Looking to improve your search engine rankings?
With the always-changing Google ranking algorithm and competitors trying to fight for the #1 position, it gets really difficult to improve your search engine rankings.
So, what should you do to rank your website higher in search engines?
There are literally thousands of articles regarding this topic out there. In my earlier days, I used to scratch my head around trying to get my website ranked on Google.
After years of trial and error, I found some solid SEO strategies that worked for me multiple times to improve my rankings.
And, I’m going to share this all with you in this guide.
I’ll show the different strategies that will help you improve your Google rankings.
Without wasting any of your time, let’s get straight into it.
How to Improve Search Engine Ranking in 2023
- Check the search console for low-hanging fruits
- Delete low-value pages from your website
- Use SEMrush to find potential featured snippet opportunities
- Conduct an SEO audit
- Set up your content marketing
- Build quality links to your website
- Broken link building
- Improve EAT
- Collaborative content marketing
You’ll find hundreds of articles online talking about the different strategies to improve your search engine rankings.
But here’s the deal:
It’s not about implementing different strategies or tactics to improve your rankings.
Instead, you should follow only a few strategies PROPERLY to ensure that you rank for your desired keywords.
I have mentioned some essential strategies that you MUST follow to rank higher on Google. For the sake of helping you understand them easier, I have categorized them.
It all begins by finding low-hanging fruits and optimizing your website for them.
1. Check the search console for low-hanging fruits
Here’s one common mistake everyone makes:
Publishing new content and trying to rank it on Google.
But, if your existing content is struggling to rank on Google, your first priority should be to improve its rankings and not create new content.
And, to do this, you need to check your Search Console to find low-hanging fruits.
Here’s how to do it:
Go to Search Console > Performance. You’ll see your performance report like this:
This report is not showing the positions of the queries. To get the position for the queries, click on ‘Average Position.’ Now, the position will be visible next to each query.
Look at queries that have a high number of impressions and clicks despite having low rankings. For example, I highlighted three queries in the image below that have the potential to rank higher on Google.
These queries are low-hanging fruits and with a little effort, they can be pushed to the top of Google search results.
The question is:
How do you push them to the top?
This can be done in many ways. Here are some of them:
- Updating the content
- Building links
- Promoting the page to get traffic
I’ll be talking about these methods later in the article.
For now, let’s discuss how you can utilize low-hanging fruits even further to improve your rankings.
2. Delete low-value pages from your website
When we talk about optimizing low-hanging fruits, we always think of improving existing content that has the potential to rank better on Google.
But, have you ever thought the other way around?
Yes, there are pages that are sucking out the potential of your website. I call them ‘low-hanging dead fruits’.
You should pluck out these dead fruits from your website. I’m talking about removing low-value pages from your website.
Deleting low-value pages or ‘content pruning’ really helps with your website’s SEO. In fact, Inflow was able to increase its organic traffic by 28% after deleting low-value pages from its website.
Before we dive into that, here’s something you need to know:
Removing low-value pages from your website is a very sophisticated task and should be done with proper care.
Any errors made during this process will only invite more problems such as 404 errors, broken links, and more that will hurt your rankings.
That’s why I’ve laid out this method that works flawlessly to remove dead pages from your website.
This begins by first finding out what pages to delete.
Finding low-value pages looks easy on the surface but if you have a website with thousands of pages, you’ll need to analyze your website traffic carefully.
It’s time to fire up your Google Analytics and look for pages that:
- Get little to no traffic.
- Have low-quality content.
- Are old press releases or news articles?
- Short articles that are under 1000-1500 words.
- Have duplicate content.
I’d recommend you create a Google Spreadsheet that includes details about all your pages like this:
Once you have a list, you’ll be able to easily find thin pages on your website.
It’s also a good idea to have criteria for deleting pages. You may have old blog posts that aren’t getting traffic but with a little promotion could generate traffic.
Now, it’s time to delete all your low-value pages.
Or is it?
For someone who’s a data freak, you shouldn’t just delete all your pages instantly.
Before taking any action, you should take screenshots of your website traffic to see how content pruning affects your rankings.
Yes, you can simply check your analytics but I feel it’s better to have screenshots whenever you’re taking a big step like this one.
You can hit that trash button and delete all your low-value pages from your website.
Once you’re done, make sure to fix all the internal links pointing to the deleted pages. Either redirect them to a relevant page or change your internal links completely.
Also, submit a comprehensive sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools to help Google understand the changes that were made to your site.
3. Use SEMrush to find potential featured snippet opportunities
Featured snippets are a big deal now. According to Ahrefs, for SERPs with featured snippets, 8.6% of all clicks go to the featured snippet.
To help you find and steal featured snippets, you can use a tool like SEMRush.
Go to SEMRush > Position Tracking > Featured Snippets
This will show you the keywords you are targeting that have featured snippets.
It also shows which competitor page is currently in the featured snippet.
Now, you can analyze their featured snippet and optimize your posts to be in the featured snippet.
4. Conduct an SEO audit
Many people ignore SEO audits as they are time-consuming and require some technical knowledge.
But, a proper SEO audit can really help you improve your Google rankings significantly. Ahrefs has an awesome guide on how to conduct an SEO audit.
Depending on how big your website is, an SEO audit can take hours, days, or even WEEKS!
If you don’t have that kind of time right now, you can follow only some important steps required in an SEO audit.
These steps are more than enough to help you improve your site’s SEO and improve keyword rankings.
And, the first step of this audit is improving your website’s speed.
Improve your site speed
It’s no secret that website speed correlates to how your rank on Google. There have been so many studies on this subject in the past.
Recently, Ahrefs also proved that there is a correlation between page load time and Google rankings in their study.
Optimizing your website’s performance is a big task but can be executed easily. Before you start optimizing your site, it’s important to take a step back and analyze your speed.
It will uncover details about what’s slowing your site down. You can then fix what’s wrong.
To do this, fire up any page speed testing tools. Here are the ones I use and recommend:
Here’s a speed test report on this website:
As you can see, the loading time is a bit high but the page size and the number of requests are pretty normal. This means something is definitely wrong.
Speed testing tools like GTMetrix shows you what’s slowing down your website and how you can fix it.
In this case, here are some recommendations GTMetrix has for my website:
From the image above, it’s clear that ‘HTTP requests’ and ‘expires headers’ are slowing down my website.
These issues can be fixed and there are many tutorials and guides on it.
This is just one approach for optimizing your website speed.
There’s another way that’s much quicker and can fix many performance issues your website has.
And, here it is:
Using a caching plugin like WP Rocket to optimize your website. There are many speed optimization plugins for WordPress out there and WP Rocket is the best I’ve come across.
Though the plugin is paid, it’s totally worth it in my opinion. But, if you’re looking for a free alternative, I’d suggest you use WP Total Cache.
Optimize Your Headlines
It’s shocking how many people ignore their page headlines or titles. They are the most important element and contribute a lot to your rankings.
Many people also have a misconception that optimizing headlines is only about using your target keyword in the page title.
But, it has more to do with the searcher’s intent.
Here’s how you can optimize your headline:
Open your Search Console and go to Performance. In the performance tab, select impressions and CTR.
Now, scroll below and view the pages. This report shows pages along with their impressions and CTR.
The pages with high impressions but low CTR are the ones you need to optimize. It’s because your page CTR has a high correlation with search rankings.
Make a list of pages that have low CTR (Below 10%). Now that you have the list of pages whose headlines you need to optimize, it’s time to check their current headlines.
And to do so, you should use a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. With this tool, you can find out the headline score and see what improvements need to be done to it.
So, use the headline analyzer to check the headlines of the pages in your list. The tool gives a score to each headline.
You should aim for a score above 70% for all your headlines. This way you can improve your headlines and optimize them for the search engines and the users as well.
This lands under page speed optimization but is often ignored. Images can slow down your website which affects your rankings.
Image optimization can be done in many ways.
But, this is very hectic.
The other and much better way to optimize images is to use an image compression plugin.
And there is no other plugin better than TinyPNG’s image compression plugin. This free plugin automatically compresses images in the background and also compresses new images as you upload them.
Since the plugin is free, there is no limitation on the number of images you can compress. Just install it and the plugin will work silently forever.
Check the current page’s ranking trends and optimize it
Whenever you rank for a keyword, it’s important to keep track of the progress in order to avoid getting outranked by your competitors.
Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t show how your rankings have progressed over time.
But, you could use SEMRush to see how your rankings have fluctuated over time.
Go to SEMRush > Domain Analytics > Organic Research. On this page, you’ll see your website’s ranking trend and the keywords you rank for.
If you click on any keyword, you’ll be able to see the ranking history for that specific keyword.
This will help you keep track of all the keywords you rank for and find out if your positions have dropped in recent times.
Build internal links
Internal linking is an often neglected SEO strategy that can do wonders for your website’s rankings on Google.
With internal linking, you’re helping Google to index your site better.
And, what’s the reward of playing well with Google?
Building internal links is very easy. You can simply add internal links to relevant pages on your website.
But, a more structured approach will work out well in the long term. Here’s how you can build links properly:
Go to Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. This will show all the highest traffic-generating pages on your website.
Adding internal links to these pages will help you boost your deeper pages that don’t get much traffic.
But that’s not the only page where you should add internal links.
When it comes to internal linking, you should follow these ground rules:
- Update your old pages whenever you publish new content. It’s important that your new content has internal links.
- Make sure your internal links are do-follow links.
- Link to pages that have a high conversion rate. If you’ve set up conversion goals in Google Analytics, find pages that have a high conversion rate and link to those pages.
- Don’t add links just for the sake of building internal links. Your internal links should be logical and relevant to the subject.
Remove bad backlinks
Not all backlinks are good for your website. Some backlinks can harm your rankings. That’s why it’s important to have a clean backlink profile.
So, what makes a backlink harmful to your website? And most importantly, how do you find bad backlinks?
Links that are of low quality or spammy are not good for your website. Such links come from spam websites, spam comments, and websites just set up for links.
Such backlinks are harmful to your website and could lead to a penalty. Finding bad backlinks and removing them is very easy especially if you’re using SEMRush.
In SEMRush, you can find toxic backlinks using their Backlink Audit tool. Here’s how to set up a backlink audit in SEMRush:
Go to SEMRush > Projects > Select Your Project > Backlink Audit.
You can set up your backlink audit and choose what to audit.
Once the audit is complete, you’ll see the results showing you the percentage of toxic links to your website.
Now, you can easily disavow these toxic backlinks. Just click on the delete button and select whether you want to disavow the complete domain or just the URL.
Once you’ve made a list of backlinks you want to disavow, you can export them in a .txt file which you can then upload to the Google Search Console.
5. Set up your content marketing
If you’ve followed all the tactics and strategies mentioned above, you’ve already done enough to boost your website rankings on Google.
But, it’s good to do more and ensure that you rank for all your desired keywords. This can be done by stepping up your content marketing game.
Here are some strategies on how you can do that.
Improve existing content that has ranking potential
Earlier in this article, I talked about how to find low-hanging fruits and optimize them for better rankings.
In that section, I mentioned that improving the content will help you optimize such low-hanging fruits.
So, here’s how you can improve your existing content.
Use related entities and semantically related phrases
In 2015 Google released a patent (called Ranking search results based on entity metrics) that gives importance to the occurrence and importance of entities within a content piece.
In fact, Google can also identify entities mentioned in the article using natural language processing.
Visit the NLP API of Google where you can extract entities from text content.
Here’s a sample NLP extraction:
As you can see Google can easily find the entities within the content.
This is why you need to optimize your content with related entities and sub-topics.
Now, the question is:
How to find related entities and subtopics to add to the content?
Method 1: Using MarketMuse
You can use the Marketmuse SEO tool to find the related entities and sub-topics covered by the top-ranking pages.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the tool gives a list of the most important entities or related topics that you should also cover in the content.
This way, your article will be optimized for relevance and content depth.
Method 2: Google suggestions
Google itself gives you most of the related topics for your target keyword. For example, try Google auto suggestions, related searches, and PAA boxes.
These sections in the SERP will give you insight into what topics you should cover in the content and what Google thinks is related to the main topic.
Tip: Type your target keyword in Google and check the image tab. Mostly, the image tab will show you all the related topics.
Consider these topics as sub-topics or important entities that will improve the relevance of your content. Not every term will be relevant, but you’ll get a list of topics to cover.
Method 3: Using NLP
Don’t want to spend on any SEO tools for doing entity and topic research?
Here’s a complete step-by-step video on the process.
The best part is You don’t need to have any coding knowledge to analyze the SERP using NLP.
Audience research to find content ideas
Audience research gives you real challenges and questions that your audience is facing. On the other hand, relying completely on SEO tools isn’t always a smart idea as your competitors also have access to the same data.
Let’s understand how to perform audience research to find relevant content ideas.
Step 1: Find real questions and challenges
You may use any SEO tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to find questions related to the primary topic.
However, I’d prefer to start with Quora to find peoples’ concerns and challenges (questions) about your niche topic.
Just go to Quora.com, type your niche topic, and then filter the results by ‘question type.’
Even better add the filter to get related questions asked in the last 12 months.
Other free ways of finding related questions:
- Semrush keyword suggestions
Example of doing audience research using MarketMuse:
Step 2: Prioritize the questions
Once you have the list of questions and related sub-topics, you can even prioritize the list by comparing the search demand.
Use any tools to understand the possible search volume of each keyword.
This way, you will not only have a list of keywords with SEO benefits but also topics that your audience cares about.
Aim to get a featured snippet
We already talked about optimizing your blog posts for featured snippets. Let’s now take a look at how to get a featured snippet for your URL.
Optimizing your page to get a featured snippet begins with on-page SEO. You should optimize your titles and meta description to increase the chances of you getting a featured snippet.
You should also organize your content properly and answer questions precisely.
Here’s an example of how you can properly organize your content for featured snippets.
Once you’ve done all this, you should keep track of your content is organized well enough.
For this, I recommend you check out SEMRush’s On-Page SEO checker which shows how you can optimize your content.
As you can see from the image above, this page is optimized for featured snippets.
Create Topic Clusters and content hubs
While cornerstone content is the foundation of a content strategy, topic clusters help you structure your content to rank for search engines.
Here’s what a topic cluster means:
A topic cluster is a group of interlinked web pages on your website. These pages are built around a central topic called the pillar content (cornerstone content).
Using topic clusters is good for your SEO as search engines understand semantically related topics easily.
Here’s how you create topic clusters:
Step 1. Find primary or pillar topics
First, you need to pick the primary topics that you want your website to be known for.
Normally, the primary or pillar topic will be broad enough to have multiple sub-topics under that topic.
For example, pillar topics for a ‘health and fitness blog’ could be ‘full body exercise’, ‘diet for women,’ etc.
Step 2. Research sub-topics
Now, you need to find all the related sub-topics or supportive topics under the primary topic. You can use SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, or even MarketMuse to find related topics.
Search for your keyword in the Keyword Overview tool in SEMRush.
Now, click on the related keywords to find keywords related to that topic. You’ll find a list of keywords you can now use to create cluster content.
You can switch and find Broad match and phrase match keywords to uncover more cluster topics.
Once you find topics for your cluster content, start creating articles.
But remember this:
For each cluster content, make sure to add a link to your pillar content.
Step 2. Add internal links
To build a successful topic-cluster model, internal linking is important. Your goal should be to interconnect each supportive content with the pillar page.
This will help to build a content network on your primary topic.
Here’s an example pillar page and supportive content pieces are linked with each other.
6. Build quality links to your website
The last SEO strategy that will help you improve your website rankings on Google is link building. Link building is very crucial for any website’s SEO.
And, building links is not that easy anymore.
Still, there are two techniques that work in building links. And here they are:
Start with blogger outreach
Blogger outreach is not only a great way of building links but also helps you network with other people in your industry.
Here is my step-by-step process that you can use for blogger outreach:
Step 1. Identify the bloggers
The first step is to identify the bloggers you want to reach out to. This is fairly easy and can be done by finding the best blogs in your industry.
A simple Google search like ‘best [your topic] bloggers’ will give you so many results.
You can also find bloggers using AllTop. It’s a hand-curated list of the best blogs. Select your topic and you’ll find the best blogs.
Step 2. Find out their contact information
Now, you have to find the contact of the bloggers. This includes their email address and social media profiles.
It’s better to create a spreadsheet where you can add all this information.
Step 3. Interact with them
Before you send out an outreach email asking for a backlink, it’s better to interact with them and get in touch.
You can do this by following these steps:
- Follow them on social media and engage with their posts.
- Share their content on your social media.
- Comment on their blog.
- Email them complimenting their content and work.
Once you’ve gotten into their radar and have interacted with them, you can move to the next step.
Step 4. Reach out
It’s time to reach out to the bloggers and ask for a link.
It’s important to make sure that your link request is relevant and will help them too. It’s good to find resource pages and ask for a link on such pages.
You can use an email template like this one:
Subject: Your resource page
I just wanted to reach out to you to say that I really enjoyed your last post on [topic]. I even shared it with my Twitter followers.
Anyway, I was checking out some of your other content and noticed your resource page on [topic].
It’s an awesome resource and helped me find some great content about [topic].
I actually published something on [topic] that I’ve been getting some great feedback on:
The article is about [describe your content].
Might make a nice addition to your resource page. :)
Either way, keep up the awesome work!
Make sure that your outreach email is friendly and warm.
7. Broken link building
The last SEO strategy is broken link building. It amazes me that this strategy is still not utilized by many SEOs.
Here’s how you can find broken links:
Use a tool like Check My Links to find broken links. It’s a Chrome extension that checks for broken links on any page.
Once you’ve found broken links, you can reach out to the website owner to let them know about the broken link.
Here’s an example of an email you can use for outreach:
Subject: Broken link on [site name]
I was searching for [topic] and came across your page: [page URL].
However, I noticed a few links seem to be broken:
Also, I recently published [describe your content]. It may be a good replacement for [specify the broken link].
Either way, love your content. :)
Broken link building is very effective but time-consuming. If you can invest time in finding broken links, you can easily build some great links that will help you improve your search engine rankings.
8. Improve EAT
Days are gone when good quality content and backlinks will help you rank higher in the SERP. To fight against low-quality, misinformation, Google is now focusing more and more on EAT (Expertise – Authorititativeness – Trustworthiness).
In the quality raters guideline, it is mentioned that Google will give priority to the EAT of the main content, website, and content creator.
That means you should also demonstrate the expertise and credibility of the writer and website on the page.
Here are the best practices to consider to improve the overall EAT of your website:
1. Add author bio for articles
First of all, if you’re not using any author bio and showcasing who the author of the content is, it’s time to start doing so.
Make sure, every article has an author bio with brief details about the expertise of the content creator and why anyone should trust the content.
Here are some author bio examples:
Tip: Make sure, you use schema markup for the author bio (recommended by Google) with properties such as author.name and author.url
This is what the author schema looks like:
2. Add trustworthy and quality external references
When a webpage is referencing external sources that are not trustworthy or authoritative, it may be considered a medium to a low-quality page, according to the Quality raters guideline.
The goal here is to add external references in the content only if the sources are from authoritative and credible websites.
While adding any external references, ask the following questions:
- Are these external links trustworthy?
- Do they have expertise in their respective fields?
- Are people referring to these sites for trustworthy information?
This prevents you from adding links to low-quality or spammy websites.
9. Collaborative content marketing
When it comes to outreach, guest posts or broken link building are not the only techniques available to boost website traffic and credibility. Collaborative content marketing helps you earn social traffic, and high-quality links, and build an audience.
Here are some of the reasons to collaborate with influencers
- Insights from the subject matter experts improve the content quality
- Helps to get your content in front of a new audience
- Earn social shares, traffic, and even links from quality websites
Now, let’s talk about how to collaborate with influencers for content marketing:
Step 1. Find influencers and experts
The first step is to create a list of influencers or industry experts in your niche. For this you can do a manual search on Google like the following:
- [your niche topic] experts
- [your niche topic] influencers
You can also try searching LinkedIn or Twitter to find influencers in your industry who have medium to large follower sizes.
Step 2. Ask for a contributor quote
Asking for a contributor quote is one of the effective strategies to get influencers involved in your articles.
For example, if you’re writing an article on ‘Data science’, then you can reach out to data science experts on sharing their thoughts or quotes on the topic.
Here’s an email template that you can use to pitch influencers for a contributor quote.
I’ve quietly been working on updating an article – that is relevant to you.
And, I was looking for experts and practitioners to get a contributor quote (say 50-150 words of your thoughts) for the article.
Here’s the topic for which I am looking for your thoughts: [Put your topic here]
So if you’re interested in sharing your advice/thoughts on the above topic, it will add a lot of value to our readers.
In favour, I would love to give you proper credit in the article with a headshot and a link back to your website/social media profile.
Here’s the website where the content will be published: [add your website URL here]
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Make sure to customize the message before sending the influencers. In most cases, you’ll get a positive reply with the contributor quote.
Step 3. Add the quote with proper credit
Now, once you receive a couple of quotes from the outreach, include them in the article with proper credit.
Include a headshot image, designation, and a link back to their profile or personal blog.
Here’s an example:
Step 4. Share the article with the influencers
Once the article goes live on the website, share the URL with the influencers. You may also ask for sharing the article with their audience or newsletter.
Since they have invested their time and effort to write and share the contributor quote, it is more likely that they will share it on social media and even give a link back to the article.
Conclusion: How to Improve Search Engine Rankings
Improving your search engine rankings on Google, Bing, etc isn’t as simple as it looks. Even after following every strategy mentioned in this guide, you’ll need to be patient as it takes time for rankings to change.
If you have any questions regarding any strategy mentioned in this guide, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.