17 Ways to Improve SEO Rankings in 2020

17 Ways to Improve SEO Rankings in 2020

Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Jan. 17, 2020

17 Ways to Improve SEO Rankings

Today you’re going to learn EXACTLY how to improve your site’s ranking in 2020.

In fact, these 17 techniques helped grow my site’s organic traffic by 60.69% over the last year:

Backlinko – Organic traffic – Growth last year

So if you want simple ways to quickly improve SEO rankings, you’ll love this guide.

1. Improve Your Website Loading Speed

How quickly (or slowly) your site loads has a direct impact on your Google rankings.

Using Page Speed in search

According to a study by Neil Patel, pages that rank at the top of Google’s first page tend to load significantly faster compared to pages that rank on the bottom of page 1.

Pages at the top of page one load faster than those at the bottom

So it’s clear that, if you want to rank higher on Google, your site needs to load quickly.

You can get a quick benchmark of how fast your site loads with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Google PageSpeed Insights – Backlinko

And if you want to dig even deeper into the factors that are slowing down your site, you can also run a page from your website through WebPageTest.org.

WebPageTest result – Backlinko

These two tools will tell you how you can improve your site’s specific pagespeed issues.

That said, here are a few tips that usually help speed things up.

  • Compress your site’s images
  • Move to a better host (this makes a big difference)
  • Reduce web page file size
  • Delete unnecessary 3rd party scripts

And now you’re ready for our second strategy to help improve your SEO.

Over the last few weeks I’ve got my site to rank in 41 different Featured Snippets.

Like this:

Featured snippet example

And this:

"channel keywords" Google Snippet

My secret?

A new strategy called “Snippet Bait”.

Here’s how it works:

First, find a keyword that you already rank for.

Why is this important?

According to Ahrefs, 99.58% of Featured Snippets come from the first page results.

So if you’re on page 2, you have pretty much zero chance of getting in a Featured Snippet.

For example, here’s a page from my site that was ranking on page 1.

Backlinko post "Nofollow link"

Next, look at the Featured Snippet at the top of the SERPs:

Featured snippet

And identify what TYPE of Featured Snippet you’re looking at:

  • Definition Snippet (“What is content marketing?”)
  • List Snippet (“Top 10 Content Marketing Tools”)
  • Table Snippet (“Content Marketing Tool Prices”)

Finally, add a snippet of content to your page that’s designed to fit inside that Featured Snippet box.

(This is the “Snippet Bait”)

For example,  I wanted to get in the Featured Snippet for the keyword “nofollow links”.

So I wrote a little section that would fit PERFECTLY inside of a Featured Snippet box:

"What Are Nofollow Links?"

And it worked! About 2 weeks later, the section I wrote was at the top of the search results.

"nofollow links" Google snippet

Nice.

3. Improve Dwell Time

Is Dwell Time a Google ranking factor?

In my opinion: YES.

After all, if someone quickly bounces from your page, it sends a clear message to Google: people hate that page.

And they’ll quickly downrank it:

Low dwell time = Lower rankings

The opposite is also true: lowering your bounce rate can improve your Google rankings.

The question is:

How do you prevent people from bouncing?

Embed videos on your page.

For example, I recently compared my bounce rate for a sample of pages with and without a video.

And pages with video had an 11.2% better bounce rate than pages without a video:

Embedded videos can decrease bounce rate

That’s why I embed videos in almost every new post that I write.

Sometimes I make the video an entire step or tip:

"Discover Untapped Keywords on Reddit" step to video

Or as a way for people to learn more about a specific topic:

"Boost click-through rate" topic to video

Which leads us to…

Last year I decided to make Organic CTR a top priority.

But I quickly ran into a problem:

Besides optimizing your title and description for clicks, how can you push more people to click on your result?

Sitelinks.

You probably already have sitelinks underneath your result when you search for your brand in Google.

Backlinko sitelinks in Google Search

As it turns out, you can ALSO get sitelinks on all sorts of pages… from blog posts to ecommerce category pages.

And these sitelinks can make a BIG dent in your click-through-rate.

How do you get sitelinks?

A table of contents.

For example, when I published this post, I added a table of contents with “jump links” to each tip.

(We created this table of contents inside of WordPress. But you can easily set these up with any platform).

And once my page cracked the top 5, Google hooked me up with sitelinks.

Sitelinks in Google for "how to get more youtube subscribers"

As you can see, these sitelinks REALLY help my result stand out.

In fact, sitelinks are one of the reasons my page has a 14.9% CTR.

“How to get more YouTube subscribers” CTR

5. Create Linkable Assets

Here’s the deal:

People don’t link to “great content”.

They link to sources.

For example, I published this guide to the Google Search Console last year.

Backlinko post "Google Search Console"

And I’m not afraid to say that it qualifies as “high-quality content”.

The post is full of actionable tips:

Actionable tips from "Google Search Console" post

It even has a custom design:

Google Search Console post – Custom design

Despite being a very solid piece of content, it only has 236 referring domain links:

Google Search Console post – Referring domains

On the other hand, check out this voice search study I published around the same time:

Backlinko post "Voice Search SEO" study

Most people would also call this post “great content”.

But this piece of content has 938 referring domain links:

Voice Search SEO Study post – Referring domains

(That’s 4.8x more backlinks than my GSC guide).

What’s going on here?

Well, my Google Search Console guide isn’t that easy for someone to link to.

Unless you’re writing about the GSC and want to send someone to a resource to “learn more”, there’s no compelling reason to link to my guide.

On the other hand, my voice search study gives bloggers and journalists data that they can EASILY reference.

Search Engine Journal mention of Backlinko "Voice Search" study

Which has led to hundreds of high-quality backlinks.

6. Target Keywords With High Commercial Intent

When I first got started with keyword research I’d focus 100% on search volume.

If a keyword got a bunch of searches, I’d say: “that’s good enough for me!”.

Not anymore.

Today, I put A LOT of weight on commercial intent.

(In other words: how much are Google Ads advertisers spending on those clicks?)

For example, I recently started targeting keywords like “link building services”.

Backlinko post "Link Building Services"

This keyword doesn’t get that many searches:

"link building services" keyword Search Volume

But with a CPC of $25.00, I know that the traffic is made up of legit buyers:

"link building services" keyword CPC

(Fun fact: I published this page as a “Ghost Post”. As it turns out, “link building services” is MUCH less competitive than most tools claim)

Google rankings for "link building services"

7. Grab More SERP Real Estate

Found an AWESOME keyword that converts well for you?

Get bonus traffic from that term with a YouTube video.

For example, this post is targeting the keyword “how to get more traffic”.

Backlinko post "Increase Website Traffic"

Unfortunately, I’m stuck in the #4 spot.

Google rankings for "how to get more traffic"

To make matters worse, I’m cramped below 3 video results.

Stuck under video results in Google SERPs

(But I’m working on it 🙂 )

In the meantime, I decided to create a video on that topic.

"how to get more traffic" YouTube video

And because I optimized my video the right way, it takes up valuable real estate at the top of Google’s search results:

Google video results for "how to get more traffic"

Want to see how I optimized that video? Check out this quick tutorial:

8. Rank for “Topic + Statistics” Keywords

This is the dirty little secret that sites use to get LOTS of backlinks on autopilot.

For example, Student Loan Hero has over 13.4K links to its “US Student Loan Statistics” page:

Student loan debt statistics – Backlinks

Here’s how they did it (and why this approach works so well):

First, they identified a topic that bloggers and journalists tend to write about.

(In this case, stats about student loan debt)

Then, they created a webpage that curated stats from different sources.

Student Loan Debt Statistics page

Finally, they optimized their title tag, meta description and page around the keyword: “Student Loan Debt Statistics”.

Which now ranks on the first page for that term:

Google rankings for "student loan debt statistics"

Why does this work so well?

Think about it:

Who searches for “Topic + Statistics” keywords?

Journalists!

Specifically, journalists looking for stats to include in their articles.

And when you rank for that term, you’re going to get linked to like there’s no tomorrow.

Very cool.

9. Optimize Old Content For User Intent

I’ve talked about matching your content to search intent before.

User Intent section from Skyscraper Technique post

But the bottom line is this:

If your site isn’t what searchers want, Google won’t rank it.

(No matter how many backlinks you have)

But when your page makes Google users happy, you can increase your Google rankings.

For example, I first published this post in 2015:

Old Backlinko post "SEO Campaign"

As you can probably guess, my target keyword for that page was “SEO Campaign”.

And I quickly carved out a spot on the middle of the first page of Google.

So far so good.

But one day my rankings and organic traffic started to drop.

Google Analytics – Shot of Backlinko traffic drop

This wasn’t a super high-priority keyword. So I just kind of ignored the problem and hoped it would go away.

It didn’t.

That’s when I realized that my content was a HORRIBLE fit for user intent.

Specifically, my post didn’t outline an SEO campaign. Instead, I talked about a single strategy (“Guestographics”):

Snippet about Guestographics from SEO Campaign post

Which was a really bad user experience for anyone that wanted a detailed SEO campaign)

So I went back to the drawing board. And I rewrote the post from scratch.

This time, I made sure to publish something that someone searching for “SEO campaign” would love.

Sure enough, those changes dramatically improved our search engine ranking. In fact, the new version of the post now ranks #1 for that term:

"SEO campaign" SERP

10. Try Content Partnerships

I’m a BIG fan of Content Partnerships.

Why?

Because it makes your content promotion twice as powerful.

Think about it:

When you publish something on your site, you send as many people as you can to your post.

Single-author content has limited reach

But you’re only one person (or company). So your reach is pretty limited.

But when you partner with someone else, BOTH of you send people to your new content:

Content partnerships increase your content's reach

Which doubles the amount of eyeballs, links and social media shares that you get.

For example, earlier this year I partnered with BuzzSumo to create this content marketing study.

Backlinko post "Content Study"

And because we both promoted it to our respective audiences, it got A TON of traffic:

Google Analytics – Traffic for Content Study post

11. Repurpose Content Into Different Formats

Last year I realized that I was making a HUGE mistake.

The mistake?

Every time I sat down to write a new blog post, email newsletter or video script… I was starting from scratch.

Which meant it would sometimes take me 14 days to finish a single blog post.

That’s when I realized something…

I already had TONS of content on my YouTube channel. Content that people loved.

So I decided to base my next blog post on a popular video from my channel: a video about getting more YouTube subscribers.

How to Get More YouTube Subscribers – Video

It took some time to turn my video into a blog post.

Conversion of "How to get more YouTube subscribers" video to post

But it was 10x faster than starting with a blank Google Doc.

The best part?

My post did GREAT.

That post brings in 15,701 search engine visitors per month.

Search engine traffic for "/how-to-get-youtube-subscribers" post

And it currently ranks in the top 3 and the Featured Snippet for my target keyword:

"get more youtube subscribers" SERP

Pretty cool.

I already published a guide to Broken Link Building.

So I’m not going to go over the process again here.

Instead, I’m going to show how I used Broken Link Building to get this sweet backlink:

Time Doctor – Backlink

First, I looked for a piece of content on my site that I KNEW people would want to link to. And I chose this CRO guide:

CRO Guide

Next, I found a site that wrote about content marketing. And popped their homepage URL into Ahrefs.

Time Doctor in Ahrefs

And clicked on “Outgoing Links” → “Broken links”:

Ahrefs – Outgoing links – Broken links menu

Which showed me all of that site’s broken external links:

Broken links for Time Doctor in Ahrefs

Once I found a broken link that was similar to my guide, I reached out to the person that runs their blog. I let them know about their broken link and offered my content as a replacement:

Brian's outreach email to Time Doctor

And because I added value with my outreach, they happily linked to me:

TimeDoctor's reply to outreach email

That’s all there is to it.

It’s no secret that reverse engineering is a GREAT link building strategy.

But it’s not perfect.

After all, let’s say you find a site that just linked to your competitor.

You have no idea if that site linked to them because they have an existing relationship, they just sent an awesome outreach email… or a million other reasons.

But when you look at who links to MULTIPLE competitors, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.

(After all, what are the odds that the site has a great relationship with three different sites?).

That’s where Link Intersect comes into play.

To use it, fire up good ol’ Ahrefs and enter three domains into their Link Intersect tool:

Ahrefs – Link intersect homescreen for Moz, Ahrefs and SiegeMedia

And make sure to put your site in the “But doesn’t link to” field:

Ahrefs – Link intersect "Doesn't link to homescreen" section

And voila!

You’ll see everyone that links to these 3 sites… but doesn’t link to you.

Ahrefs – Link intersection results screen

And if your site publishes better content than your competitors, there’s a really good chance these peeps will link to you too.

14. Target Brand New Keywords

Want to find popular, low-competition keywords?

Of course you do 🙂

Question is:

How?!

Target NEW keywords.

I’ll explain…

Most keywords are competitive for the simple reason that there are LOTS of sites trying to rank for them.

But when you target new terms, you’re competing with fewer people.

Which means you can often rocket your way to the top of the search results.

For example, last summer I created a guide optimized around the growing term “Voice Search”:

Backlinko post "Optimize for Voice Search"

Because the term “Voice Search” was relatively new (especially compared to old school keywords in my niche like “link building”), my guide cracked the bottom of the first page within a week.

And it currently ranks on the first page of Google for that term:

Google rankings for "voice search"

15. Use Concept Visuals

This is a way to get high-quality backlinks WITHOUT having to grind with outreach.

In fact, I’ve used this approach to get links like this:

Image backlink from Monitor Backlinks blog post

And this:

Image backlink from Convince and Convert post

All without sending a single outreach email.

With that, here are the steps:

First, create an AWESOME visual that helps people understand a tricky concept or idea.

This can be a graph, chart, visualization or table.

Here’s an example:

"Windows 10 desktop searches made by voice" visual

Next, feature that visual in your content.

"Windows 10 desktop searches" visual – Used in post

And if the right person sees your visual, they’ll use it on their site:

"Windows 10 desktop searches" visual – Image backlink from WideInfo

Rinse and repeat for every post that you publish.

Pro Tip: Focus on creating visuals for NEW topics. That way, you’ll be one of the few sites with a high-quality visual of that topic.

16. Leverage Industry Glossaries for Keyword Ideas

Want some creative keyword ideas?

Check out industry glossaries.

For example, this nutrition glossary covers 100+ different terms:

NutritionData – Glossary section

You can either straight up copy these keywords into a spreadsheet.

Or use them as seed keywords and pop them into a keyword research tool.

Either way, glossaries are an AWESOME way to find new keyword ideas.

Pro Tip: Pop the glossary URL into the Google Keyword Planner for a mega list of keyword ideas:

Mega list of keyword ideas from Keyword Planner

Most people struggle with outreach because they send garbage like this:

Bad outreach email

There’s a lot wrong with this outreach email.

But the biggest issue is that I don’t have a place on my site where a link to their content makes sense.

So I hit “Delete”.

That person would have had a lot more luck reaching out to a Content Curator.

Content Curators are just like they sound: people that curate their industry’s best stuff.

For example, you might have seen the SEO Marketing Hub that I created a few months back:

Backlinko – SEO Marketing Hub

Well, because I got my content in front of Content Curators, I was able to get a handful of links to my site like this:

SEO Marketing Hub - Backlink from AuthorityAlchemy's link roundup

No arm twisting required.

Bonus #1: Find Question Keywords

QuestionDB is like Answer the Public.

QuestionDB – Homepage

But in my opinion it’s actually a little bit better.

Why?

First of all, it’s MUCH easier to use.

Unlike Answer the Public, with crazy charts and images of some bearded dude, the questions are laid out in a simple table.

QuestionDB – Report for "paleo diet" keyword

And because QuestionDB focuses on questions that people ask on Reddit, you can find keyword and topic ideas that most other tools won’t show you.

QuestionDB – Report for "paleo diet" keyword sorted by topic

Bonus #2: Rank For Brand Name Terms

Low competition.

High volume.

Great CPC.

I’m talking about brand name terms.

For example, look at these two keywords:

Branded .vs. Unbranded search volumes

That’s right: Mailchimp gets searched for 280x more than “email marketing software”.

And it’s the same story with most categories:

The brand gets WAY more searches than the topic or category.

(The one big downside of targeting brand names is that you’ll never rank #1. But it can still be totally worth it)

That’s why I’ve started to publish content designed to rank for brand names.

For example, I have this BuzzStream review post on my site.

Backlinko post BuzzStream Outreach

Not only does my page rank for “BuzzStream Review”:

Google rankings for "BuzzStream review"

But it also ranks high up on the first page for the popular brand keyword “BuzzStream”.

Google rankings for "BuzzStream"

Now It’s Your Turn…

I hope today’s post showed you how to improve your SEO ranking.

Now I want to turn it over to you:

Which of the 17 SEO strategies from today’s post are you going to try first?

Are you going to target brand keywords?

Or maybe you want to try Snippet Bait.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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