that topic.
For example, say we created a page for the question “How to do advanced SEO for a website?” We’d link to the article you’re reading right now.
These pages can help you bring in more traffic and potential customers. And can also boost your topical authority.
13. Analyze Your Log Files
Log file analysis is an advanced technical SEO tactic that needs to be on your radar.
Analyzing log files can:
- Show you where and how much crawl budget (the time and resources search engine bots devote to crawling your site) is being wasted
- Help you identify the cause of crawl errors that prevent search engine bots from navigating your site
- Find pages that aren't being crawled frequently
This information can enable you to make improvements to help Google crawl your site more efficiently.
Log file analysis gives you a way to understand how search engines are crawling your site and any issues they face.
You can analyze your site's log files with Semrush’s Log File Analyzer.
You'll need to download a copy of your site's log file and upload it to the tool. (Check out our log file analysis guide to find out how to locate your log file.)
Then, you’ll get a detailed report you can evaluate for issues and opportunities.
Advance Beyond the Competition
SEO in competitive industries requires you to go beyond the basics to succeed.
It’s a continual process that demands analysis, experimentation, and refinement.
But by leveraging advanced SEO tactics and using the tools available to you in clever ways, you can strengthen your search visibility and get the edge you need.