11 Aug 10 STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SERP RANKINGS IN 2020 WITHOUT BEING PENALIZED BY GOOGLE: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE
It is easier said than done. But it is definitely not as hard as it looks, or reads. In today’s day and age, business success is defined by how well you do both offline and online. While businesses tend to do well with the offline part, most of the times, it is often comes at the cost of the latter. Just as each business or company has specific departments, all interconnected, to see through the operations in a seamless manner, the online part too needs a proper SEO Strategy and a competent SEO Consultant who can manage the online operations for you in accordance with your vision and mission. Why because all of it demands a certain level of perseverance, inventiveness, and of course, the technical know-how.
The truth is there is no magic button pressing which your online rankings would start to improve at once. The truth is, just like anything else, there is, a right way and a wrong way of getting to the top. The wrong ways will get your website penalized, but the right ways might or might not get you to the top, but it will certainly improve your chances of it. We have done our research, so you don’t have to. We are always at it, experimenting, upgrading. But before we proceed with the next steps, it is of prime importance to understand what we are going to be dealing with: what exactly is a Google Penalty, why does it happen, why we should do our best to steer clear of it, and how to go about it. Let’s get on with it then.
WHAT IS A GOOGLE PENALTY?
A Google Penalty is a negative impact on your website’s search engine rankings due a number of reasons whereby either its rankings fall considerably or it is omitted from search results without any indication to the user of the website. The penalty may occur after a manual (human) review at Google has determined there are underlying issues with your website that go against their guidelines.
Or it may be because of any one or more of the Google Updates that are rolled out frequently. Google has confirmed that it is constantly changing its algorithm. It admits that a majority of the updates isn’t even publically announced. As a matter of fact, Google makes changes to its algorithm every single day. This makes Google Updates the least of your worries, and Webmaster’s Quality Guidelines all the more relevant to your online business strategy.
WHY AND WHEN DOES GOOGLE IMPOSE A PENALTY?
It may be unnatural, untrustworthy and spammy backlinks, or thin content strategy that reeks of unoriginality, is poorly written or duplicate or simply lacks what the user has come looking for. It may be cloaking or sneaky redirects whereby the page for which Google indexes you for and the user lands are different. It may be unchecked, spammy comments on your pages or posts or worst of all, your website’s security has been compromised or hacked. But this is not it. As we said in the beginning, there a number of reasons your website may be penalized for. You can read about them on Google’s Webmaster’s Guidelines.
HOW TO DETECT GOOGLE PENALTIES AND FIX THEM?
It doesn’t really matter if your website is old or new, it is advisable to run a diagnostic test on Google Webmasters, or Search console, as it is now known, every few days to see if everything is running the way it should be. However, if you have been noticing a steady decline in your website’s traffic and rankings and have been unable to get back up then there might be a few underlying issues that you might have missed.
A simple scan on Search Console would reveal everything that is either causing your website to rank low or it not being shown on the search results at all. You would be happy to know that more than 90% of the issues can be quickly resolved and your website will once again start to be properly crawled by search engines in a matter of days.
However, more often than not, more than any other issue, it is the backlinks (read Bad Backlinks) to and from websites that are violating Google’s guidelines that takes a bit of time, and quite a bit of undoing. While you can instantly identify (an subsequently remove or disavow) bad links from your website using Search Console or Monitor Backlinks, asking other websites — that play fast and loose with Google’s guidelines — will require some tact and a humble request or two via email or over a call, to remove links to your website. It is a painstaking process, but certainly doable. And it must be.
As far as correcting Manual Actions on your site, there is a proper procedure that needs to be followed:
- Log in to Search Console
- Expand Manual Actions panel to see what all pages are affected and what exactly are those issues
- Fix all the issues on all the affected pages
- Request a Review
Please note that it can take from few days to a several weeks for Google to review your reconsiderations. You will be informed by email when you review is complete.
We understand that for the uninitiated it can all seem a little daunting, which is why each of our monthly packages includes a Google Penalty Check whereby our team will try and help wipe the Webmaster’s slate clean and get your website back in the pink of health with increased traffic and improved ranks. Now that we have crossed the first, very important, junction to a long journey ahead, here is what we think is the benchmark for improving your website’s SERP Rankings in 2020 without being further penalized by Google.
10 STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SERP RANKINGS IN 2020 WITHOUT BEING PENALIZED BY GOOGLE
1. Perform a Comprehensive Site Audit and Competitor Analysis
A comprehensive site audit will, ideally, identify a wide range of issues (other than and at times including Google Penalties) that need to be put under the microscope and bettered upon so your website can be ranked better. The misconception is that an audit is usually a few hundred pages long, discernable actions from which take months to implement. Well, that is not entirely true. Sure, a good audit will take time and implementing those actionable concerns will take even more but not as much as you think. Using tools like SEMrush Site Audit Tool, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Page Speed Insights is the best way to go about the whole process to identify and isolate various issues.
Once you have done that, you should waste no more time in trying to fix them. However, it is important that you prioritize which issues need immediate attention and which can wait lest it all becomes too overwhelming to handle. The most common and also the most important issues that need to be fixed as soon as possible are mentioned below. FYI, a Free Extensive SEO Audit is also one of our top priorities whenever a new client gets on board with us.
2. Remove Dubious, Bad Backlinks
As discussed earlier, one of the major boosters of poor SEO performance can be traced back to bad links from spammy-looking websites that do not adhere to any of the Google’s guidelines whatsoever. After all, you can’t really control who links back to your website. This can have a negative impact on your website’s SEO. Sometimes, it is intentional (competitor gone rogue?) but mostly it isn’t and can be solved. A simple mail requesting the website owner to remove the link to your website is enough most of the times. Sometimes, a little more convincing is required.
That being said, you too need to be careful as to what links you put on your website or allow in the comments. Don’t link back to low-quality websites whose content runs thin. Don’t allow spam-like comments. Moderate your comments, verify each before approving. Don’t hide outbound links in white coloured font. Don’t link back to malicious websites. It goes without saying but anyway. And last but not the least, regularly review and mend broken outbound links. Bad Links Removal forms the core of our monthly packages is the one of the first steps we strictly follow before moving on with the hardcore SEO for any website.
3. Perform In-depth Keyword Research and Analysis
After you get rid of all unnatural links to and from your site comes the next step. An all-important one considering it lays the foundation stone for the structure to follow. Sure, good content do wonders for your website, but good content published in accordance with what the readers are searching for, how many are searching for it, and how do they want all the information presented, is the perfect recipe for SEO success. We just cannot stress these points enough. They are not just readers or website traffic; they are your customers. And you need to understand who they are and how to best customize your offering to their benefit.
- Keyword’s search volume?
- Is it a popular keyword or a long tail keyword?
- What is the Target Keyword and what are its LSI keywords?
- Keywords by competitors, seasons, and regions.
- Also take into consideration what kind of query it is: informational, transactional, comparison-oriented, or simply navigational.
Evaluate your current keywords on Search Console as to which ones are getting the most hits and which ones need to be boosted. Most importantly, go about targeting target keywords naturally. A thorough Keyword Research and Analysis is integral to our SEO strategy and related monthly packages.
4. Maximize Your Site’s SEO-effectiveness with On-site SEO
Believe it or not, a proper On-site SEO will swiftly increase your website’s SEO-effectiveness manifold. That is because you can optimize a page in a few minutes and see the results in a matter of days. And now that your keyword strategy is in place with specific keywords zeroed in for every page, you can begin to optimize your website around them and take it further from there. Here are a few proven techniques you can religiously follow without questions.
- The Target Keyword needs to appear in the first paragraph of your main content
- The Target Keyword should be in the beginning of the Page Title, Meta Title, and should also appear in the Page URL, Meta Description, at least one Subheading and a few ALT Tags
- Keep Page Title, Meta Title, Meta Description unique but to the point
- The Page title should be in H1 Tag and the Subheadings should be in H2 Tag
- Maintain optimum Target Keyword Density, which means it should appear at 6-8 times in a content of about 1500 words
- Don’t resort to keyword stuffing in order to maintain Target Keyword density
- Assign LSI keywords to every page
This way, the crawlers will go after your pages like Miss Pacman devours snack pellets. Our On-page Optimization SEO service takes care of all of the above and more.
5. Publish Top-quality, Original Content But Also Make It SEO-friendly
Using insights from the Keyword Research and Analysis, start creating kickass, shareable, super-valuable content around the target keywords in an engaging manner, with titles (not clickbaits, absolutely not) that generate buzz and induce readers to at least have a look. Think of it this way, titles will bring them in, but engaging content is what will make them stay. All this without, of course, compromising on the originality or inventiveness of the content, or giving up on the SEO-friendliness of the entire endeavour. Here are a few tips you need to keep in mind while creating great content for your users.
- The longer the content, the higher is its chances of being favoured by crawlers so, while not a rule, try and create each write-up with at least 1500 words to better its rankability
- Pen it all down, or type it all out in the most natural way possible without resorting to jargons
- The content should be interactive like you are narrating a story to a long-time friend you haven’t met in a while
- Draw from your personal experiences which the readers can relate to
- Begin strong, infuse some highs in the middle, and conclude on a positive note that will make them keep coming back for more
- Take multimedia support: add rich images, videos, GIFs, checklists, infographics etc. wherever required and write catchy descriptions
- Put informational portions of the write-up in a streamlined manner: use subheadings, bullet points etc. so that if the user has to reread something important he or she doesn’t have to waste time searching for it again
But most importantly, write for user’s search intent because it would be all in vain if they don’t get the answers they came looking for. That is the key and always will be. We have always given prime importance to the content we write for our clients. If it is for Guest Posts, we make sure to share with the subject matter expert to be able to bridge the gap between what the client wants and what his customers are looking for.
6. Reduce Your Site’s Bounce Rate
A high bounce rate is an indicator that somewhere, something is terribly wrong in your strategy because of which users who are landing on your website are bouncing right back to the search results to reconsider their choice. Either that or your website is not relevant or it is just not attracting more users who find your website useful and of value. How can you reduce it to an extent that would more than meet your monthly targets in terms of traffic, or leads, or conversions?
- Try rearranging your content in a way that would present the takeout information (user intent) in an easy-to-locate manner
- Avoid pop-ups that pop up at the most inconvenient time
- Ads should not be a hindrance and should always remain in the background
- A compelling CTA works more than you think it does
- Update your blog or content in accordance with the latest information out there
- Take Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions very seriously as it is the first thing any user sees
- Web design matters so make it attractive but at the same time easy to navigate through for information
Just keep at it and keep fine-tuning the above until you hit that perfect figure that gets you the desired results. More importantly, stay consistent and stay up-to-date!
7. Increase Your Page Load-time
This is both an absolute necessity to enhance the user-experience as well as decrease the bounce rate, as discussed above. The longer a page on your website takes to fully load, the higher are your chances of losing out on a potential customer. Worst still, pages that take their own sweet time in loading tend to rank lower in search engine results. You can check your page speed on both mobile and desktop on PageSpeed Insights by Google. It will not only tell you what the page’s speed score but also highlight issues that are acting as a hindrance to it being loading faster. Fix those issues and chances are you might end up decreasing your bounce rate as well as improving your website’s overall rankings.
8. Make Your Site Mobile-friendly
Google has officially made clear in the past that websites that are not easily assessable to a user on a handheld device (mobiles, tablets) will not rank as high as those that do. And Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is a quick and easy way to discern whether or not your website is, along with page loading issues that need fixing. Let’s face it; the mobile user-base isn’t going to grow any thinner in the coming years. Needless to say, your website needs to transition smoothly across devices and be highly responsive on each.
9. Perfect Other Aspects of Technical SEO
If On-site SEO is the cake then Technical SEO is the icing. There is a bunch of techniques, or strategies, if you may, that you can play to your advantage and give your website that extra boost in terms of rankings and traffic.
- If your website already doesn’t have an SSL certificate then getting one needs to be one of the top priorities. It is proven that websites that lack SSL certificate lack trust in users’ as well as Google’s eyes and therefore aren’t ranked high
- Keep the site structure flat and easy so search engines can crawl 100% of your pages. A complex site structure decreases your website’s chances of being crawled head to toe, thereby decreasing its chances of ranking high
- Make the URL structure easy to understand and navigate across and utilize those breadcrumbs to lead crawlers back to you
- AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will help amp up your SEO game
- Do not undermine the value of XML sitemaps as it is the second-most important source of discovering URLs
- Utilize Canonical URLs if you can’t do away with pages with similar content with just minor differences
- Put internal links linking one page of your website to another
- Put external links linking one page of your website to another page of a different website
- Noindex category and tag pages as they add no real value and end up being duplicate content instead
- Noindex pages that do not have unique content as they will prove to be counterproductive
The above covers some of the most important elements of Technical SEO and you need to stick to them to improve your search rankings and traffic organically.
10. Build Quality Backlinks By The Books
Last but definitely not the least and surely the one that needs proper attention. Because the kind of websites that link back to you is more important to Google than whom you link back to. In other words, your website’s reputation is not in your hands but in others’. Let’s be honest and call spade a spade, more than 70 million blog posts are published every month and if it is not apparent yet by reading that, it is indeed a tough ask to stand out that high a number.
The takeaway being, you need to do all of the above and more in order to rank high and stand out. But more importantly, you need to build relationships so that websites with high DA and DR that have already earned high ranks along with Google’s respect will link back to you so Google will consider your case too, so to speak. So…
- Network as much as you can because most of your initial links will come from people you have unintentionally impressed
- Create Guest Posts, as controversial as this topic is within the SEO community given the number of spammy posts circulating around hoarding bad links, it remains a genuine trick in the sleeve if executed right and as long as it isn’t your preferred link building strategy
- Utilize the resourcefulness of Resource Pages because their sole purpose is to link to best stuff on any given topic
Our Guest Posts Outreach service understands the value it can bring to both the contributor and the publisher.
Following these 10 steps (not an exhaustive list) is quite challenging, but once you’ve gotten a hang of it, the rewards are pretty great too, minus the penalties. If there is any specific step that we missed out or something that you think helped you better your website’s Google ranks, do let us know in the comments. Stay safe. Stay strong. Peace out. Hail Google!