There is no longer a sure thing when it comes to SEO. Black-hat tactics such as keyword stuffing and overuse of anchor text are no longer an option. They will get you penalized by Google in a heartbeat, as your competition sits at the top of the search results. In order to help rank higher, you need to focus on the little things. While Google may change its algorithm to help weed out spammers, the little things are unlikely to change and should be the focus of your SEO strategy.
Website Layout Can Affect SEO
Your website layout is important when it comes to SEO. This is due to the multiple devices people could be using to access your content. As such, you need to make sure your website is responsive and displays correctly on mobile and tablets.
Layout is imperative to time spent on the site. If your website annoys people, they will leave quickly. When Google sees you have a high bounce rate, it will factor it into your search ranking. People leaving your site quickly is an indicator to Google that your content is not high quality. This may not be the case, but Google doesn't read your content.
Failure to Use Keywords and Anchor Text
Not using keywords and failing to use correct anchor text are some of the mistakes that SEOs need to avoid. Keywords are still valuable to content as Google needs to know what your content is about. They cannot display it for users if they don't know what it is. That is why it is still important to use keywords. Keep in mind that keyword stuffing is no longer an option. Use keywords sparingly and naturally, but do not stuff your content with them.
You still must use anchor text. Having a combination of long-tail anchor text and specific anchor text can help with rankings. If you only use one or the other, you risk not being ranked as Google will have no idea what you stand for or being penalized if Google sees you linked from the same anchor text over and over.
Internal and External Links
Of course links are still relevant. One thing to keep in mind is to use other authoritative content to show your content authority. That means to use sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur in your content. Link out to relevant articles on those sites to show Google that your content is using information from reputable sources. If you are using a source that you are unsure of, which you shouldn't be, use a no-follow link.
Internal links to content within your site are important. Use specific anchor text to those pages that are relevant. It will help users navigate your site as well as tell Google what those pages are for. Links are links. Even though Google may give more weight to some links over others, internal links still help tell Google more about those pages.
Keeping Your Content Fresh
Make sure your content is not only relevant, but fresh. Update old content to reflect any new information. Make sure to share regularly, especially your older content. When Google sees old content that is shared continuously, it will know that it is relevant and likely rank it higher.
You can no longer "set it and forget it." Content that is not popular dies in search ranking. Since Google likes fresh and relevant content, it makes sense to not only post new content, but update the old.
Pay Attention to Meta Data and URL Titles
Many people skip meta data as they feel it is not important in the new world of SEO. Title tags, header tags, meta tags, and blog post tags have always been important as they help Google understand your content. A report by Backlinko.com in 2016 showed that title tags that are keyword optimized are associated with better ranking. It only makes sense to ensure the rest of your tags are filled out correctly.
URL titles are also important. Many people simply publish posts and let WordPress decide the URL title based on the title of the content. This is a bad thing as it will likely contain stop words not associated with the content. Shorten your URL to contain only the words relevant to the title.
Don't Overthink Things
Don't get caught up in the "next best thing" in the world of SEO. When you start to overthink the process, you will begin to make mistakes that will keep you out of the search engines. Pay attention to the little things and when major algorithm updates come along you will be able to withstand the changes.
If you have any tips for the little things in SEO please do share them in the comments below.