Publishing long-form content, building backlinks, optimizing your site speed and title tags, and so on — you’re aware of the fundamental best practices. While implementing these search engine optimization (SEO) techniques is all fine and dandy, all your competitors are doing the same.
So when it comes to outranking your competitors on Google, you don’t have an upper hand over your competition. Or, do you?
You see, there are some lesser-used tactics that you can leverage to accelerate the process of ranking your website at the top of Google SERPs. And most, if not all, of your competitors would likely be oblivious to these techniques.
Here are four such lesser-known yet well-founded ways to boost your website’s search engine rankings.
1. Optimize Content for Featured Snippets and “People Also Ask”
While attaining the very first spot on Google SERPs is a herculean task, what if you can attain a spot above the first one (the “zeroth” position) with relatively lesser amounts of effort? This so-called “position zero” or featured snippet shows up as a little box that contains the exact answer to the search query, typically in a question format.
The featured snippet is located above the first organic search result, which makes it a great place to be.
And usually, right below the snippet lies the “People Also Ask” (PAA) section that contains the most frequently asked user questions related to that search query. Google provides answers to these questions by extracting relevant bits of content from various websites, with a link (on the title) at the bottom of the answer.
While typically towards the top, the PAA section can also be located between two positions (say, fifth and sixth) or at the bottom of the page. Regardless, it is on the first page of SERPs which makes it important for SEO.
Most search marketing experts are cognizant of the value of featured snippets and PAA, but few try to capitalize on them. In a nutshell, here’s how you can take advantage of this frequently untapped opportunity to get on the first page of Google:
- Perform thorough keyword research and try to answer all question-type search queries in your content.
- Create long-form (comprehensive) content and cover all long-tail keywords.
- In your answers, aim for the optimal word count (featured snippets ordinarily range from 40-50 words).
- Build an FAQ section on your blog or website.
Besides, optimizing your content for featured snippets and PAA also helps you rank for mobile voice searches (which 27% of the global online population is using), as voice searches are mostly done in a question-like format.
2. Ensure Website Accessibility
Simply put, an accessible website is one that accommodates all visitors on all devices no matter the physical or mental ability of the user.
And whether you like it or not, having an accessible website is mandatory. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to digital properties too, which means your website must be readily usable by visitors with disabilities (such as the visually impaired).
However, website accessibility is important not just to avoid ADA lawsuits but to improve your search rankings and reach new audiences.
With an estimated 26.9 million adult Americans claiming that they either have trouble seeing or are unable to see at all, it’s likely that a substantial chunk of your target audience is being shunned from doing business with you if you’re not having an accessible website.
Now, there’s a lot you can do yourself to improve your site’s accessibility:
- Make sure there’s adequate color contrast on every page of your website.
- Write an alt text for each image.
- Include closed captions for videos.
- Make your site keyboard-friendly.
- Write detailed anchor texts for hyperlinks.
- Design a logical content hierarchy (using subheadings H2, H3, and so on).
- Add descriptive labels to form elements.
- Publish an accessibility statement declaring your website’s target level of accessibility.
To ensure the highest level of accessibility and full ADA compliance, consider using a web accessibility platform that’s capable of scanning your entire website and making all elements compliant with the WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) published by the World Wide Web consortium.
Better accessibility translates to better user experience (UX) for everyone, and more credibility as a business — things that Google takes very seriously when ranking a website. Thus, if your website is accessible, it indirectly leads to better rankings on Google.
3. Optimize for Image Search
Most websites striving to achieve first-page rankings are laser-focused on ranking in the “All” tab. What they don’t realize is that there’s a lot of SEO potential in adjacent tabs such as “Images” as well, and ranking here translates to better rankings in the “All” tab.
In fact, the trend of visual searches is booming as we speak — 62% of Generation Z and Millennial consumers want visual search capabilities, more than any other new technology.
What’s more, in early 2018, Google Images accounted for roughly 22.6% of all internet searches, which means capturing this share of searches enables you to win a huge chunk of your audience.
The best part is that ranking for image searches is comparatively easy. Here are some best practices to follow when using images on your website:
- Upload high-quality unique images instead of humdrum stock photos that everyone’s using.
- Compress all images using a tool like TinyPNG to boost your site speed while maintaining quality.
- Have a descriptive image file name to help the search engine crawlers better understand it.
- Write a descriptive alt text to improve usability and further assist the search crawlers.
- Add images to your sitemap so the search bots can easily crawl and index your images.
- Create image structured data so Google displays your images as rich results in the “All” tab.
Furthermore, it’s a great idea to invest in videos for marketing your business. However, creating quality videos does require substantial time, effort, and money. If you wish to leverage video for better rankings and brand visibility without investing too much, consider these video formats:
- Screencast tutorials and presentations
- Behind-the-scenes of your business
- Interviews with industry experts
- Client testimonials
Seeing just how effective video is in digital marketing and how people are craving more and more video content today, it makes sense to start creating video content for your business as early as you can.
While on the subject of images and videos…
4. Repurpose Content Into Multiple Formats
It’s no news that blogging and content marketing is key to ranking your business on Google. But your competitors likely aren’t going above and beyond to reuse the same piece of text-based content in different formats so as to extract the most marketing juice out of it.
That’s what content repurposing is — recycling your existing content into different formats such as infographics, videos, ebooks, podcasts, presentations, etc. — in order to reach new audiences while giving Google more stuff to crawl and index.
For example, it is possible that a substantial portion of your target audience prefers watching videos over reading blog posts. Consequently, if you convert your blog posts into quick vlogs, you may be able to garner the attention of that audience segment.
Likewise, you can turn individual blog posts into infographics for better shareability, or collate posts on a single subject into a downloadable ebook.
Besides improving the usability of your content, repurposing enables you to rank for the same content for different search queries, not just on Google but also on social media platforms such as Pinterest for infographics, Instagram for photos, LinkedIn for presentations, YouTube (the second most popular search engine) for videos, and so on.
Thus, the search engine visibility of your content (and thus, your website) goes up dramatically as there’s more content to be crawled and indexed by the bots.
The tactics discussed above are often unheeded by even the most experienced search marketing professionals, which means your business can certainly gain an edge provided you implement these alongside the fundamental SEO best practices.
Do you have any obscure SEO techniques of your own that you swear by and don’t mind sharing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
About the Author
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing. He likes sharing his knowledge in a wide range of domains ranging from marketing to human capital management. His work is featured in several authoritative business publications.