There are literally thousands of SEO guides out there, but how useful are they? Think about it:
- Many guides are outdated
- They usually only offer one person’s point of view
- They’re usually designed to be exhaustive and pack every insight possible that might help you achieve your SEO goals
- It usually takes way too much time to do everything they suggest
We created Mazen because we think SEO is still the best traction channel, but too many brands are scared off because it’s time consuming.
This SEO guide is designed to save you time by listing methods that are current, actionable, and reflect a wide variety of opinions.
Current, up-to-date advice
The days of writing random content and guest blogging to achieve 80% of your SEO are gone. In this guide, we will explain exactly what “great content” means in the age of RankBrain. We will also describe how to semantically link your pages to one another, how to research keywords effectively, and how to cleverly get backlinks now that Google has terrorized the SEO world with their manual and algorithmic penalties.
In this guide, you’ll find exclusive new techniques, adapted to Google’s RankBrain algorithm, that can save you hours of work. For example, do you know how to leverage “semantic relationships” and “semantic cocoons”?
We’ll show you how to use semantically related words in your content, rather than just keywords tied to a specific request. We’ll also show you how clever internal linking can be a game changer for your SEO.
Advice that reflect a wide variety of opinions
We’ve read what dozens of influencers have said about each topic in this guide and picked the most useful tips so that you won’t miss a thing.
We won’t just tell you vague stuff you already know, but can’t really act on (e.g. “make sure your content is interesting” or “get new backlinks”).
We’ll show you step-by-step how to optimize your website and get the most value for your SEO in the least amount of time.
Efficient SEO checklist
Dos and Don’ts
Do: Create 1 to 3 personas.
Don’t: Start optimizing without a persona in mind. You’ll end up wasting so much time writing thousands of words that will either not bring you clients or attract the wrong ones
- Find topics, not just keywords
- For each topic, create a list of secondary keywords.
- Organize your list of keywords: get search volumes for a each topic (add up search volumes of secondary keywords).
- Prioritize: focus on topics that have good search volume, but aren’t too competitive. Focus on keywords that are related to your most important persona. Understand users’ intentions.
Don’t: Spend hours creating cluttered spreadsheets with too much information. When you boil it down, SEO is simple: find topics that your personas love, and write creative content about those topics.
Do: Use software to track rankings for each keyword. (Mazen and similar apps do that quite well).
Don’t: Export data. SaaS applications are the best way to check your rankings.
Do: Associate each topic to existing content. If no current content fits a topic, create a new page to target it.
Don’t: Spend hours mapping by hand. Use software to do it for you (*cough* Mazen *cough cough*)
- Visualize your structure using a mind map.
- Identify clusters of pages. For each important topic, You should create 3-5 pages that link to that topic’s main page (and ONLY to that page).
- Execute your website mind map. Each page of your website should have a mother, daughter, and/or sister page. This will be very important for the success of your internal linking strategy, and will make a huge difference, setting you apart from your competitors.
Don’t: Create internal links between pages by using an automatic plugin or without a specific plan in mind. Instead, use our semantic cocoon technique to get better results with fewer backlinks. Fewer backlinks means more time saved.
- Make sure your website’s design/template allows you to create long content (i.e. longer than 1,000 words, averaging 2,000, up to 5,000 words).
- Find lexically related words to use so RankBrain considers your content highly relevant. Mazen’s Lexical Field Generator is the only tool we know of that provides the exact words you need for your content.
- Write questions and answers to benefit from Google’s Hummingbird update. Mazen and AnswerThePublic can give you the questions people ask most about any topic.
- Describe precisely what products/services you offer
- Provide information not available anywhere else (reviews, technical details, opinions, unique writing style…)
- Focus on finding original and triggering title tags and headings
- Create mass content that regurgitates the same shit everyone else is saying. It’s quick, but this strategy won’t yield results.
- Write content with too narrow a lexical field; you need to use specific, diverse, and relevant words if you want RankBrain to rank you higher despite not having many backlinks.
- Waste time hiring bad SEO writers, especially if they are based in non-English-speaking countries. Avoid Madagascar and other places that promise mass content for cheap. Trust us, they’ll cost you more time in the long run because they won’t produce any tangible results
- Define yourself. State in one sentence why you created your company/website and why the rest of the world should care (which is very different from a sentence that just describes what you do)
- This sentence will be your personal voice for all the content you’ll create
- Use this personal voice to find content ideas and establish an original “angle.”
- Just write about your company’s news and activities
- Write about stuff your personas don’t care about. Use tools like BuzzSumo to find the most shareable and backlink-able topics for your target.
- Write without a call to action: what do you want your content to bring you? Visitors? Clients? Backlinks? Subscribers? Engage them!
- Tell a bigger story on your website before looking for backlinks. Never go backlink-hunting before your website is really ready to attract them. Think of it like a first date: before you go out, you need to take a shower, do your hair, find the right clothes, and think about topics your date might be interested in. Without that, you’re not ready and you’ll probably strike out.
- Be creative with your bigger story. Check out our many examples for inspiration, but find your own voice.
- Pick 2 or 3 of our 18 great backlinking techniques to get the word out about your story and start earning those backlinks.
- Look for backlinks before you’ve prepped your website .
- Use outdated techniques that will bring you nothing but penalties: i.e. submitting your SEO content on generic websites, old general directories, and blog aggregators, or using link exchanges and sketchy CMS plugins that contain backlinks.
- Buy backlinks from link-selling platforms. If you can find those sites, so can Google’s search quality team! Buy links only from people who don’t say they sell links.
- Give up when actions you spent a lot of time on don’t work. It’s going to take time before you’re successful... So hang in there and keep trying new things.
- Insert keywords into title tags and H1s, H2s, etc. Although it’s no longer a key factor in ranking for those specific keywords, using your main keywords (or even synonyms!) tells RankBrain what your page is about. So this is definitely still a best practice!
- Make sure your titles and descriptions contain information that can convince visitors to click on your page rather than a competitor’s. Your CTR will be a lot better if you put a lot of thought into this.
- Use only one H1 per container if your website is HTML5, and only one H1 per URL if it’s HTML4
Don’t: Waste time digging through your CMS to do this job. Use Mazen to optimize your headers, metadata and alt-text from one dashboard. You’ll save hours.
Optimize crawl budget and indexation
Do: De-index pages with low content (< 100 words), duplicate content, 404s, or no specific SEO goals.
Don’t: Spend any time on this task if you have less than 500 pages on your website.
We kept this checklist short because we don’t want you to spend your time on tasks that don’t add much value. Before we move on to the rest of this guide, I’d like to quickly say a few things about SEO ranking factor studies.
Why you can’t trust ranking factor studies, and why it doesn’t matter
SEO brands like Moz, SEMrush, Search Metrics, and Ahrefs process and deliver huge quantities of data. Every year, their research teams crawl and scrape millions of pages to study the characteristics of pages that rank in the top 10 on Google. Do they have a lot of backlinks? Are there keywords in the title tag? How long is their content?
Here are some example of such studies:
The goal of these studies is to study the characteristics of the best ranked pages in hopes of uncovering Google’s secretive main ranking factors.
But, to my mind, SEMrush’s study perfectly illustrates the difference between correlation (the principle on which the study is based) and causality. If a site has good content and therefore high-quality backlinks, one would expect it to rank and pull in traffic. But it’s not because it gets traffic that it ranks well on Google.
The results of the SEMrush study raise some serious eyebrows. From most important to least important, they identify the main Google relevance criteria as site traffic, visit duration, number of page views per session, and bounce rate. But in reality, any SEO specialist can tell you that most of these “factors” hardly move the needle when search engines evaluate the relevance of a page for a given query.
This classic trap of correlation is perfectly illustrated by the website Spurious correlations. The example below illustrates a close correlation between the number of people who drown in pools and the number of Nicolas Cage films released each year…
So my advice to you is this:
Forget about these studies. Correlation does not imply causation. Ever.
This SEO guide is designed to provide step-by step, efficient ways to rank better than your competitors. You’ll still need to pour creativity and time into your marketing strategy, but for the more technical and repetitive tasks, we created Mazen. Our software helps you find keywords, organize them, pull data, identify issues, and make meaningful changes to your website - all from just one interface. Mazen will save you tons of time so that you can focus on what really matters: creativity.
If you like what we’re building here, please let us know. Tweet, comment on Google My Business, or shoot us an e-mail. We love to hear from our customers. It’s what keeps us going every day.
Other chapters of the Efficient SEO guide: