SEO has changed, and to stay current, you need to start using SEO practices that work in 2023.
Doing keyword research and spreading your keywords in the content is no longer enough.
You must follow new techniques to help your website stand out in the AI-driven world.
In this post, you’ll learn powerful and actionable SEO tips to achieve top rankings in traditional search results and the generative search experience offered by Google, Bing, and other search engines.
It’s the same tips we are using to rank our blog on the first page of Google for more than 10,800 keywords.
Here is our list of SEO tips to replicate our success.
- Optimize Content for Google SGE
- Optimize for Multiple SERP Features
- Optimize the User Experience (UX)
- Boost Topical Authority with Content Hubs
- Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues
- Understand The Page Indexing Report in GSC
- Prioritize Search Intent Over Other SEO Tactics
- Tell Search Engines For Which Keywords You Want To Rank For
- Refresh Your Site Design
- Keep Your Top Content Updated
1. Optimize Content for Google SGE
Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is the new version of Google that adds AI capabilities to Google Search Results.
This is how the results page looks when you search Google SGE. For any given query, Google shows an AI-generated excerpt on top of the results with a carousel of websites on the top right.
Although it’s still early to understand how Google AI generates text results and ranks websites, there are a couple of SEO tips you can use to optimize your website for the Google AI search engine.
Always Add a Large Featured Image to Your Posts
Google uses the featured image of the post to make the SERPS more visual. The image is shown not only on the top but on various positions and channels, including Google Discover.
The minimum width of your image must be at least 1200px wide.
The image doesn’t have to be visible on the page, but you must add the relevant structured data to specify the featured image to Google.
Look at the example below. The image is included as primaryImageOfPage and is shown in Google search results for relevant terms.
Also, notice the size of the image and caption.
Optimize Your Images For SEO
Besides the minimum width, you should also follow image SEO best practices like:
- Providing for meaningful filenames – Google uses filenames to get a hint of what an image is about.
- Writing good alt text – Alt text is the most important SEO factor for an image. Make sure you write descriptive text that makes sense for both users and search engines. Read our Alt text guide for all the details.
- Use high-quality photos that are not blurry or unclear – Make sure that they look good when thumbnails are generated from the bigger version of the image.
- Optimize images for speed – Use Google’s Squoosh app to convert your images to webp. This will dramatically reduce their file size without losing quality.
Set The max-image-preview:large Robots Meta Tag
The max-image-preview is a directive instructing search engines to show large image previews of an image in Google search results, Google Image, Google Assistant, Google SGE, and other products.
It’s NOT an optional tag, but it is required if you want your images to be eligible to show as thumbnails in Google SERPS.
In simple words, you should ensure that for every post on your website, you set the max-image-preview:large robots meta tag on the header of the page.
If you’re on WordPress, Yoast SEO does this for you. Otherwise, hire a developer to make this change or consult your CMS configuration.
Simplify Your Page Structure By Giving Special Attention to Page Headings
Another SEO tip for optimizing your content for Google Search Generative Experience is to use a hierarchical heading structure.
This is fundamental SEO advice that is now more important than ever.
Ensure that the top heading is H1, and subsequent headings are H2 or H3. Use different font sizes to make these headings stand out from the rest of the text.
In addition, make sure that the text you use in the headings is informative, relevant to the content, and compact.
Following this simple structure helps AI robots and users understand your content better, increasing your chances of appearing on top of the results.
2. Optimize for Multiple SERP Features
Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), with and without the AI experience, are constantly changing.
Google is trying to improve the user experience by introducing new features that provide direct answers to users and also making the results page more visual.
What does this mean for SEOs? You should optimize your content for several Google Serp features like:
A featured snippet is shown on top of the results and provides a direct answer to the user.
Here is an example:
Although it’s up to Google to decide which pages will appear as featured snippets, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
The most important tip for you is to summarize the answer to a question (or query) in one paragraph.
Look for the ‘People Also Ask’ section of Google and find questions you can answer directly in a couple of lines.
Start your answer by giving a direct answer to the question and avoid fluff. Keep your answer short and to the point.
Ensure that you use the appropriate headings in the article. For example, for the above snippet, the heading used is “Is there a Google SEO Certification?”.
Another type of featured snippet is the list snippet. This is mostly shown for:
- ‘how-to’ articles – for example, how to start a digital marketing agency
- ‘list-type’ articles – for example, best SEO Certifications
Here is an example of how it looks on Google.
Behind the scenes, the article structure looks like this:
To optimize your listicles to show up as featured snippets, use these simple tips:
- Add a List Heading and make it an H2.
- Format your list items with H3.
- Add a table of contents on the top of the article with internal links to all list items.
- Ensure that the list appears above the fold and as closer to the top as possible.
For more details on how to optimize your posts for featured snippets, visit the following guides.
Sitelinks appear when you search for a domain name on Google. Google algorithm shows links to help users quickly find the information they’re looking for.
Here is an example when you search for reliablesoft:
Although there is no way to define which links should be shown as sitelinks, there are a number of ways to influence the algorithm’s decisions.
This is particularly useful when you want to direct users searching for your domain name on Google to your most important pages.
If you take a closer look at the example above, you’ll notice that Google correctly listed the pages we want to promote more which includes our Digital Marketing Course, SEO Course, and Digital Marketing Academy.
To configure sitelinks for your website, follow these best practices.
- Check that you rank for your brand name – if not, this signals that you have a big issue, and you’ll need to investigate this more.
- Create a simple and logical site structure – add important pages to your top menu and footer.
- Link important pages from your homepage – make sure to use text links and not images.
- Add internal links to your important pages from other relevant pages.
- Avoid keyword cannibalization – avoid content duplication and ensure that each page targets a single keyword.
- Optimize your internal link’s anchor text – use text that describes what the page is about.
- Optimize your page titles and headings to be informative, relevant, and compact.
For more details, visit your comprehensive guide on sitelinks.
Besides featured snippets and sitelinks, Google uses several visual elements to display results; the most popular for many website types are rich results.
Rich results are used for many types, including articles, events, FAQs, how-to guides, images, local businesses, and more.
Here is an example of an FAQ-rich result that shows a list of questions and answers right below the text snippet.
To be eligible to appear as a rich result, you MUST have structured data added to your page.
Structured data is code added to a page that describes the page’s content to search engine crawlers.
Here is the process to follow:
- Find the relevant structured data – go through the supported types and choose which one is relevant to your page’s content.
- Add the code to your website – code needs to be added to the <body> of the page. You can add it manually or use a third-party plugin, depending on your CMS.
- Test your code with Rich Results Test to ensure that there are no errors.
For more information, step-by-step instructions, and examples, visit the following guides.
3. Optimize the User Experience (UX)
One of the newest ranking factors that Google uses is user experience.
This relates to how content is presented on the page and whether users can find what they want in the fastest possible way without unnecessary disruptions.
Dropping text content on the page is not enough to rank in the top positions of Google. To optimize your pages for the user experience, use the following SEO tips:
- Ensure your pages load fast and pass the core web vitals test.
- The content is served over a secure connection.
- The user’s experience on mobile is the best possible.
- There are no intrusive interstitials popping up.
- The main content of the page is easily distinguishable from ads.
- The content is visually appealing to the users and easy to read.
4. Boost Topical Authority with Content Hubs
Topical Authority is an effective SEO strategy that can help you rank for highly competitive keywords.
Here is a simple overview of how this works.
While Google algorithms evaluate the content of each individual page to decide for which keywords it should rank, they also look at the content of a site as a whole.
When you provide comprehensive, in-depth content around a specific topic, this makes you an authority around that topic, and as a result, you can rank higher for related to the topic keywords.
The best way to build topical authority is by using content hubs.
A content hub is a page that includes information about a specific topic and links to other articles (on the same website) to help users learn everything they need to know about that topic.
Think of a content hub as a portal dedicated to a specific topic.
Content hubs can have different forms depending on the topic and type of content.
Creating a content hub from existing content
You can create a content hub by organizing and enriching your existing content.
Take, for example, our Digital Marketing Guide. We created this guide to help beginners get started with digital marketing.
When the guide was launched, we already had articles written about digital marketing that could be included in the guide.
To help Google make the connection with added internal links from the newly created guide to the existing pages:
And from the existing pages back to the newly created guide.
The guide was also enriched with new content and new pages.
Creating a content hub from scratch
An alternative way is to create a content hub from scratch.
This means doing keyword research to identify what topics/subtopics the content hub should target.
Then you create the content and interlink the pages together. A good example is the content marketing hub published by Backlinko.
If you decide to create a content hub with 100% new content, it’s better to prepare ALL the pages and publish them at once. This will help crawlers understand that the content is related, leading to better rankings.
Another way to build topical authority is through pillar pages and topic clusters. You can learn more in our comprehensive guide below.
5. Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues
As your website content grows, you might have to deal with keyword cannibalization.
Keyword cannibalization is when you have more than one page targeting or ranking for the same keywords on Google.
This is a problem because you are essentially competing with yourself, and this confuses search engines which might lead to lower rankings.
As recently pointed out by Google’s Gary Illyes, you should consider consolidating pages that end up in a host group in Google search results.
A host group is when two or more pages are grouped together in the results because they target the same query, as shown in the example below.
To avoid this issue, you must identify and fix any keyword cannibalization problems.
Here is an overview of the process:
Perform a content audit – examine your website’s content and look for pages that target the same keywords.
You can do this by examining your XML sitemap, looking at Google Search Console reports, or using a third-party tool like Semrush or Ahefs.
You can also use the site operator in Google. Type the following in Google’s search box site:yourwebsite.com “topic” and examine the results for duplicate or similar pages.
Merge, Set a Canonical, or Redirect – Once you identify which pages are affected by keyword cannibalization, the next step is to decide how to solve the problem.
You have three main choices:
The first is to merge the pages together – You can move the content from one page to the other, unpublish the other page and use a 301 Redirect to tell search engines that this page has moved to a new location.
The second option is to set a canonical tag – If you don’t want to merge the pages together but want to keep both pages on your website, set the canonical tag of one page to point to the other page.
This is a strong signal to search engines as to which page you want to keep in the search results.
The third option is to redirect one of the pages to the other using a 301 redirection – You should do this when the content of both pages is similar, so there is no point in merging them.
The 301 redirection will remove one of the pages from the index, giving the other page more chances of ranking for related terms.
If you find this topic confusing or too technical, review the following articles to understand this better.
6. Understand The Page Indexing Report in GSC
A very important SEO tip for you is to review the Page Indexing report in Google Search Console regularly.
This report will tell you how many pages aren’t indexed by Google and the reason.
You should examine all report sections individually to find out the reason(s) pages are not indexed.
It’s very common for websites to have technical SEO issues that generate a negative impact on a site’s ranking.
Start by analyzing the Not Found (404) and Soft 404 errors, which can impact the user experience while browsing your website.
Read our article below for an in-depth guide on how to deal with errors in the Page Indexing report.
7. Prioritize Search Intent Over Other SEO Tactics
Perhaps one of the most critical SEO tips is prioritizing search intent over other SEO tactics.
When working with technical and on-page SEO, it’s easy to lose track of the primary goal of each piece of content you publish, which is satisfying the user’s intent.
In simple words, this means that you should take a closer look at your content to ensure that:
- It answers the user query as high in the content as possible.
- It has the expected format. If the user is looking for comparison data, you should include tables, graphs, and other elements to help users compare products or services.
- It shows clearly who wrote the content and when it was last updated.
- It’s easy for users to differentiate between the main content of the page and ads.
- There are no intrusive popups.
In addition, you should also check the top-ranking pages for a given search term to ensure you’re not missing out on something important.
This does not mean making your content the same as what is already ranking. You still need to make your content different and give users another perspective without missing any critical information.
8. Tell Search Engines For Which Keywords You Want To Rank For
When working on your SEO, remember that a website CANNOT RANK for all keywords it has content for.
Even if you have the best content, it will rank in the top positions of Google for only a percentage of those keywords.
Unfortunately, the keywords it will rank for are not always the ones you want.
What you can do to increase your chances of ranking for the right keywords is to “tell” search engines which keywords you want to rank for, and the best ways are:
- Link your important pages from the homepage
- Add important pages to the main menu
- Review the Internal Links report in GSC and ensure that your important pages have the greatest number of internal links
- Use optimized anchor text when creating internal links to help search engines understand what the pages are about
- Ensure that these pages have the greatest number of backlinks
- Keep the content of those pages updated
- Promote the pages on social media channels and forums
- Build topical authority using content hubs (see SEO Tip 4 above)
As a final word of advice, don’t forget when setting your ranking goals to consider the competition, your website’s size and authority, and keyword difficulty.
Instead of trying to rank for unrealistic keywords, set targets that you can actually achieve.
9. Refresh Your Site Design
How your website looks is not a Google ranking factor, but it can indirectly affect your rankings.
Having a modern website design that cares for the user experience is something that both users and bots will notice.
In the past, Google could not render a website in the same way as humans, but that’s no longer the case.
Google crawlers can understand how a website looks and whether it uses practices that help or hinder the user experience.
So, it’s a good idea to review your design and refresh it every couple of years to show your users and search engines that you’re actively working on the site and trying to improve the content and usability.
10. Keep Your Top Content Updated
What is even harder than achieving top rankings for your target keywords is to maintain these rankings for a long period of time.
As soon as you rank for a popular term, your competitors will notice it, and they will likely try to ‘steal’ your top positions.
What you can do to maximize your chances of maintaining high rankings for a page is to follow these tips:
Ensure that you regularly update your top-ranking pages by adding new information and removing content that is no longer valid.
Ensure that the last updated date is visible on your web pages and XML sitemap.
Keep an active link-building campaign running for your top keywords – The secret to maintaining rankings for long periods is consistently building links to a page.
Getting a couple of links when a page is published and then getting no links signals that the page is losing its importance. A consistent link flow will keep the page in the top positions.
Format your content for new SERP features – Google is constantly adding new features in the search results, whether this is Generative AI or other visual features. You need to keep an eye on new features and adjust your content accordingly.
So, review your Google Analytics and Google Search Console reports, find the pages that bring the majority of traffic to your website, and create a plan to update their content monthly to increase your chances of keeping their ranking positions.
SEO is an ongoing process. As you become more experienced, you’ll realize that doing small SEO changes will gradually improve your rankings and traffic.
There is no magic solution to getting everything right, and forget about it. It’s a constant battle to make your website and content better and communicate that to search engines through SEO.
The above SEO tips are truly powerful and should not be neglected. Even if something seems not that important, in the long run, it can make a difference.
For even more tips on optimizing your website, go through the following comprehensive guides.