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11 SEO Tips From the Mouths of SEO Team

    1. Spend as much time on the SERPs as you do in tools.

    Even though an algorithm dictates a search engine’s results page (SERPs) rankings, the algorithm rewards web publishers that craft the best content on the internet.

    Because of this, it’s important to understand search intent. To accomplish this, we analyze a keyword’s SERP and determine the problems users are trying to solve when searching for this query.

    Aja Frost, the Head of English SEO at HubSpot, says, “Yes, tools offer us a ton of information. But that information is often based on incomplete, out-of-date, or biased data sets. I encourage SEOs to combine the insights they’re getting from their tools with real-time clues on the SERPs. Every time you decide to target a new keyword, refresh a piece of content, or diagnose a page or section of pages with irregular traffic, take a look at what’s coming up for the main queries on Google.”

    Depending on your goal, Frost says to pay attention to:

    • Search features,
    • The type of content that’s ranking (product pages, listicles, tutorials, etc.),
    • The websites that are ranking (databases, businesses, media sites, directories, etc.),
    • How far down the page the first organic result appears,
    • How your page shows up (title, meta description, date, jump links, schema if applicable, etc.).

    When you conduct these kinds of searches, “Don’t forget to use an incognito window, frequently clear your cache, cookies, and history, and run your searches on both a desktop and phone,” Frost adds.

    2. Master the SERP overlap test.

    While in SERPs, Frost conducts a SERP overlap test. She says, “I use this test all the time to determine whether to target two-plus queries with a single piece of content.”

    Now, you might be wondering, what is the SERP overlap test?

    Frost details the steps below:

    1. Do a quick search in incognito for Keyword A and a separate search for Keyword B.
    2. If the SERPs look fairly different (i.e., the top-ranking pages are different, or the first result for Keyword A is the ninth result for Keyword B), Google treats those queries as separate searches with different intent.
    3. However, if the SERPs have a lot of overlap, you can treat them as the same query.

    3. Aim for the featured snippets in SERPs.

    Featured snippets  are what search engines use to display an answer to a query directly on the SERP, so a user doesn’t need to visit another page to get the answer to their question. The image below is an example of a featured snippet for the query “What is inbound marketing?”

    To do so, create posts that answer specific questions users have. The content within your featured snippet must be semantically relevant to the keyword a user searches for. This means that you can’t answer the question of “What is inbound marketing?” with unrelated content as the algorithm knows enough to detect relationships between the keywords and descriptions you give.

    Additionally, your blog post should be organized and formatted in a way that lets Google know you’ve answered a question. For instance, this could mean using specific coding, so your featured snippet stands out on the page.

    According to Karla Cook, the Senior Manager of HubSpot’s blog team, “Targeting featured snippets with consistently formatted sections has removed some (but definitely not all) of the guesswork when it comes to ranking for featured snippets.”

    “Matthew Howells-Barby, Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, has stressed that clean and consistent code is a significant factor in winning snippets.”

    4. Consider on-page SEO, but not everything you publish has to be search-friendly.

    On-page SEO is the process of optimizing a page on your site with front and back-end components that help you rank higher in search engines. These components include:

    • High-quality page content
    • Page titles
    • Headers
    • Meta descriptions
    • Image alt-text
    • Structured markup
    • Page URLs
    • Internal linking
    • Site speed

    For this example, let’s focus on the copy-oriented elements like high-quality content, page titles, headers, meta descriptions, and image alt-text.

    You should prioritize creating optimized page copy to improve your SERP rankings. What you write should include your target keyword, be contextually relevant to your target keyword, and answer questions your users may have. Ultimately, the goal is to indicate to search engines that you’ve answered questions a user might have about a query.

    However, Victor Pan, Head of Technical SEO at HubSpot, says that not everything you publish has to be search-friendly.

    “This could be ad landing pages, thank-you pages, internal sales enablement pages, and login pages. Prioritize optimizing for search when the opportunity is greater than the time invested, and leave the rest on the back burner. Tackle the back burner once you’re able to build a process to reduce the amount of time needed to optimize,” he adds.

    5. Target a variety of high and low-volume keywords.

    With an organic search strategy, it’s important to target keywords that span an entire buyer’s journey, including a variety of high and low-volume keywords.

    Braden Becker, a Senior SEO Strategist at HubSpot, says, “Broad, early-interest keywords tend to be higher in volume, while later-interest or even purchase-ready keywords tend to be lower in volume because the audience is more specific. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to target low-volume keywords if they have a higher likelihood of turning traffic into leads or customers.”

    At HubSpot, the SEO team conducts in-depth keyword research for our four onsite blog properties (Marketing, Sales, Service, and Website). They first look for search volume, some as high as 120,000+ and some as low as 50 searches per month.

    According to Frost, it’s importantto get creative  with the high-volume keywords you’re targeting.

    For example, when she was the editor on HubSpot’s Sales blog, she assigned content that may have strayed from our usual topics but boasted significant search volume. However, all posts answered our audience’s questions, aligned with our values, and were well-researched and comprehensive.

    6. Consider pruning content after long periods of growth.

    Pruning your content is the process of reducing the number of indexed pages by deleting old, low-quality content that doesn’t add value to your site.

    Becker says, “Consider ‘pruning’ content after long periods of growth. As websites grow and scale, you’ll find some content fails to perform as expected. As that pile gets bigger, it can have adverse effects on the rest of your site’s speed and performance. Audit your site for pages that aren’t driving a certain level of traffic, backlinks, or conversions, and unpublish them.”

    You can learn more about the content pruning process here.

    7. Consolidate website pages using redirects and canonical tags.

    When you conduct a site audit, you may find multiple pages containing similar content. If that happens, you should consider consolidating website pages using redirects or canonical tags.

    Becker says, “Nobody wants multiple pieces of website content serving the same purpose because it can cause you to cannibalize your traffic in SERPs.” To fix this, you can redirect low-performing pages to a page on your site containing related information.

    Becker adds, “Besides redirecting, if you have exact duplicates, you may even add a canonical tag from the duplicate to the core page, which keeps the duplicate visible but tells Google to prioritize the core page when ranking your website. Be careful when deciding to canonicalize or redirect — these are delicate decisions and should only be made when it makes perfect sense to.”

    Google explains more about this process here.

    8. Implement a historical optimization strategy.

    In 2015, pam vaughn, Principal Marketing Manager of HubSpot’s Web Strategy and former Editor of HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, made a revolutionary discovery about HubSpot’s organic blog traffic — the overwhelming majority of it came from posts published before that month. In fact, 76% of our monthly blog views came from these old posts.

    Today, Vaughn’s groundbreaking revelation rings louder than ever — 89% of our monthly blog views come from posts published at least six months prior, and we’ve developed an entire strategy dedicated to refreshing and republishing these historical pieces of content. We call these types of blog posts updates, and they comprise 35-40% of our editorial calendar.

    By refreshing them with new information, SEO tactics, and effectively republishing them as new blog posts, we can build upon their existing organic value and user engagement and double or even triple their traffic. This process also helps us optimize our blog for efficiency, decreasing the amount of new content we have to create while simultaneously increasing our organic traffic and conversions.

    Historical optimization isn’t for everyone, though. It’s a strategy catered for a blog that:

    • Generates a significant amount of organic traffic,
    • Has a considerable amount of blog subscribers,
    • Has social media followers that can supply a surge of traffic, shares, and backlinks to your updates,
    • Owns a substantial repository of old posts that are worth refreshing and republishing.

    If you have all four of these things, we recommend implementing a historical optimization strategy. To learn about specific types of historical content you should update and the exact process of updating them, check out this the blog post  written by Pam Vaughn herself.

    9. Train your website visitors to search for your brand.

    SEO is used to increase the number of unbranded searches for your business.

    Pan says, “The logic was that these were potential customers that would not have otherwise converted. This logic is good for a young business, but for mature businesses that have a good relationship with their customers, branded traffic is just as important.”

    For example, platforms like Amazon have trained their customers searching on Google to append “amazon” to their searches for site-specific results.

    Pan says you can encourage and inspire users to do this by becoming the go-to expert on topics related to your brand. Since Amazon is one of the leading shopping sites, customers refer to the platform for their shopping needs. To become an expert, you have to develop page authority.

    10. Develop page authority.

    Page authority is one of the factors  search engines use to determine rankings. For example, if you’re a seasoned blog with a reputation as a go-to industry expert, your site will likely rank higher than pages on a more recent site.

    Given this, it’s important to build your brand and authority within your niche. Blogging regularly, posting on social media, guest posting to the website and simply being active in your industry are valuable ways to build your reputation.

    Additionally, you should write about tangential topics your customers are interested in, helping you provide them with the most relevant information while also signaling to search engines that you write about your industry in-depth.

    All of these strategies will give your website authority and indicate to search engines that they need to pay attention to your domain.

    11. Leverage the pillar-cluster model.

    Since people heavily rely on Google to provide accurate and relevant answers to their questions, search engines need to understand every search’s intent and context.

    To do this, Google has evolved to recognize topical connections across user queries, monitor similar queries users have made in the past, and surface content that they deem the most authoritative on the topic. To help Google recognize our blog content as a trusted authority, we decided toimplement the piller – cluster model (further explained in the video below).

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