Rand Fishkin's recent Whiteboard Friday (WBF) saw him highlight six ways to rank for SEO without using content. Our own writer, Carter Bowles, used this article as the basis for his latest blog post, The Cult of Content, where he gave us an interesting perspective on how Rand was actually just offering ways to promote content marketing. While my post might differ slightly to his, we both drew inspiration from the same place and were able to dissect this WBF in the way that suited our needs.
The current state of inbound marketing has us fully focused on creating exceptional content to help boost our brands and elevate our businesses. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this and we should continue to do so, but it's not the be all and end all of trying to get your sites to rank well on search engines. There are still hundreds of other factors that we can take into account, tweak and push to help our sites rank, and none of these have anything to do with content.
I really appreciated the fact that for once we could speak about the staples of SEO and remember that although content is directing most of the flow of traffic around the web, there are technical considerations to take into account too when trying to place in search engine rankings.
In saying that, here is a summary of what Rand had to say with my own insights thrown in too.
1. Use Rich Snippets And Schema Markup
It's not just a passing fad, and certainly not something to be sniffed at. Marking up your content using rich snippets makes it easier for Google to identify specific areas of content and the information they hold. Highlight products, services, contact details, skills, videos, authors and anything you're able to mark up. This will enhance the appearance of your search result in any given results pages, making your site a more attractive option for users.
The trick is to ensure that what you're marking up exactly matches what's on the page to avoid people arriving on that page and then finding out it has no relevance to their original search query.
2. Ensure That Your URLs, Titles And Descriptions Are Relevant
Although this is marginally related to content, it doesn't relate to reams of content for outreach or content marketing purposes. It's more a case of ensuring that your website has been formatted correctly for premium user experience. Do the URLs add additional definition to the page content? Are the titles a description for the page? Does the description appropriately capture what the content on that page is about? These are all areas that will compel a user to take action when viewing your result in the search engine results pages.
As with the above, the relevance is key here to ensure that users don't hit the back button and leave your site soon after they've arrived.
3. Ensure Your Site Is Easy To Crawl
Is it easy to navigate around your site? Are the pages in logical places with sub-pages following on in a pragmatic pattern? And do you have internal links leading to all the right places with appropriate anchor text? If any of the answers to these questions are no, then that's something you need to pay attention to. Make sure that there's a smooth flow around your site from one page to the next and back to the one before and you'll make the search engine bots' job much easier, but you'll also improve the experience for your users, which is of primary importance.
4. Speed Up Your Page Load Time
Bots might not hang around for your pages to load and a user most certainly won't. In this day and age where convenience is of paramount importance, many users won't take the time to wait longer than the prescribed 3 - 6 seconds for your pages to load. Make your images smaller and do what you can to minimize the actions to be taken in order for a page to load. Test your page load time to see how it fares.
5. Optimize Your Images
There's a whole load of benefit that can be gained from effectively optimizing your images, even if it's just to get you to rank in Google Images. Add titles, descriptions and alt text for all your images, in line with page relevance and potential search terms that a user might type in to find that content.
6. Fix All Your Broken Links
You might think you don't have any, but a simple run through a broken link check tool will tell you if your site needs a clean up. Redirect broken links to more relevant pages using 301 redirects so as to keep your users within your domain. Try out W3C Link Tool or Link Checker.
7. Check Your Site For HTML Errors
Again, this is something that you wouldn't necessarily think of or realize is wrong, but a simple test through W3C again will tell you if your instincts are in fact correct. You'll receive a list of any HTML errors that have been picked up that your developer should be able to rectify for you.
8. Add Authorship To Your Blog
This is leaning dangerously close to content, but it's more in line with helping you rank for the content by adding authorship to your blog. It's really a simple process that might tae a while to reflect, but eventually, you'll see your author snippet up in search results alongside the content you've created. Set up authorship by following these steps here.
9. Ensure You Have An XML Sitemap
Does it sound pretty obvious to you? Perhaps. But you'd be alarmed at the number of sites I've audited where XML sitemaps aren't present. If you're working on WordPress or other similar content management systems, there are great plugins that add sitemaps for you... all you need to do is submit the link via Google Webmaster Tools for speedy indexation.
10. Add Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs tell the user and search engine bot where he or she (or it) is on the site. So if, for example, you venture from the "home page" to the "products page" and then further to the "online products page", your breadcrumb links would visibly display on your current page as: Home - Products - Online Products. It makes it that much easier for a user to travel back and forth without any hassle.
Some of these really go back to basics and they've been selected based on my personal preference, but there are hundreds of other rankings factors that we haven't even touched on. Maybe another post for another day...