Do you know the biggest traffic source for the majority of successful niche websites?
It’s not their email list or social media (though email especially should be a major part of your strategy)
Google overwhelmingly dominates the global search market.
Nearly 90% of all search queries are generated from Google. Other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, Baidu etc. make up the remaining 9-10%.
The writing is on the wall – if you want consistent search engine traffic, you need to play by Google’s rules.
A few months back, I wrote a very detailed post on how you can protect your niche website from a Google penalty.
In this post, I’ll give a quick and easy SEO checklist.
Some of the points in this checklist are one-time actions that’ll put your SEO strategy on track.
While the others are things that you need to look at every time you’re publishing a new blog post.
To make it easier for you, I’ve divided it into the three main categories of SEO – technical, on-page and off-page.
Bookmark this post and give it a quick look before publishing a new blog post.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 220 profitable buyer keywords click here or the image below)
What You’ll Learn in this Post
- How to build a strong SEO foundation for your niche website.
- How to tap into the fastest growing segment of search traffic.
- How to build backlinks like a pro.
- How to get rid of any unwanted and harmful links to your site.
"Whenever I advise marketers on crafting pages, I ask them to put themselves in the minds of their potential visitors, and imagine a page that provides something so different and functional that it rises above everything else in its field." - Rand Fishkin (Moz)
Technical SEO – Optimizing Website Performance
So, what exactly is technical SEO? Sounds complex, right?
If you go into the depths of technical SEO, it is certainly a complex topic. But as a blogger, even having some the fundamentals of technical SEO in place, is enough for you.
In simple terms, technical SEO refers to all the activities you do in order to make it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your website.
It focuses on the performance factors of your site like speed, file sizes, crawl errors etc.
Here are some of the key technical SEO factors you need to keep in mind.
1) Select a Reliable Website Hosting Service
The standard of your web hosting service can have a major impact on your website’s performance.
If your web hosting package includes frequent website downtimes, slow servers and poor security, the performance of your website will remain poor even if you apply the best optimization techniques.
At NicheHacks we use, and strongly recommend, WPEngine.
It offers over 99% server up time, with servers located at different geographical locations.
Or you could go for HostGator, which is another highly reliable web hosting service.
You can measure website uptime by using Pingdom.
It sends you alerts every time your servers are down and also gives you the total server uptime at the end of every month.
"The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search results" - Brian Clark (Copyblogger)
2) Optimize Your Page Load Speed (TTFB)
Google takes page speeds very seriously and considers it an important factor while ranking websites.
If two websites are equal in all other ranking factors, the faster website will be higher in search results.
According to KissMetrics, a 1-second delay in your page response can reduce conversions by almost 7%.
However, according to Moz, Google specifically monitors the TTFB of every website.
TTFB (Time To First Byte) is the time it takes to load the first byte of a webpage.
You can find out where your site stands in terms of page speed by using Google’s Page Speed Tool. Any score above 80 is good.
Here are a few other measures you can take to improve page speed.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN can significantly improve your website performance.
CDN’s cache your static website files and serve them from servers located nearest to your website visitors.
However, your CDN needs to specifically improve the website’s TTFB.
That is only possible if it can cache dynamic HTML files as well.
This is further elaborated in this infographic by Incapsula, a leading CDN used by Moz and several other industry leaders.
Source: Incapsula Blog
Here’s a useful list of some of the leading CDN’s that you can use for your niche website.
- Optimize Image Sizes
If your website uses a lot of images (which it should), make sure they are optimized properly.
As a normal practice, save your images in JPG and GIF formats, as they occupy the least space.
There’s a useful WordPress plugin, Smush.it that automatically compresses all the images on your site. Make sure you have it installed.
- Remove Unnecessary Plugins
Certain WordPress plugins are essential for successful niche website.
But too many plugins can really drag your site speed down. So keep the important ones, and get rid of the rest.
3) Use a Mobile Friendly Website Design
Does your website use a mobile friendly design? If not, Google is all set to penalize you in its upcoming algorithm updates.
Google rewards websites that offer a pleasant user experience.
With the number of smartphone users rising dramatically, Google now requires every site to have a mobile version or use responsive website design.
You can use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to find out if your site is mobile friendly.
"In this new era of SEO, it’s no longer possible to ignore mobile searchers and mobile
sites, and compete with those who don’t." - Bryson Meunier (Search Engine Land)
4) Use an SEO Friendly URL Structure
Are you using search engine friendly URLs?
Not sure? Here’s the difference.
Wrong URL Structure: http://www.yoursite.com/postid=34
SEO Friendly URL: http://www.yoursite.com/onpage-seo-techniques
Do you see the difference?
An SEO friendly URL includes some of the main keywords that describe the content of the page. It helps readers and search engine spiders determine the page content easily.
Here’s how you can change your URL structure in WordPress
5) Create HTML and XML Sitemaps for Your Website
An HTML sitemap is primarily aimed at the website visitors. It gives them a tree-view of your website and all its pages and subpages. It does not have a direct impact on SEO, but does improve user experience.
An XML sitemap, however, is important for SEO and gives Google spiders a starting point to crawl your website. It’s not meant for your visitors and should not be displayed on your website.
You can create an XML sitemap in WordPress by using the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
Once your sitemap is ready, submit its URL to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
Also add your sitemap location to your website’s robots.txt file. You can find this file in the root folder of your website.
Just add the URLs of your sitemap to the robot.txt file like the URLs below.
Here’s a snapshot of Google’s own robots.txt file to give you an idea.
6) Silo Content As Much As Possible
Siloing your content simply means breaking it down into different categories according to their topics. Every category contains blog posts related to that topic.
For example, here on NicheHacks, content can be broken down into categories like social media, blogging, niche website reports, case studies etc.
This helps search engine crawlers go deep into your website and crawl related content together. It also means that no page on your site is more than a few click away from the user.
7) Eliminate Crawl Errors on Your Website
Crawl errors occur when something on your website prevents Google crawlers from indexing it.
If you have a large website, these errors can be in thousands.
But don’t worry, it’s not as difficult to locate and eliminate these errors as you think.
Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account==>>Crawl==>>Crawl Errors
Go through this list and eliminate the source of each problem that is causing these errors. Here’s a detailed guide by Moz on eliminating crawl errors.
8) Manage Page Redirections Properly
As your site grows, you might need to redirect older URLs to more updated content on your website.
But you need to do this correctly, otherwise your new URL will not have the same authority in Google’s eyes as the old ones.
There are mainly two types of redirections that are used in different scenarios
301 Redirect: Used for permanently redirecting a URL.
This tells Google that your old URL is now outdated and the redirection is permanent.
This also transfers 90-99% of the old page’s authority to the new one.
302 Redirect: Used for temporary redirections.
This tells Google that the redirection is for a short time and the old URL will be activated again.
This doesn’t transfer any of your page authority to the new URL.
But if you keep it activated for too long, your original page might lose some traffic.
"Every on-page SEO task is really for the user’s benefit. Yet most SEOs still haven’t come to terms with that fact." - Neil Patel
On-Page SEO – Optimizing User Experience
On-page SEO is all about user experience. Unlike popular belief, it’s not about stuffing your content with high traffic keywords.
Instead, you need to focus on creating high value content that offers your visitors exactly the kind of information they’re looking for.
This visual by Rand Fishkin describes on-page SEO perfectly
9) Website Meta Tags
The role of meta tags has changed over the last few years.
They are still important, but for different reasons.
Title tags are used to display the title of your post in Google search, and have a direct impact on your page rankings.
Preferably, the title should contain your main target keyword.
But it should also be concise. Ideally your title length should stay between 50-60 characters to be completely visible.
You can use Moz’s title generator to see if your title and meta description are clearly visible.
This is the short description of your page that appears below the title in search results.
It does not have a direct impact on search rankings so you should not stuff keywords in it.
But according to Survey Monkey, nearly 44% of people click on a search result because of the meta description alone.
So you need to make it engaging for the readers and use it to give them a good idea of your page content.
You can use the Yoast SEO plugin to get title and meta description previews in WordPress.
10) Use Keyword Based Image Alt Text, Filenames and Description
When you add images to your posts, make sure they have descriptive and SEO friendly alt text, filenames and descriptions.
For example, if your image filename is image123.jpg, change it to a more descriptive name like guest-blogging-seo.jpg.
If you have descriptive alt text, filenames and image descriptions, you’ll give your images a better chance to show up in relevant search results.
11) Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) in Your Content
Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI keywords are natural synonyms of your main keyword. When creating content for your website or blog, you need to make sure that you’re mixing up LSI keywords along with your main keyword.
This not only makes your content look natural to your readers, but also to Google spiders.
For example if your main keyword is “generate website traffic”, your LSI keywords can be
- Get more visitors
- Attract more traffic
- Drive more visitors
- Get free traffic
Also mix up different long tail keywords that appear under the related searches section in Google search results. For example here are the related searches for “freelance blogging”
These are the searches that Google considers relevant to your main keyword. So using them will make your content more natural and get you ranked for more keywords.
12) Create High Quality Content To Boost On-Page SEO
A survey by HubSpot shows that nearly 75% of consumers prefer researching brands and product through articles and blog posts instead of paid advertisements.
And according to Quicksprout, blogs get 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages as compared to simple websites.
So the best way to rank for a lot of keywords and strengthen your on-page SEO is to consistently create high quality content.
To be more specific, Google considers any content high quality if it is
- Focused on solutions
- Optimized for relevant keywords
- Easy to share and gets shared a lot
- Written for humans not search engines
There are several posts on NicheHacks that discuss content marketing in much more detail, so I’ll leave it here.
But from an SEO perspective, here are a few things you need to keep in mind while creating content
- Avoid Thin Content – No more 500-800 word posts. Google likes longer and in-depth articles, as apparent from this study by SerpIQ.
Be as thorough as possible and create longer content in the range of 1500-2000 words (and beyond, if needed)
- Avoid Duplicate Content like Plague – Creating duplicate content is the easiest way to get your website penalized by Google. There’s no harm in doing research and citing authority resources, but don’t copy their stuff completely.
- Useful, Actionable, Data-Driven and Well-Researched – The hallmark of quality content is its usefulness and credibility. Readers also tend to share content that is backed by research. The easiest way to do this is by using studies by research companies like Pew, Statista etc. Share data with your readers to gain credibility, and provide action items to make your content really useful.
- Content Engagement – Google takes content engagement very seriously. In fact, it is one of the primary ranking factors. It measures content engagement by the average time a reader spends on a page. Research shows that certain content types like videos, images, infographics, list posts, case studies etc. drive more engagement than others.
- Content Freshness – If you’re in a niche where new things are regularly happening (news, sports, fashion, events, frequent updates etc.), content freshness is an important ranking factor for you.
Source: Inspire Chicago SEO
Over a period of time, sites in your niche with fresher content will outrank you if you do not make regular updates to your own content.
13) Create Deep Interlinking of Content on Your Blog
Deep interlinking of content makes it easier for Google spiders to crawl new content and go deep in your blog.
When creating new content, make sure you frequently link to other relevant pages on your website.
For example, here on NicheHacks, we link to at least 8-10 other NicheHacks posts for every thousand words.
Source: Neil Patel Blog
The deeper you link, the easier it is for spiders to crawl your website.
14) Frequently Link To High Authority Content on Other Sites
Getting backlinks from high authority websites is one of the primary objectives of any SEO strategy.
But did you know that linking to high authority sites in your own content can also prove beneficial for your rankings?
When Google spiders crawl your content see outbound links to high authority sites in your niche, they consider this as a positive indicator.
His becomes even more effective when your link anchor text is natural.
Off-Page SEO - Building High Authority Backlinks
This aspect of SEO is primarily focused on getting natural backlinks from relevant high authority websites in your niche.
When a popular website links to your content, Google considers this as a vote of confidence from a trusted source.
The more authority links you have for a piece of content, the higher your rankings will get.
However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind while building backlinks.
Here’s a quick look at some of them.
- Use Natural Anchor Text – Google has come down hard on irrelevant and unnatural backlinks in the last few years. In simple words, if you’re consistently creating links with exact keyword anchors, you’ll get into trouble with Google. The right way is to create anchors that fit naturally with the overall the overall content on a page. Also remember the LSI keywords that I mentioned earlier in the post. When creating backlinks, use anchor phrases instead of anchor words. Include your main keyword and its variations in your anchor phrase.
- Create Link-worthy and Share-worthy Content – The key to getting natural, relevant and high authority backlinks is to create content that people love sharing. Research shows that certain types of content are shared more frequently than others.
Focus on the content types that are shared more frequently.
Notice how infographics are the most frequently shared content type.
This is because people like quoting and sharing data backed content.
Including data references in your content can get you powerful backlinks from authority sites.
- Influencer Outreach – Building relationships with the influencers in your niche is the key to getting easy and high authority backlinks. No wonder it is one of the fastest growing methods for customer acquisition.
Source: Tomoson Blog
Work on maintaining a good relationship with the experts in your industry, and reach out to them from time to time when you publish new and relevant content.
Here’s a detailed post on how to master the art of influencer outreach
- Guest Blogging – If you do it the right way, guest blogging is one o the best ways to get backlinks from authority websites in your niche. What is the right way? This post by Christopher is all about that.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 220 profitable buyer keywords click here or the image below)
Ready to Publish an Optimized Blog Post?
Phew! That was long, and you can see, I’ve not even scratched the surface on most of the points.
But this post ws not about giving you details of every SEO technique.
We have several other posts on this blog which discuss each of these points separately.
(Check out how to use parasite websites for easy clickbank rankings)
This post is a checklist.
Bookmark it and go through it every time you’re publishing a new blog post (especially the on-page SEO part).
Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.