18 Powerful SEO Tips To Increase Your Niche Sites Search Engine Rankings
Articles with SEO tips are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for digital marketers.
You just can’t have enough of them (and for good reason as well).
Search engines are still the most important traffic source for most niche websites, and a place at the top of Google’s 1st page for the right keywords can still result in thousands of visitors, giving you a strong chance of making more money online
With new search algorithm updates every few months, Google is constantly enhancing the way it operates and helps users find the most relevant search results for their queries.
For example, Google recently announced Penguin as a part of their core search algorithm.
This can potentially have a huge impact on search results in the coming days and months.
As a niche marketer, you need to keep a close eye on the evolution of Google search and how it impacts your business.
To make your job easier, here a few SEO tips that’ll help you drive additional traffic from search engines.
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1.Use Responsive Design and AMP to Optimize for Mobile Users
More than 50% of all search queries now originate from mobile devices.
Last year Google included mobile compatibility, as one of the key user experience factors, to its search ranking algorithm and elevated the websites, which complied with its mobile-friendly guidelines, in mobile search results.
Earlier this year, Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), a new initiative to help webmasters create faster mobile websites that are instantly available to users and much easier to navigate (just like Facebook instant articles).
In short, everything is moving towards mobile platforms, and Google isn’t sitting back.
And even though last year’s Mobilegeddon update didn’t cause a drastic change to search rankings, it will certainly be a key ranking factor in the coming years.
So what exactly should you do to protect your niche website from any potential ranking dip?
- Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to see if your blog is mobile compatible. If it’s not, switch to a responsive blog theme immediately.
- The opinion is divided whether bloggers should adopt AMP right now or wait for the dust to settle down. If you want to go for it, just enable AMP on your blog by using the official WordPress plugin. Social Media Examiner did a really informative podcast on how bloggers should use AMP. You can check it out here.
A major chunk of your blog readers comes from mobile devices, and it’s only going to grow in the coming years.
So make sure your blog is ready to serve them.
2. Optimize for Google Rich Answers to Drive Additional Traffic
You’ve seen Google Rich Answers right?
The boxed answer that appears on top of Google’s search results when your query is a question.
It has been around for a while, but marketers are now truly understanding its potential.
Making it to the rich answers box for a high traffic keyword can result in
But that’s not the only benefit.
Studies suggest that Google shows rich answers more frequently for voice searches as compared to text queries.
And every voice result starts with a brand name reference to the source site.
For example, if NicheHacks makes it to the rich answers snippet, the voice result will start like this
“According to NicheHacks……”
A huge branding opportunity!
Source: Link Assistant Blog
Over 50% of US teens and 41% of US adults use voice search every day.
So the rich answers snippet can prove to be a traffic goldmine in the coming years.
But here’s the real question.
How do you make it to the featured rich answers box?
Convince & Convert ran an experiment to find out just that and here’s what their study found.
- Pages on your website that are already in the top 10 results have a much higher chance of making it to the featured answers box.
- There’s already too much competition for common questions, so the real opportunity lies in going niche.
- Identify the questions your audience is asking and create content that clearly answers them.
The structure of your content is the key.
Mention the question in the heading or a subheading on your page and answer it in clear terms in the body text.
It can be in the form of bulleted points or a single passage.
For example, here’s the answer I got when I searched for “What is internet marketing”.
When I clicked the source page, this is what I found
Ultimately, Google’s algorithms decide which results to feature in the rich answers box.
But if your site has a few high ranking pages, try refining the content structure to give it the best possible chance of making it to featured answers.
3. Refine Your Website Copy to Boost User Engagement
Dwell time, the time a user spends on your site reading and exploring content, is a quality signal Google uses in its search algorithms.
Google’s search algorithm elevates the pages with higher dwell time as it indicates that searchers are finding them valuable.
So the longer a user stays on a page, the better it is for its ranking.
And refining and optimizing your website copy is one of the best ways to keep readers longer on your site.
To be more specific here’s what you need to do to keep readers longer
- Write clear, compelling and eye-catching headlines for your blog posts. James has already written a mammoth step by step guide on this topic.
- Use simple, clear and easy to understand words that clearly communicate your message. Chelsea wrote this super actionable post
that’ll help you immediately improve this aspect of your website copy.
- Use short paragraphs, short sentences and lots of sub-headings.
- Write in a conversational tone and frequently use words that speak directly to the reader, e.g. You, I, Me.
- Use keywords in your content that are immediately recognizable to your audience.
I have covered this topic in much greater detail in my previous post for NicheHacks.
You can read it here.
4. Create Long, In-depth and Insanely Actionable Content to Outrank Competitors
Longer articles and blog posts consistently outrank the shorter ones.
I know you’ve been hearing this for a few years now.
But recent studies suggest that this argument is still pretty much valid.
Brian Dean and his team analyzed more than 1 million Google Search results to find out the different factors that impact SEO and search rankings.
They found that longer content ranks significantly better than shorter content.
They also found that the average length of a Google first page result is 1890 words.
There are a number of reasons for this.
- Studies show that longer content tends to attract more backlinks which results in higher ranking.
- Longer content helps to rank for a variety of long-tail keywords.
- Longer content usually includes several synonyms and closely related terms of the main keyword.
- (LSI keywords) which helps it rank higher.
- Longer content gets more social shares which results in stronger social signals.
But there are two ways to create long form content – the right way and the wrong way (sorry I couldn’t think of any titles for them)
The wrong way is what most people do.
They keep on adding meaningless words to their articles until the word count reaches 2000.
They do this because they think the length of their content alone will take them ahead of their competitors.
They’re obviously wrong.
Long-form content works well only when you have so much knowledge to share that 2000 words aren’t enough (the right way)
And to do that, you need to change your content style from “telling people what to do” to “here’s how it’s done”.
Make your content insanely actionable and detailed. Use extensive research and data-evidence to back your arguments, and use snapshots and images to explain your points
SmartBlogger is known for regularly publishing blog post of 2000-3000+ word.
Their editorial guidelines page helps writers think of long-form content the right way.
Longer, actionable and authoritative blog posts also help you earn backlinks from other authoritative sites.
People willingly use such posts as a reference to back their points.
And, of course, more backlinks means higher rankings.
Backlinks fuel search rankings, that’s no secret.
But that doesn’t mean you can build dozens of backlinks without considering the authority and relevance of the linking domain.
Irrelevant backlinks are not only useless for your rankings but can also get you into trouble with Google algorithms.
This is precisely why Matt Cutts asked guest bloggers to practice caution a few years ago, and that’s exactly the kind of links Google’s Penguin update targeted.
So building links for a health and fitness website on a pet store blog with a really high domain authority is not such a great idea anymore.
Instead, focus on blogs that are relevant to your niche.
Relevancy trumps authority because Google wants links to be created naturally.
They need to fit well with the overall theme of a website.
So a relevant backlink from a low DA blog is much better than an irrelevant and out of context link from a high DA website.
6. Build, Grow and Leverage Relationships to Power Your SEO Strategy
Do you know the biggest asset of any niche marketer?
It’s not content, it’s not traffic and it’s certainly not money.
It’s the number and the quality of relevant relationships in his niche and other closely related niches.
Ever since black hat SEO died (it’s barely alive), smart SEO’s turned their attention towards building real relationships.
Because when you’re friends with influencers in your niche getting links, social shares, and endorsements is never a problem.
Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) and Brian Clark (Copyblogger) are perfect examples of this.
Problogger is a six-figure earning blog while Copyblogger is now a multi-million dollar company.
Both Darren and Brian used their relationship to help each other’s businesses grow by regularly mentioning and linking to each other’s content.
Here’ an example from the early days of Problogger
Brian returned the favor by featuring Problogger and Digital Photography School, both Darren’s companies, on his blog.
This didn’t happen by accident, it was a well thought out strategy that both these blogs followed for the first 6-7 years of their businesses.
Jon Morrow (Smartblogger) did the same when he left Copyblogger to start BoostBlogTraffic.
Glen Alsop (ViperChill) even advocated using Private Influencer Networks (PINs) to grow new blogs and websites
“I define a Private Influencer Network as a group of people looking to rank their websites in Google in similar industries (but not the same) who work together to help each other reach their objectives.
Essentially, they use any opportunities they have to build links (such as private blog networks, guest blogging, interviews, blogger round-ups) to send backlinks to other people in their network. In return, other people do the same for them.
The end result is that for the work you would do to build ten backlinks, you can get twenty to forty (of the same quality) in return.”
The idea might sound new to you but, as the examples above suggest, it has been around for over a decade.
So how do you start building such relationships?
Christopher did this detailed step by step relationship building guide to answer just that.
But let me share some quick advice as well
- Identify the blogs that are closely related to your niche.
- Find the owner’s email address on their contact page or by using EmailHunter.co
- Follow them on Twitter.
- Regularly Tweet their new blog posts (automate the process by using IFTTT).
- Write insightful comments on their blogs (James wrote this detailed guide on blog commenting just for you).
- Be patient and don’t ask for favors immediately.
Relationship building is an on-going process.
But it not only helps you gain backlinks, social shares, and traffic in the long run but also makes you less dependent on Google.
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7. Regularly Update and Relaunch Old Content for More Traffic
If you’ve been blogging for some time, I’m sure you have several high-quality posts rotting in your blog archives.
Because unless they’re ranking for a high traffic keyword, most blog posts receive little traffic 1-2 weeks after publishing.
Updating and republishing such posts is an easy way to keep them alive.
It not only gives your new readers an opportunity to read your old content but also has a positive impact on the search ranking of that particular blog post, since
Michael Hyatt, Brain Dean, Neil Patel and many others do this all the time.
So how do you update old content and make it look relevant even years after being publishing it?
- Identify the best performing evergreen posts on your blog. You can do that easily by going to your Google Analytics account and sorting posts by all-time pages views.
- Only shortlist every-green posts that are still relevant today. For example, “The Ultimate Guide to Google Authorship” is not a good choice since it’s not a relevant topic anymore. “The Ultimate Guide to Branding”, on the other hand, looks perfect since the principles of branding are still the same.
- Open the post in WordPress editor, update any outdated facts and figures, add new snapshots or images and add 1-2 new paragraphs of fresh content.
- Update and republish the post by changing the publish date in WordPress.
Update the publishing date.
This post will now appear in the latest posts and will be visible to your new blog visitors.
Share it with your email subscribers and social media followers for more exposure and traffic.
To display “last updated date” instead of the original publishing date, use this free plugin.
Displaying the last updated date on your blog posts gives your readers an idea about its freshness and relevancy.
So frequent updates to your existing content are not only good for your search rankings, but also for the user experience on your blog.
8. Target Topics Instead of Keywords to Drive More Traffic
Remember the good old days when you could just pick a high potential keyword, add it to your title, spray it all over your content and rank for it in days?
Things have changed of course.
Now I regularly see first page results that don’t feature the searched keyword at all.
For example, when I searched for the keyword “backlinking tips” none of the top ranking results had that keyword.
Instead, they used different natural variations of that keyword like “link building tips” and “get high quality backlinks”
This brings me to my point.
You no longer need to stuff the exact keyword on a page to rank for it.
Instead, you can take the more natural approach by picking up a group of closely related keywords and using them naturally in your content.
Doing so would help you rank for the whole topic instead of just that particular keyword.
This is why long-form content works so well because it usually has lots of different variations of the main keyword and covers the topic from all angles.
Finding related keywords is easy.
First of all, use common sense and think of all the different terms people use to describe your topic.
For example, we use guest posting, guest blogging, guest contributions etc. interchangeably.
You can also use Google Autocomplete and Google Related Searches to come up with these keywords easily.
Using related keywords also helps Google understand the context of your content and allows it to rank you for the right search terms.
9. Use Multimedia To Engage Readers Longer
When a reader stays on your site longer, it not only improves your site’s key SEO metrics like “Average Time on Page”, “Bounce Rate” and “Dwell Time”, but also usually results in deeper clicks (the reader clicks on internal links and reads more content)
Using multimedia (image, videos, animated GIFs, slideshows) in your content is one of the best ways to keep visitors longer.
Images and videos not only help you break your content down into segments but also gives relief to your readers.
After all, who likes reading endless walls of text.
But that’s not all.
Studies show that pages with at least one video have a significantly higher chance of making it to Google’s first page
If you don’t have original videos and don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera, you can simply grab relevant videos from YouTube and embed them in your blog posts.
The same goes for images as well.
If you don’t have your own, grab them from somewhere else (share credit of course)
I personally use Canva and Pablo, both free tools to create featured images for my posts.
For explaining different points in my content, I use screenshots or crop segments from large infographics related to my topic.
It just makes the post more readable, retains the readers longer and increases the quality and usefulness of your content.
If a competitor is targeting new keywords and successfully ranking for them, you should take notice.
In fact, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your competitors to see what new strategies they’re trying.
For example, if they’re landing guest posts on high authority sites, why can’t you do the same? If they’re ranking for a new keyword, why not do it yourself?
You can stay updated on any new mentions of your competitors using Google Alerts.
To get notified about any new keywords that your competitor ranks for you can set up keyword alerts in Ahrefs (Dashboard–>Alerts–>New Keywords–>Add Alerts)
There’s a LOT more you can do with Ahrefs. I briefly explained some of its features in this review.
11. Use Quora To Create Content Your Readers Want to Read
Google loves brands, you probably know that.
And one of the best ways to build a credible online brand is by consistently creating content that solves the problems of your audience and answers their biggest questions.
That’s the whole point of content marketing as well – creating high quality, actionable and problem-solving content to build a loyal community around your brand that trusts you and willingly buys from you.
Quora is one of the best places to understand your target audience and their problems.
An hour or two of research on Quora can help you identify dozens of problems your audience is facing, and help you come up with countless new blog post ideas.
To really stand out, look for the questions that no one is answering.
The ones that people really want to know about.
If you can target those questions in your content and create blog posts that share step by step solutions with your audience, you can build a loyal readership in no time.
Everyone looks up to Glen as a leader in the SEO industry. He sometimes doesn’t publish new content for months. But when he does, he answers questions that no one else is answering.
That’s why he has the fan base.
Brian Dean is another one, and so is Neil Patel.
Neil, in particular, uses Quora to great effect and is one of the most active marketers on the platform.
There’s no substitute for high-quality content when it comes to SEO
But Quora does make t significantly easier to identify the topics you should address and create content on.
Do you monitor your brand name on the web?
If not, you might be surprised to find a number of unlinked mentions of your brand on different blogs and websites.
When I started monitoring my brand name, I found unlinked mentions on dozens of sites including a few big ones like Neil Patel, SocialMediaExaminer and Mention
I reached out to all of them, thanked them for mentioning me and requested that they linked to my blog
Thankfully all of them responded positively.
Again, Google Alerts is enough for all your monitoring needs.
Just set up alerts with the possible variations of your brand name, your own name, your website etc. to get notified as soon as someone features you.
For example, I know from experience that a lot of people confuse my last name Khan for Kahn.
So, I set up separate alerts for “Jawad Khan” and “Jawad Kahn”
And look what I found.
If you blog regularly and publish a lot of content, monitoring for brand mentions can help you claim a few links every month easily.
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12. Use Google Trends to Take Advantage of Upcoming Keywords
Keyword research tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, MOZ etc. have made life much easier for SEOs.
However, there’s one problem with all of them.
Their data is based on past results and search trends for a keyword.
They don’t tell you anything about the keywords that are currently trending, steadily rising or might rise in the coming months.
This is where Google Trends comes to the rescue.
It shows you the topics that are trending right now along with a list of relevant keywords.
So even if a keyword doesn’t have any significant past search data, Google Trends will show you if people are currently looking for it.
For example, you must’ve heard about the “Wanna Cry Ransomware” virus which has affected thousands of websites across the globe.
When you search for “Wanna Cry Ransomware” on Ahrefs or SEMRush, you won’t find any past data of the keyword.
But this is what Google Trends shows
Look at the surge in traffic.
To help you take advantage of this trend, Google Trends shows the related topics and keywords just below this graph.
Making those keywords a part of your content strategy can help you take the early mover’s advantage and rank easily.
14. Include the Current Year in Your Post Title To Rise in Search
People tend to use words like “latest” or the current year with certain search queries to find the latest results.
“Best Movies 2016”, “Best DSLR Cameras 2017”, “SEO Tips 2017” etc. are search terms that follow a similar pattern every year
You can take advantage of this pattern by including the current year in the title of your blog posts and sub-headings where it makes sense.
Many leading blogs and publishers already do it
To get an idea if a certain keyword would perform well if you add the current year to it, you just need to see trends from the previous years, using Google Trends.
For example, I searched for the terms “SEO Tips 2015”, “SEO Tips 2016”, “SEO Tips 2017” to get an idea if I could use a similar keyword for the coming years.
Here are the trends I found (for 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively)
You can see the pattern.
It’ll clearly work for the coming years as well.
But don’t forget to update your titles and content when the year changes.
But there’s a small problem.
Since so many agencies and marketers are using guest blogging for link building, most of the high authority sites are now reluctant to allow backlinks in guest posts (especially homepage links)
Even if you’ve written a hugely valuable guest post with all the right intentions, you’ll find it difficult to get do-follow backlinks from the top publishers now.
I know this from experience since I guest blog a LOT.
However, there’s a smart workaround for this.
Most editors don’t allow homepage or even resource backlinks within the body of your guest post.
But they usually allow them if you’re using the links to give credit for an image, snapshot or infographic.
Create an infographic for your site using free tools like Canva or Visual.ly and publish it on your blog.
Then use different segments of that infographic in your guest posts and link back to your site as the source.
Editors don’t mind this for two reasons
- Snapshots and images increase the perceived value of a guest post and usually hold readers longer.
- Linking to the original source is considered necessary by all professional editors so they allow these links
I’ve personally landed some insanely high-value links for my own blog and for some of my clients using this simple strategy.
16. Diversify Your Anchor Text To Avoid a Google Penalty
One of the oldest SEO practices is to use your target keyword as anchor text for your backlinks.
However, many SEO experts now believe that using exact keyword match anchor text can get you into trouble with Google algorithms
But a recent study by Ahrefs shows that there’s still a strong relationship between exact match anchors and higher search rankings
So, what’s the right approach?
Keyword match anchor text is not completely useless, but you need to diversify your anchor text to avoid any trouble.
The same study by Ahrefs recommends limiting exact keyword match anchors to 2-3% of your total links.
According to Search Engine Journal, here’s how your anchor text distribution should look like
You can find the anchors for any URL with Ahrefs
The rest should be divided between partial keyword anchors, long tail anchors, naked URLs, brand name anchors and general text like “Click Here” or “Read More”
One of the easiest ways to keep visitors longer, make it easier for Google to crawl your site, and to increase your search rankings is by adding internal links to every piece of content you publish.
It helps you rank new pages and posts on your site by linking to them from the pages with high traffic and higher Page Authority.
You might’ve noticed that all the posts on NicheHacks have lots of internal and external links. That’s because it’s a part of our editorial policy to use at least 6-7 internal and external links for every 1000 words.
The internal links help our readers discover more useful content and expose our archive content to new audiences.
While the external links help us use authentic resources to back our points and make stronger arguments. External links to reliable and high authority sites also tell Google that we’re in good company.
Several studies have found that external links to high authority sites contribute positively to a site’s rankings.
18. Diversify Your Traffic To Avoid Disaster
When Google is your only source of traffic, you’re always just an algorithm update away from total disaster.
Which is why it’s wise not to put all your eggs in one basket and diversify your traffic sources. Search traffic would still remain your top source of course.
But adding email marketing, social media and direct traffic to the mix can reduce your reliance on Google to a certain extent.
In fact, when a site has a strong social media presence and generates a healthy percentage of its traffic from sources other than search engines, it usually contributes favorably to the site’s overall domain strength and search visibility as well.
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Is Your Niche Site Evolving With SEO?
As I said earlier, Google is constantly changing its algorithm and evolving as a search engine.
SEO techniques that were universally accepted best practices a few years ago are now considered unnatural and spammy (hint: optimized anchor text).
So the only way to stay out of trouble with Google is to build the foundation of your SEO strategy on high-quality content, user engagement and strong relationships in your niche.
Have you implemented any of these tips to your SEO strategy?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.