Best of Digital Summit 2020: Hannah McNaughton with High-Impact SEO to Improve Site Rankings

January 7, 2021

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We’re still celebrating and spotlighting some of our best sessions from our Digital Summit at Home events from 2020, with a few favorites still in the hopper to share with you from last year. Keeping the good vibes going to help you be SEEN in 2021, Metric Marketing’s Founder, Hannah McNaughton (@ContentCounts), delivered a great talk in November 2020, packed with high-impact SEO tips to improve you site rankings throughout 2021.

Google holds 88% of the search engine market share in the US and about 95% globally, making it the indisputable leader of search engines. At Digital Summit at Home in November 2020 (with a repeat appearance in December) Hannah McNaughton, Founder & CEO of Metric Marketing, provided so. many. actionable insights to improve your SERP rankings on Google.

Keep Up With the Algorithm

Google begins and ends with its algorithm. It’s crucial that you stay on top of algorithm changes, and Hannah recommends Moz’s Google Algorithm Update History as a useful source. The key to their algorithm is understanding quality. 

Google released Search Quality Rating Guidelines (05:17) that lists how Google checks and rates websites. This list is updated throughout the year and provides the most up-to-date information on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Make sure you’re frequently checking the most recent version of their guidelines. 

Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console (07:18)

Hannah recommends that everyone uses Google Analytics to understand how users interact with your site and Google Search Console to understand how search engines interact with your site. 

Keyword Research (09:48)

When it comes to keyword research, it’s about quality, not quantity. Use long and specific keywords that match your target personas. Begin by brainstorming your list and expand your list using tools like Keywords Everywhere (11:48) or Answer the Public (13:31). Once you have your terms, create topical content. 

Check Your Website (17:13)

While websites should look nice and entice users, search engines look at the back-end. There are over 200 factors for why a website ranks, so it’s important to know the most important factors when building your website.

Below are some of the most important back-end SEO items you need to know. 

Robots.txt (19:04)

Every website should have a robots.txt file. It allows or blocks Google from crawling and indexing your site. It’s crucial that your robots.txt file is always set to the correct settings. 

Redirects (20:59)

When a web page is no longer relevant, you should not just delete it. Instead, create a 301 redirect to a relevant page. Keep in mind that redirect chains should be avoided. If a redirect is not set up, they will be sent to a 404 page. Make sure you have a visually-appealing 404 page that contains a search bar users and search engines don’t just hit a dead end. Use Screaming Frog to get information about your site redirects.

Page Speed (24:38)

Google recommends that above the fold content load no slower than 1 second. Slow websites run the risk of being crawled only partially or skipped completely. Test your page speed via Page Speed Insights. 

Optimize Your Website Pages (26:12)

Take every opportunity to optimize, but do so naturally. Here are Hannah’s best tips for optimizing your website: 

Create a Page Blueprint (26:49)

Don’t just pick a keyword and begin writing haphazardly. Start by determining the normal behavior for other ranking content for that keyword, then consider the title, meta-description, body count, and word count. Then you can identify what your content needs to include and how you can create something better. 

Get a Solid SEO Foundation

While the following is not a complete list, it does contain some of the most important SEO elements for every website:

Title (27:43): Page title is very important because it shows up in search results. It must be unique to every page, should be around 50-60 characters, and every page should have one. 

Meta-Description (28:06): Like the page title, a meta-description should appear on every page, be unique on each page, and contain approximately 160 characters. 

Headings (28:37): Headings help structure your content and page. They should be in order <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc. There should only be one <h1> per page, and they should be short. 

Image Alt Attributes (29:09): Alt images are used to describe images and adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act. It should be descriptive and should not be stuffed with keywords. 

Schema Markup (31:48): Schema markup helps search engines understand content meaning, which can improve search rankings and lead to rich snippets. Use the Rich Results Test from Google for guidance on schema markup. 

Between frequent algorithm changes and hundreds of ranking factors, the best strategy is to ensure your foundation is solid and encompasses the best practices list provided above by Hannah.

To hear from experts like Hannah and hundreds of others that teach at Digital Summit, check out our 2021 calendar of virtual and in-person events. 

If you can’t wait until February for more Digital Summit in your life, join us on January 27 for Digital Summit Go!, a FREE 1-day online event featuring 12 of our best speakers. Hear 12 rapid fire talks on Content, Social, Email, and SEO with tons of actionable takeaways to help your marketing soar in the new year. Did we mention that it’s FREE? 🙂

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