In this post, you’ll find the best SEO secrets for increasing your website’s traffic and keyword rankings.
By the end, you’ll know the top 33 Google ranking secrets for improving any site’s visibility in the search results.
The way I uncovered these search engine optimization secrets was by reading countless SEO books and blogs, watching thousands of hours of videos on SEO YouTube channels, and listening to endless streams of SEO podcasts over the last 15 years of working in digital marketing.
And now you can take advantage of the same classified list of principles that Google considers essential when ranking websites on the top of the search engine results page.
SEO Secrets List
Secret 1: Select the Right SEO Keywords
This first SEO secret can literally make or break your Google rankings.
The fact is that there are millions of keywords out there that you can try to rank a page for but you won’t succeed in getting traffic to your site unless you target the “right” keywords.
The right keywords include two things:
- The terms that your site can effectively rank for based on its authority.
- The phrases that are closely related to each other and belong on the same page.
For example, if you have a brand new site with no authority, then you’ll never be able to rank in the top 10 search results on Google for a popular keyword like “car insurance”. It’s just too competitive.
However, you could rank for a longtail keyword such as “how much car insurance do I need in Florida?” without as much effort. That’s because there’s far less competition for a long keyword like that.
What you need to do is pick keywords that match your site’s authority level. And depending on the site’s age, the number of backlinks it has acquired and their quality, you’ll be able to go after easy, medium, or hard keywords. I talk more about this in my post about why is keyword research important.
Now for every page you write, you must choose one to three closely related keywords to target. And then write the page based only on those keywords. Never go off-topic.
If we return to the previous example about Florida car insurance, then a good set of keywords to target for one page could be:
- how much car insurance do I need in Florida
- how does car insurance work in Florida
- Florida car insurance rates by county
If you need some help on how to choose the right keywords to focus on, then check out this Choosing Keywords Guide by Backlinko. As you’ll see on that page, there are many tools that can help you select the right keywords to target; some are free and others are paid.
Secret 2: Examine Google for Ranking Clues
This is one of the best-kept Google ranking secrets that’s right under your nose and you probably never even knew it.
Although Google has more than 200 ranking factors, Singlegrain lists them here, you can get most of your on-page optimization questions answered by looking at the pages that are currently ranking in the top spots on Google.
By looking at a few clues, Google will show you exactly what you need to do. That’s because this search engine tends to favor certain types of content for each search query and you can copy what is working for your own benefit.
To do this secret method, just search for your keyword on Google and then follow the process below to examine the top 5 ranking pages in the SERP (search engine results page).
- Look at the page titles that are being displayed.
- Look at the meta descriptions for each result.
- Open each page in a new browser tab. Then look at the words in the URLs.
- Look at the H1 page titles.
- Scan through the content and make a note of what topics are being covered in the H2’s, H3’s, and H4’s.
- Count the number of images being used on each page.
- Look for any additional content that helps the user like tables, videos, audio players, checklists, etc.
As you’re performing this analysis, you’ll start to notice patterns in the top ranking pages on Google. You’ll probably see things like all of the page titles in the SERP being similar, or the URLs having the same words or structure, or similar topics being covered in the H2’s, H3’s, and H4’s.
Wherever you see an overlap in the top 5 ranking pages, be sure to include the same elements on your own page. By doing so, you’ll give your content a better chance of ranking on the first page of Google because it’s matching the type of content that Google is favoring for that target keyword.
Secret 3: Target the Featured Snippets
Have you ever searched for something on Google and were met with a box at the very top of the search results page that answered your query?
That’s called the featured snippet box.
Google explains how featured snippets work like this, “We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”
Google goes on to say, “Google’s automated systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request.”
According to Search Engine Land, “a featured snippet gets approximately 8% of all clicks”. So if you’re able to get your content in the featured snippet, then you can give your organic traffic a serious boost.
Now, a ton of digital marketers claim to know the secret to winning featured snippets, but Income School has one of the best videos I’ve ever seen on this topic.
Here is a recap of the video along with a few extra tips that I’ve learned from my own testing to increase your chances of claiming the featured snippet placement:
- Perform a keyword search.
- Take note of how the featured snippet is being displayed. There are three primary types: paragraph, list, and table.
- Copy the existing featured snippet content.
- Go to your webpage and place an H2 tag after the introduction paragraph. Name the H2 as the keyword phrase that you searched for which delivered the snippet.
- Now paste the featured snippet content you copied below the H2.
- Rewrite the featured snippet content so it’s not a duplicate as the one you copied. Be sure to include all of the words that Google put in bold. Google favors those words and it will increase your chances of winning the featured snippet by having them.
- If the featured snippet is a paragraph, then keep it between 45-50 words. Going too short or too long will lower your chances of getting featured in the snippet location.
After first publishing this article, a new Google ranking secret trick for winning featured snippets came out.
Check out this article link below by Steve Toth to see how it works. It shows you how to use the power of Google to help you write content on a page to snag the featured snippet spot using predictive text.
Secret 4: Focus On User Intent
Here’s another secret to SEO that’s not talked about very much but every digital marketer should know.
If you start to see your pages crawl up to the top positions in Google after targeting the right keywords and structuring them like your competitors, but your content doesn’t meet the intent of the users, then those results won’t last.
I’ve literally seen pages go from ranking in the #1-3 spots for a day or two to suddenly being dropped to positions #40-50 overnight.
The reason this happens is because a page doesn’t answer all of the right questions or deliver the right type of content that the user wants to get from their search query. And when this occurs, users will bounce from the page and go looking for the right information elsewhere.
There’s a term for this experience called the “pogo-sticking effect”. Skyword explains it best as “going back and forth from a search engine results page (SERP) to an individual search result destination site. In other words, pogo-sticking is when the searcher clicks on a link on a SERP, sees that it’s not what she is looking for, and immediately bounces off by hitting the back button. She then chooses another result from the results page to satisfy her informational need.”
Skyword goes on to say, “search engines prefer users to discover the content they want on their first try, so pogo-sticking isn’t in the best interest of Google, Bing, the searcher, or the brand publisher. Content with a high bounce rate may actually fall out of view in search, putting additional pressure on writers to produce SEO content that truly sticks.”
So how do you prevent pogo-sticking and rank drops from happening?
It’s actually quite easy. Just write for the users.
As important as SEO is, you need to remember that your visitors are the ones who will evaluate the quality of your content. And their experiences will tell search engines like Google how high to rank your page.
So make sure to write for them as you’re applying the SEO secrets outlined below. Write on the topics your visitors care about and in the ways that provide the best answers to their questions.
All of the best SEO tactics in the world won’t outperform a poor visitor experience that doesn’t meet the user intent. I go over this idea more in my article on the difference between on-page and off-page SEO.
Secret 5: Add Related Keywords to the Page
If you haven’t added your site to Google Search Console, now is the time to do it. Google Search Console can give you some free SEO secrets to rank your pages higher in the search engine.
After a page has had some time to settle in the index, it will start to rank for related keywords that you may not have specifically targeted or even used on the page. And by adding these extra keywords to the content, you can quickly increase your rankings for those terms.
To take advantage of this Google ranking secret, follow these steps:
- Open Google Search Console.
- Click on the “Performance” tab in the left menu.
- In the middle of the Performance screen, click on the “New” button and choose “Page”.
- In the pop-up box under the “Filter” tab, choose “URLs Containing” and paste the URL for the page you want to boost keyword rankings for. Then, click “Apply”.
- Below the graph, you’ll see a table with several columns. Make sure “Queries” is selected. Then, click on the “Impressions” header column until it sorts in descending order (highest to lowest). This will show you which queries you’re getting the most impressions for.
- Now look at the queries on the left side of the table and take note of the terms that are being displayed that you have not used on the page.
- Go into your article and add 3-4 instances of those missing queries. Try to add one instance in the introduction, one or two in the middle, and one near the end.
- Save the page so your new changes take effect.
- Go back to Google Search Console. At the top of the page, paste the URL of the page you updated into the search bar and hit the “Enter” key on your keyboard to inspect that URL.
- After Google retrieves the data, a new page will appear saying “URL is on Google”. In that box, click on the “Request Indexing” button.
- After the “Testing if live URL can be indexed” pop-up disappears and you get the “Indexing Request” confirmation, click on “Got it”.
Once this whole process is complete, your page will now be reevaluated by Google and you should start to see an increase in the keyword rankings for the new terms you added to the page.
It can take several days to a few weeks to see the full impact of this SEO secret. So be patient.
While you’re waiting, go ahead and follow this method to update all of your top pages so you can maximize the rankings throughout your entire site.
Secret 6: Use Semantically Related Words and Entities
This tip used to be considered classified information by the most elite SEO pros until some unknown person leaked it to the public.
As SEMRush puts it: “Semantics is a branch of linguistics concerned with deriving meaning from words. Semantically related keywords are simply words or phrases that are related to each other conceptually.”
What this means is that certain words go together to help you and the search engine crawlers understand the context of a webpage.
For example, the terms Apple and iTunes are semantically keywords (known as entities) because they share a similar context and are frequently found together. And when a search engine sees that both of those words are on a webpage, then it can decipher that the content is about Apple, the company, and not an apple, the fruit.
Bill Slawski wrote an article in Search Engine Journal that goes into more detail about how ranked entities in search results if you want to learn more about this idea.
But basically, you want to use semantically related words and closely related entities on the page to help confirm to Google that the content is about a particular topic. In simple terms, it’s better to be very technical and informative in your sentences than general and vague.
Doing this allows a search engine like Google to properly categorize the content so that it can be included in the search results when someone queries for a particular keyword. If you were to search for “Apple stores” in Google, it would return a list of store locations for the company Apple and not local apple orchards. The same thing goes for the phrase “Apple news”. Google would return content related to the Apple company and not news about the apple fruit.
You can take full advantage of this tip by using more semantically related words and entities within your content. A simple way to find out what those words are is to go to Wikipedia and do a search for your topic. Any of the linked words on the page are considered closely related entities. And any of the unlinked words that appear to be specific to your topic are most likely semantically related, which you should be using in the content too.
Secret 7: Build On Existing Topical Authority
This may come as a surprise to you, but Google and other search engines are constantly trying to fit your site into—and rank it for—specific categories of content.
The common phrase for this concept is “topical authority”. And once you understand how topical authority works, you’ll uncover a good bit of the mystery behind why Google ranks certain sites higher than others for particular keywords.
Essentially, the goal of every search engine is to deliver the best possible results for a user for every keyword they type into the search bar. And it’s often the sites that are deemed to be the best authorities on a subject matter that are the ones getting their pages to rank the highest on the search engine results page.
For example, if you searched for the phrase, “how to choose a tent for camping”, the top result will likely come from the brand REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.). That’s because REI is one of the top leaders in outdoor recreational equipment. In fact, REI has more than 300 pages on its site related to camping equipment.
Now compare that to a site like Tripadvisor which is focused on all things related to travel, including hotels, restaurants, flights, attractions, and more. Tripadvisor also has more than 300 pages related to the word camping but the content mostly consists of reviews of the best camping locations around the world—not camping equipment.
If Tripadvisor were to publish an article that focused on the keyword phrase, “how to choose a tent for camping”, then it likely wouldn’t rank well for it because the site doesn’t have any other content related to camping gear. In other words, Tripadvisor doesn’t have topical authority on camping equipment.
With that information in mind, you can now start to understand how this secret to SEO works.
REI is building on its topical authority for “camping equipment” by publishing hundreds of articles in that category. And Tripadvisor is taking a different approach to build on its topical authority for “camping locations” by publishing hundreds of articles on that subject matter.
So how can you take advantage of this same idea for easier rankings?
All you have to do is focus on the types of content that are already working for your site and brainstorm new ideas based on those subjects. This will generate results a lot faster than creating brand new topics that your site is not considered to be an authority on by Google.
To find out what areas your site has topical authority on, just head over to your Google Analytics. If you don’t have it connected to your site yet, then now is the time to do so.
Once you’re in Google Analytics, follow these steps:
- Click on the “Behavior” tab on the left side menu.
- Click on the “Site Content” option to open up the dropdown menu.
- Click on “All Pages” to see a list of your top-ranking URLs sorted in descending order of pageviews (highest to lowest).
- Take note of the types of content that are getting the most visits. Unless you’re getting a lot of your traffic from social media, this table will show you what content Google has validated your site to be an authority on.
- Now go create more pages that are related to those topics.
Building on topical authority is a simple strategy that any digital marketer can take advantage of. And when you start formulating a better content plan around this secret advice, then you can elevate your rankings and bring more awareness to your brand at a faster rate.
Secret 8: Watch for Keyword Cannibalization
If you’ve never heard of the concept of keyword cannibalization before, then I’m glad you’ve read this far. It’s an important topic for anyone focusing on SEO to understand.
Digital Marketing Institute describes keyword cannibalization like this, “[it] occurs when you have too many identical or similar keywords spread throughout the content on your website. As a result, a search engine like Google can’t discern which content to rank higher. This means that sometimes it will give a higher ranking to the web page you don’t mean to prioritize. It may also lower the rank of all the pages that share these keywords.”
So what can you do to avoid keyword cannibalization?
It’s actually quite simple.
Whenever you’re writing a new piece of content, make sure that it’s targeting a completely different set of keywords than any other page is focused on. You never want to target the same keywords more than once or on two or more pages.
Also, you don’t want to repeat certain strings of words on more than one page. For example, I have a page on this site that targets the keyword, “best SEO blogs”. Therefore, I try not to use that phrase on any other page on the site more than one. The only time I use it is when I’m linking to that page.
If you have a lot of existing content on your site and notice that certain pages are not ranking well, then they may have keyword cannibalization issues with other pages.
In this case, you can do one of three things to fix it:
- Merge the content from the poorly ranking page into the page that is ranking high for the target keyword. Next, delete the poorly ranking page. Then, use an internal 301 redirect rule to redirect all traffic from the deleted page to the page with the merged content.
- Delete the poorly ranking page entirely without copying the content to the higher-ranking page. You’ll also want to use a 301 redirect to redirect all traffic to the better page.
- Remove the target keyword and all similar words from the lower-ranking page so it can be de-optimized for those terms. Over time, this page will stop competing for the same keywords as the higher-ranking page. Hopefully, it will then start ranking for its own set of keywords and generate more traffic.
Secret 9: Install an SEO Plugin
An SEO plugin allows you to optimize certain elements of a website’s code and structure to make it more crawlable by search engine spiders. This includes the meta elements like the SEO title, meta description, canonical tags, and structured data (all of which are mentioned in this guide.)
A tool like this is what helps you manipulate how your pages appear in the Google search engine results. Without an SEO plugin, your website will automatically generate these elements for you, and more often than not, they will not be well optimized for good rankings.
Some SEO plugins also allow you to put in a focus keyword for the page. This keyword is the one that you’re targeting while writing the content and the plugin will give you a score on how well optimized you are for it during that process.
Secret 10: Optimize The SEO Title Tag
The SEO title tag (or meta title) tells Google and other search engines what the content is on the page. And through a series of SEO experiments, expert Kyle Roof concluded that the “meta title proved to be the undisputed highest weighted signal in on-page SEO”.
Therefore, it’s critical that you optimize the SEO title tag properly by placing your main target keyword in this location. The best strategy here is to start the meta title with your main keyword when you can or keep it as close to the beginning of this field as possible.
A good example of a well-optimized SEO title tag for a page that’s targeting the keyword phrase, “blogger outreach tools”, would be this: “10 Blogger Outreach Tools Rated & Reviewed”.
That is much better than putting the keyword phrase at the end of the meta title like this: “My Experience with 10 New Popular Blogger Outreach Tools”.
Secret 11: Optimize the Meta Description
The meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a concise summary of a webpage and it’s one that you can use to your advantage.
This location used to be a prime place to put your target keywords to improve a page’s rankings with SEO. However, Google announced in 2009 that meta descriptions were no longer a key factor in its ranking algorithms for search.
With that news, many digital marketers stopped worrying about the inclusion of their keywords in the meta description field and this HTML attribute started losing much of its allure.
But one thing that people forgot was that meta descriptions can have a direct impact on a page’s CTR (click-through-rate) on Google’s search results, and that can positively affect a page’s ability to rank.
For that reason, it’s important to put thought and strategy into every single one of your page’s meta descriptions.
Now before I give you my best SEO secrets on this topic, let me share some important information with you. Just because you write a good meta description doesn’t mean that Google will use it. In fact, Google will often rewrite it unless you craft it in the correct manner.
For a long time, this baffled me. It was also a mystery for many others in the SEO industry. But then agencies like Perrill figured out what was going on here and published the following reasons for why Google rewrites your meta description:
- The meta description you specified isn’t relevant to the search query.
- The meta description you specified is too short or too long.
- The meta description you specified is not an accurate reflection of what your page is really about.
- Google thinks that other content on the page would make a better meta description for the user.
After I learned this bit of information, I was finally able to crack the meta description code. Now I know how to write meta descriptions that always get pulled and have the highest click-through-rates because they’re based on what Google wants to see in this HTML attribute.
Here’s the secret process you can follow for how to craft the best meta description for your pages:
- Go to Google and search for your target keyword.
- Look at the meta descriptions being pulled for the top 3 ranking pages.
- Take note of how they are structured and which words are in bold.
- Copy the same format and be sure to use the same bolded words.
- Keep it under 160 characters.
Below are two examples of how a meta description looked before and after using this SEO trick. The before represents the most common way digital marketers write their meta descriptions, which is then rewritten by Google. The after is how Google wants to see this information and will most likely pull it as it is written.
Keyword being searched: banking tips
Meta Description Before:
A list of 12 banking tips that you can use to increase your savings and wealth. Use these tips to make more money from your bank.
Meta Description After:
12 Ways to Bank Smarter: Simple banking tips to increase your wealth. 1. Re-evaluate your bank, 2. Don’t assume you’re getting the best return.
Keyword being searched: best mountain bikes
Meta Description Before:
The best mountain bikes rated and reviewed. Find the top mountain bike for your outdoor adventure here! Includes the best brands available.
Meta Description After:
10 Best Mountain Bikes: #1. Alchemy Arktos $4,200 #2. Yeti SB150 $5,600 #3. Yeti SB165 $5,500 #4. Juliana Joplin $7,379 #5. Intense Sniper $3,999
If you do a few keyword searches right now, then you’ll see this search engine optimization secret in action. It’s quite fascinating once you understand what’s going on here and now you can use this trick for your own benefit.
Secret 12: Optimize the URL
This trick is dead simple to use for SEO and higher rankings on Google.
Optimize the URL by only including the main target keyword or phrase.
For example, I created a page that targeted the keyword phrase, “how important are blogs to SEO“. So I put that exact match keyword in the URL—nothing more and nothing less.
Here is the URL for that page: /how-important-are-blogs-to-seo/
Let’s look at another example. I wanted to rank a page for the keyword phrase, “SEO case studies“.
Here is the URL for that page: /seo-case-studies/
Again, nothing more and nothing less in that URL. It only contains my main target keyword phrase. I didn’t dilute the URL by adding in extra words so it looked like this below:
Neither did I play around with the order of the words to look like this:
Keep it plain and simple when optimizing your URLs and you’ll have an easier time ranking your pages on the search engines.
Secret 13: Optimize the H1 Tag
After the meta title and URL, the next best place to put your target keyword for higher rankings is in the H1 tag.
While some digital marketers claim that the H1 tag doesn’t have an SEO value, the fact is that there have been several SEO experiments to prove otherwise.
Post Modern Marketing reports, “Based on personal experience and our work with many clients over the years, we believe that effective use of H1 and H2 tags directly impacts search rankings.” And Matt Diggity says, “Many SEOs fail when they treat their H1s as a small or inconsequential piece of code.”
Also, according to Google’s own recommendations, you’re encouraged to “match your page’s meta title and H1” and changing the order up a bit is not a problem.
So the main takeaway from this secret here is to place your target keyword in the H1 tag to get the maximum SEO benefit.
Here are a few examples of how to do that for the keyword, “SEO ranking tips”.
- SEO Ranking Tips for 2021
- 15 SEO Ranking Tips for More Traffic
- My Secret SEO Ranking Tips Revealed
You can make your H1 tag anything you like, but make sure that your main target keyword is as close to the beginning of this HTML attribute as possible to get the most value.
You can find even more tips on how to optimize the H1 tag in my guide on H1 best practices.
Secret 14: Optimize the H2 Tags
According to the team at Page Optimizer Pro, one of the top 10 on-page ranking factors for Google is the H2 tag. Through a series of SEO tests, it was discovered that the H2 tag carries a lot of weight for your keyword placements.
Blake Akers at Webology also found out that the number of H2 tags you have on the page matter as well for high rankings. For example, if the page you’re trying to rank only has two H2 tags, but all of the top 10 ranking URLs on Google have 15 H2’s or more, then you’re going to have a tough time getting on the first page of the SERPs.
So the best advice you can follow here is to place your main target keyword in the first H2 on the page. Then put your secondary keywords in the other H2’s as well as variations to mix things up.
A tool like Page Optimizer Pro can easily help you determine the number of H2’s you need to include on a page and how to optimize them properly when targeting a specific keyword. So give it a try.
Secret 15: Put Your Keywords in the First 100 Words
Where you put target keywords in the body content of the page matters a lot when it comes to on-page SEO. And including them in the first 100 words of written text sends Google a strong signal of what the page is about.
As explained by SimilarWeb, this location is important because it can “help search engines link your keywords to your content and deem it relevant, [therefore,] you should use your main keyword within the first 100-150 words as well as in headers.”
The reason this placement is so specific is because of two things:
- The first 100-150 words are usually what can be seen before the reader has to start scrolling.
- The first 100-150 words are the part of the page that determines what the content is about.
In journalism, this section is called “above the fold”, which is a SEO secret we’ll explain more about next. For now, just be sure to include as many keywords as you can within the first paragraph of the page.
Secret 16: Focus On Above the Fold SEO
This may sound bizarre, but search engines like Google are putting much more weight on the “above the fold” content than in years past when it comes to scoring a page for keyword rankings.
As RankScience puts it, “‘Above the fold’ basically means how Google (and users) see your content after your page loads without scrolling down. In this instance, the ‘fold’ is the dividing line between the content you can see without scrolling and content you can only see after scrolling.”
Above the fold SEO used to only matter for desktop versions of your website, but now it’s the mobile experience that matters the most for keyword rankings. In 2019, Google enabled mobile-first indexing because “the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, [and now] Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.”
Now “optimizing above the fold” really means “optimizing above the fold in mobile”.
So how do you use this Google ranking secret to increase your keyword positions and traffic?
As Mediavine explains it, “Lead with text, NOT an image. Text is easier to parse than images, according to Google.” The company goes on to say, “We know, many bloggers are visual storytellers, and that’s okay. Look at those few paragraphs of text as an opportunity to set the stage for that first beautiful image—and help get more traffic to it.”
Another good tip here is to never put an ad above the fold. As Google states on their mobile-first indexing best practices documentation, “Ads at the top of the page can take up too much room on a mobile device, which is a bad user experience.” And as we’ve been told countless times before, a bad user experience results in lower rankings for your pages.
Secret 17: Put Your Keywords in the Last 100 Words
This tip is similar to the advice above about putting your keyword in the first 100 words, but here you’ll put them within the last 100-150 words on the page.
By ending your content with a summary that includes your target keywords, you’re sending an extra signal to Google what the page is definitely about and should be ranked for.
Secret 18: Use SEO in Image Filenames
Naming images on your site is an important SEO opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.
Image SEO is not talked about publicly very much because many people don’t even know it exists.
However, good image optimization is an easy way to help Google understand more about a webpage. And the more Google knows about the content, the better chance the page has of being displayed in search results for its target keywords.
According to Adolab, “It’s a good idea to use keywords in your image filename because this signals to Google that you want to rank for this term.” And when you name your images the right way, you can start showing up on both Google’s text search results and image search results pages.
All you have to do to take advantage of this search engine optimization secret is to name your image filenames in a particular way.
Here’s how to do that:
- Choose your target keywords for the page.
- Choose one image to represent each keyword.
- Change the filename of each image so it targets one of your selected keywords. And use hyphens between the words.
- Upload the image to the page.
- Follow the next tip on naming images with ALT tags to even more SEO benefit.
I used this same tactic on the page you’re reading right now. I want this article to rank for the keyword, “SEO secrets”. So at the very bottom of the page, you’ll see a Pinterest-style image. The filename for it is, “seo-secrets.png”.
I also want this page to rank for the keyword, “Google ranking secrets”, so I put that keyword in another image filename on this page. Can you find the image labeled, “google-ranking-secrets.jpg”?
Secret 19: Use SEO in Image ALT Tags
ALT tags are another common missed opportunity for SEO. Many bloggers and webmasters leave the ALT tag empty for images on the page or put the wrong type of information in that HTML attribute.
SEMrush has a good definition of ALT tags: “Alt tags provide a text alternative for an image for search engines and those using screen readers to access a webpage. The original purpose and use of alt text were to help make images accessible to the blind and those with impaired sight.”
Now, the proper way to use an image ALT tag is to make it descriptive, specific, relevant, and unique so that people with disabilities can understand what the image is showing without actually seeing it.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t optimize the ALT tag for better SEO while still serving the best interest of your visitors.
In fact, if you check some of the highest-ranking pages for competitive keywords on Google, you’ll find that many of them are using this secret right now to get a slight edge with the algorithm.
Here’s how to name your image ALT tags for maximum SEO value as well as be beneficial for screen readers:
- Put your keyword first in the ALT tag.
- Follow the keyword up with some descriptive text.
Below is an example of this secret in action for a page that’s targeting the keyword, “best keyword research tools”. We’ll pretend that this image is an infographic that shows a list of the top keyword research tools ranked by price.
<img src=”/best-keyword-research-tools.jpg” alt=”Best Keyword Research Tools by Price”>
Now, similar to the last secret on SEO, you want to try to have one image on the page for every keyword you’re targeting. You also want to write a separate image ALT tag to include each of those keywords. There’s no value in repeating keywords in more than one image ALT tag. So make each one unique.
Secret 20: Add an Author to Each Page
In 2013, Google published a set of “human rating guidelines to provide transparency on how Google works and to help webmasters understand what Google looks for in web pages.” In essence, this refers to E‑A-T which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
The Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines that this refers to are the guiding principles used to train human raters who help evaluate the effectiveness of its search algorithms. And as Search Engine Journal explains it, “they provide a sort of benchmark against which Google engineers can ascertain how close their search results are to what real humans think of as ‘quality content.'”
Ahrefs has an entire article on this idea of E-A-T and how it impacts SEO, but the one sentence that matters most here is this, “Raters look for a number of things to evaluate trustworthiness, including whether the website states who is responsible for published content.”
For that reason, it’s essential that you put an author on every page of your website.
Search Engine Journal gives these specific tips to get the most value out of page authorship:
- Make sure all of your important content pages have author information.
- Give prominence to your authors’ bylines on your content page. Link each byline to a detailed author bio page that links not only to other content they’ve written for you, but to authoritative content they’ve published on other sites.
- Also link to their social media profiles and anything else online that would help establish their identity and authority.
E‑A-T is important for SEO and it’s something that you can easily improve by adding credible authors to the pages you want to rank higher in Google.
Secret 21: Provide a Publication Date
In 2011, Google released an algorithm update called the “Google Freshness Update”. This update aimed to improve a part of the algorithm called Query Deserves Freshness or QDF for short, which identifies if a particular search query requires up-to-date articles or not.
A simple example of QDF in action is when a user searches for a recent news event such as “who won the presidential election”. Clearly, the user wants to know who won the most recent presidential election and not one in years past.
By weighting a search phrase like that more heavily with QDF, Google can return the most accurate results for the user.
According to Brightedge, “When Google determines which websites are the most relevant to a particular query, two criteria examined is the publish date and date on the page. Particularly for time-sensitive queries, such as news articles, the publication date will have a huge impact.”
So the basic takeaway here is to add publication dates to your pages and keep them up-to-date as the year goes on. Making it a habit to go into your most important articles every month to review them for accuracy and refresh any outdated information is an easy way to stay on top of this Google secret ranking factor.
Just be sure to update the publication date after you make your review and changes so it reflects on the page for Google to crawl.
Secret 22: Include Canonical Tags
If you followed the previous tip to “Install an SEO Plugin”, then this secret will take no time at all to implement. It may even be autmoatically done for you.
A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. And the canonical tag is important for SEO because it makes it harder for someone else to copy content and publish it on their own site as a way to outrank you on Google.
Ahrefs also gives these reasons below for why canonical tags are important for SEO. Google doesn’t like duplicate content. It makes it harder for them to choose:
- Which version of a page to index (they’ll only index one!)
- Which version of a page to rank for relevant queries.
- Whether they should consolidate “link equity” on one page, or split it between multiple versions.
If you have an SEO plugin installed like Yoast, RankMath, or All In One SEO then adding a canonical tag is easy because they automatically add self-referential canonical tags to WordPress pages and posts. Meaning, you don’t have to do a thing!
If you don’t have an SEO plugin, then you’ll need to manually add the canonical tag into the <head> part of your pages.
Secret 23: Increase the Number of Internal Links
Internal linking is another secret SEO trick that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves.
As I explain on my guide about internal links vs external links, an internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website. The most common internal links people are accustomed to are the items listed in the main navigation menu.
However, internal links can also be used within the content of the page to provide added SEO value to the page you want to rank higher in Google.
Here’s what I mean…
Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits conducted an internal linking case study to find out how many ranking improvements he could get for a single post by adding a couple of internal links to that post and doing nothing else.
There were no content updates performed. And no links added to the page from other websites.
Spencer conducted this experiment on 47 different pages so that he could affirm his findings. In total, he built 108 internal links and then tracked what happened.
According to Spencer, “Out of the 47 pages, 36 of them increased in rankings, 7 stayed the same, and 4 decreased in Google position.” On average, he added 2-3 internal links to each post with keyword-optimized text.
As Spencer reports in his case study, “[the] most impressive was one article that was ranking greater than 100 in Google in January, but is now ranking #1 in Google for its target keyword after adding 5 internal links! Another article went from #32 in Google to #1 in Google. Another article went from #21 to #1. Another article went from #11 to position #1 in Google.”
So how can you take advantage of this secret in SEO?
The best way to use this trick is to be strategic with your internal linking anchor text. What you don’t want to do is make every single internal anchor pointing to a target page have the same exact words in the hyperlinked text. Instead, it’s best to vary it up a bit.
Matt Diggity suggests an 80/20 ratio, with 80% of the internal anchors pointing to one page be the exact match phrase while the other 20% are random words, like “click here”, “visit this page”, etc. This will keep you from over-optimizing your internal anchors and getting a Google penalty for it.
On my websites, I follow a different strategy and it works just as well. What I do is select 3-4 target keywords for each page I want to rank high in Google. Then, I find supporting content that already exists on the site or write new articles that I can link to that target page.
Inside each of those articles, I put an internal link to the target page and rotate through those 3-4 selected keywords. I’ll also add in extra words for each hyperlink so that every internal link on my site is unique.
Here’s an example of how I would use this strategy to increase the rankings for a page that was targeting these three keywords:
- best workout tips
- working out tips
- workout tips and tricks
I would choose fifteen articles on the site so that I could optimize at least five articles for each variation of my three selected keywords. I would then use these types of anchor texts for the internal links:
- best workout tips
- best workout tips list
- the best workout tips
- my best workout tips here
- these workout tips I like
- working out tips
- working out tips guide
- these working out tips I found
- working out tips anyone can use
- tips on working out at home
- workout tips and tricks
- these new workout tips and tricks
- easy workout tips and tricks
- list of the top workout tips and tricks online
- tips and tricks for workout sessions
As you can see, I’ve used the target anchors over and over again but in unique ways. This allows me to get the full SEO benefit of my internal links without being too overoptimized for each variation.
Secret 24: Leverage a 301 Redirect on Expired Domains
As referenced on my SEO acronyms page, “a 301 redirect is a status code that signals to search engines that a permanent redirect is now in place.” And search engines like Google will see the 301 status code and remove the old URLs or domain from the index.
As a result of a 301 redirect, search engines will recognize the new domain or new URL as the permanent new location.
So why does this matter in search engine optimization?
Well, there’s an old SEO secret that advanced marketers discovered which could boost their rankings for particular keywords on Google. This trick combined the method of a 301 redirect and an expired domain that had a lot of good backlinks.
If you didn’t know this already, the number and quality of the backlinks pointing to a page can help it rank higher in the search engines. (I explain this idea more in a later SEO secret.) And if you can find a domain that someone let expire that had a ton of good quality backlinks, then you can essentially redirect all of that “link juice” to your own website to power it up.
Gary Illyes, a Google webmaster trends analyst, said in a tweet that using a 301, 302, or 30x redirect of any kind will not result in a loss of PageRank (i.e. link juice). Essentially, there is no PageRank dilution with 30x status codes. That means all of the authority that the expired domain collected, and is not currently using, can be redirected to any site or page to increase its ranking power.
Nathan Gotch of Gotch SEO calls this advanced 301 direct method the “Merger Technique“. The idea is based on big brands buying up smaller companies and then redirecting the acquired website URLs to the established brand’s site. This basically redirects all of the authority that those smaller companies had built up on their websites to the larger brand’s site so it can rank easier in Google.
You look for and buy expired domains by using sites like DomCop and ExpiredDomains.net. And once you purchase a good domain like this, you can then choose to redirect it to your homepage to improve its overall authority or to individual pages to give them a keyword ranking boost.
Secret 25: Use the Internal 301 Redirect Trick
Similar to the last tip, an internal 301 redirect can also work well to transfer PageRank or link juice internally on a website.
After you find these powerful pages, you then delete them and create an internal 301 redirect to transfer all of the link juice from those pages to another page on the site that you want to rank higher.
A good example of this SEO trick in action is removing an outdated news article that received a lot of good backlinks and has a high authority score. But it’s not relevant anymore. After deletion, you can redirect that page’s URL to a new page on your site that you want to increase the keyword rankings.
Essentially, you would be transferring all of the backlinks built to that old news article to the new page without having to spend time or money trying to acquire those types of links.
To get the most value out of this secret in SEO, just be sure to choose pages that are closely related in topics. For example, deleting and redirecting a page that’s about “SEO link building” wouldn’t be as powerful when its pointed to a new page on “Social Media Tools”.
Secret 26: Include Structured Data
Structured Data, also known as Schema Markup, is an HTML markup used to help search engines like Google provide more informative search results. It also helps the user know exactly what the content on your website means.
When applied properly, Structured Data can help your pages get featured in Google’s rich snippets which have the most visibility on the search results page.
For example, if you have an upcoming event listed on your website, you can use Schema Markup to highlight the event date, time, and location. This information will then have a better chance of being displayed on Google’s search results page.
Two other good examples are the review rating stars that you see for products that appear on Google as well as recipe information that’s pulled out from a post and displayed on the search results page before you even click on the link to view it.
Structured data is extremely helpful to a user and can set your pages apart in the search results. It’s so useful that Google has created a free Structured Data Markup Helper to make it easy for you to take advantage of this secret tactic for better rankings.
Secret 27: Add SSL Encryption
Google puts it best, “Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default. That means that people using Search, Gmail and Google Drive, for example, automatically have a secure connection to Google. Beyond our own stuff, we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure. “
Google now uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. And to get this ranking boost for your site, all you have to do is enabled SSL on it.
To get SSL for your website, just contact your web hosting company. They can install it for you without any hassle at all.
Secret 28: Add an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap tells search engines like Google what pages you have on a site and where they are located. This sitemap makes it easier for your pages to appear properly on the search results page.
The more detailed your XML sitemap is, the easier it is for crawling and indexing to occur automatically.
Most SEO plugins include an XML sitemap by default. There are also free plugins for WordPress that create a properly coded sitemap for your site. Just look for one and make sure you have an XML sitemap being generated for your website.
Secret 29: Fix External 404 Links
Status code 404 is one of the most common HTTP errors that people encounter on the Internet. And normally, people don’t pay too much attention to them.
When a user hits a page that says “404 Error”, they usually just hit the back button or close the browser tab. However, as a webmaster, linking externally to 404 pages can cause ranking issues for your site.
Cognitive SEO says, “Yes, that’s right. If your website links to other websites that return a 404, it can negatively impact its rankings. Remember, it’s not so much the 404s that causes the trouble, but the links to the 404s. No links to 404s, no 404s. So you’d better not create links to 404s.”
Linking out to a broken page that returns a 404 error leads to a bad user experience, and Google cares a lot about its users’ experiences. If you’re linking out to a lot of broken pages throughout your site then the whole domain could get a ranking suppression.
The same thing is true when you’re linking out to a large number of 404s from one page on the site. That page could get demoted in the search engine because it has a poor user experience.
So keep up-to-date on your external links by auditing them regularly. If your site runs on WordPress, you can use this free broken link checker plugin to automatically scan for them.
Secret 30: Improve Site Speed
In a previous tip, we talked about the importance of “above the fold” SEO and how Google now uses mobile-first indexing. Well, that also applies to site speed.
According to Google, speed is now used as a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile searches. “Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and data shows that people really care about how quickly their pages load. The Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010 and [starting in 2018], page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.”
With speed having such high importance, you need to make it a priority for your website. Otherwise, you could be losing keyword rankings.
If site speed optimization is new to you, Crazy Egg has good tips here to help you get started.
Secret 31: Build Local Citations
If you’ve never heard of the local citations before, here’s a good explanation by Moz, “A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number of a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. Citations help Internet users to discover local businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings.”
But local citations don’t just help boost the rankings for brick and mortar businesses. In fact, local citations are an SEO secret that agencies like Diggity Marketing have been using for years to increase keyword rankings and traffic for online-only sites.
By creating local citations, you can enhance the trust of your website. As mentioned in a previous tip, Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines are focused on evaluating the expertise, trust, and authority of a site, and local citations can help fill in that part of the ranking puzzle for your site.
You can build local citations yourself or hire an SEO to do it for you. Two good places to purchase this type of service are local citations by SEO Butler and Fiverr local citations gigs. (If you’re a Fiverr seller yourself, check out these Fiverr SEO tips.)
Secret 32: Get Topical Relevant Backlinks
The term “backlink” refers to a link that is created on one website that links to another website. Backlinks are also called “inbound links” or “incoming links”.
Backlinks have been the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm ever since the beginning.
In the article, “History of Google: How It Began and What’s Happening Beyond 2019” by The Street, Brian O’Connell reports, “In 1995, two Stanford University computer science students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, began working on a computer program called BackRub – a search engine that leveraged backlink analysis to track and record data on the internet. (The name ‘BackRub’ was derived from the algorithms ranking that calculated how many ‘back-links’ a web page includes.) The crown jewel of BackRub was a data collection system known as PageRank, which assigned a website’s ranking importance by counting the number of pages, mixing in the relevancy of those pages, and linking back to the original web page.”
Essentially, Google’s original algorithm used incoming links to a page as a way to measure how important it was for a particular search term. If a page, for example, had a lot of backlinks pointing to it with the words, “SEO agency in Florida”, then Google would move that page up the search results for that phrase.
After this Google ranking secret was discovered, digital marketers started abusing this aspect of the ranking algorithm. They would generate hundreds of thousands of incoming links for a page from any site they could get a link placed on in order to manipulate the keyword rankings on Google.
Then in 2012, Google released the Penguin algorithm update to diminish the search engine results page presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.
Now, it’s not just the number of incoming links that a page has, but also the quality and the topical relevance of the incoming linking pages that can impact your site’s rankings.
As Loganix describes it, “Topical relevance is the relevance that the content on an entire website has to a particular topic or keyword. It is also called ‘topical authority’. In SEO, it’s the process that a search engine uses to figure out how relevant a particular webpage or website is to a topic or keyword. It is also important to note that getting backlinks from authoritative websites in your industry niche can build relevance too.”
What this means is that every site is classified with a topical authority. For example, a site that focuses on fitness would have “fitness” as its topical authority, and a site that focuses on SEO, like this one, would have “SEO” as its topical authority.
Topical relevance also applies to the backlinks that a site or page gets. For example, if SEO Chatter got a bunch of backlinks from cooking or automotive websites, then those links wouldn’t carry much value because they’re not topically related.
However, if SEO Chatter got links from other SEO blogs and digital marketing sites, then those links would bring a lot of value with them and help improve SEO Chatter’s rankings for SEO-related keywords.
The basic takeaway message here is this: only get backlinks that are from other topically relevant websites and articles.
It’s better to have one good link from a topically relevant site than it is to have 20 links from random sites that have nothing to do with the category of your business. In other words, it’s quality over quantity.
One easy way to get natural backlinks from industry-related sites is to use content marketing. This strategy works by posting good content on other sites that people discover and feel compelled to share. And when your content gets more shares, the number of backlinks can increase, which is good for off-page SEO.
Take a look at my post on what is the difference between SEO and content marketing to understand this idea more.
Secret 33: Use the Power of Social Media for SEO
There’s a lot of debate on whether links from social media can help increase your Google rankings or not. Some SEO case studies say it’s true, while others debunk it as a myth.
However, there are a few positive aspects of social media that can’t be refuted as AdEspesso mentions:
- Your social media profiles aren’t just confined to social media; they also rank in search engine results. They are prominently visible in branded search results, often on the first page.
- Social media is an excellent channel to ensure that your content reaches as many people as possible. And the more people who see your content, the more chances you have to get natural backlinks.
- Social media platforms also serve as valuable search engines themselves. There may be people who discover your profile, page, or content through social media search.
As you can see from these points, social media can play a role in your SEO strategy even though it may not directly affect your rankings. The secret of social media is that it works to bring your content more visibility, which in turn drives more traffic.
Therefore, if you’re not actively sharing links to your content on social media, then you need to start doing that today. The best sites to set up social media accounts for SEO purposes are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr.
SEO Google Ranking Secrets Summary
I hope you enjoyed this comprehensive list of the best SEO secrets I’ve ever found.
While there were a number of good Google ranking secrets on this page, it’s important that you invest your time in implementing as many of these tips and tricks that you can. By following this guide, you’ll give your site the best chance possible to rank higher on the top of the search engine results page for your target keywords.
Best of all, these secrets of SEO can be applied by anyone, regardless of their experience level, to increase visibility and traffic for their business. So get started using them today!