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Optimising technical SEO will make it easier for Google and Bing to crawl, index and surface your pages in search results. This quick-fire checklist will help to run through some of the issues that could be flagged and make adjustments to improve rankings.

Use ‘hreflang’ to identify multilingual content

Have you been focusing on transcreation in recent months for pages that will be tailored to international audiences? Using the HTML attribute known as ‘hreflang’ for this content will communicate specific details to Google about language and geographic targeting.

Why is this important? Google would otherwise view the same pages in different languages as duplicate content. This means that it may only index one of them, which is not ideal for SEO. Implementing hreflang can also help pages in different languages to rank higher in SERPs in the regions that you are targeting.

Optimise pages for fast load times

Ensuring that pages load quickly is a well-worn technical SEO objective, but it is really worth taking the time to tweak HTML and other on-page elements to improve the user experience. Google’s PageSpeed Insights will give you an overview of how your pages are performing here, with a score of between 0 and 100 for both mobile and desktop.

There are several things you can do to boost page speed. You can resize and compress images to reduce the overall weight of pages, minify HTML and JavaScript files by removing whitespace, and install a caching plugin for a better distribution of assets. Asking IT to switch to a faster DNS provider can also help.

Create a sitemap

Google says that sitemaps are the second “most relevant” source of URLs, so it makes sense to create one for your site. A sitemap will list all of the pages on your website. There are three main sitemap formats, but XML files are generally used to detail structured listings that help web crawlers to index pages in search.

Fortunately, you can automatically generate a sitemap using any of the most popular content management systems (CMS). Google also uses the URLs in sitemaps to identify the master copy of a page, which is something that can also be achieved with the use of canonical tags.

Fix duplicate content

A common thread running through many technical SEO fixes is duplicate content. While content that appears multiple times on a site will not be directly penalised by Google, it can lead to backlink dilution, undesirable URLs being surfaced in SERPs, and wasted resources.

To see if you have any issues with duplicate content, head into Google Search Console, bring up the ‘Coverage’ report, and tick the box to show ‘excluded URLs’. Any problems will be listed here. To fix the problem, you only need to select one of the URLs to be the primary version by using the ‘rel=canonical tag’.

Use HTTPS redirect

HTTPS, a protocol for web browser connections, has been a signal in Google’s search algorithm for six years now, and its use can have a positive impact on SEO. HTTPS pages load faster and are much more secure, which can lead to better search rankings. Even if you have HTTPS in place, your website can still be viewed via the HTTP version if you do not have a redirect code in place. You can check whether this is the case by trying to load the HTTP version. An automatic redirect here indicates that all is well.


Google Trends is now almost 15 years old, but the website that analyses the popularity of queries in search still often gets overlooked as a tool that can supercharge SEO strategies.

While Google Analytics offers more granular and in-depth insights, Google Trends is excellent for discovering broader trends, especially for specific industries and regions. Here are a few ways that you can use it to support search engine optimisation.

Keyword and topic research

One of the quickest ways to populate a list of keywords for a specific topic that you want to cover in a blog or article is to enter a search term into Google Trends. You will then be presented with a number of keywords that are related to the search, ranked by popularity.

Google Trends also shows you a visual in graphical form of how the popularity of the search term you entered has changed during the last 12 months. You can also expand the date range to see its performance over time.

These simple results are both very useful for keyword research as you will be able to identify whether a term is trending or growing in popularity. Google Trends will use the word ‘Breakout’ to denote a keyword that has seen a 5,000% spike in search volume, so look out for those in particular.

Coming up with new ideas for a blog series can be challenging, so you are also likely to find value in the ‘Related Topics’ section. Here, Google Trends will provide a list of broader topics that are related to the search term you entered.

Provide context to keyword usage

Google Trends allows you to tap into a pool of data from the last 16 years. For each search term you enter, you can track the ‘interest over time’ right back to 2004. This information can be invaluable when attempting to determine whether the drop-off in popularity of a keyword is due to it being a fad or indicative of a general long-term trend.

When using the term ‘caribbean cruise’, for example, there was a huge increase in interest in January and February this year before a considerable drop after the pandemic hit in March. Interest levels have remained low since then. While you may think that this is a trend isolated to 2020, a look at the ‘2004-present’ data range shows that these spikes and troughs actually happen every year.

Google Trends is therefore excellent at adding more context to keyword popularity and potential search volume.

Target by location

If you are creating content for international markets and want to focus on transcreation and translation in the coming months, Google Trends’ location-based data will also be invaluable.

After entering a keyword, you can use location filtering to see the areas where there is a higher degree of interest. This can help you to see whether there is demand for certain products or services in certain regions. It is possible to filter by both country and city. Using the term ‘caribbean cruise’ again shows that the term has been the most popular in Liverpool and Glasgow in the UK and Fort Lauderdale and Miami in the US.


With less than three months of the year to go, marketers are looking at ways to update and optimise SEO strategies for what is expected to be a very busy 2021 for online searches and commerce. With that in mind, here are three key trends.

Semantic search takes precedence

There has been a lot of talk about search intent in 2020, and this trend will continue next year with the broader concept of ‘semantic search’, where Google uses all of the data and tech at its disposal to decipher the context and meaning of queries to deliver the most relevant content at any particular moment.

In order to optimise for semantic search, SEOs should double down on many of the methods that have worked for them this year. This means developing content that answers important questions, which also aligns well with targeting Google’s rich results.

Cardinal SEO director John McAlpin also recommends optimising for topics rather than keywords. He believes that building “clusters” of valuable content around a topic and subtopics will create a melting pot of short-tail and long-tail keywords, which can drive better rankings in SERPs.

Intent also crucial as Google’s algorithm evolves

Search intent is not going anywhere either and will also be weighted heavily alongside keywords in SEO strategies as more people use voice search on smartphones and smart speakers to get the content they need. While AI assistants have not been particularly revolutionary, the conversational aspect of search is growing in popularity.

This evolution has resulted in the emergence of four core search ‘intents’. When using search, people are either looking for information, trying to make a purchase, attempting to find the best shop to purchase something from, or aiming to visit a specific website. While there are other intents, these four categories cover most behaviours.

According to Google, using content only at the top of the funnel is now outdated. It adds: “Stop marketing to the average: Be useful. People respond to brands that understand their needs. So, it’s important to optimize your media for both relevance to the consumer and lifetime value for the brand.”

To prepare for this trend, you could start creating more FAQ-based content that is capable of answering natural queries. Working with an agency to create content that dovetails with a user’s intent will also be beneficial. Just some simple, succinct, clear copy can do wonders for engaging customers.

User experience (UX) to have greater impact

Google’s announcement that UX signals will soon be a major factor in search rankings offered further evidence for webmasters that the user experience must be exemplary in the future. Slow loading times and unintuitive page navigation will no longer be tolerated by search engines and visitors alike.

This year, Google outlined its new Core Web Vitals, a set of “user-centered” metrics that will measure factors such as the stability, interactivity and speed of webpages. These vitals will form part of the new signal.

Optimising for UX is something that you should already be doing, but heading into the new year, making sure that your content is fast and free of pop-ups and any other annoying on-screen elements is recommended. Mobile-readiness is also crucial due to more people consuming content on smartphones, so your pages need to be optimised for mobile and responsive across a variety of different platforms and devices.


When trying to implement an effective SEO strategy, you can fall prey to myths and untruths that can throw your best-laid plans off track. No, SEO is not dead, and it’s not just something you can set and forget about. Here are five other common myths.

Long-tail keywords are easier to target

There is often a misconception that long-tail keywords are easier to target and rank for compared to head terms that drive large search volumes. While long-tail keywords attract fewer searches over a given period, this does not mean that they can be used to boost rankings for more esoteric or niche queries.

This is because keyword difficulty, a metric that tracks the ranking difficulty of a word or phrase, can be very similar for both high-volume and low-volume keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific and longer in length, hence the name, but are not a silver bullet for better rankings.

Google will penalise duplicate content

Duplicate content is defined as any copy that appears on two or more pages, either on the same site or across multiple domains. It is not desirable as it can undermine SEO strategies, but Google has stated on several occasions that there is not a specific search penalty for any websites that continue to host duplicate content. You can find out if you have any issues with this by running a site audit and checking the final report.

Google only ranks new content

Publishing new content is very important, especially as Google uses a ‘freshness’ signal in its ranking algorithm, but there are times when an article or a blog can continue to rank near the top of SERPs even though it was published several years ago.

This usually occurs when freshness does not have a negative impact on the quality of the content. For example, Google currently ranks a page from 2013 at the top of search for the query, ‘how to tie a tie’. The answer to this question is the same now as it was seven years ago, so freshness does not factor into it.

PageRank is not relevant anymore

PageRank is an algorithm that measures a webpage’s authority. Google has confirmed that it continues to be a ranking factor, but its decision to discontinue public scores for the metric back in 2016 has caused confusion. Some SEOs now claim that it is no longer relevant for this reason.

However, PageRank is still used by Google when ranking content, and research shows that the metric aligns quite closely with organic search traffic, which highlights its value.

SEO should focus on first-place rankings

The top position in search rankings is the best place to be, but it does not always translate to higher levels of traffic. A recent study of 100,000 branded search queries found that the first listing only gets the most overall traffic from search 49% of the time. Perhaps surprisingly, pages between fifth and 10th are able to drive the most traffic for 10% of queries.

This suggests that a first-place-or-bust mindset is foolish because pages can rank for more than one keyword and thus generate higher levels of traffic overall. The key is an effective SEO strategy that aligns search intent with the right content.


To effectively measure and demonstrate the success of your SEO strategies, you need to keep track of relevant KPIs. While common metrics such as dwell time and bounce rate have value, you should also aim to incorporate more advanced KPI tracking to support your decision-making. Here are three to start with.

SERP visibility

One of the best ways to measure how visible your brand is in search at any particular moment is to keep track of SERP visibility, which is very similar to the share of voice (SOV) metric. Higher SOV values are better as this generally translates to a bigger market share, and the same is true for visibility in SEO terms. This KPI is well-suited to any website or niche.

You can get a general sense of your SERP visibility by using Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool and comparing and contrasting your organic search traffic rival competitors. For a more precise and accurate reading, navigate to the Rank Tracker and input your target keywords. The ‘Visibility’ column in the ‘Competitors Overview’ tab will give you the data you are looking for.

Targeted conversions

You might be keeping track of organic conversions already as it is a common SEO KPI, but you can dig a little deeper and get more relevant and meaningful data by using Google Analytics. Conversion actions can reflect a range of behaviours, including signing up for a subscription or purchasing something at checkout. These are very useful indicators, but they sometimes do not capture the full value of a customer.

Head over to Google Analytics and click on the ‘Overview’ tab below ‘Ecommerce’ and focus your attention on the Average Order Value. You may find that this is a better KPI for SEO. Net profit for each visitor and gross margin are two others that may be more useful.

Assisted conversions

As noted, the conversion KPI can be flawed in terms of attribution as it does cover a wide gamut of customer behaviours or habits. That’s why it is preferable to follow up by analysing something called assisted organic traffic conversions. This could offer value if you run an ecommerce or lead generation site and is directly linked to sales.

Google Analytics uses a ‘last non-direct click’ model for attribution by default, which means that one channel gets all of the credit for driving a conversion. That doesn’t provide the complete picture though as your webpages are likely to support a customer’s journey differently. For example, a visitor may click on a blog post listed in Google rankings and read it completely but then actually convert at a later date of clicking on a retargeting ad.

The assisted conversions metric helps you to map a customer’s movements more effectively. To do this, navigate to ‘Conversions’, then ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’, and finally ‘Assisted Conversions’ in Google Analytics.

Now, you can set up a ‘main’ conversion type and a ‘look back’ period, which will define how many days are tracked before a conversion. Tailor this figure to your specific sales cycle. B2B cycles are generally longer, for example.

You will now be able to see how each channel has played a role in conversions. This will be broken down into groupings such as ‘organic search’ and ‘paid search’. You can also compare this data for two specific periods.


Technical SEO does not have to be difficult. The four actionable tips listed below will lay the groundwork for steady streams of organic traffic and mitigate some of the issues that can hold your SEO strategies back over time.  

Start adding internal links

Internal links will distribute link authority across your website and help to create a structure and hierarchy, all of which will aid your quest for better rankings in SERPs. Google’s John Mueller even notes that the anchor text in each internal link can provide “additional context” to assist its search engine. 

Adding internal links is easy enough, but you need to do it for each new page you publish. Rather than just linking to random pages, you can enter ‘’ and then a keyword into Google to see which pages are closely related to the new page.

You can also use SEO tools to see specific metrics for each listing. Linking to pages that have a better URL rating is preferable as this content will have a higher authority.

Conduct regular content audits

Content can become outdated and irrelevant over time, which can lead to it dropping out of search rankings entirely. Content that has no positive impact on SEO is a potential candidate for being deleted. Running content audits every six months to a year will highlight pages that need to be jettisoned, updated or consolidated.

Removing content can actually lead to an increase in the traffic to your webpages. Again, there are SEO tools such as the free WordPress plugin from Ahrefs that offer actionable instructions for each blog or article. Assessing each page individually is important as you don’t want to remove something that contributes to your business outside of SEO.

Add subtopics to existing content

Content does not have to stand still – it can evolve over time to the changing demands and needs of users and search engines. A ‘content gap’ analysis can be used to highlight important points or sections that have not been included in a page and could potentially improve its position in rankings.

Running your pages through a content gap tool will show the keywords that top performers in search are ranking for but that are absent from your copy. Adding a new subtopic or two at a later date to cover these keywords can give your content a boost at just the right time.

Fix any broken backlinks

High-quality backlinks can also give your content an edge in search. Backlinks are created when another publisher or site links to your content or when you link to a high authority page elsewhere. Unfortunately, broken backlinks can occur and undermine your SEO. To make sure that you don’t have any broken links, you can filter for 404 pages in a relevant SEO tool such as Site Explorer.

After flagging the offender, you can either reinstate the dead page so that backlinks point to a working page again or redirect the older URL to a new URL. If a third party has incorrectly linked to your page, you can get in touch with them to request for it to be changed.


The majority of on-page SEO tactics are simple to implement and can have an immediate impact on your search rankings. The five recommendations below will enhance your technical SEO and help you generate more valuable sources of traffic from Google.

Build internal links

Adding internal links to your content is one of the easiest ways to build structure and authority for your webpages, which can lead to better performance in SERPs. Internal links are a core part of on-page SEO and not just limited to blogs or articles. You can link to product pages with basic copy and ‘about us’ and support sections. These links act as a signal that you have practical content available across your site.

Use schema

Schema markup should be used alongside internal linking to create a structured website hierarchy. Fizzbox CEO Rob Hill says: “Whether it’s FAQ content or a recipe write-up, you might understand the content, but search engines might not be able to comprehend what they’re looking at. This is where schema markup comes in.”

Hill noted that the use of event schema markup for a festive-related campaign resulted in a 23% spike in click-through rates from Google search results and a notable increase in sales.

Schema can be used to provide additional information about a range of items on your website from products and places to creative work and events. The markup supports SEO by improving how your page is displayed in SERPs. For example, schema for a FAQ page can lead to content being served in Rich Snippets in listings below the page title.

Craft unique content

Google recently updated its Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines, and it includes more than 100 mentions of E-A-T, an acronym that stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. The best way to display E-A-T on your webpages is by crafting compelling and unique content. It should offer insights, answer questions, address customer pain points, and generally deliver the high-quality experiences that modern consumers expect.

You can also make sure that your content is ‘unique’ by using a content management system (CMS) to find any duplicate content on your website. If you do want to use duplicate copy, make sure to use a canonical URL to direct search engines to the original piece.

Hill also recommends going through older content with the view to updating it. A mix of fresh new content and updated articles and blogs with added sections and editors’ notes can maximise the incoming flow of traffic.

Optimise title tags

Title tags will be front and centre in search engine results, so optimise accordingly. Title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters in length and include keywords, numbers and dates where possible. Don’t keyword stuff though. It needs to look natural while offering a general overview of what the article, blog or page is about. If you are struggling with title tags, a content agency can assist you with the process.

Use categories

Another great way to add structure is by creating a range of categories and subcategories for your content. These categories should be relevant to your brand and content output. A smaller number of targeted categories will work better. Again, categories make it easier for search engines to understand your content.


Local SEO is a tactic that is often overlooked by start-ups and SMEs, even though it can be an incredibly effective tool for increasing visibility to searchers making a ‘near me’ or other relevant local search query.

Google says that just less than half of searches have a ‘local intent’. This means that there is vast potential here for brands to use local SEO to appeal to searchers in a specific location.

Prioritise business listing management

One of the first things you should do is create a business listing profile that can be distributed to any authoritative directory such as Google, Bing or Amazon. This is something that is very affordable even for small businesses, and it can deliver a notable boost to search rankings. Whether you outsource management to an agency or tackle this in-house, business listings are a crucial part of local SEO.

Update Google My Business

Google My Business is an extension of business listings and arguably even more important as it is directly linked to local search. Google My Business has been particularly useful since the pandemic as it has allowed companies to communicate opening hours and service availability to users directly in SERPs. You can optimise your listing by uploading several quality pictures and including a few Q&As.

Ask for reviews

Local searchers want feedback from other people, and the quality and quantity of these reviews can contribute to your rankings in Google’s search space. You can either hire an agency to implement a review management system or do it yourself by asking for them directly after a sale or following the download of an app.

Add business details on key pages

On-page SEO can also boost local search opportunities. Adding the name, address and contact details for your business on key pages will greatly assist local searchers who navigate to your website and want to validate your location. When the information matches the business data in a Google My Business listing, a visitor will know that the content within is relevant and accurate.

You can also make your contact details a more visible and eye-catching part of your pages if your target audience is likely to need a phone number or address right away.

Add FAQ schema

Google recently limited the use of FAQ structured data markup due to the repetitiveness of Q&A formats across multiple pages on sites, but you should have at least a single instance of FAQ schema. This code will inform search engines that content is present and marked up correctly, which will make it eligible for rich snippets in search results.

You will need a FAQ page to cover important Q&As related to a specific topic. This could be about a product or return policy. FAQ schema will then allow some of these answers to be served directly in search. It will generate interest organically and provide information that searchers are looking for. This is a technical change, but a web developer should be able to add it quite easily.


Google’s SEO expert John Mueller revealed last week that heading tags are a very important signal for search and are strongly linked to the quality of content and what an article or blog is actually about.

Mueller has stated in the past that content can rank near the top of SERPs without H1 headings. This remains true, but this does not mean that they do not play an important role in search performance. This is because headings enable Google’s algorithm to get a better grasp of what is on a page.

During a Webmaster Central Hangout, Mueller noted: “Headings on the page are not the only ranking factor that we have. We look at the content on its own as well. But sometimes having a clear heading on a page gives us a little bit more information on what that section is about.”

Mueller went on to confirm that heading tags are a “really strong signal” for this reason – so what are headers exactly?

Headers are different from an article’s title. The first header on a page will use an H1 tag and ideally is an introduction to the topic covered on a particular page. Headers like this are used on ecommerce pages as well as blogs. In addition to providing useful information, they give structure to a webpage, which is what Google wants to see before it starts indexing content.

If you want to deploy excellent header tags to boost on-page SEO, these four best practices will give you a head start.

Use headers for at-a-glance insights

Just 16% of internet users read every word of an article after navigating to a webpage. The vast majority prefer to mix scanning with reading to get what they are looking for. Headers are great for breaking up text and improving the readability of a page, which in turn gives it a better chance of performing well in SERPs.

Include keywords and be consistent

Mueller says that headers are very important signals, so it makes sense to include a few of your target keywords in them. Don’t overstuff though and try to fit them in naturally. This will ensure that the user experience remains exemplary, something that can also be supported by being consistent with your use of header tags. The formatting and character limit should be the same across the board. Also, aim for shorter tags where possible.

Capture the reader’s attention

Bland and forgettable tags can undermine an otherwise excellent piece, so target the use of intriguing or interesting headers to keep those scanning engaged as they move down the page. High-quality tags are also more likely to encourage more readers to take the time to read important sections.

Focus on the H1 tag

The H1 tag is the first header that readers will notice, so place a particular focus on getting it right. Google has said in the past that there is no limit to the number of H1s that publishers can use on a page, but when optimising for SEO, it is best to start with only one as they are likely to be as long as titles and need to be used judiciously for the best results.


What is a keyword?

Keywords are one of the simplest technical aspects of SEO. There is no code or HTML, just basic words, phrases and queries that are entered into search engines to find content and the answers to questions. Keyword research will find the words that are related to your brand and that you want to rank for.

Nine in 10 pages struggle to drive any sort of meaningful organic traffic. This is why it is important to have one or two phrases that you can target with your content marketing. You can tailor content to these keywords and related topics so that it finds the audience you want to engage with.

How do I find them?

Seed keywords are the bread and butter of a successful SEO campaign. These keywords define your brand, your product and service offerings, and your industry and niche. Seed keywords can be used as the base for an extensive brainstorming session where you populate a long list of potential keyword ideas.

If you are scratching your head thinking about what exactly your brand’s keywords are, you can pop over to Google Search Console and take a look at the Search Results report. You will already have an exhaustive list of keywords that your webpages are ranking for. There are other tools you can use to do this if you haven’t yet set up Google Search Console.

Who are my competitors?

If you are unsure exactly who your competitors are for a seed keyword, head over to Google and input one. The first page of results for that keyword will show you who is ranking for it. Again, you can use third-party tools such as Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to see the most popular pages for a keyword based on search traffic for the month. These pages are getting the most organic traffic for that particular keyword.

What do I do with keywords?

You can use keywords as the basis for content marketing materials. Keywords show you what consumers are searching for, so you can meet their needs by publishing a blog or an article that expounds on that keyword with useful information. You can also communicate a few of these keywords to an agency if they are managing a blog campaign for you as it will make the copy more targeted and relevant for your audience.

Is there anything else I need to do?

Seed keywords can be quite limiting as they are likely to be directly related to who you are and what you are doing right now. This is great to begin with, but over time you will need to drill down a few more ideas. You can do this by studying your niche in greater detail using keyword research tools, browsing forums related to your industry, and extracting insights from communications with clients and customers via email and social media.

How do I know what’s best? You can find out the best keywords for your business by analysing SEO metrics. There are a number of metrics you can track, but some of the most valuable include search volume, traffic potential, click total, and cost per click (CPC).