When I started building and optimizing sites back in 2003, things were different. But honestly, they weren’t drastically different.
Back then the basic SEO tips were:
- Get as many other sites linking to you as possible (regardless of quality), using your main keyword as the anchor text. This was normally made up of web directories, article directories, and blog comments.
- Get your main keyword in the title tag.
That’s about it. Yes, I’m serious. I achieved top ten rankings for super-competitive keywords like, “make money online,” “make money at home,” “Internet Marketing,” Germany Tourism, and the list goes on and on.
Those were the good ol’ days! 🙂
Today the quality of the sites linking to you matters. The anchor text (the text used in the actual link to your site) also matters. Various on-page factors matter, and site speed is critical.
With that being said, here are my 2020 SEO Tips for top rankings in Google:
1. Make your Site FAST
Google has been serious about speed for quite some time now, and their algorithm does favor fast sites, while discriminating against slow sites.
How to speed up your site: There are two primary things you’ll want to do, and possibly a third and fourth if your site is still slow after doing the first two.
1. Utilize caching (a must). If you use WordPress (I use it for just about everything these days) this is really easy thanks to all of the amazing plugins available in the plugin directory. I recommend Hummingbird for this.
2. Optimize images (a must). Images are often the biggest problem with slow sites. I use the Smush WordPress plugin for this. Smush compresses images and does a bunch of other things that are far beyond my realm of expertise. All I know is my images look the same, but load much faster using it!
I use the Google PageSpeed Tool to check my site performance. Though it is not technically a “speed” checker, it is a performance checker, and Google is primarily what we’re trying to please, so it makes sense to work at the things they say need improved.
You want to get both your mobile and desktop performance as close to 100 as possible. I settle for anything in the green range myself. Mobile is always more difficult than desktop. It can be difficult to get mobile into the green… I’ll admit that I settle for orange at times for mobile. Still, the closer to 100 the better!
Google has come out with something called “AMP” that is supposed to increase mobile site speed, but there is enormous controversy about it. Using it has actually caused many to lose rankings. I haven’t tried it.
3. Use a CDN (if the first two don’t cut it). Hummingbird (the caching plugin I recommended above) and more top caching plugins allow you to connect to a CDN. The most widely used CDN is CloudFlare and they have a free option that is fine for most.
A CDN kind of hijacks your DNS, so to speak, but in a good way. It’s another thing that is above my head, but I know it works and I use it on some of my sites.
Use a CDN if you can’t get good performance scores with the Google PageSpeed Tool, or if you just want to get the absolute bet speed you can possibly get.
4. Get better hosting (if the first three don’t cut it). If you’ve implemented all three of these and your speed is still poor, you may have bad server performance. If this is the case for you, I would get on the phone with my hosting company and tell them about it.
2. Write In-Depth Content
Just as I’ve written this post. Google favors in-depth content. They claim content length is not a direct ranking factor, but when SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) are analyzed, it’s clear that long, in-depth content is favored.
Not only is it favored in Google, but it is much more likely to get linked to, which will help you both indirectly (more authority) and directly, traffic!
Include images, with alt tags contain variations of your target keyword phrases and its synonyms. Include relevant video embeds when it makes sense. Link out to relevant sites where it makes sense. Just include anything that is helpful to the user.
Add updates of a few hundred words to your most important posts as often as possible. This really helps give you a bump in the SERPS.
3. Focus on a Name/Brand
Like the speed thing, Google has been increasingly looking at branding, and it seems they’ve gone all out on this these days.
Your posts should show an author name (or brand name) publicly and that exact name should be on the about page. See AaronsReview.com for an example of this. “Aaron” is the brand.
“Aaron” is in the domain name, on the about page, in the sidebar, and showing as the author of every post.
On top of that, I use Schema Markup (click here to learn more about it) to specifically tell google, “Aaron” is the author and central authority of this site. I use the Yoast SEO plugin to display the Schema Markup. It makes it real easy.
4. Get Relevant Links from Relevant Content using Natural Anchor Text
Links are still the life blood of SEO and I believe they always will be, to some extent. That has always been the case, but some things have changed over the years.
Anchor Text. Now your anchor text (the words used in the actual link to your site) usage is very important, among other things. If “Aaron” is my brand, then it makes sense that “Aaron” is going to be in a lot of the anchor text linking to my site.
If I have one or two keyword phrases as the anchor text most of the time, it’s a sure indicator that those links are not natural. They will be devalued, or worse, they could easily hurt your rankings.
There is one exception to this rule. If your primary keyword is in your domain name, and/or it is part of your brand, you seem to get a pass on higher than normal keyword anchor text saturation.
Relevant Backlinks. It has almost always been the case that links from sites that are relevant to your site are best. Don’t work on getting links from sites that are not in your niche.
But let’s go further… Google not only looks at the general relevance of the site linking to your site, but they also look at the relevance of the actual page linking to your site.
Let’s say you have a dog training site and on that site you have a page about clicker training you’re trying to get ranked. The more links you get from quality sites to your site about clicker training (even if they’re not directly linked to the clicker training page) the better that clicker training page is going to rank for its keywords.
That’s not to say clicker training pages linking DIRECTLY to your clicker training page are not ideal, but it’s beneficial even if the links are not linking directly there.
Where to get the links? Obviously the BEST links are natural links. When you write in-depth posts (like this one) people just naturally want to share it with their people because they know it will help them. It’s also good for Google to associate you with authorities.
Perhaps you have a site about SEO or Internet Marketing and you’ll link to this article because it’s up-to-date, in-depth, SEO advice from a 17 year Internet Marketing and SEO veteran?
Guest posts are probably the #1 source these days of quality links. Reach out to sites in your niche offering to post a high-quality article to their site.
The more credentials you have the higher the likelihood of getting published on higher authority sites, but even with no credentials you should be able to get published.
Many these days will ask you to pay $50, $100 or more (or less), but not all. Many are happy to have free, unique content.
Credentials could be published posts on other authority sites (see, I’m published on “so and so’s” blog at: [provide link]
Credentials could also be degrees, awards, … anything at all that when presented to others makes then thin, “this person could really provide value to my readers.”
The article you offer them needs to be 100% unique, in-depth, and as high quality as possible. You obviously want to let them know these details as well. Just require a single link to your site in exchange for the free content you’re offering them.
5. Have a Good Internal Linking Structure
This is something I used to talk about all the time… 15 years ago… it’s just as important today! An “internal linking structure” is simply ensuring all of your important pages are no more than 2 clicks from the homepage at any time (ideally they’re one click away).
I do this now, and always have done it, by having recent posts showing in the sidebar (at least the latest 10 if not more, depending on the space in the sidebar for the theme I’m using) and by showing relevant posts under each post.
Both of these also add to the user experience and can improve bounce rate and pages per visit. This is an important step in distributing what we used to call, “link juice” or internal authority, across all of your important pages.
6. Utilize the Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is important because it gives you a peek into some aspects of what Google is seeing when they look at your site and its pages.
If there are issues you’ll know about it, so you can get it fixed. Whether there are issues with page speed, review snippets, spam/malware, or a declining trend in search traffic, you’ll see it in the search console.
To sum it all up, my SEO tips for 2020-2021 are basically:
- Make your site as fast as possible both on desktop and mobile. Do this using a good caching plugin and image optimization plugin.
- Write quality, in-depth content… the longer the better.
- Establish a brand (which can be your name or pen name) and get established.
- Get as many relevant links from relevant sites (as authoritative as possible) by writing awesome content and reaching out to popular sites in your niche offering unique content in exchange for a link in the content to your site.
- Have a good internal linking structure by showing recent pages in the sidebar, and relevant posts under each post (at a minimum).
- Utilize Google Search Console, and improve anything that needs improved.
Do these things and you’ll get rankings in Google in 2020, 2021 and beyond!