Underrated SEO tactics and how to apply them

With
constant changes to keep up with, evolving strategies, and refocusing of
budgets, the value of the work you can provide has likely never been under as
much scrutiny. So how do you make sure the work you’re doing is driving the
right value, without breaking the bank or taking months to complete?

Throughout
this post I’m going to talk through some of the core underrated SEO tactics
that help drive valuable performance without compromising on all of the other
work you’re planning over the next quarter. Instead, these are fast and
actionable activities you can start implementing today alongside everything
else you’re doing; and if you can’t fit it in or don’t have the right resource,
you can always talk to us about it.

SEO
generally breaks down into three core strains – technical, on-page, and
off-page – and although they have evolved over the past few years the
fundamentals remain the same:

So it makes
sense that each of the tactics I’ll run through also break down into those
areas.

Technical SEO tactics

Navigation refresh

Your
navigation is present on every page, it is normally one of the most interacted
with elements of a page, and more often than not is how users find other pages
they’re interested in. If you don’t have a solid navigation setup you’re
already cutting down the potential. But how do you work out what goes in the
navigation, and what can be left out?

  1. Work from GA
  2. Utilise heatmaps
  3. Assess keyword & market
    opportunity

First,
you’ll need to look in GA to figure out which pages are driving the most
performance – getting the most traffic/engagement/recording the most
conversions etc. – this should act as the anchor for every decision. If the
pages in the navigation aren’t getting the engagement, but deeper pages are,
you’ve got an argument to swap the ordering around.

Heatmaps,
keyword and market opportunity all kind of speak for themselves – you want to
make sure the pages in the navigation are the ones your users are most likely
to engage with, but you also don’t want to compromise your keyword or market
positioning for the sake of a little more engagement. Heatmaps will let you know
where people are clicking on the navigation, giving you data on what could
change and what they want to see for definite, whereas keyword and market
opportunity assessments rely heavily on understanding what brings those people
to your site in the first place. Poorly updated navigations can be detrimental
to SEO performance, especially if you’re removing core pages that rank for a
lot of keywords, so you need to be extra careful here.

Updating the
navigation to make sure all links are correct, it reflects the user behaviour
on the site, and includes the core (and well-optimised) focus pages will act as
the starting point for crawlers to understand the hierarchy across the website.
If you’ve got less important pages in the navigation, why would you want crawlers
to focus on those when they could be focusing on core performers?

Internal linking

I’ve said it
before and I’ll say it again, and again, and again: internal linking is
fundamental to SEO and site performance. Not only does it allow crawlers to
effectively move around your site, it allows users to find related pages of
interest.

Internal
linking, done well, can change the way your site is crawled and put more focus
on the pages you want to perform while limiting time spent on deeper, or less
important, pages. But it isn’t just about making sure your blog content links
to your service pages, or your category pages link to sub-category pages, it’s
about making sure that makes sense – if a link doesn’t add anything, it
probably shouldn’t be included.

The starting point for any internal linking exercise should
always be what exists already. Everyone has their own way of looking at it, but
we’ve found the best way to is to generate a crawl visualisation with performance
metrics overlaid, using tools like Gephi. From that, you can get an overview
that indicates the organic landing page traffic and the subsequent traffic
between pages, like shown in the example below, or factor in things like
external links and see how that transfers internal value between the pages:

No automatic alt text available.

Then you can
use the structure to review things like whether:

  1. The right sections of the site are
    receiving the most weight
  2. You’ve got a tonne of orphan pages
    that need clearing up
  3. Your service or category pages are
    receiving the right value
  4. You’ve got the right pages in the
    right places

One thing to
keep in mind is that quick tweaks can have big impacts, especially if you focus
on particular page types, so although it looks like a lot of work, you can
split it into short-term, mid-term, and longer-term tactics based on an effort
vs. impact categorisation. And the best part is, you’ll be able to back it up
with data instead of just “you should link here because, best practice”.

Sitemap health checks

Oh sitemaps.
They should be super easy to maintain, right? But how many times have you
looked at one that claims to be autogenerated but still contains pages that
aren’t needed? And how many times have you realised it isn’t actually
autogenerated at all? Minefield, right?

Tools like
ScreamingFrog and Deepcrawl are perfect for spotting pages that either aren’t
in the sitemap but should be or are in the sitemap but shouldn’t be. A quick
review each month or each quarter (depending on site size and frequency of
changes) will help make sure:

  1. Your sitemap is only including the
    pages you want it to, reducing any wasted entries and generally making it
    easier to for crawlers to access the pages you want them to.
  2. Doesn’t include any rogue directives
    that aren’t supported (also acts a nice prompt to check the robots.txt file is
    still working properly and doesn’t include directives like “noindex”)
  3. Makes structural sense – particularly
    from a sitemap-index perspective

Then, any
changes you do make to the sitemap (either the file itself or the
configuration) can be quickly resubmitted in GSC to prompt a re-crawl and you
can monitor changes in crawl stats to see if it has helped the main pages
become more discoverable.

On-page SEO tactics

Content revival

For most websites informational content acts as a big traffic driver, so when blog posts start to become outdated you tend to see that traffic drop off. Now, if you read my previous post you’d know that traffic isn’t everything, but if that traffic is bringing value to the site and then starts dropping off you’re going to need to find a way to bring that back.

Normally, that means doing a content audit, identifying changes in performance, determining opportunities or content that just isn’t required, and running a prune/improve/consolidate piece across everything that exists. That’s a fairly chunky piece of work, especially if you’ve got thousands of pieces to work through. So we take a slightly different approach and run every piece through our own content measurement framework  which not only looks at the current vs. previous performance, but also how long different content types perform for and to what extent.

That gives
us an idea of what lifetime performance different content pieces provide, and
helps us narrow down the areas to focus on. Once you’ve got that you can start
looking at the content that offers the best lifetime opportunity and start
reviving that content.

This could
be done through things like keyword targeting reviews right through to
structural updates and even complete rewrites with the most up-to-date
information – it all depends on what the opportunity is and what you need to do
to start competing again and bringing that traffic back.

Image optimisation

Anyone who
has worked on an ecommerce site will know the importance of alt tags on images
– they get your products showing up in image search. Why does this matter?
Image search is evolving; users can see more and more information about an
image right in the interface.

Image search
often isn’t the main driver of traffic to a website, but if you’re looking for
a way to bring higher-intent traffic through to your product pages it’s a great
starting point. Normally, image optimisation is quite a quick thing to do,
especially if you’ve previously set guidelines around file name conventions,
sizes, as types.

You can run
a crawl using a variety of tools which will pull in all of the associated
information with an image and then review each of the different elements to
make sure it is as optimised as possible. With properly optimised images you
can quickly:

  1. Improve the understanding from
    crawlers about what the image is
  2. Provide necessary accessibility
    information for users
  3. Improve your chances of ranking in
    image search, as well as image features in the normal SERP

Off-page SEO tactics

The news of
the Structured Data Testing Tool being
shut down
has caused
a lot of discussion in the SEO community, with many feeling the Rich Results
test Google are pushing in it’s place being less useful than the original.
Structured Data is such a core part of Google’s ability to understand a
website, it seems counterintuitive to remove one of the best options for
checking it validates correctly. With that in mind though, rich results aren’t
going anywhere, and the presence of structured data is spreading across more
and more SERP features.

For example,
if people are browsing for things like “nike trainers” they can now see an “In
stock” message in the image search along with pricing and product information
in the listing:

Realistically,
you want to be marking up as much as you can (without over-doing it and going
against guidelines). There are near countless types of markup you can add to
your site, with more and more being added all the time as new features and new
structures become available. But we find the best place to start is getting the
fundamentals in place across the site, including things like:

GenericGeneric + B2C / EcommerceGeneric + B2B / Service
OrganizationProduct (+Offer, Rating)localBusiness
webSiteImage & VideopostalAddress
webpageFAQEvent
PersonArticle+Relevant from B2B
BrandsiteNavigation  
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