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21 Experts Share Their Single Best Piece of SEO Advice

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21 Experts Share Their Single Best Piece of SEO Advice

While I like to think of myself as pretty knowledgeable in the SEO realm, I spend countless hours each week reading articles, social posts, and basically digesting what others have learned.

Thankfully I know a lot of bright people, many of whom are writers right here on Search Engine Journal.

This got me thinking: if all these people I follow, who say so many bright things, could say only one thing, what would it be?

Well, there’s only one way to find out and that’s to ask.

Thankfully the folks in the SEO industry are always willing to help out.

So what were their answers?

When asked what SEO advice they would give if they could only recommend one thing, here’s what 21 of the top SEO minds in the world had to say.


Jono Alderson, Principal Consultant, Distilled

Jono Alderson

It’s critical that you give yourself permission to think bigger. If you’re limiting your optimization efforts to your content, platform, and links, then you have no way of gaining ground on competitors who are actively improving their user experiences, products, and propositions.

We need to move beyond the word ‘optimisation’. It’s a terrible way of thinking; it implies that you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got, rather than thinking beyond those constraints.

On our mind is to outrank competitors, chase “position zero” results, retain and convert traffic, and much more – but we rarely stop to assess what’s different and valuable about the actual product or services we’re trying to drive traffic through.

There’s only so much you can do to tweak your targeting, fill up your blog, and pester journalists – eventually, competing and winning means that you have to go deeper into the business and consider the price, the people, the positioning.

What if reducing your prices by 10 percent could drive better user signals, increase rankings, attract traffic, and convert more visitors? Getting rich snippets and great rankings might mean nothing if you’re twice the price of the competitors.

What if you put your whole SEO budget into training the customer services team? Getting tons of inquiries through your long-tail editorial content won’t count for much if the team isn’t trained to understand new and different types of customer journeys.

So, think bigger. Go beyond the page, beyond the keywords, and look for opportunities to optimise more deeply, and more meaningfully. That’ll create the kinds of signals which Google is looking to rank, and everybody wins.


Dawn Anderson, Managing Director, Move It Marketing

Dawn Anderson

Think for yourself.

Steer your own SEO game and always ensure you critically analyze and question everything you read or hear.

While it’s important to be part of communities, it’s equally important to be a free-thinker and avoid the herd mentality.

SEO is an industry where we have to fill in a lot of the gaps. It’s easy to presume others more senior or established have filled in those gaps correctly because of rhetoric.

This is not the always the case.

Read widely. Listen widely.

Explore in literature beyond the blogs and commonly viewed sources.

Do all of these things critically.

Build your own data-driven insights, test and surprise yourself by what you find.

Don’t discount or accept as fact, techniques or strategies by SEOs simply because you like them, or because everyone else does.

Disagree when you have to and support your disagreement with articulate rationale and further evidence.


Rob Bucci, CEO, STAT Search Analytics

Rob Bucci

Pay attention to the blend of different result types you see on the SERPs where you’re competing.

You can find some surprising opportunities by knowing what types of content experiences Google is offering searchers.

For example, there are some verticals where the use of the word “compare” gives rise to SERPs that have very prominent video result.

These types of insights provide big opportunities for those who are paying attention.


Doc Sheldon Campbell, Founder, Intrinsic Value SEO

Doc Sheldon

The nuts & bolts!

I think we need to look at a site as if it were a building.

First, is the foundation stable? Is it the right type of foundation for what it must support? That may start with selecting the right platform, but will include the hosting, protocol, security and more.

Second, the structure must be sound. Is it sufficiently sound to withstand whatever’s thrown at it? Flexible enough to withstand any strain without breaking? That points to such things as architecture, navigation, internal linking, hreflang designations, tracking, and more.

All the above address technical issues. Whether you consider them to be SEO-oriented or the developer’s concerns, they’re critical items to be addressed, in order to enable your ongoing SEO efforts to be effective.


Joost de Valk, Founder, Yoast

Joost de Valk

Review and fix your internal linking.

Any site with a tiny bit of authority can help itself by really considering what other good content on the site is relevant when you’re reading page X on that site, and then making sure that content is linked.

So often I find adding half a dozen proper internal links can boost a page’s rankings.


Rhea Drysdale, Co-Founder & CEO, Outspoken Media

Be relentlessly curious.

When someone newer to the industry says they don’t know how to do something, I like to burst their impostor syndrome bubble.

The secret to doing great SEO is to simply follow your natural curiosity.

Asking questions like, “what’s that?” will carry SEO strategy a long way.

That curiosity can take someone into technical areas or my favorite – a deeper understanding of human behavior.

SEO will always excite me because we’re tracking how people search for information. That’s complicated, challenging work that’s never finished and there’s nothing more thrilling than figuring something just to have the game change.


Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting

Eric Enge

Learn How to Earn Featured Snippets

Featured snippets have attracted a lot of attention, and for good reason. They sit above the normal search results and therefore attract a lot of attention. Their very positioning them makes it seem like Google is saying that, “this is the definitive answer.”

OK, so why is it such a big deal? Two reasons:

  1. If you’re currently in position 5 for a SERP, it may well be less effort for you to get to Position Zero, than it would be to get in position 1. If you’re already in position 1, it’s also easier for your competitor to get to Position Zero and position 1, so you want to get the featured snippet to defend your turf.
  2. In the world of personal assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Google Assistant running on your phone, Cortana, …) you speak your commands to them, and you get a spoken response. When you get one spoken response, that response is drawn from the featured snippet, not the regular SERPs. As more and more of the world starts speaking their queries, rather than typing them, having that featured snippet position will become increasingly critical!

How to get them is a much longer answer, but it involves learning how to create the type of content that Google is using to generate these in your market.


Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights, Yext

Duane Forrester

Content, gotta have it.

Context, because it matters more.

But if you really want to be successful moving forward you need to focus on some more basic elements.

Markup, HTTPS, and mobile.

If these three things aren’t on your immediate radar, you could easily be passed by competitors.

Markup alone opens the doors to so much rich-engagement opportunity in a SERP it’s a no-brainer.

Add in voice search growth and it’s table stakes moving forward. Not a nice-to-have, but a must-have.


David Harry, Lead SEO, Verve Developments

Managing client expectations.

One place that I, and many others, have gone wrong is right out of the gate with a new client.

I really like to talk to them about the goals and conversion points of the business/website to get a sense of what’s important to them and what the ultimate goal of the SEO work is going to be.  And also, to get a sense of how they envision the process.

From there you want to make sure that everything is realistic on their end.

Are the terms they want to target realistic given the budget, the resources, and the competition?

Each and every query space is going to have an associated cost involved. You want to ensure that they understand that so that there’s no “sticker shock” down the road.


Bill Hartzer, Senior SEO Consultant

Bill Hartzer

I’m not sure if I can give you one single piece of SEO advice at this point – there are so many points that need to be made. However, I can narrow it down, generally speaking, to two points:

  • Speed up your website. All of the websites that I’ve reviewed recently that have never done anything about trying to speed up the loading of their website can do something about improving their page load speed. And the majority of those things that will improve page load speed right away don’t have anything to do with the overall web design and functionality of the website.
  • Don’t forget about on-page SEO. When it comes to search engine rankings, especially in the past year, I’ve seen a lot of emphasis on on-page SEO, even more than links. Take time to optimize each webpage properly. Add more content to the page. Include bulleted lists, tables, images, heading, and subheadings. Use H1s, H2s, and H3s. For WordPress websites, use “bold” rather than “strong” in your markup. Add schema markup to your pages whenever appropriate. Time spent on each of your website’s pages optimizing them and adding properly marked up content is time well spent.

Jeremy Knauff, CEO, Spartan Media

Jeremy Knauff

The single most important piece of SEO advice I could give someone is to develop an effective strategy before worrying about tactics.

Far too often, SEO practitioners spend an inordinate amount of time, effort, and money chasing the latest tactics without giving any real thought into what they’re trying to accomplish in the long term.

Big strategic goals will differentiate you from everyone else in your industry, which will give you a significant advantage, both in SEO and in business, in general.

With a strategic goal in place, you can then plan the tactics most appropriate to achieve that goal.

This will enable you to achieve far more and to do so more quickly and more efficiently.


Joe Laratro, President, Tandem Interactive

Joe Laratro

My number one, single piece of advice for SEOs would be discipline.

We need to have discipline in every aspect of what we do for organic search optimization.

Commitment to content takes discipline.

Following best practices takes discipline.

Reading all the valuable content from industry experts, newsletters, forums, and blogs takes discipline.

Avoiding shortcuts and dangerous schemes for gaming the system can take real discipline.

Lastly, knowing what tactics to try and how to gauge success takes (you guessed it) discipline (and some luck).


Heather Lloyd-Martin, CEO, SEO Copywriting

Heather Lloyd-Martin

Ask yourself, “what’s the one content marketing tactic that drives the majority of your leads/revenue?”

Don’t guess.

Dig into your analytics and see what you find.

Once you’ve found your answer – do more of that!

So many companies chase content marketing shiny things because someone said, “Hey, I just read this post. We should focus all our efforts on this.”

Webinars? Sure.

Optimizing for featured snippets? You bet.

Podcasts? Why not?

There’s no set strategy or game plan. And, unfortunately, the one thing that does work gets lost in the shuffle.

Yes, it’s important to try different things – after all, you don’t know what works until you try.

However, it’s more important to first determine what is working and maximize your efforts.

Then, you can start folding in other tactics if it makes sense for your audience (and your ROI!).


Ian Lurie, CEO, Portent

Ian Lurie

Look at your server. Pay particular attention to three things:

1. Response Codes

Your server should return a 404 for page not found, a 301 for a permanent redirect, and a 302 for a temporary redirect. The correct response codes tell spiders how to treat pages.

For example, you want a search engine to understand if a page is gone (404). If you return, say, a 302 response for broken links and display a “not found” page, search engines may repeatedly index the error page, creating runaway duplication.

Do a Google search for common error page text. You’ll find lots of indexed error pages. Those servers return the wrong response code. They’re wasting crawl budget and generating duplicate content.

2. Performance

You need good hardware. Ensure your server uses solid state drives, and has enough RAM to cache pages in memory (if that’s relevant).

Have a robust caching solution in place. Even better, use something like Cloudflare.

Most important, don’t paint yourself into a corner. Use a hosting service that makes upgrades easy when you grow.

Good performance improves UX and use of crawl budget. Look what happens to this client’s pages crawled per day when time spent downloading drops:

Down load time drop

3. Headers

If you’re using canonical headers, make sure they’re correct, and that they don’t conflict with any rel=canonical tags.

I’ve spent hours trying to debug canonicalization issues, only to discover the server used canonical headers.


Debra Mastaler, President, Alliance-Link

Debra Mastaler

Stop depending on Google for your traffic/income, diversify your involvement on a number of different platforms and foster beneficial partnerships so you can tap into new community streams.

Why?

While Google says the new mobile-first index will transition seamlessly, expect issues if not for your site then others linking to you.

Not everyone will be mobile ready or understand structured markups. Expect fluctuations in your rankings as a result.


Britney Muller, SEO & Content Architect, Moz

Britney Muller

Be data-driven in your approach.

Execute quickly and test often.


Carolyn Shelby, Director of SEO, tronc

Carolyn Shelby

Make sure your website is crawlable and indexable.

You would think this would be obvious, but I have run across two sites in literally the last two weeks that were completely blocking crawlers in their robots.txt and had been for, probably, ages… and they didn’t know it.

Between goofs in the robots.txt to forgetting to turn off the sitewide “noindex” once the site was officially live to strange combinations of meta refreshes with 302s to navigation that cannot be traversed, I’m regularly astounded by the ways websites make themselves uncrawlable.

Ultimately, your wonderful content and your SEO magic/secret sauces aren’t going to help you at all if you’re telling Googlebot to go pound sand.


Matt Siltala, President/Founder, Avalaunch Media

Matt Siltala

My one piece of advice has been the same over the last few years, and it is this:

Be the solution.

People are online looking for information. Be the answer, solve the problem and be the one that provides the solution for those looking.

This can be in any form; video, graphics, ebooks, white papers, sales sheets, slide decks, infographics etc., but as long as it is providing the solution… you are golden.

Of course, if you are optimizing all those different types of solutions they will be rewarded on the search engines and drive traffic. They will build natural links and be socialized; simply, because you are providing the information people are looking for.

There are many ways to find what people are looking for as well:

  • Analytics.
  • Analytics provided by social networks.
  • Google Trends.
  • Q&A sites.
  • Talking with your sales/customer service teams and really understanding what questions are being asked by real customers.
  • Running your own polls.

These are just a few ideas that can help you gain great insights.

Dig deeper and be the solution.


Ann Smarty, Brand and Community Manager, Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty

Research and optimize for questions!

These days we have awesome tools at our disposal that give us valuable insight into questions your audience and customers are asking online.

Addressing those questions in your copy has lots of benefits, from increased odds to be featured to better engagement with your webpage, which is something I wrote about in my Search Engine Journal article, How to Find Niche Questions: Optimize Your Site for Q&A.

  • Question research lets you understand your customers’ struggles better and enables you to meet their needs in your copy better.
  • Optimizing for questions makes your copy better optimized for voice search.
  • Addressing questions in your copy helps you optimize your copy for Google’s featured snippets.
  • Making questions prominent on your landing page prompts your users to spend more time on the page because human beings have a natural reflex to stop and look for answers.

To help you research niche questions use the following tools:

  • Serpstat “Search questions” feature
  • Google’s “People Also Ask” box (which expands with more questions as you start using it)
  • Answer the Public
  • Buzzsumo’s “Question Analyzer”

Aleyda Solis, Founder, Orainti

Aleyda Solis

Do a full SEO audit.

It doesn’t matter if you have done one in the past.

It is always good to have an updated status of your site optimization from a technical, content and popularity stand-point, as well as an understanding of your organic search visibility vs. your competition to serve as an input to establish – or update – a cost-effective SEO strategy that is correctly aligned to your situation and goals.


Patrick Stox, SEO Specialist, IBM

Patrick Stox

It’s time for SEOs to learn JS frameworks. They’re becoming a lot more popular and you’ll need to know how to work with them soon.

Some basic tips would be:

  • Use fetch and render and inspect rather than cache and view-source
  • Content must be DOM loaded and not take an action like scroll or click to be included
  • Chrome 41 can help to troubleshoot issues as this is what Google currently uses to render web pages
  • Make sure links are output correctly. Watch out for things like ng-click or href=”javascript:void(0);“
  • Most frameworks have their own routers to make clean URLs that allow for pattern matching like /{country}/{locale}/{category}/{slug}
  • The crawler is the first to hit the page but the WRS (Web Rendering Service) comes back later and renders (processes the JS). The delay between crawling and rendering can confuse people and cause issues with troubleshooting.

Really learn how to troubleshoot using Google itself.

There are a lot of search commands that can help with different things, like the info: operator which can help with looking at duplication and canonicalization issues.

Turning the filter off (add &filter=0 to the Google search URL) can help identify other pages in the consideration set which may indicate duplication issues or page consolidation opportunities and can also be used to see additional link opportunities from other websites.


The Takeaway

So there we have it, the single best piece of advice from 21 SEO experts – all of whom have ranked multitudes of sites for a myriad of phrases across different sectors.

While interesting that the critical tips are often varied, each carries with them a pearl of brilliance and when we combine them – that’s where the success lies. A totality greater than the sum of its parts.

I know I’ve been inspired by the feedback and I hope you have to.  Do you have a tip to add? Join us over on our Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you.

More SEO Resources Here:


Image Credits
Feature image: Adobe Stock
In-Post Photo: Ian Lurie

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Dave Davies

Dave Davies

Dave Davies founded Beanstalk Internet Marketing, Inc. in 2004 after working in the industry for 3 years and is its ... [Read full bio]

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